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The Optimists
The Optimists
Actors: Peter Sellers, Bruce Purchase, Bernie Searl, David Daker, Marjorie Yates
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Kids & Family
PG     2008     1hr 51min

The Optimists tells the story of Sam, a street performer with a unique outlook on life. Sam befriends two children who have led hard knock- lives and teaches them to look at life from a new perspective. The novelty of havi...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Peter Sellers, Bruce Purchase, Bernie Searl, David Daker, Marjorie Yates
Creators: Larry Pizer, Lionel Bart
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Kids & Family
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Family Life, Family Films
Studio: Legend Films
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen
DVD Release Date: 06/03/2008
Original Release Date: 01/01/1973
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/1973
Release Year: 2008
Run Time: 1hr 51min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 3
MPAA Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

The role of Sam, which might have genuinely said to Sellers,
L. Camuti | Oxnard, CA United States | 06/18/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Though arguably Peter Sellers felt that Being There was his finest performance and that the role of Chance the Gardener spoke to him as no other had done, in my opinion, it is The Optimists that captures a deeply personal note and ultimately outshines the indeed transcendental Sellers swan song. For one familiar with the scope of Peter's films, in Being There you very much sense that Sellers knew he was not long for this world--that he was a man living on borrowed time who had too often accepted roles that did not manifest the wonder of his talents as Dr. Strangelove had done. He recognized in Chance the opportunity to revisit the quiet subtleties that were drowned in movies like What's New, Pussycat? and After the Fox and that marked his best work.

The role of Sam, the busker (The Optimists' main character--not Fred as another reviewer wrote) is one that director and co-writer Anthony Simmons had originally intended for Buster Keaton in the early 1960s, and later John Mills, but when Mills suffered a broken leg for which the production company was unwilling to postpone, the project ground to a halt. Simmons then considered a pantheon of screen greats including Charles Laughton, Paul Scofield, Trevor Howard and Danny Kaye before shelving the idea that destiny had earmarked for Peter Sellers. Having successfully published The Optimists of Nine Elms (the film's original title) as a book, Simmons was content, for the time, to move on to other projects, not the least of which was the screen debut of Judi Dench in Four In The Morning.

Not even Sellers himself had knowledge when he took the role in the early 70s, that his name had been suggested to Simmons nearly a decade earlier--before Dr. Strangelove or any of the Pink Panther films, and that Simmons had balked at Sellers as not being enough of a natural clown. Thankfully Peter was unaware of that early rejection, and Simmons later confessed, "I must have been mad," otherwise we might never have seen the beautiful performance he gives here.

Peter was quite literally born into the theater, as his father was a pianist, banjo and ukelele player and his mother, a pantomime artist, performing in music halls and variety. Without question, he draws on those early influences and his education being dragged from one dingy backstage playground to the next to inhabit the antiquated character of Sam, who is an anachronism to the two young children that are growing up in the slum neighborhood of London called Nine Elms.

At first, the children taunt Sam and his similarly aged dog, Bella, but absent the time and affection of their own father, they find in Sam a cohort who is willing to nurture their dreams for the price of their admiration. He shows the youngsters a side of life they have never seen, and when, in one scene after a day outing to Hyde Park, the group passes The Dorchester hotel on Park Lane and Sam comments, "I understand the chef in here makes a very nice Grand Marnier souffle", you can be sure it is Peter who is speaking from experience.

Sellers sings and dances and plays the uke, drawing upon a song taught to him by his father, as well as his belief that the great Victorian comedian Dan Leno was channeling through him to inhabit the role.

I love this movie above and beyond Being There, because here we see Sellers at a time when he was more in his prime physically, and the uplifting and endearing tale does not bear the urgency and more keenly felt inevitable sense of facing death that marked his later triumph. That it has taken so long for one of his finest performances to reach the American viewing public is a sad injustice finally rectified with this dvd release.

Ambitious Sellers Turn
David Baldwin | Philadelphia,PA USA | 06/14/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"I have made it my life's work to attempt to see every Peter Sellers film ever made-the good, the bad, "The Bobo". In the early seventies Sellers made some interesting career choices to distance himself from his comic persona. This wouldn't be the first time Sellers' film choices took a dramatic turn. In the early sixties he made a gangster film called "Never Let Go" that was laughable in an unintentional way. In the seventies, however, there were three film's that were intriguing and ambitious though could hardly be called commercial. The best of these is "Hoffman". In this film Sellers plays a seeming middle-aged lecher who blackmails a comely employee at his firm to spend the night with him. Less successful is "The Blockhouse", a dreary World War II exercise about a group of P.O.W.'s trapped in a bomb shelter. Some would say Sellers' performance here is low-key but I would say it's practically invisible. The success of "The Optimists" falls squarely in the middle of these two films. Ostensibly, it's a children's film but there's an aura of melancholia here that I think would discourage parents from taking their kids. Sellers is excellent as Fred, a morose street performer who befriends two underprivileged children. Sellers displays a deft touch for the material and not bad as a song-and-dance man. The theme of the film is that adults and children can teach each other valuable life lessons. This point isn't so much beat into the ground but at times it's belabored. A possible debit is the film has a veddy British sensibility that may be lost on some. On the whole, though, an interesting film worth checking out."
A must-see for Sellers fans
Brian | New York | 06/11/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"I've read much about this rarely-vetted film but had given up hope of ever seeing it. Simply put, it's a treat. Sellers is subtle, funny, and sympathetic; the kids are real-to-life and the images of the English slums are unforgettable. If you enjoyed 'Henry Orient' and 'Being There,' 'The Optimists,' while perhaps a bit overlong, is essential viewing."
"Delightful Optimists"
Lucia Johanna | 03/28/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)

I saw this delightful, memorable movie in the 1970's and seeing it again was even more enjoyable. Peter Sellers, the 2 children and little dog are perfectly cast.
This simple movie is underated, it is full of meaning, innocence, pathos and humour.
A joy to watch again and again."