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4.5 out of 5 stars37
4.5 out of 5 stars
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on 28 March 2007
Im so glad this film has had a dvd release in the UK, seems as though we've waited ages for it. This has to be one of Peter Sellers finest, most unappreciated films, largely ignored on its initial release but getting a strong following as the years went by. Unlike some of his later characterisations he underplays this one beautifully and its a very believable character, a lowly vicar trying hard to practice what he preachs but sadly causing chaos around him. The supporting cast are also brilliant with a turn from Eric Sykes as the head of a LARGE family who come to live with the vicar and end up robbing him blind, one of the best roles Sykes has had and his wife played by Irene Handle is also a joy to watch.

If you want to see Peter Sellers at his best, for once able to keep his manic personality OFF the screen then view this film, a lovely piece of cinema.
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on 11 September 2008
My favourite film and, possibly, the best British comedy film, ever made. A true classic gem. If you like Ealing type films, and enjoy lots of laughter, this film is a must. I can't rate it high enough.

A great story, featuring, an incredibly stunning performance by, peter sellers, and probably his best ever. The film also, stars, other great, performances from the likes of,ie Eric Sykes, Miran Carling, Irene Handel, Cecil parker, Miles matheson,and, many others.

It's the story of, a vicar (peter sellers), a genteel natured lolly clergyman, with a soft Liverpudlians accent, who, is mistakenly, sent to serve in a parish. Sellers zealous religious beliefs and the principals he acts upon from the scriptures, soon gets him in trouble with the Bishop and his elders, when, he takes in a travelling family,played superbly by Eric sykes as the shifty father, Miran Carling, and, the lovable Irene Handel, and their hoard of children, to live in the rectory.
sellers also preaches the joy of giving and, convinces a, very rich lady, to give free food to the people with her money, that leaves the local shops, angry, and the people greedy.leading to sellers, being shunned by everyone, and problematic for the church. You can't help feeling sad for the well meaning character.

Apparantly, in Documentry's about sellers,people working on the film state, even off camera, peter continued to stay in his character role, even while playing cricket during breaks from filming.

This film is a true classic that, will have you in stiches, and at times, quite emotional too. It really dosen't get better than this. it's surley sellers greatest performance, and shows the great comedy actors veratility, and genius.

A cosy delightful film to put your feet up and languish in film comedy heaven. Enjoy.
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on 4 June 2008
This is one of two important Sellers films in which Sellers gets upstaged by Kenneth Griffith. Griffith only lasts a minute or two but his fiery Welsh vicar is well worth having, and he's a British great too. In this case Sellers creates one of his best character performances and I like this character particularly. He joins up with Ian Carmichael again. On my TV the widescreen masking at the bottom on the right flickers irritatingly, which I've not had before. Otherwise a fine print of a great Sellers film.

PS - I've since changed my TV and don't get that problem any more.
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on 24 March 2011
When the vicar of Orbiston Parva dies, the Church has to find a replacement. However, they are mindful of the fact that this town has certain "peculiarities" and requires a clergyman with diplomacy, gentle upbringing and someone who is not likely to "rock the boat". Unfortunately, due to a clerical error, the wrong Reverend John Smallwood is chosen. Peter Sellers IS the wrong Reverend John Smallwood, currently working in a prison, where, due to his kind nature, he is taken advantage of, in particular by Roy Kinnear, who, almost from the outset, sets the pace of the film.

Reverend Smallwood is a Christian, in the very truest sense of the word. In fact, he is more than anyone expects. If one accepts that the fundamental principles of Christianity are based upon communism, then Revd. John Smallwood is a communist, although without any of the political and less acceptable faces of that "doctrine". He believes everyone is equal, whether or not they have wealth and that everyone is equal in the eye of God.

The film is a fascinating portrayal of how incongruous and hypocritical both religion and people are and how both the wealthy and the poor are fundamentally, morally corrupt and how Christianity, in its truest form, can be taken advantage of. The Reverend Smallwood wants to make his people believe in his God. He loves everyone and clearly demonstrates this when he encounters Matthew Robinson (Brock Peters). Matthew is the only black character in the film (and actually the only decent human being), who just happens to be the local rubbish collector, but who is also the only person who even tries to help the new clergyman on his arrival on the wet and uninviting afternoon. The subsequent mortification of the PCC members is secured when the clergyman appoints Matthew to be his Churchwarden and it is then that we see the true face of Christianity in Orbiston Parva; one is acceptable, so long as one is white, middle class and relatively wealthy.

