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Entries in Peter Sellers (5)

Monday
Sep112017

The Furniture: Desigining Slapstick with Herbet Lom and Inspector Clouseau

"The Furniture," by Daniel Walber, is our weekly series on Production Design. You can click on the images to see them in magnified detail.

Before we get started, let’s all share a brief moment of resentment that Judy Becker didn’t win a production design Emmy last night for Feud. Boo.

Anyway, back to your regularly scheduled episode of The Furniture. Today is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Herbert Charles Angelo Kuchačevič ze Schluderpacheru, the character actor otherwise known as Herbert Lom. He fled Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia in 1939 for Britain, where he would have a long career in both film and television. He appeared in three Best Production Design nominees: El Cid, Spartacus, and Gambit. I will be writing about none of them.

Instead, here’s some love for the design of the films for which he is remembered most widely. Lom played Police Commissioner Charles Dreyfus, the long-suffering boss of Inspector Clouseau, in seven Pink Panther films. The first of these, A Shot in the Dark, is probably the best of the lot. It also has some charmingly ridiculous prop comedy and an array of colorfully absurd sets.

Here, for example, is the first example of a gag that runs throughout the series...

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Monday
Jul172017

"Being There" -- Essential Viewing For the Right Now

by Nathaniel R

Hal Ashby’s Being There (1979) is a fortune teller. And the future it foretells isn’t rosy. The classic film about a TV-loving cypher who Forrest Gumps his way into history is approaching its 40th anniversary, but its essential viewing for the right now.  Don't wait until 2019 to see it.

Among the film’s many queasy previews of life in the early 21st century is the proliferation of screens. Here that takes the shape of television, with Ashby frequent crosscutting to whatever is on the TV in a given scene. Though the content we see is recognizably dated, its intrusion is evergreen. 

Hidden within the prophecy of multiple screens replacing actual experience, is an even sharper notion of the screen as a mirror...

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Thursday
Mar202014

50 Years in the Pink

Tim here, extending our unexpected and unplanned tribute to 50-year-old Peter Sellers movies by one day, following Diana’s lovely tribute to The World of Henry Orient. For today marks the 50th anniversary of the U.S. release of The Pink Panther, the arch-‘60s caper film that begat Sellers’ iconic Inspector Jacques Clouseau, the pratfall-prone Frenchman who remains the actor’s most famous character this side of a certain wheelchair-bound ex-Nazi (and Dr. Strangelove ALSO opened in 1964, which was just an all-around great year for Sellers).

The film itself is a fascinating relic, a by-turns hilarious and lumpy encapsulation of what European high society looked like as filtered through the comic sensibilities of Blake Edwards of Tulsa, OK. Scenes of breathless physical comedy rub elbows with elegant caper film machinery and deadening longeurs as Claudia Cardinale rolls around on a tiger skin while suffering from a wobbly case of dubbing. [more...]

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Wednesday
Mar192014

50 Years On... "The World of Henry Orient"

Here's new contributor Diana D. Drumm to with a trip back to a film that opened today in 1964...

We open at the 1964 Cannes Film Festival, with all of its bubbles and laughter and cinema. A jury, including the likes of Fritz Lang and Charles Boyer, peer at a roster featuring now-classics The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and The Pumpkin Eater alongside cult favorite The World of Henry Orient... Oh, you haven’t heard of The World of Henry Orient?

Well, that isn’t so surprising, even considering its headliner, the late great Peter Sellers, it’s been lost to TCM and cult nostalgists. In terms of Sellers’s filmography, it’s sandwiched between two biggies -- Dr. Strangelove and A Shot in the Dark (this loaded schedule along with a marriage to Swedish bombshell Britt Ekland would lead to his first major heart attack in 1964).

Sellers stars at the eponymous “Henry Orient”, a famous pianist based on the dry actor-musician-wit Oscar Levant (you know, Gene Kelly’s friend in An American in Paris) who is being stalked *ahem* pursued *ahem* by two teenage fangirls throughout Manhattan from the Upper East Side down through Greenwich Village. [More...]

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Saturday
May072011

Mix Tape: "We'll Meet Again" in Dr. Strangelove

Andreas from Pussy Goes Grrr here, to talk about one of the most infamously ironic song choices out there. And spoiler alert -- if you care about such things for 47 year old movies -- it's all about the ending.

As Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb reaches its bleakly absurd denouement, everyone is plotting for an imagined future. The Soviet ambassador is snapping photos of the "Big Board," the hawkish General Turgidson is predicting a post-apocalyptic "mineshaft gap," and even the title character, an eccentric ex-Nazi, is rising from his wheelchair and crying out, "Sir! I have a plan!" before adding, "Mein Führer! I can walk!" All of their paranoid schemes are self-evidently ridiculous, and ultimately futile, because that's right when the world ends.

But it doesn't end with a whimper, or with a bang: it ends with British songstress Vera Lynn singing her WWII-era hit "We'll Meet Again" over a minute-and-a-half-long montage of mushroom clouds. In a single blow, Kubrick and editor Anthony Harvey (reputedly working from a suggestion by British comedy legend Spike Milligan) render all of the film's frantic negotiations pointless and greet Armageddon with a smile. It's about the most superficially cheery response to annihilation this side of Life of Brian's "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life," and like that song, it hides bitterness in its whimsy.

The power of this satirical finale lies in the song's historical roots...

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