A BBC documentary portrait of Peter Sellers, filmed over a period of nine months in 1969 during the filming of his latest film The Magic Christian. Director Tony Palmer interviews Sellers and friends and associates about the actor’s career and life. At age 44, with 38 films already behind him, including Dr. Strangelove and two “Pink Panther” films, Sellers was then at the crest of his career. But his personal life, which included two bad marriages (and two more to come), a near-fatal 1964 heart attack, and increasingly disturbing personality disorders, was in tatters. His distrust of everyone, including Palmer, is evident here on-camera several times.
In this extraordinary six-part series, film historian and critic Noel Burch uses clips of rare archival silent film treasures to take us on a riveting journey of discovery. How did silent film reach such incredible heights in a mere 30 years? Why did film in the United States so quickly become such a popular art form?
Before The Naked Venus, Edgar G. Ulmer shot a 30-minute pilot for a TV series based on The Swiss Family Robinson, that no networks ever picked up. The inexpressive acting of the children caused the wreckage of this short feature, despite the efforts of their coach, Adrianna Ulmer. But the director took advantage of the Mexican location to sketch the theme of Nature as a beautiful prison – an idea he would brilliantly develop in The Cavern (1965). In fact, Ulmer started working on the production of The Cavern in 1957, and this work influenced this fascinating TV oddity.
Documentary about the influential comedy team of Mike Nichols and Elaine May. Includes highlights of the team’s many television appearances, featuring recently discovered kinescopes of live performances not seen since their original television broadcasts in the late 1950s and 60s. Four of their radio sketches have been re-created with new animation created especially for the program. Featuring interviews with Steve Allen, Tom Brokaw, Steve Martin, Arthur Penn, Robin Williams, and others.
Director Robert Altman’s 1996 film, Kansas City – a jazz-tinged melodrama about a corrupt politician and a determined gangster – was notable if only for some remarkable 1930s music as arranged by the innovative John Cale. This documentary is the offspring of that movie, featuring sessions recorded on the set of the earlier film. With Jazz ’34‘s pumping, grinding blues all set to elevate the spirits.
A documentary on film director William Wyler (1902-1981), this feature was conceived by his daughter, Catherine, as a loving tribute to him. Utilizing a wealth of film clips, many in black and white, the movie features interviews with Bette Davis, Lillian Hellman, Audrey Hepburn, Charleton Heston, John Huston, Laurence Olivier, Gregory Peck, Ralph Richardson, Barbra Streisand, Billy Wilder, Talli (the former Margaret Tallichet) Wyler, and the director himself. Some of the best of the Hollywood commentary comes from Wyler himself, interviewed only a few days before he died in 1981.
Looks at the work of Brazilian photojournalist Sebastiao Salgado (b.1944). In his monumental photo-essay, Workers, Salgado’s dominant theme is the displacement of manual labor by technological advances. He documents the effects of this new industrial revolution on laborers in Eastern Europe, Cuba, Gdansk, Brazil, India, Sicily, and Bangladesh. Includes archival footage of Salgado’s life and commentary by artists, photographers, critics, and writers such as Jorge Armado, Robert Delpire, Jimmy Fox, and Arthur Miller.
Documentary about the influential pop composer and record producer Joe Meek, who died in dramatic circumstances in 1967 after a bizarre childhood and a career, often controversial, which spanned the period from the mid-50s to the rise of the Beatles in the 60s. At the end of his life he was suffering from paranoid delusions that people were watching him through walls. Alan Lewens’ film charts an Ortonesque tale of post-war Britain.