In 1957, Peter Sellers was one of the stars of The Goon Show on the BBC radio network, but he aspired to be something more. So, he made two short films that were supposed to show his capabilities as an actor on the big screen.
The two movies, each 30 minutes long, were called Dearth of a Salesman and Insomnia is Good for You. They must have worked, because Sellers went on to a storied and brilliant movie career that included such classics as The Mouse That Roared, Dr. Strangelove, Lolita, a gaggle of hysterical stints as Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther franchise, and his crowning achievement — the timeless portrayal of Chance, the Gardener in Being There. Sellers’ stunning depiction of the dim-witted yet earnest and good-natured man whose vapid comments were treated as morsels of the greatest wisdom is one of the great acting turns in movie history, and with each passing year Being There becomes an even more compelling satire of the empty-suited, empty-headed culture of the age of TV.
Peter Sellers was a genius. It’s extraordinary that his early work could be tossed on the dustheap and salvaged only by happenstance, but I’m glad it happened. So many bits of cinematic history have been lost — and once they are gone, they are gone forever.
As every faithful reader of the blog knows, I like to try at least one kind of cookie each year that is a little bit . . . different. Why not mix things up for the holidays? This particular cookie combines the classic taste of peanut butter and jelly with elements of Chinese food. What could be more of a mix than that?
Peanut Butter-and-Jelly Chow-Mein Noodle Squares
Ingredients: 3/4 cup flour; 3/4 cup crushed chow-mein noodles; 1/2 cup sugar; 3/4 teaspoon baking powder; 1/2 cup softened butter; 1 egg, beaten; 3/4 cup peach jelly; 1 cup peanut butter chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease nine-inch baking pan.
Combine flour, noodles, sugar, and baking powder. Blend in butter. Stir in egg. Press half of mixture into bottom of prepared pan. Spread peach jelly over mixture, then sprinkle half of peanut butter chips on top. Crumble remaining flour mixture over the contents of the pan, then top with remaining chips.
Bake for 30 minutes, let cool, then cut into squares.
Godzilla is returning to the big screen next year. The teaser trailer for the movie is out, and it looks like the film will have many of the elements that have made the Godzilla franchise a classic: a city laid waste, terrified running crowds, commuter rail cars ripped to smithereens — and Godzilla’s trademark shriek.
Of course, among the things that will be lacking are the stunt guy in the rubbery suit who portrayed Godzilla, the clearly fake buildings being stepped on and destroyed by the King of Monsters, and the cheesy special effects as Godzilla encountered and fought giant moths and other oversized and bizarre creatures. One of the delights of the original Godzilla was the spliced-in footage of Raymond Burr playing a reporter covering the carnage caused by Godzilla’s emergence, which was added as an obvious afterthought in a studio effort to make the movie more palatable to American audiences. All of that will be gone now, replaced by state of the art computer-generated images and devastation.
The Godzilla films have been interesting for a lot of reasons. Godzilla helped to reintroduce Japan to America after World War II and led the way for the much more significant cultural and business interaction that was to come in later years. Godzilla also tapped a core fear of atomic power in the post-nuclear age, and was the first true environmental disaster film. And the enduring power of Godzilla himself became clear when, in later movies, Godzilla morphed from a mindless engine of destruction into a sensitive and sympathetic defender of Japan who was as much a victim of technology run amok as the poor wretches on the subway trains who were crushed in virtually every Godzilla movie.
And then one day Godzilla met Bambi in one of the greatest student films ever made.