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HTF REVIEW: "The Peter Sellers Collection" (with screenshots)


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#1 of 14 Ronald Epstein

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Posted January 20 2003 - 06:25 AM

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The Peter Sellers Collection






Studio: Anchor Bay
Year: 2003
Rated: NR
Film Length: 592 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (1.66:1)
Subtitles: None




If anyone ever asked me who my favorite all-time
comic actor was, I wouldn't hesitate to answer that
question with Peter Sellers. The first time
I ever saw him was on screen he was playing Inspector
Clouseau in Return Of The Pink Panther. I was
a 12-year-old kid and up until that point, I had
never heard of the actor. I have the most vivid
memories of never having laughed so much at a movie.
He was a man that could slip in and out of characters
like it were clothing. To this day, I can remember
that moment when I discovered the funniest actor I
had ever seen. Suffice to say, I became a huge fan,
and watched every movie the actor put out since then.

Long before Peter Sellers donned a trench coat as
Inspector Clouseau, he was appearing on a British
radio program called The Goon Show, which
upon its debut in 1949, became the most successful
show of its type in Britain. This show paved the
way for Seller's film career where he began appearing
in several short comedies. His first significant
film role came in 1955 alongside Alec Guiness in
The Ladykillers It is about this time where
he began making the films that comprise The Peter
Sellers Collection
. Included here are six
British films the actor appeared in between the
years 1957-1970.

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The Peter Sellers collection arrives in a
6 DVD set collection. The titles include The
Smallest Show On Earth
(1957), I'm All Right
Jack
(1959), Two-Way Stretch (1960),
Heavens Above! (1963), Hoffman (1958),
and a bonus to this set, Carlton-Browne of the
F.O.
(1958).

Because of the amount of product I receive each
week from all the studios, it is impossible for
me to watch every single title in this set. Since
I am totally unfamiliar with any of these titles,
I asked the membership of Home Theater Forum to
pick the titles they most wanted reviewed. The
three titles I chose are the most popular titles
chosen by the membership. Join me now as for the
very first time, I experience some of Peter Sellers
earliest works.

Since all three films generally look the same in
transfer quality, I have combined my comments in
one overall transfer report at the bottom of this
review.


Posted Image

The Smallest Show On Earth






Studio: Anchor Bay
Year: 1957
Rated: NR
Film Length: 80 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (1.66:1)
Subtitles: None



Posted Image

What a way to begin, and what a gem of a film
this is!

Posted ImagePosted Image

Newlyweds Matt and Jean Spencer (Bill Travers and
Virginia McKenna)suddenly find themselves coming
into an inheritance by an long-lost great uncle.
That inheritance, it seems, is a grand old cinema.
The couple excitedly travel to the small town of
Sloughborough to check out the rich estate that
has been left to them. Upon their arrival, they
are dismayed to learn that what actually has been
left to them is a run-down flea pit, called The Bijou.
It's staffed by a most unusual work force -- Mrs.
Fazaclaee (Margaret Rutherford), an elderly ticket
lady, Mr. Quill (Peter Sellers) an often drunken
projectionist and Old Tom (Bernard Miles) a janitor.
Though the staff is rather ancient, their hearts are
certainly in the decaying old theater.

Posted ImagePosted Image

When Matt and Jean see the dump they have been left
with, they certainly want to sell it off right away.
A rival theater owner named Mr. Hardcastle (Francis
De Wolff), is more than happy to buy the couple out,
as he wants to knock down the old theater and turn
the lot into a car park. What he's willing to pay
for the theater, however, is not attractive enough
for the Spencers to willingly sell, so the couple
decide to clean it up and drum up some business
in hopes of fetching a better offer.

This film is an absolute treat from start to finish.
The star of this film is the old Bijou, a theater
that warmly reminds everyone of a time before
corporations took over cinemas -- when movie palaces
were the real stars of the show. With its brilliant
ensemble of actors, you'll instantly fall in love
with the theater's eccentric cast who bicker amongst
each other all the time, yet take the utmost pride
in the theater they work in. The film's best sight
gags come from the features that are shown and how
outside elements contribute to making some of the
worst films the most entertaining.

I can't talk enough about how much fun I had
watching The Smallest Show On Earth simply
for its wonderful cast and the fact that its theme
is the one element so near and dear to all our
hearts -- cinema.


