Lost Peter Sellers films Dearth of a Salesman and Insomnia Is Good for You hailed as the movie equivalent of 'finding Dead Sea Scrolls'

Films not been seen for 50 years to be screened at a festival

Arts Correspondent

The rolls of celluloid may not be thousands of years old, but for fans of Peter Sellers the discovery of two films long believed lost has been hailed as the film equivalent of “finding the Dead Sea Scrolls”.

Dearth of a Salesman and Insomnia Is Good for You, which were both made in 1957, before Sellers had become a global film star, have not been seen for 50 years, and it was assumed that all versions had been destroyed.

But today it emerged that copies of the films, which run to around 30 minutes each, had been found in a  London skip and will be digitally restored to open the Southend Film Festival in May next year.

Very little was known about either work in recent years, and the head of the film festival said it was “busy researching and trying  to speak to people who  might have been involved in their creation”.

Building manager Robert Farrow stumbled upon the reels while clearing out the offices of Park Lane Films, the now-defunct production company that made the movies.

Mr Farrow oversaw the refurbishment of the block in 1996 and spotted 21 film cans in a skip outside the block and “thought they would be good for storing my Super 8 collection in. I took them home, put them in a cupboard and pretty much forgot about them.”

In a recent clear-out, he investigated the contents to discover they included the negatives, titles, out-takes  and master prints of the  two films.

“It was amazing,” Mr Farrow said. “I knew I had something, but it wasn’t until I called  Paul Cotgrove, who organises the Southend Film Festival, that it dawned on me that  I’d found something very special indeed.”

After researching the films, Mr Cotgrove said he was “gobsmacked” to realise film historians considered the two films lost. “Robert’s find is the Dead Sea Scrolls of the film world,” he added.

The actor Neil Pearson, who collects rare books, owns the only known script of Insomnia Is Good for You. “No biographer of Sellers that I’ve spoken to has managed to find the film,” he said recently.

The films will interest fans as they were recorded right at the beginning of Sellers’s screen career, after he had risen to fame as part of The Goon Show on the radio.

Mr Cotgrove said Sellers “almost appears to treat them as show reels to demonstrate to film producers his considerable talent”.

They were co-written by the Canadian screenwriter, author and essayist Mordechai Richler, and Dearth of a Salesman is believed to feature Judith Wyler, the daughter of the Oscar-winning director William Wyler.

Dearth of a Salesman saw Sellers play Hector Dimwittie, who attempts to become the most successful salesman in Britain, vainly trying to sell goods from toilet supplies to tape recorders. “Sellers works hard,” Today’s Cinema said at the time, before adding that there was “handy footage appeal”.

His character, Hector, also featured in Insomnia Is Good for You, now unable to sleep over a forthcoming meeting with his boss. Monthly Film Bulletin said it “falls very flat”.

Dimitris Verionis, from the Peter Sellers Appreciation Society, said he “cannot wait” to see the restored films. “Their screening celebrates the wonderful comic talents of Peter Sellers.”

Sellers, who died in 1980, made a string of hit comedies and became synonymous with the character Chief Inspector Jacques Clouseau in the Pink Panther films.

His film career began to take off the same year the two lost films were made, when he starred opposite Terry-Thomas and Peggy Mount in The Naked Truth.

Other notable roles included in Dr Strangelove, What’s New Pussycat? and The Party, and Turner Classic Movies called him “one of the most accomplished comic actors of the late 20th century”.

Arts and Entertainment
Matthew Healy of The 1975 performing on the Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury Festival, at Worthy Farm in Somerset

music
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe Withnail and I creator, has a new theory about killer's identity
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
tvDick Clement and Ian La Frenais are back for the first time in a decade
Arts and Entertainment
The Clangers: 1969-1974
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Nicole Kidman plays Grace Kelly in the film, which was criticised by Monaco’s royal family

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emilia Clarke could have been Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey but passed it up because of the nude scenes

film
Arts and Entertainment
A$AP Rocky and Rita Ora pictured together in 2012

music
Arts and Entertainment
A case for Mulder and Scully? David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in ‘The X-Files’

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Impressions of the Creative Community Courtyard within d3. The development is designed to 'inspire emerging designers and artists, and attract visitors'

architecture
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific
    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    Dame Colette Bowe - interview
    When do the creative juices dry up?

    When do the creative juices dry up?

    David Lodge thinks he knows
    The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

    Fashion's Cher moment

    Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
    Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

    Health fears over school cancer jab

    Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
    Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

    Weather warning

    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
    LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

    High hopes for LSD

    Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
    German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

    Saving Private Brandt

    A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral