Peter Sellers: MGM Movie Legends Collection

Peter Sellers: MGM Movie Legends Collection
Peter Sellers was a brilliant comic actor who somehow managed to be better than most of the movies he was in. MGM’s new collection features a few of the emblematic films that managed to rise above and one huge flop that embarrassed everyone involved. No Sellers collection would be complete without The Pink Panther, the start of an endless series of films about the star’s bumbling alter ego, Inspector Clouseau. Here, he’s secondary to the adventures of a jewel thief (David Niven) who’s planning to make off with the eponymous pink gemstone. Set in a world of countesses, resorts and ritzy nights out, the film stands as an example of "classy” entertainment that just doesn’t exist anymore. Though it dates a bit and isn’t the crazed mess of set pieces to which the series would eventually resort, it’s still got a bit of charm and a couple of good scenes with Clouseau making a fool of himself. Far wilder is What’s New Pussycat?, in which Sellers’ German psychologist secretly burns to be his philandering patient Peter O’Toole. O’Toole, in turn, is cheating on paramour Romy Schneider, who just wants the bed-hopping bad boy to settle down. The Woody Allen-scripted film is a bit hit or miss but its shambling late ’60s messiness charms even when the jokes fall flat. Plus, Allen appears to be totally unpretentious (unlike recent years) and Schneider is hugely appealing as the long-suffering girlfriend. It’s at least better than Casino Royale, the famously disastrous Bond spoof that has Sellers impersonating the real spy (Niven again) and Allen appearing as Bond’s ne’er-do-well son. At first, the wild inappropriateness of the gags (perhaps attributable to the four credited directors) is entertaining but in a little while its overweening ridiculousness wears on you despite more Scottish spies than ten Austin Powers pictures. Finally, The Party features one of Sellers’ most famous roles; he plays an Indian actor who is mistakenly invited to a Hollywood A-list party and manages to nearly destroy the place. Basically a series of vignettes where Sellers embarrasses himself and those around him, it’s a masterpiece of comic timing that almost completely does without a story. Though the ethnic stereotyping grates, it’s still extremely funny. The only extras are on Casino Royale, which feature a "making of” featurette and an early James Bond adaptation for television. (MGM / Fox)