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The Smallest Show On Earth [DVD]

Virginia McKenna , Bill Travers , Basil Dearden    Universal, suitable for all   DVD
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Actors: Virginia McKenna, Bill Travers, Margaret Rutherford, Peter Sellers, Bernard Miles
  • Directors: Basil Dearden
  • Writers: John Eldridge, William Rose
  • Producers: Frank Launder, Leslie Gilliat, Michael Relph, Sidney Gilliat
  • Format: PAL
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 4:3 - 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: U
  • Studio: Momentum
  • DVD Release Date: 8 July 2002
  • Run Time: 73 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000067NQV
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 23,993 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)



An amiable knock-off of the Ealing comedy style, The Smallest Show on Earth starts with aspiring novelist Bill Travers and his "nice gel" wife Virginia McKenna inheriting a cinema from a hitherto unknown uncle and discovering that it isn't the sumptuous modern Grand, which specialises in those "smash 'em in the face, knock 'em over the waterfront" pictures, but the decrepit Bijou, known locally as "the fleapit". The initial plan, set up by lawyer Leslie Phillips, is to sell off the cinema to the owner of the Grand so he can knock it down to make a car park, but our heroes are put off by the arrogant bullying of the rival manager (Francis De Wolff) and succumb to the inept charms of the crazed, aged staff--drunken projectionist Peter Sellers, doddery commissionaire Bernard Miles and dotty ticket lady Margaret Rutherford (who joined the team as a piano accompanist).

In the 1950s, there was a run of gentle British comedies in which outmoded and broken-down local institutions (steam trains, tugboats, vintage cars) were saved by collections of committed eccentrics who despised the new-fangled bus services or soulless council bureaucracies and were willing to resort to a little larceny (in this case, arson). The Smallest Show slots in perfectly with the cycle, getting laughs from the Bijou's already outmoded programme of scratchy Westerns and desert dramas (which increase ice cream sales) and sentiment over the staff's midnight screenings of silent movies that remind them of better days. It's likeable rather than hilarious, with Sellers and Miles buried under crepe hair and fake wrinkles competing to out-dodder each other and losing the picture to the inimitable Rutherford, who doesn't have to fake her eccentricity. Pin-up, June Cunningham, is the glamorous usherette and Sid James plays her annoyed Dad.

On the DVD: The Smallest Show on Earth is presented in a decent print, but with no extras. The film is also available as part of the four-disc Peter Sellers Collection. --Kim Newman

Product Description

Jean and Bill are a married couple trying to scrape a living. Out of the blue they receive a telegram informing them Bill's long-lost uncle has died and left them his business - a cinema in the town of Sloughborough. Unfortunately they can't sell it for the fortune they hoped as they discover it is falling down and almost worthless.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Getting There... 27 Oct 2001
Four classics from the master of character comedy, the late great Peter Sellers...
Two-Way Stretch, is one of Sellers most fondly remembered british made capers. A very funny story played out by a cast on top form...classic.
The Smallest Show on Earth, a quaint, twee little comedy about a young couple who inherit a run down little cinema and it's very eccentric staff of whom Sellers plays the old drunken projectionist...british acting greats showing off their comedic skills...hhhmmm, nice.
Carlton Browne of the F.O., Sellers first film with the Boulting Brothers, all about international politics and british diplomacy surrounding some far flung colonial island somewhere on the planet...a fun little film.
Hoffman, A really dark "comic" performance from Sellers as a middle aged man who blackmails his pretty young secretary into staying with him for a he can seduce her. It's tense and quite unerving in places, Sellers at first comes across as very cold and distant...but will you warm to him? - Will his secretary warm to him?
And will he reveal what he's really like? - An intriguing and very underated film worth seeing.
As a DVD set it's nicely presented, the lack of extras is dissapointing but hardly surprising with the age of some of the films. Picture quality is pretty good for their age, the sound is crisp and very clear, of course the price is pretty good for 4 films! Lets hope we get more Sellers movies on DVD...Enjoy!
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49 of 51 people found the following review helpful
This DVD contains four Peter Sellers films of what can be called "his British era". The all time classic "Two Way Stretch" is here, along with the very amusing "Carlton Browne of The FO", the moving "The Smallest Show On Earth" and "Hoffman", a film which is in the Top-10 of the Best, more underestimated films of film history! Especially the last is a true diamond, in which Sellers reveals another approach of acting from what is known in the public (but not his fanatic fans!).
Yet, it is very dissapointing that the production of the DVD fails to meet the expectations, as the DVD is nothing more than 4 films of Sellers thrown all together in the market...There are no extras, no trailers, no commentaries, no filmograpy, not even subtitles (which I find a terrible offense for the disabled or the non-native english viewers). If they'd just take a walk at the BFI, I'm absolutely sure they'd find some material...Why? No answer expected...
Whatever the goal of the production is, this is a DVD set with nice picture and sound and something no real fan of Pete Sellers or British's cinema should pass by...
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A True British Comedy Classic 4 Feb 2006
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
This 1957 classic ranks next to my all-time favourite classic British comedies. Husband and wife team, Bill Travers, and Virginia McKenna inherit a run-down cinema along with its staff, Margaret Rutherford, and the excellent Peter Sellers as the elderly projectionist. Their inheritance pays off, but cathces the shady intentions of their rival (Francis De Wolff- better known as the shape-changing robot, Jedikiah, in two episodes of, "The Tomorrow People").
The film must be seen. Grab the chance while you can. Very highly recommended.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Picking four titles for a `Best of Peter Sellers' compilation would be a tough task, as there are so many possible candidates. The producers of this set seem to have gone for some less obvious choices that are designed to demonstrate the many sides of this great actor.

