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

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ronald Epstein, Jan 20, 2003.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Real Name:
    Ronald Epstein

    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.


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

    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


    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


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


    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.


    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.


    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


    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.


    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


    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.


    Two-Way Stretch

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


    Looks like I saved the best for last.


    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).


    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
    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
  2. JoeyPalmiotti

    Nov 23, 2002
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    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 [​IMG] Thanks for the review!
  3. SteveGon

    SteveGon Executive Producer

    Dec 11, 2000
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    Yep, thanks for the review! Can't wait for my set to arrive...
  4. Ed St. Clair

    Ed St. Clair Producer

    May 7, 2001
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    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.
  5. Josh Sieg

    Josh Sieg Second Unit

    Oct 27, 2002
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    Loved all of the pink panther movies! Peter Sellers was indeed great.
  6. michael deakin

    michael deakin Stunt Coordinator

    Jul 20, 2000
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    Michael Charles Deakin
    Glad you enjoyed them.
    And many thanks for the reviews.
  7. John Watson

    John Watson Screenwriter

    Jul 14, 2002
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    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. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

    May 19, 2002
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    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.
  9. TimSniffin

    TimSniffin Stunt Coordinator

    Jun 29, 2001
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  10. Mark Hanson

    Mark Hanson Agent

    May 4, 1999
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    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. Dan Rudolph

    Dan Rudolph Producer

    Dec 30, 2002
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    cc is only a problem because many devices don't support it. (ie PCs and portables.)
  12. Franklin Sadnoy

    Franklin Sadnoy Auditioning

    Mar 6, 2003
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  13. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder

    Jul 3, 1997
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    Ronald Epstein

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

    Robert Harris Archivist

    Feb 8, 1999
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    Robert Harris
    For the uninitiated, The Smallest Show on Earth is one of the great hors d'oeuvres to the career of Peter Sellers.


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