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The Optimists (1973)

Peter Sellers , Bruce Purchase  |  PG |  DVD
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

Price: $14.99 & FREE Shipping on orders over $35. Details
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Product Details

  • Actors: Peter Sellers, Bruce Purchase, Bernie Searl, David Daker, Marjorie Yates
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: Legend Films
  • DVD Release Date: June 3, 2008
  • Run Time: 111 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0016LFG5Q
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #179,899 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Optimists" on IMDb

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

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 having a song and dance man as a friend soon turns into something much deeper, as Sam realizes that the children have just as much to teach him about life. Set amongst a wonderful London backdrop, Peter Sellers stars in one of his most charming and tender roles ever in The Optimists.


Peter Sellers was, and remains, one of Britain's finest comedic geniuses, a member of the legendary Goons (a famous forerunner to Monty Python) and noted character chameleon, able to slip effortlessly into every one of his frequently farcical roles. But what many people fail to recognize is that with said reputation comes an oft-forgotten facet: Sellers was a sensational actor. Because humor seems so inherently a part of a person's makeup, and since laughter can drown out any other critical consideration, few remember how effective Sellers could be outside a joke-filled setting. Granted, he didn't get much of a chance to show it, but the truth is that when driven, he could be as amazing - and difficult - as his equally infamous American counterparts. Case in point - 1973's The Optimists. Taken from Andrew Simmons' noted novel, this story of a strapped street performer who befriends two children was seen as a chance for the commercially questionable Sellers to stretch his performance wings. Indeed, it remains one of his most fully realized turns ever.

Sam is an aging busker who barely meters out a minor living on the streets of London. His music hall days are long gone, and his old mutt Bella can barely work their crowd. If they manage a few coppers after a long day of performing, it makes the journey back to their dilapidated row house near a landfill less depressing. One day, Sam runs into Liz and Mark Ellis, two urchins looking to escape their poverty-stricken home life. While Mom is taking care of their baby sister, and Dad is working overtime in hopes of earning a council flat, the siblings share dreams of a life across the river. Taken by Bella, the duo eventually work their way into Sam's hardened heart. But when they can't afford a stray dog, and their parents won't pay attention to their needs, Liz and Mark ask the old man for help. What he provides will turn them from desperate and sad into something akin to Optimists. Even among the dirt and decay, they may have a future after all.

A definite product of its time, it's hard to imagine modern audiences cottoning to this collection of urban nightmares and flights of forced fantasy. After all, without action and adventure and plenty of CGI sparkle, it really isn't a family film, is it? But thanks to an amazing performance by Peter Sellers, who stands as a lamentably underappreciated dramatic actor, and a true sense of a pre-punk "No Future" UK, The Optimists easily earns a Recommended rating. Had it been sharper during its near two hour running time, had Anthony Simmons not indulged in every whim derived directly from his own tome, we'd have a certified classic on our hands. As it stands, this film is a considered cult gem, and further proof that there was more to Peter Sellers than slapstick fights with manservant Kato and gags about "Minkeys". If you want to know the true depth of the man's talents, this intriguing film is a fine place to start. --Bill Gibron of

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
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.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A must-see for Sellers fans June 11, 2008
By Brian
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
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.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ambitious Sellers Turn June 14, 2008
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
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.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Delightful Optimists" March 27, 2010
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps Peter Sellers finest work July 31, 2013
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
More than the singular parlance exhibited in "Being There", Peter Sellers allows the boundaries of his fluid ego to extrapolate into a myriad of directions while allowing us to partake in perhaps his finest performance on film. Mixing pathos, humor, and a courageous falsetto with the ability to fill the screen with emotion, Sellers presents a set of developed skills that was often ignored within future comedic escapades. In some manner similar to Jackie Gleason's "Gigot", Sellers allows the innocence of others to bounce off his chest while reverberating his own vulnerabilities into a fabric of interwoven snippets. An outstanding performance by one of the true masters, it becomes even more special when viewed as an unexpectedly discovered pearl exposed after opening a closed shell of limited expectations. A "must watch" for anyone looking to explore the sometime hidden genius, very enigmatic, and highly troubled soul known to us as Peter Sellers. Ken Fogelman
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Poor sound qualitiy mires great Sellers performance March 27, 2014
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poor noise quality, with no subtitles available mires an obviously outstanding performance by Sellers. It is a shame, because with the thick accents you really can't tell what they are saying. I don't know why they would make a dvd in this age without subtitles. I'm not hearing impaired, but this is cockney speak and I am midwestern American.
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