Spanish Fly is a British-Spanish sex comedy in the style of the Carry On films. Released in 1975, this characteristically bawdy film’s action centres on Percy de Courcy (Terry-Thomas) and Mike Scott (Leslie Philips), two former schoolmates who meet unexpectedly in Spain and end up accidentally having a whole load of saucy fun when they come across the aphrodisiacal properties of the local Spanish flies. Set for re-release this April, the new version is re-mastered and aims to make audiences blush and chuckle once again.
I was pretty disappointed with Spanish Fly; in fairness, I hardly think of sex comedies as the most remarkable moment in the history of British comedy, but I was prepared to give Spanish Fly a fair trial. Sadly, the film opens with one of the two protagonists (Mike Scott) declaring that he is impotent, a revelation that is hardly conducive to sexy fun. Despite the subsequent discovery of a powerful aphrodisiac, Philips’s character remains somewhat tired throughout, with the same kind of bedraggled has-been lack of virility that Hugh Hefner has.
Terry-Thomas, however, is very good in the role of Percy de Courcy, a down-on-his-luck British aristocrat with a helpful manservant (Graham Armitage) who aids him in getting rid of a ton of disgusting Spanish wine he’s bought. The interaction between these two is very fun, although it probably shines more brightly than it would in comparison to Leslie Philips’ burnt-out tiredness. The problem is that on its own, the storyline furthered by Terry-Thomas and Armitage’s characters has nothing to do with sex at all, so the actual sex in this sex comedy seems like an awkward, almost last-minute addition.
In fact, the most sex that this ‘sex comedy’ has to offer is one shower scene and an Australian woman boasting that she feels ‘randy’. Combine this with Philips’ wheezing, impotent presence and the whole thing stops feeling very sexy at all. It’s understandable that he wasn’t at his best – by this time Philips was coming to the end of his career. But since Terry-Thomas put on a decent performance despite being only a couple of years away from quitting acting altogether because of Parkinson’s, this doesn’t seem like much of an excuse.
There’s actually a lot of noticeable filler as well – two particular scenes come to mind: one where the four models dance around in a cave, and one where an endless stream of children bring the manservant ‘spanish flies’ that they’ve caught. Both scenes go on for a seemingly endless period, and when you consider that the film weighs in at just under 90 minutes anyway, it’s easy to see why those scenes have been stretched as much as possible. It seems that, in every aspect, this film is an exploitative and short-falling product.
To sum up
Undoubtedly, Spanish Fly is a film from another age, and it has some novelty value as a relic, as well as provoking a few laughs with Terry-Thomas’ performance. Honestly though, I find it hard to see why anyone would re-release this forgotten film; it was clearly forgotten for a reason. Even if Terry-Thomas does put on a reasonable performance, we’d be better off remembering him and Leslie Philips in their heyday, rather than shortly before the demise of their careers – and nothing could justify the filler sequences and confused approach of this film.
Spanish Fly is available now on DVD.