As the story moves on, we are shown how the working class (in this story, portrayed by travellers [Erik Sykes and Irene Handl]) are perceived to take advantage of any situation that benefits them, as well as how Roy Kinnear (the prisoner who tied Revd. Smallwood up on his last day, in order to escape) takes advantage of the Christian's forgiving nature.

The film is quite fast-moving and there are plenty of laughs and lots going on all the time. Peter Sellers is absolutely amazing as the Revd. Smallwood; he excells in this role and do watch out for the scene when he munches away happily at the dog food, while the poor dogs can only look on in despair!

Whilst it is very humourous, it is also extremely true-to-life and very thought provoking. You can watch it either from the point of view of seeing how witty and clever the film is, or from the standpoint of how incredibly accurate is its portrayal of society. Either way, it is absolutely compelling viewing, right up until the absolute conclusion!
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on 18 June 2009
A very well conceived idea and a fine, complex social satire, HA makes a lot of valid points about why the church no longer has a place in (British) politics and gives us a comedic vision of what can happen if it does get too involved. Notable for both a subtle, rich screenplay and a superb performance by Peter Sellers who has every nuance down to tee as the vicar erroneously selected to run an affluent middle England parish. He is exactly the opposite of the conservative, establishment, garden party vicar that the town is used to, and his radical, social minded actions cause chaos. The town's economic and social state of affairs are put into turmoil by his idealistic actions, and this gives us a lot of food for thought. The story shows what harm religious idealists can do to the mechanics of everyday life and it also satirises the tokenism and vacuity of our established C of E parish churches, where the most radical decision the vicar will make is what sandwich to have with his omnipresent cup of tea. Cecil Parker is the embodiment of an establishment Bishop who enjoys material pleasures every bit as much as spiritual ones. I think the film sags a bit because of a drawnout ending, and loses some credibilty with it too, but this is possibly because the Boulting Bros. made such high quality products and a quicker ending would have jarred with the meticulous build up that went before. A very English product and really worth watching for both the satire and the nostalgia.
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"Heavens Above!" (1963). This small, witty, 1960s black and white classic British comedy stars Peter Sellers as the Reverend John Smallwood, who had been an unconventional prison chaplain, and is mistakenly appointed vicar of the wealthy parish of Orbiston Parva, best-known for its local laxative factory. Smallwood just can't help himself: he's gotta buck the conventional town's rigid expectations. He insists on ministering to rich and poor alike; by doing so, he unwittingly shakes up the town's social order and infuriates everyone.

This was the last movie Sellers made before becoming an international star, on the strength of Doctor Strangelove (Collectors Edition) [DVD] [1963] and The Pink Panther Film Collection (5 Disc Box Set) [1976] [DVD]. (After he earned world renown he could no longer afford to do edgy little satiric comedies like this one. Nor, of course, could the makers of edgy little comedies like this one afford to hire him.) HEAVENS runs a brisk 118 minutes, was written and produced by the well-known Boulting Brothers, John and Roy, and is distinctly family-friendly, despite its satirical edge, and its leanings toward occasional farce. There was certainly no stinting on its cast of topnotch supporting players. It costars the always dotty Cecil Parker(Pure Hell Of St Trinians [DVD] [1960]) as Archdeacon Aspinall; Isabel Jeans as the lovely, wealthy and snobbish Lady Despard, whom Smallwood helps to (briefly) see the light; Ian Carmichael (I'm All Right Jack [DVD] [1959]) as the other Smallwood (some would say the real Smallwood): Bernard Miles (Dandelion Dead [DVD]) as Simpson; and Brock Peters as Matthew Robinson, a dustman who becomes Smallwood's assistant. Also, as, initially, denizens of the other side of the tracks: Eric Sykes as the layabout Harry Smith, making a good thing of the dole and who knows what else; Irene Handl (I'M ALL RIGHT JACK),as his indomitable wife Rene; the inimitable Miles Malleson (Kind Hearts And Coronets [DVD] [1949]) as Rockeby; and Roy Kinnear (Diamond's Edge [DVD] [1997] ),as Fred Smith. Joan Hickson (Agatha Christie : The Miss Marple Collection (12 Disc Box Set) [DVD]), plays a troublesome local housewife.

