2013’s been a really good year for rediscovering lost movies. A recent survey estimated that only 25 percent of American silent films survive to the present day, but in just the last couple months a missing Mary Pickford film was located in a barn in New Hampshire, the short that played in front of The Empire Strikes Back in its U.K. release was restored and premièred at the Mill Valley Film Festival, and an early Orson Welles work called Too Much Johnson (*titter*) was found in an Italian shipping warehouse. Call it “The Pawn Stars Effect.” People’s houses are full of old crap, and now with the influx of shows about hitting the lottery in an abandoned storage locker or pawn shop, folks are actually starting to look around and take stock of said old crap.
The latest priceless discovery: a pair of Peter Sellers shorts made long before the actor’s Pink Panther days, which were just found by a man cleaning his house. Robert Farrow rescued the 21 cans of film from a dumpster outside the now-closed British production company Park Lane Films in 1996; he brought them home and promptly forgot them. Almost 20 years later he stumbled on the reels and, he told the BBC, “realized they were two Sellers films including the negatives, titles, show prints, outtakes and the master print. It was amazing.”
The films are called Insomnia Is Good For You and Dearth Of A Salesman; Sellers made them both 1957 as showcases of his acting range. They’ll both be shown publicly for the first time at next year’s Southend-On-Sea Film Festival. In the meantime, in the interest of riding the zeitgeist I just searched my house for long-lost treasures from the golden age of cinema. I didn’t find the original director’s cut of The Magnificent Ambersons, but I did turn up a pair of Spider-Man socks that I thought I’d left at my parents house, so it wasn’t a total loss.