Posted Image

I'm All Right Jack






Studio: Anchor Bay
Year: 1959
Rated: NR
Film Length: 105 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (1.66:1)
Subtitles: None



Posted Image

Taking place in Britain during the 50s, this film
stars Ian Carmichael as Stanley Windrush, a naive
young graduate of Oxford who wants to make a go in
industry. His uncle Bertram Tracepurcel (Dennis Price)
offers him a job at his missile factory. Though he
will be starting at ground level, Stanley is promised
eventual advancement. What Stanley doesn't know is
that his Uncle Bertiam put him in the position
knowing Stanley would eventually do something stupid,
causing a strike at the factory. Such a strike
would greatly benefit a deal that has been made
with an ambassador from a middle eastern country.

Posted ImagePosted Image

Stanley's first few days on the job shows his total
incompetence which arouses the suspicion of his
fellow laborers. Socialist shop steward Fred
Kite (Peter Sellers) takes Stanley under his wing,
bringing home to live in his house alongside his
wife (Irene Handel) and beautiful daughter (Liz
Frazer). Not soon after, Stanley unwillingly
becomes involved in a timing matter that sets off
a huge strike. While Stanley gets snubbed by his
fellow union brothers, he becomes a hero to the
Press.

Posted Image

This was the film that won Peter Sellers his first
and only British Academy Award. In my opinion, it
is an award well deserved. Seller's portrayal of
a man embodied by his loyalty to his union is
just amazing to watch. This film isn't so much
a laugh-out-loud comedy than a lampooned look at
the issues of industrial relations. With an
award winning screenplay and acting performance
from Sellers, this is a film I found myself
enjoying immensely. An added treat was seeing
both Terry-Thomas and a very young Richard
Attenborough (Jurassic Park) in supporting roles.


Posted Image

Two-Way Stretch






Studio: Anchor Bay
Year: 1960
Rated: NR
Film Length: 87 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (1.66:1)
Subtitles: None



Posted Image

Looks like I saved the best for last.

Posted ImagePosted Image

Perhaps Sellers most fondly remembered caper,
Two-Way Stretch is the story of Dodger
Lane (Sellers), an inmate living the lap of luxery
along with his fellow cell mates Lennie (Bernard
Cribbins)and Jelly (David Lodge). For the entire
duration of their prison sentence these boys have
been able to con the guards into giving them all
the freedom they can handle. Now with their prison
time just about over, the boys are looking forward
to all the freedom they want on the other side of
the fence.

Not so fast! It seems that a visiting vicar
(Wilfred Hyde-White) is not a vicar at all, but
an old schemer friend named Soapy Stevens who has
an offer to make to Dodger and the boys. Seems
like a Sultan has entrusted Britain to safeguard
his royal stash of highly valuable diamonds. Soapy
proposes that the boys break out of prison, steal
the diamonds, and escape back into prison in a
single night, before anyone notices they are gone.

While the plan looks to be flawless, there are some
obstacles in the way. Not only must the boys deal
with an army that is guarding the Sultan's diamonds,
but even far worse, they have to get past the new
replacement Chief P.O.named Crout (Lionel Jeffries).

Posted ImagePosted Image

Cleverly written and well paced, Two-Way Stretch
is the most enjoyable of all the Sellers films I
have viewed in this set thus far. You can really
see how Sellers was shaping himself into a refined
comic actor. Brilliantly directed and acted, this
is just a fun film to watch, particularly for the
presence of Wilfred Hyde-White (My Fair Lady) who
masterminds the entire robbery and Lionel Jeffries,
in a most memorable role as the prison's new chief
of security.


How are the transfers?


For the most part, all of these films look well
above average -- however, there are some minor
problems that I will address.

The prints used in the transfers of this DVD
are in immaculate shape. I was impressed
as to how clean all these B&W prints look and how
well they have transferred to DVD. Image quality
is very sharp with excellent contrast levels
throughout and nice deep black levels. Blemishes
are also kept to a minimal.

Now I am going to nit pick.

The Smallest Show On Earth seemed to have a
problem with constant background noise that while
minimal, is noticeable. I'm All Right Jack
and Two-Way Stretch exhibited no background
noise whatsoever.

Though I did state contrast levels on all three
of these films were excellent, I must point out
that there is a problem with the contrast level
in Two-Way Stretch for a scene that lasts
about 10 minutes. The scene is an outdoor
sequence where we are shown an army convoy guarding
the Sultan's diamonds. Though the scene takes place
at mid-day, the contrast level is so dark that you
would think it was dusk.

The mono soundtrack is just fine. Dialogue comes
through nice and clear and there is absolutely no
hiss nor background noise to hinder the quality
of the audio.

In short, these transfers are mostly excellent
for the fact that they are sharp, detailed and
mostly blemish and noise free (except where noted).


