Right of Way [1983]

The Peter Sellers Collection includes six British comedies in which Sellers plays leading or supporting roles. The Smallest Show on Earth (1957) is among the run of gentle British comedies in the 1950s in which outmoded and broken-down local institutions were saved by collections of committed eccentrics. Aspiring novelist Bill Travers and his wife Virginia McKenna inherit a cinema from a hitherto unknown uncle and discover that it isn't the sumptuous modern Grand, but the decrepit Bijou, with a drunken projectionist played by Sellers. In 1959's I'm All Right Jack, Sellers plays both Sir John Kennaway and, unforgettably, the trade union leader Fred Kite. The result is laugh-out-loud comedy with a satiric edge, lampooning the then-burning issue of industrial relations. The brothers John and Roy Boulting also directed and produced such British classics as Carlton-Browne of the F.O. (1959), in which Seller's unscrupulous prime minister is upstaged by Terry-Thomas as the idiot son of a great ambassador, and Heavens Above (1963), in which Sellers gives an unusually low-key performance as a young vicar whose tendencies to interpret Christian doctrines in his own individualistic way, rather than conform to church traditions, leads to all kinds of chaos. The great crime comedy Two Way Stretch (1960) is about imprisoned crooks who hatch a scheme to pull off a heist with a perfect alibi by breaking out, doing the job, and then breaking back in to serve out their sentences. Sellers, usually an eccentric support in these things, takes a rare lead as cocky mastermind Dodger Lane. Hoffman (1970) gives Sellers a lot of funny business, acid lines, and whimsical turns. Secretary Miss Smith (Sinéad Cusack) is blackmailed by meek, middle-aged Mr. Hoffman (Sellers) into spending a week of domesticity with him in his flat. At first, the tone is creepy, but it becomes more poignant as both characters learn to see each other as people.

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