THE first clips of two Peter Sellers films which had been thought lost until they were salvaged from a London skip have been released ahead of a world premiere event.
Described as the movie equivalent of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Dearth of a Salesman and Insomnia is Good for You are two of the earliest examples of actor’s work but had been thought permanently lost for almost 60 years.
Filmed two years before Sellers’ 1959 breakthrough hit I’m All Right Jack, they were uneathered by film buff Robert Farrow as he checked a skip outside Park Lane Films, the now defunct London-based company which produced them.
Even after the 1996 find, Mr Farrow kept the films at his home as he resisted the temptation to make a quick profit and instead find the best way of showcasing them.
Critics and journalists will gather in Mr Farrow’s hometown of Southend, Essex, on Wednesday for the first screening of the 30-minute films following their restoration.
And Dimwittie Films, the company set up to handle the rare find, has released a one-minute clip from each - the first public glimpse of the movies for decades.
Dearth of a Salesman sees Sellers play Hector Dimwittie as he attempts to become the most successful salesman in Britain.
The same character features in Insomnia Is Good for You, as his anxiety builds and he struggles to sleep ahead of a crunch meeting with his boss.
The films were co-written by Canadian screenwriter, author and essayist Mordecai Richler and Dearth of a Salesman is believed to feature Judith Wyler, daughter of the Academy Award-winning film director, William Wyler.
Members of the Sellers family along with relatives of other cast members will attend their first public showing at the opening gala of the Southend Film Festival on May 1.
Mr Farrow said that since discovering the films while working on an office clearance, he had struggled to find a way of showing them to the world as his claims were greeted with scepticism.
“I suppose I could have put them on eBay, which people kept telling me to do, but I really wanted to find the right home for them,” he said.
“I tried talking to various people over the years but unfortunately I cannot have been talking to the right people. I didn’t bother too much after that and just left them in a cupboard under the stairs and pretty much forgot about them.
“Eventually I thought I had better do something with them so I rang the local film festival. I’m ecstatic that they’re finally going to get the showing they deserve.”
Paul Cotgrove, organiser of the Southend Film Festival, said he had initially been sceptical when Mr Farrow approached him about screening the films.
He said: “I received Robert’s phone call out of the blue. Being a bit of a Sellers fan, I had my doubts that what he was saying was true.
“When I did some research I was gobsmacked to see that the two films are widely regarded by film historians as being ‘lost’ Peter Sellers movies.
“Robert’s find is the Dead Sea Scrolls of the film world. They are wonderful films that show Sellers playing with different characters - almost as a show real for his later career.”
After the Southend festival, the films are expected to tour events around the world.
Dimitris Verionis from The Peter Sellers Appreciation Society, said: “We are very happy that these films will be shown again in public. They were shot right before he reached international stardom. I cannot wait to see them in all their digitally restored glory.”