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A long-lost rarity,but now thankfully available

7/10
Author: BJJManchester from United Kingdom
6 May 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"INSOMNIA IS GOOD FOR YOU" was one of a number of short comedies Peter Sellers made in the 1950's before he became a major leading comic star first in the UK,then the US.Along with "DEARTH OF A SALESMAN",they apparently played as supports to main features for a brief time before vanishing without a trace.It wasn't until the mid-90's that the original prints were found,apparently in the office once occupied by the film company that produced them (Park Lane Films), firstly in a cupboard, then thrown later into a skip.Robert Farrow, who was working there at the time, took them home with him as his father was a home movie enthusiast, and he thought the film cans would be of use as storing the cine films he had. As time went on, it was obvious how important these finds were,yet many reputable media organisations showed no interest until 2013, when the Southend Film Festival, based in the town of Southend, Essex, England (where Robert resides), fully realised their importance to British if not World film history. The films were digitally restored and shown for the first time publicly in nearly 60 years at the main cinema in Southend on 1st May 2014 with some well known UK celebrities and members of Sellers' family also in attendance.

So,what of the films themselves? "COLD COMFORT" (which did exist but again had not been seen publicly for decades, also shown at the above event) and "DEARTH OF A SALESMAN" were mildly funny but watchable comedies in which the material was stretched a trifle thinly, but "INSOMNIA IS GOOD FOR YOU" was a minor gem, again perhaps slightly over-stretched, but with enough amusing incident to make you forget such minor deficiencies. All the films mentioned are basically just showcases for Sellers' immense comic talents, and "INSOMNIA" shows them off to their best with his remarkable ability at impersonation,voice and comedic characterisation, and verbal and visual humour. The story if it matters is about office worker Hector Dimwiddle (Sellers) finding difficulty sleeping and relaxing at home and in his spare time, which begins to affect his working week, accompanied by an amusing voice-over commentary. And that's about it, quite flimsy even for a half hour short film, but this is just about Sellers, basically being a series of comic sketches with a linking theme and no narrative, with the mostly colourless and unknown supporting cast (with the exception of the Viennese actor Eric Pohlmann, who appeared in many UK films from the 50's until the 70's) taking second place to Sellers' comic vignettes, some of which don't quite come off but many that do, sometimes hilariously with odd scattered moments of Goon-style surrealism.

The talent behind the camera showed that care and attention was being lavished despite the inevitably parsimonious budget;Leslie Arliss was a fairly prestigious British film writer/director at the time, having directed "THE WICKED LADY" and "THE MAN IN GREY" and worked more prolifically as a writer, including several comedy scripts co-written for Will Hay and George Formby, the latter experience probably standing him in good stead working here with Sellers, and writers Lewis Griefer (better known for his TV writing) and the distinguished Canadian-Jewish writer,author and essayist Mordecai Richler, best known for "THE APPRENTICESHIP OF DUDDY KRAVITZ", here in the early stages of his career as apparently this was his first screenplay.

"INSOMNIA IS GOOD FOR YOU" thankfully does not induce somnambulism as it's title would suggest, but plenty of laughs and is just a excuse to see Peter Sellers do his thing, undiluted and unencumbered by any distractions of plot and padding, which is more than worth the price of admission, and it is a special joy to see these long forgotten routines of nearly six decades back here and the other films mentioned, but "INSOMNIA IS GOOD FOR YOU" shows his comic genius to best advantage, which will hopefully be seen around the World in the near future.

RATING:7 and a half out of 10.

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