Peter Sellers: Southend Film Festival screens lost films

Will Gompertz reports on the rediscovered footage

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Two "lost" films starring actor Peter Sellers have been shown in public for the first time in more than 50 years.

The comedy shorts were screened at the opening night of the Southend Film Festival, hosted by Pirates of the Caribbean star Mackenzie Crook.

The restored films were salvaged from a skip outside a film company's office in London in 1996 - and lay untouched in Robert Farrow's garage until last year.

Crook said the films were "a great archaeological find of British Comedy."

Sellers made the films in 1957 as he tried to make his name as a big screen star.

The Goon Show had already established the 27-year-old actor on radio but he was eager to make his name in film.

He embarked on a series of 30-minute spoof government information films, entitled the Best Sellers series.

Cotgrove called the shorts "a pastiche of the public information films at the time"

The rarely-seen Cold Comfort Farm, the first in the series, was shown alongside the two "lost" films: Dearth of a Salesman and Insomnia is Good For You, in Southend on Thursday.

Only three films in a predicted series of 12, in which Sellers plays the character Hector Dimwittie and deploys a variety of accents, were made.

Little attention had been paid to the "lost" films until Mr Farrow - the building manager at the Park Lane premises - approached Paul Cotgrove, director of the Southend Film Festival.

Sellers treated them almost as "show reels", according to Mr Cotgrove, who had the films digitally restored.

Sellers went on to earn big screen success in the Pink Panther films and the Stanley Kubrick film Dr Strangelove.

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