CLIPS from three long-lost Peter Sellers films have been shown for the first time in the UK – ahead of the films’ premiere in Southend.
Described as the movie equivalent of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the black-and-white 1957 comedies were feared lost, until they were discovered in a skip by Thorpe Bay film buff Robert Farrow in 1996.
Dearth of a Salesman, Cold Comfort and Insomnia is Good for You are among the earliest examples of the actor’s film work.
Produced two years before Sellers’s 1959 breakthrough hit, I’m All Right Jack, they were unearthed by Mr Farrow in a skip outside the former studios of the London-based company which made them.
The 30-minute films have been restored and critics and journalists gathered in Southend yesterday for a preview, ahead of next month’s Southend Film Festival screening.
Mr Farrow said: “I suppose I could have put them on Ebay.
People kept telling me I should, but I really wanted to find the right home for them.
“I tried talking to various people over the years but I wasn’t talking to the right people.
“I didn’t bother much after that and left them in a cupboard under the stairs and forgot about them.
“Eventually, I thought I ought to do something, so I contacted our local film festival. I’m ecstatic they’re finally getting the showing they deserve.”
Film festival organiser Paul Cotgrove, admitted he had been sceptical when Mr Farrow approached him about the films.
He explained: “I got Robert’s phone call out of the blue. Being a bit of a Sellers fan, I had my doubts.
“When I did some research, I was gobsmacked to find the two films were regarded as ‘lost’ Peter Sellers movies. It’s the Dead Sea Scrolls of the film world. They are wonderful films – almost a showreel for his later career.”
In all three films – co-written by Canadian screenwriter, author and essayist Mordecai Richler – Sellers plays hapless salesman Hector Dimwittie.
Members of the Sellers family and of other cast memberswill be at their first public screening at the festival’s opening gala on May 1.
After the festival, the films are expected to be shown at similar events worldwide.
Tickets for the festival are available at visitsouthend.co.uk.