Peter Medak isn’t the household name he believes he should be. Hot off of the success of the Peter O’Toole starring comedy-drama, The Ruling Class, Medak teamed up with Peter Sellers for Ghost in the Noonday Sun, a film that would be the final nail in the coffin for Medak’s mainstream success. The car crash that was their incredible fallout is all documented here, in Medak’s most recent film The Ghost of Peter Sellers, a documentary that looks back on what could have been, and analyses the haunted life of Medak who never quite seems to come to terms with how his career regressed.
It’s a sad tale, and The Ghost of Peter Sellers makes its aims rather clear from the very first second. Medak isn’t on a sympathy tour; he doesn’t expect the audience to comfort him with a wound that, after forty years, still feels fresh. He has only the goal of finding out what went wrong with his project, and the answer lies, more often than not, with Peter Sellers himself. It’s rather perplexing to watch Sellers as he finds himself in a project, he, for unknown reasons, has absolutely no faith in. He takes out much of this anger on Medak, the cast, and runs the production into the ground. The Ghost of Peter Sellers does entice its audience with the question of whether or not it was solely the fault of Sellers. The jury is still out on that one, and I doubt very much that we’ll ever close that case.
Whilst I’m not a fan of the way Medak styles his documentary; I can appreciate how he weaves a narrative. He presents his meetings with an articulate, professional precision. He reminisces with old friends, former cast and crew, but it all feels very staged and detracts greatly from both the narrative and also the credibility. It shakes the very core of the film far more than I had expected, and it’s a shame since the real intriguing elements of the film are outside of these reconciliations. There’s no justification for how this documentary is shot, aside from trying to innovate the proven, standard formula that has already been set in stone.
If anything, The Ghost of Peter Sellers will bring to light an interesting pocket of history that has been otherwise forgotten. Pooling together a plethora of behind the scenes anecdotes with surviving cast members, relatives and crew members, we take a trip down a horrid memory lane. There’s a scene right at the very end of the film, where the director finally makes his peace. An hour and a half of build-up, and then the acceptance he finds within himself. It’s a truly touching moment, and wraps up the documentary well. An hour of bad-mouthing Peter Sellers, and then a final half-hour of realising that the bigger picture is far more troubling than anyone could have first imagined. The Ghost of Peter Sellers is a strong documentary for those interested in the cataclysmic fallout of Sellers and Medak butting heads.