Peter Sellers Collection, The - DVD review (4 stars)

The Peter Sellers Collection

(PG) 376min (Optimum Classic DVD retail)


Master or monster? Idol or idiot? Genius or jackass? The debate still simmers upon which side Peter Sellers’ legacy should fall, but it would be a shame if his reel life was tainted by his clear failings as a husband or father. Just prior to him becoming Dr Strangelove and Inspector Clouseau, Sellers was a staple of the late 50s/early 60s British comedy movie scene. Three of those affairs are slapped together into one box here alongside a pointless clips compilation, The Very Best of Peter Sellers.

The Boulting brothers’ I’m All Right Jack is a gentle mocking of business practices and a strident attack upon trade unions. Still, Sellers puts up a stirring performance as the stony-faced shop steward Fred Kite. Only Two Can Play is notable for acting as a mirror of Sellers’ life in 1962. Being mean and moody towards his wife and kids, he lolled around in the arms of others; here, it’s with Mai Zetterling as he attempts to find meaning in his dull Welsh librarian life. Sidney Gilliat’s movie adaptation of the Kingsley Amis novel hints at the darker aspects of Sellers’ world and at the more complex roles that would soon be his.

In his next collaboration with the Boultings, Heavens Above!, he plays a radical Brummie vicar who is accidentally assigned to a parish and upsets the pompous congregation by being kind to immigrants and the poor. As the community rebels, a rather tagged-on twist ending awaits. While his greatest achievements were still to arrive, these post-Goons period pieces showed that Sellers could command a scene like no other British comic actor of his time, even in movies whose comedy was light and the satire forced.

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