The Life And Death Of Peter Sellers

The Life And Death Of Peter Sellers (2004)
HBO Home Video
Cast: Geoffrey Rush, John Lithgow, Charlize Theron
Extras: Commentary Tracks, Featurette, Deleted Scenes

Like most I have been a big fan of Peter Seller’s work. His charming mumbling, bumbling and fumbling character portrayals always cracked me up whether he played Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther series, Hrundi Bakshi in "The Party, " Dr. Strangelove or the characters he brought onto his episode of the Muppet Show. Therefore I was extremely eager to see HBO’s "The Life And Death Of Peter Sellers" to learn more about the real man that was Peter Sellers.

Part of me now wishes, I hadn’t… not because this is a bad film – au contraire – but because it completely disillusioned me about Peter Sellers and the kind of person he was. Judging from his onscreen personae I always expected him to be a wonderfully warm-hearted and charming man, only to learn that Peter Sellers was anything but. This is a sad, sad story of a tremendously lonely and desolate man who never learned to me himself. Under the pressure of his mother who always wanted him to be a star and practically taught him that he was better than the rest mankind, Peter Sellers was constantly escaping reality. When things didn’t go his way, he would simply fabricate illusions and make things up in his mind to fit "his way." If all else failed he would throw terrible, uncontrollable temper tantrums. But for the most part, he would simply hide behind the characters he was playing for months at a time in a most schizophrenic way, almost. Many moments in the film show how Sellers would take on the persona of a character like Clouseau after reading the script and not drop it for a single second until the shoot of the movie was over. He became Clouseau – not in a manner how most actors would work their way into the character. He would truly and absolutely become Clouseau and not falter for a second, playing this part 24 hours a day, even in his private life, constantly exposing his spouses and children to these characters without giving them the chance to interact with the real Peter Sellers.
Over time the desire grew within Peter Sellers to be himself and for people to accept him as himself, but since he had never learned or understood what it meant to be himself, it always ends in an emotional disaster as he hurt people and off-ed himself into yet another make-believe character.

There is a lot more to Peter Sellers and I can only ask you to watch the movie if you’re interested, but again, be forewarned that it will very likely destroy the image you have had about the actor. Brilliantly brought to life by Geoffrey Rush, "The Life And Death Of Peter Sellers" gives us a powerful look at the man and his self-destructive way that lead to his early demise in 1980. While sometimes Rush doesn’t look a bit like Sellers at others he is a mesmerizing copy of the actor. Charlize Theron is putting in a great performance as Britt Ekland, Sellers’ second wife while John Lithgow breathes life in to Blake Edwards. The cast is rounded out by Emily Watson as Seller’s first wife and only true love, Anne Howe, and Stanley Tucci as a young Staney Kubric among many others.

HBO Home Entertainment is presenting "The Life And Death Of Peter Sellers" in an <$16x9,anamorphic> <$PS,widescreen> presentation on this DVD. The image is marvelously clean and clear and reveals a very high level of detail throughout. There are no blemishes or mars anywhere and the strong color reproduction of the transfer, combined with its strong black levels make this a great presentation. No edge-enhancement distracts form the viewing and the compression is also without artifacting.

The audio is presented as a <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> track that is offering up a wide and active sound field. With a wide frequency response the track manages to reproduce the lowest rumblings as well as the high ends without any distortion, keeping the audio crystal clear and balanced. The dynamic range reproduces the sound perfectly as well, making sure even the most subtle moments are maintained without losing a detail in any sense. Dialogues are well integrated and never drowned out by the music or sound effects.

A number of great bonus materials have been added to this release as well, starting with a <$commentary,commentary track> that features Geoffrey Rush and director Stephen Hopkins. There is not much I can say about this track other than, listen to it! It is hard to do justice to someone like Peter Sellers in a two-hour movie and here you will have the chance to get a glimpse at other facets and nuances of the actor that simply didn’t make it on the screen. Rush, who studied Sellers’ extensively for the part, is talking about the experience very candidly and further exploring what made Peter Sellers tick.

Also included is a <$commentary,commentary track> by the writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely, and once again they open the lid, making so much more information about the film, the story and the man than could possibly have made it into the film.

Also included on the DVD are eight deleted scenes that are well worth viewing as well, and a featurette called "Making The Life And Death Of Peter Sellers." Which takes a closer look at the production of the film.

"The Life And Death Of Peter Sellers" was quite an experience for me, making me think about it for days after initially viewing it. The tragedy of Peter Seller’s life is illustrated so vividly here that it is hard not to feel sympathy with him and all he affected. What a sad and lonely man.