Special Features


As is always the case with Anchor Bay, they throw
together these tribute sets and do nothing more
with them. Only one of the six features (I'm
Alright Jack) contains an original trailer. There
is a text-based Peter Sellers Bio that
is certainly an informative read, but makes one
wish that the studio would have put together
something more fitting to tribute Seller's early
British film career.

Then there's the old song about Subtitles.
There are none. Anchor Bay continues to release
product without any subtitles to benefit the hearing
impaired community. While there is closed
captioning
here, it is not nearly as effective
as subtitling.


Final Thoughts


If the three films I have reviewed here are any
indication, there is a lot of enjoyment to be
found in The Peter Sellers Collection. Fans
of his early work will be quite pleased by the overall
look of these anamorphic transfers. It's just a
shame that Anchor Bay threw this package together
without any additional thought to the man they
were honoring. With the lack of filmographies,
trailers and featurettes one easily must question
the importance of this set.


Release Date: January 21, 2003


All screen captures have been further compressed.
They are for illustrative purposes only and do not
represent actual picture quality

Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner

 

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#2 of 14 JoeyPalmiotti

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Posted January 20 2003 - 06:51 AM

Great review! I've only seen Dr. Strangelove, but my father said I'd love Being There, so I'll probably love all these other Peter Sellers classics Posted Image Thanks for the review!

#3 of 14 SteveGon

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Posted January 20 2003 - 08:07 AM

Yep, thanks for the review! Can't wait for my set to arrive...

#4 of 14 Ed St. Clair

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Posted January 20 2003 - 08:13 AM

Thank's for bringing attention to this box set, that because of age of the films, may have gone 'unnoticed' by many on the forum.
Movies are: "The Greatest Artform".
HD should be for EVERYONE!

#5 of 14 Josh Sieg

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Posted January 20 2003 - 08:21 AM

Loved all of the pink panther movies! Peter Sellers was indeed great.
My favorites:

#6 of 14 michael deakin

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Posted January 20 2003 - 08:51 AM

Ron.
Glad you enjoyed them.
And many thanks for the reviews.
michael.

#7 of 14 John Watson

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Posted January 20 2003 - 09:49 AM

Can't wait to get the set, even tho from the review I think I've seen 2 Way Stretch before, so there may only be 3 that I've never seen.

For those who like ths style and era of these movies, don't forget the Alec Guinness box set either, as Peter Sellers figures in several of those movies too.

BTW, did everyone enjoy the Party, Party!!

#8 of 14 Lew Crippen

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Posted January 21 2003 - 05:06 AM

Ron, thanks very much for this review. I recently mentioned I’m All Right, Jack in a posting in another area of this forum, and was surprised that very few members had seen (or heard of) this movie. Very typical of a series of satirical films made in the UK during this period, wherein everyone (and every class) was the target of well-intentioned, though sometimes pointed) humor.
¡Time is not my master!

#9 of 14 TimSniffin

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Posted January 23 2003 - 02:38 AM

Quote:
Then there's the old song about Subtitles.
There are none. Anchor Bay continues to release
product without any subtitles to benefit the hearing
impaired community. While there is closed
captioning here, it is not nearly as effective
as subtitling.


Ron, you may want to change that to Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired. Normal subtitles do not help out people who are legally deaf--it tells them the dialogue but nothing else like a phone ringing, or a sounds that are important to a scene. Closed captioning does that.

It's also the first time I've heard that closed captioning doesn't "benefit the hearing impaired community."

#10 of 14 Mark Hanson

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Posted January 24 2003 - 05:34 AM

It is always fun when you start discovering movies and B&W is not bad when the story is good. Still for Peter Sellers if someone will do the Mouse that Roared I will be very excited.

#11 of 14 Dan Rudolph

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Posted January 24 2003 - 06:34 AM

cc is only a problem because many devices don't support it. (ie PCs and portables.)
My Collection

#12 of 14 Franklin Sadnoy

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Posted March 13 2003 - 06:39 PM

< There are none. Anchor Bay continues to release
product without any subtitles to benefit the hearing
impaired community. While there is closed
captioning here, it is not nearly as effective
as subtitling. >>

Rumor has it that MGM bought Anchor Bay's catalog. Maybe they'll re-release some stuff with subtitles.Posted Image

#13 of 14 Ronald Epstein

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Posted March 13 2003 - 08:32 PM

Franklin,

I hope so, as I have beeb putting off reviewing
Anchor Bay titles due to the fact that subtitles
are very important to me.

Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner

 

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#14 of 14 Robert Harris

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Posted March 14 2003 - 01:17 AM

For the uninitiated, The Smallest Show on Earth is one of the great hors d'oeuvres to the career of Peter Sellers.

RAH

"All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did." T.E. Lawrence