The Peter Sellers Story: As He Filmed It [DVD]
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Using a unique collection of his own home movies shot between 1948 and 1977 and discovered years after his death, this film presents an intriguing and intimate portrait of Peter Sellers.
The Peter Sellers Story will be released on DVD with the previously un-broadcast Academy Award nominated short film The Running, Jumping and Standing Still Film as an extra for the first time on October 24th. Never previously shown outside the cinema circuit, The Running, Jumping and Standing Film was filmed by Richard Lester (A Hard Days Night) .
Filmed using Sellers hand-held Bolex camera, it boasts a series of slapstick vignettes set to Lesters composed music. A home movie made ostensibly by friends, for friends, this eleven minute film features the comedic talents of Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan, Richard Lester, Graham Stark and others.
A compelling and definitive portrait of the man and his life.
The Peter Sellers Story As He Filmed It was re-cut from the original 1995 BAFTA-nominated Arena documentary transmitted in 2002 on BBC TWO.
Told in his own words, and including many well-known personalities from Stanley Kubrick, Sophia Loren and Robert Wagner to members of the Royal Family, in particular Princess Margaret and Prince Charles, this revealing film builds a fascinating and definitive record of a unique genius.
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This film claims to reveal the real Peter Sellers, and if in fact there was one, this is probably as close as you are ever going to get to seeing him in one sitting.
Though the title would suggest that Sellers left a cohesive, polished and ultimately revealing account of his own life, The Peter Sellers Story...As He Filmed It is a partial truth that definitely delivers on the last count. While it is not a finished film from Sellers per se, it is a collection of his home movies that have been edited together with voiceovers from many of those closest to him during his lifetime, including two of his four wives, his son Michael and daughters, Sarah and Victoria, Spike Milligan, Graham Stark, as well as the actor himself, George Harrison and others.
Peter pursued his life and career with an intensity matched by few, and while his interest in a given distraction could go from fire to ice in a heartbeat, his love of cameras and film was total and consuming. You could essentially say that he had his own camcorder--or the technological equivalent such as it existed at the time, his own film editing equipment--long before the rest of us were able to save our every milestone on a magnetic cassette tape.
So here we often get to see behind-the-scenes footage on the sets of Sellers' movies (I'm Alright, Jack, The Mouse That Roared, Casino Royale); sometimes we see polished little pieces that Sellers did edit and voiceover himself, like a mock car commercial with his young son; home movies with Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon; some interview footage from Peter's appearance on the Steve Allen show in 1964. There may be moments and clips here that, strictly speaking, were not actually filmed by Sellers or his agents, though they could have been (like the Steve Allen show). But certainly the majority of the visual imagery in this dvd is Peter's life, as he filmed it.
In addition to the voiceovers, the images are sometimes accompanied by Sellers' recorded musical material or his spontaneous ukulele improvisations, or a favorite song of his. Interestingly, the visual portion of Peter's life that is presented here is nearly the same as in the plot-line of the HBO biopic The Life and Death of Peter Sellers: To wit, picking up his life at roughly age 20-22 at the beginning of his radio days [ostensibly here, when he first acquired his 16mm camera]. Verbally, the comments from Spike Milligan and the first Mrs. Sellers, Anne Levy, speak to his earlier life, but make no mistake, this isn't a comprehensive biography and like the HBO film, it does not seek to examine the most formative years of Sellers' life. Still, it is an absorbing and intriguing journey: For a guy who didn't exist, he led a really fascinating life.
This dvd was initially released presumably in April 2004--and then yanked from shelves, allegedly for licensing issues between the BBC and Sellers' estate; if, like me, you believe what you read in online reviews. You can view that previous BBC release listing here on Amazon.co.uk, which shows an Aug. 2004 release date. Nevertheless, there was a BBC press memo indicating the release date as April 26, 2004. The hold-up in this PS Story...As He Filmed It reaching the light of day, coupled with the uncanny overlap between the events shown here (his wedding day to Britt Ekland, for example) and the ones the filmmakers chose to depict in the HBO film makes me wonder if they weren't trying to beat Peter to "his own version of his own life." Especially the timeline of the HBO film starring Geoffrey Rush--if you watch that film with the accompanying audio commentary by Rush and director Stephen Hopkins, they confirm that their initial vision was to begin the story as Peter suffered his first and most serious series of heart attacks in 1964. Yet the finished "Life and Death" has a timeline, starting with the Goons, that chose to parallel this film very, very closely. Inevitably, you might say---but I smell a rat here, not unlike Roger Lewis' book.
This newer release as of Oct. 2005 differs in content only by the addition in the bonus materials--the coveted addition--of The Running, Jumping and Standing Still film, an 11-minute, Academy Award nominated short that Sellers made with Richard Lester (who subsequently directed A Hard Day's Night). However, visually this version appears to have been brightened up relative to the earlier BBC disc, where the dark quality of those old home movies did limit visual detail.
Other bonuses include the highly entertaining TWA ads Sellers did, an unaired Irish interview in which Sellers, speaking quite candidly, appears very relaxed; PG Tips ad (English tea, you know, and a very funny voiceover) and another comedy short called I Say, I Say, I Say.
This bloke had more facets than the most intricate of diamonds, and this dvd takes a lupe to the subject matter from a most intimate perspective. Need I say, highly recommended?
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