Peter Seller's remarkable career spanned thirty years, crossed various media including television, radio and film, produced some of the cinema's most memorable characters and entertaining movies. Sellers is best known for his work in Blake Edwards' Pink Panther series, Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove and as Chance the Gardner in Being There but Sellers was more than a character actor, he was a comic genius who changed the face of British and American humor.
The Unknown Peter Sellers is a made for television documentary featuring video and audio clips from some of his more obscure performances. There are examples of his early work as an impressionist, his experimental home movies (including the Academy Award nominated The Running, Jumping and Standing Still Movie,) the influential anarchist radio program The Goon Show and it's immediate successor BBC TV's series A Show Called Fred. Along the way we're shown a driven yet conflicted artist struggling for critical acclaim, financial security and physical health. Seller's life was punctuated by soaring highs and abysmal lows making for an engaging and enlightening viewing experience.
The bulk of the documentary centers around Seller's early life as a radio and television comic with informative voice-over narration and short clips of Sellers in action. Interspersed with this are interviews with Seller's friends and associates including Python Michael Palin, actress Shirley MacLaine and fellow Goons Harry Secombe and Spike Milligan among others. My only complaint with the program is that it offers us only short glimpses of these rare Sellers performances, just enough to wet the appetite for more.
The video portion of this disc is comprised of images taken from a wide variety of sources so the quality varies from clip to clip. The overall presentation though is free from any major defects. The picture is reasonably saturated and exhibits good contrast. There are no appreciable digital artifacts and the sharpness level is about what you'd expect from a TV show transferred to DVD.
The audio track is also reasonably well done. The dialogue clings to the center channel and music is restricted to the front mains. The dynamic range seems broad and I was unable to detect any examples of distortion or clipping.
The Extras: I was surprised to find a number of interesting extras on this disc. There's the usual scene selection menu and a filmography as well as a DVD-ROM link to the Winstar homepage. In addition you'll find a complete collection of Seller's TWA and Barclays commercials, a selection of outtakes from those ads and an entire 1971 video interview with Sellers. All in all a nice selection of extras that allow you to get a longer look at the documentary's subject.
For Sellers fans this disc is a no brainer. It provides a loving and rare look at one of Seller's best work. For those who know Sellers only from his Hollywood films this is a great introduction his short but diverse career. In all, The Unknown Peter Sellers is an entertaining disc with a nice collection of extras: Recommended.