Tag Archives: Peter Sellers

The Set of 400: #1 – My Favorite Combination Russian Phrasebook and Bible

Today! Because you can’t fight in here, this is the war room –

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

Directed by Stanley Kubrick (x7)

Starring Peter Sellers (x5), George C. Scott (x3), Sterling Hayden (x3), Slim Pickens (x3), Keenan Wynn (x2), Peter Bull (x2), James Earl Jones (x8), Shane Rimmer (x3), Tracy Reed

Folks, you may have never expected us to reach the end of this journey – God knows, I didn’t – but nonetheless, here we are! 400 posts, 265,000 words, and a lot more praise for Teen Wolf than the average person could muster, and we’ve finally come to the grand conclusion! My favorite movie of all-time, at least 70% of the time, Stanley Kubrick’s darkly comedic apocalyptic global thermonuclear satire, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Featuring a triple performance from the unparalleled Peter Sellers and an unhinged, over-the-top turn from George C. Scott as war monger Buck Turgidson (the role that kicked off my long affection for Scott’s work), Strangelove shares a fair number of similarities with my other favorite movie, yesterday’s Duck Soup, as they both poke fun at international politics, jingoistic armed conflict negotiation, and gloriously inflated government egos. The difference, obviously, is that the fate of the entire world is at stake in Strangelove, due to one rogue lunatic, where nuclear weapons were still some years away when Duck Soup went before the cameras in 1933.

And this is not even the rogue lunatic in question

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The Set of 400: #164 – My Favorite Blind Butler

Today! Because conversation like television set on honeymoon – unnecessary –

Murder by Death (1976)

Directed by Robert Moore (x2)

Starring David Niven, Maggie Smith (x2), Peter Sellers (x4), Peter Falk (x4), Elsa Lanchester, James Coco (x3), Alec Guinness, Eileen Brennan (x2), Estelle Winwood, James Cromwell (x2), Nancy Walker, Truman Capote, Richard Narita

Neil Simon’s epic comedy mashup of legendary 20th century mystery novel sleuths is half brilliant, half standard Neil Simon-esque jokes, with a like 20% horribly racist overlay. It was the ’70s, and I know that’s no great excuse, and you had master of accents and buffoonery Peter Sellers as Charlie Chan-lite Sidney Wang, but that’s also no great excuse. Wang has some funny lines – not just funny accent bits – but it’s not for today’s audience, I’ll readily admit that.

However, Niven and Smith as Dick and Dora Charleston, Peter Falk’s Sam Diamond, James Coco’s Monsieur Perrier, and Elsa Lanchester’s Jessica Marbles take off wonderfully on Nick and Nora, Sam Spade, Hercule Poirot, and Miss Marple. The plot revolves around a secluded mansion where the detectives have been gathered to solve a murder by their host Lionel Twain, the ultimately murdered man, played fairly tongue-in-cheek by Truman Capote. It’s absurdist zaniness, with the house functioning very much as a character itself, moving rooms at will and facilitating numerous attempts on the detectives’ lives. It’s basically a wilder take on Clue, just ten years earlier and with only one ending. Continue reading

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The Set of 400: #166 – My Favorite Priceless Steinway

Today! Because compared to Clouseau, this doomsday machine is just a water pistol –

The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976)

Directed by Blake Edwards (x2)

Starring Peter Sellers (x3), Herbert Lom, Burt Kwouk, Lesley-Anne Down, Colin Blakely (x2), Andre Maranne, Leonard Rossiter, Richard Vernon, Dudley Sutton, Deep Roy, Omar Sharif (x2)

The Pink Panther film series went through a variety of phases, from the genteel early ’60s comedies A Shot in the Dark and The Pink Panther to the one-off Alan Arkin film Inspector Clouseau to the zany return to Sellers in the ’70s to the bizarro pseudo-sequels and spin-offs of the ’80s and on and on. There’s a few cartoon shows and Steve Martin in the mix as well. But for my money, the only films that are really any good are the fourth, fifth, and sixth movies – after Edwards and Sellers were away from the franchise for over a decade.

And really, had he not died, Sellers seemed intent on playing Clouseau for many years to come. The unrealized Romance of the Pink Panther would’ve marked his sixth time in the role, and these films – while still funny – were getting a touch interchangeable. That’s why The Pink Panther Strikes Again always stuck out for me. As solid as Return of the Pink Panther and Revenge of the Pink Panther were around it, Strikes Again had the benefit of not being the first film back from the long hiatus, plus it had the genius decision of finally driving Captain Dreyfus completely insane. This is set up by the end of Return, where Dreyfus (Clouseau’s boss) attempts to kill him, and is institutionalized. Here, Dreyfus (played with manic zeal by the great Herbert Lom) morphs into a lunatic supervillain, intent on holding the world hostage, and it’s naturally up to Clouseau to stop him. Continue reading

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The Set of 400: #206 – My Favorite Political Savant

Today! Because life is a state of mind –

Being There (1979)

Directed by Hal Ashby (x2)

Starring Peter Sellers (x2), Shirley MacLaine, Melvyn Douglas, Jack Warden, Richard Dysart, Richard Basehart (x2), James Noble, Alice Hirson, Elya Baskin (x2), Ruth Attaway

Hal Ashby’s brilliant decade came to an end with Being There, a character-based comedy featuring an absolutely brilliant turn by Peter Sellers as the simple minded gardener Chance. Upon the death of his boss, he’s thrust out into society, which he only knows from television, and while there are some fish out of water moments, the point of the story is more the way he looks at life. Sure, it can be a little schmaltzy, but figure, he’s surrounded by monstrous politicians and people who don’t understand who he is from the second he’s out in the world, and yet he’s not immediately crushed by the unbearable weight of foreign circumstance. He just gets by, unaffected, even though society is almost designed to destroy such a person. Chance the Gardener – later, Chauncey Gardner – makes it work.

Shirley MacLaine is also magnificent in this movie

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The Set of 400: #245 – My Favorite Toenail Polish

Today! Because I’m really sorry that I cheated so much. But I guess that’s just the way things are –

Lolita (1962)

Directed by Stanley Kubrick

Starring James Mason (x2), Peter Sellers, Sue Lyon, Shelley Winters, Gary Cockrell, Terry Kilburn (x2), Shirley Douglas, Marianne Stone, Jerry Stovin, Diana Decker, Lois Maxwell, Cec Linder

Finally we get to some Kubrick! I guess you’ll have to wait and see – checklist of the great man’s thirteen features in hand – what got left off the list (spoiler: Killer’s Kiss and Fear and Desire had no chance!), but don’t worry, film nerds, there is plenty of Stanley’s greatest hits to come. Many of his works feature an insane degree of difficulty, but none higher than the romantic drama adaptation of Vladimir Nobokov’s unconventional/disgusting relationship at the center of Lolita. Seriously, the above poster is no lie – in 1962, how the hell did they make a movie of Lolita? This question was also posed in the trailers for the film – it was considered impossible, by the standards of the day, still ruled by the Hayes Code, which was a far more strict and unforgiving system than the MPAA ratings that would follow a few years later.

Gah!

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