Peter Sellers, Monty Python and John Otway among programme highlights of Southend Film Festival 2014

Peter Sellers, Monty Python and John Otway among programme highlights of Southend Film Festival 2014

A collection of rare Peter Sellers films is among the highlights at this year's Southend Film Festival, which takes place over the first spring Bank Holiday from Fri 2–Mon 5 May.

Before going on to play classic roles like Dr Strangelove and Inspector Clouseau, Sellers made his living in radio, starring in the influential Goon Show. His move from radio to the big screen commenced with some comedic short films in 1956 – these recently recovered films, long thought to have been lost, have been digitally re-mastered from the original 35mm prints, and will be screened at the festival's opening gala on Thu 1 May. The festival will also close with Sellers in The Magic Christian, with co-stars Ringo Starr and features a massive list of cameos including Spike Milligan, Christopher Lee, Laurence Harvey, Raquel Welch, Roman Polanski, Richard Attenborough, Yul Brynner and pre-Monty Python appearances from John Cleese and Graham Chapman (both of whom also contributed to the script).

The rest of the diverse programme includes classics like The Ghost of St Michaels, the British comedy from 1941 about a hapless teacher who finds that his school is haunted by a bagpipe wielding ghost, and Jacques Demy’s 1964 ode to classic Hollywood musicals from the 1920s The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, featuring Catherine Deneuve. There are also screenings of modern greats like last year’s Fellini-esque, Oscar-winning The Great Beauty, and 2012’s acclaimed Wadjda, the remarkable story of a young Saudi girl which was the first to be filmed entirely in Saudi Arabia, and the first made by a female Saudi director.

Another programme highlight is the documentary Rock and Roll’s Greatest Failure: Otway the Movie, charting the almost unbelievable story of never-say-die musician John Otway, who was signed by a major label as their ‘next big thing’ at the height of the punk era in 1977, only to wait 25 years later for his next big hit. Otway himself will be in attendance.

There will also be a special screening of Monty Python’s Life of Brian, accompanied by a talk on why the satirical classic was deemed too risque by Southend Council and banned on its 1979 release.

For more information check out the Southend Film Festival website.