Four films are contained herein, The Smallest Show on Earth, Carlton Browne of the FO, Two Way Stretch and Hoffman.

The Smallest show on Earth follows the fortunes of a young couple who inherit an ancient cinema, complete with ancient staff. Sellers, made up to look very aged, plays the doddery old projectionist. This is a very touching and gentle comedy, typical of the time. Sellers gives a delicately nuanced performance that gets much sympathy from the audience. Also look out for him `starring' in some of the films being shown in the films being shown in the cinema.

Carlton Browne of the FO is a straight farce, following the trials and tribulations of an upper class twit sent to be the British representative in a banana republic and completely out of his depth. Sellers steals the film as the corrupt local.

Two Way Stretch is a great crime caper, in which Sellers, David Lodge and Bernard Cribbins need to escape from jail, do a robbery and break back in again, all in one night so as to establish the perfect alibi. This mixes together elements of straight comedy and serious robbery caper into one great whole. It is a forerunner to the highly successful Porridge.

Form me the star of the show is Hoffman, a curious little film about a middle aged man (Sellers) blackmailing a beautiful girl into spending a week alone with him in his flat.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A shame about the cuts, get the full version! 22 Jan 2007
There is no doubt that this is one of the most charming English films of the 1950s. Sadly this version listed as 77 minutes is actually 73 minutes, the original version being 81 minutes. The changes that this origonally delightful film has been subject to, are quite unnecessary, the editing only detracts from the enjoyment of the film. Take my advice and get an unedited version. You will like it so much more.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Good film.
One of the best of the old films, with great stars such as Peter sellers, Virginia McKenna, Bill Travers, Bernard Miles, Margaret Rutherford and even Leslie Phillips.
Published 2 months ago by Beeza Geoff
5.0 out of 5 stars My brother did not get the DVD
I personally love the DVD. The only trouble is, my brother said the DVD must have been returned to you as he said he did not get it. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Colin Houghton
5.0 out of 5 stars dvd
very funny film reminds you what good acting is all about more of these old films shoud be seen execrlent
Published 6 months ago by Mr. Michael Hands
5.0 out of 5 stars the show
must go on.
I bought this for the film The smallest show on earth.
This set is very well put together,as is this film. Read more
Published 8 months ago by flibity
5.0 out of 5 stars the smallest show on earth
I have the video and enjoy it so much - wonderful film - all emotions running riot and very funny to boot - glad I was able to get it on DVD - brilliant actors - everyone should... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Monica Thorpe
5.0 out of 5 stars Smallest Show on Earth DVD
I had to send this copy back because I did not realise until it was too late to cancel that it was Region 1. Read more
Published 12 months ago by maureen
5.0 out of 5 stars honest retailer
I purchased this collection knowing the outside case was a little bit worn, the retailer was honest enough to tell me up front, this did not detract from the fantastic films... Read more
Published on 17 July 2011 by Mr. Eric N. Taylor
3.0 out of 5 stars Smallest moving picture on earth
This film actually depicts the disgust of producers and directors for old cinema's and old movies. The main characters only care about making much money out of an old cinema. Read more
Published on 1 May 2011 by Tjitte de Vries
5.0 out of 5 stars Yes, it's been cut. Yes, it's still wonderful.
I first saw this film in a theatre in California in about 1962, under the American title of Big Time Operators, and I remember bits that are missing in the DVD version. Read more
Published on 14 Oct 2009 by Richard Simonton
This is the story of a cinema - or Kinema, as Margaret Rutherford's elderly usherette insists on calling it. Read more
Published on 30 Aug 2007 by Green Knight
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