Review by Sean Boelman
For some reason, stories of films that didn’t go as planned are almost (if not more) interesting than those of productions that went off without a hitch. Peter Medak’s The Ghost of Peter Sellers is a fascinating exploration of one of the director’s own films that never came to fruition, and it’s a must-watch for any cinephile.
In the documentary, Medak reflects back on his experiences on the set of Ghost in the Noonday Sun, a pirate action-comedy that was set to star Peter Sellers, one of the hottest comedians at the time, that was never completed for a myriad of reasons. Some of those are the expected ones — the production went over budget, it was a taxing shoot, et cetera — but it is the more nefarious ones that are most intriguing.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about the documentary is that it is told from Medak’s own perspective. Although there have been other documentaries about doomed films, they are more often than not directed by a third-party. Since this one was directed by Medak, who has an intensely personal stake in the matter, it feels a lot more earnest.
As a result, the documentary’s commentary on the filmmaking process is all the more compelling. At this point in his career, Medak was a buzzy up-and-comer receiving his first chance at a big studio project. Medak’s experience serves as both a cautionary tale of the dangers of moving too quickly, and an ode to the creative process and how memorable the experience can be even if its results are disappointing.
The other thing about the documentary that is very interesting is that it presents Sellers in a very unique light. Very few people would say that he was anything but a comedic genius. But in a way, Medak presents him almost as if he was a criminal mastermind of sorts, hoping to sabotage an already sinking ship by any means possible.
There is certainly an element of humor to the story, especially as we get to see and hear about Sellers’s various attempts to throw a kink in Medak’s plan. Some of Sellers’s on-set antics even sound cartoonish and unbelievable at times, although they are so unexpected that they have to be true.
To tell his story, Medak uses a combination of archive and behind-the-scenes footage, with some discussions between himself and other people involved with the production to fill in the details. It’s an effective way to tell this story, and it’s sad that Sellers is not here to shine light on his perspective of the events.
The Ghost of Peter Sellers is a thoroughly entertaining documentary, especially for anyone who is a fan of bizarre cinema stories. It will be an extremely relatable watch for those who have experiences with problematic sets.
The Ghost of Peter Sellers hits VOD on June 23.