Sellers was born to a well-off English acting family: when he was a child, his parents worked in a theatre troupe run by his grandmother. He was well-known for liking to research his roles, and often basing his characters upon people he'd known in his life: sources say the Rev. John Smallwood is closely based on Brother Cornelius, one of the teachers at Sellers' parochial school. Sellers was unquestionably one of the greatest comedians of the twentieth century, and though this film didn't have me rolling about on the floor with laughter, it's worth a butcher's any day.
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on 19 January 2011
A number of films have been made over the years that feed upon mankind's weaknesses and hypocrisies. This is one of those, not so powerful maybe as Chaplin's efforts as exampled by Modern Times or The Great Dictator, but more in the league of The Toast of New York (1937; with Carry Grant, Edward Arnold and the tragic Frances Farmer) and I'm All Right Jack (1959; with Sellers, Carmichael, Thomas, Attenborough, Price et al). Indeed Heavens Above shares some of the actors with the latter.

What these films all have in common is to reflect life through a synthesis of comedy and tragedy (life is, after all, an impossible business)--both Chaplin and Sellers shared a genius for such roles.

In Heavens Above Sellers plays a well-meaning, naïve ex-prison chaplain let loose (through a mix-up in which Carmichael should have had the job) on an unsuspecting, prospering town (as seen from above) where he seeks to reform the smug and well-to-do into caring for the underdog, of which there is a fine example in the form of squatters occupying "sacred" ground. Sellers removes this little band (including the impeccable Irene Handl) to even holier quarters, taking up residence with the pastor himself, where he is literally filched left right and centre.

The film is apposite to our times demonstrating that the upper-crust have the rest of us over a barrel (sic. the banking executive parasites). And to crown it, Carmichael, under examination from a professor of psychology (Miles Malleson) ostensibly to assess Sellers's mental stability (another identity mix-up), bears a striking facial resemblance to Tony Blair in a state of frenzy.

Sellers completes his mission by secretly taking the place of an astronaut at launch and then singing the praises of God from Earth orbit.

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on 1 February 2006
This charming comedy takes on the sensitive issue of the charity paradox.
In the better known Charmichael/Sellers film "I'm alright Jack", a sledgehammer is taken to the TAKE, TAKE, TAKE society of the time.
A few years on and its the GIVE, GIVE, GIVERS that are under the spotlight in a superbly subtle Sellers/Charmichael film.
All the performances are outstanding, as is the entire film.
I recommend this classic to everyone.
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on 20 December 2005
`Heavens Above' is the Boultings Brother's attempt at satirizing the religious establishment. Sellers is cast as a well-meaning parson whose attempts at absolute Christian interpretation don't go down very well in a cosy English village.
Beautifully underplayed by Sellers, with plenty of humour and pathos.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 23 November 2015
Following in the wake of a series of lauded films – including the uncompromising gangster thriller Brighton Rock and the comedy satires Private’s Progress and I’m Alright Jack – twin brothers John and Roy Boulting once again teamed up with the inestimable Peter Sellers for this 1962 spoof, this time setting 'aristocratic capitalism’ against the church. Heavens Above! uses the well-established comedic device of 'mistaken identity’ to pitch Sellers’ gullible, eccentric, but well-meaning prison parson, John Smallwood, into the turbulent rural community of Orbiston Parva, where his unconventional approach is set against Isabel Jeans’ local landowner Lady Despard and her businessman son. Although (for me, at least) Heaven Above! doesn’t quite match the consistent, hard-edged satire of I’m Alright Jack, it has some great moments and features one of the most impressive cast-lists of British comedy talent of the era.

Sellers is brilliantly unassuming and understated here (almost in Chauncey Gardiner vein) as he shocks local community members (William Hartnell, Joan Hickson, Eric Barker) by taking on Brock Peters’ negro dustman, Matthew Robinson, as vicar’s warden and taking under his wing a group of shirking and scheming travellers (Eric Sykes, Irene Handl, Miriam Karlin). Some of the strongest (and funniest) scenes are those between Smallwood, his 'erroneous employer’ (the great) Cecil Parker’s Archdeacon Aspinall and Lady Despard who, in response to the vicar’s doubt as to her 'afterlife destination’ (due to her current privileged social position) decides to give away all her worldly possessions, in the process bankrupting (and sowing seeds of division amongst) local businesses. Outstanding scenes include those where Smallwood inadvertently (but happily) devours a plate of dog biscuits and that where Ian Carmichael’s ‘other priest’ Smallwood undergoes an hilarious psychiatric examination by Miles Malleson’s 'quack’. Other cast members (often in brief cameos) include Kenneth Griffith, Roy Kinnear, Rodney Bewes, Lance Percival, John Junkin, Derek Nimmo and Last of the Summer Wine’s John Comer.

Much to delight in, therefore, and a must-see for all Sellers fans.
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