Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1960: Peter Sellers in Never Let Go

Peter Sellers did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Lionel Meadows in Never Let Go.

Never Let Go is crime film about a man, John (Richard Todd), who intends to prove his measure as a man by getting his stolen car back himself. The film has potentially interesting ideas along with a certain bit of style, but most aspects of the film are underwhelming in some way.

This film is one of the few strictly dramatic roles for Peter Sellers, and the only one I've ever seen anyways. Though there is a certain undercurrent of drama in both of his Stanley Kubrick collaborations, and Being There is firmly a dramedy. In those three films though there are plenty of moments where he is playing for laughs, there's not a single laugh to be had from him here, and that's not a knock against his performance. Sellers plays a career criminal Lionel Meadows who runs a garage that specializes in stealing the rebuilding cars. We briefly see Sellers in a silent moment early in the film as he's just going about this business, we do not see him again for a good twenty minutes before he reenters the film, after John has made considerable trouble for Lionel's business by refusing to let the theft of his stolen car go. Sellers shows up with a smile to talk to one his associates but he's not there to tell jokes.

Sellers's approach to the part with some adjustment the other way could easily be comedic performance, after all he gave a rather enjoyable turn as a similair type of criminal in The Ladykillers. Sellers though utilizes his approach, in creating a distinct accent and mannerisms, but uses them for an entirely alternative purpose here. Sellers plays Lionel almost as proper car salesman on the immediate outer surface. He seems to almost as brimming with a certain jovial quality, all the while keeping the proper posture of someone who is ready to sell you something special. Lionel though isn't there to give or even sell though, as he is in the taking business. His voice always attempting to be reassuring about something, the problem being that something is entirely unknown to both the person Lionel is talking to and Lionel himself. Now Sellers isn't portraying exactly quite facade, but is very intriguing in the way he more of presents this behavior as Lionel's attempt to exist as person in decent society at all.

The real Lionel is always right there too clawing to be set free, and Sellers suggests the whole act as the man trying to balance himself. The problem being is just being the razor thin surface is the criminal. Sellers though portrays Lionel as barely functioning criminal, presenting a man absolutely gripped with so much hate for everyone around him. Sellers is volcanic as he depicts the violence as something Lionel almost needs to come out, even though he has his thin attempt to hold it in check in some way. Sellers utilizes this brilliantly to create a real menace with his performance. He does not try to make Lionel as some sort of cunning mastermind. He rather bluntly instead makes him a man who just wants to continue to live as he currently does, and will lash out at anyone he thinks is getting in that way. Sellers is surprisingly intimidating in the part as he goes about attempting to plug the leaks in his organization, not as some refined hitman, but rather as a caged animal lashing out in rage. I'll admit there is something a little extra chilling about these scenes, as it is so unexpected to see Sellers not only commit the act but be convincing in the act.

One of the aspects of the film that is underwhelming is in the arc of the main character as he tries to find some personal pride through retrieving his car, but in doing so becomes involved in sordid elements. Todd tries but isn't able to overcome the limits of the writing. Sellers on the other hand, which almost seems like it wasn't written this way, gives a matching and more effective portrayal of Lionel attempting to hold onto his own pride, though that means a very different thing for him. Sellers even as he goes violently assaulting and accosting everyone who he thinks will implicate him in the crime, brings a real desperation in the act. He conveys this underlying fear of sorts in Lionel as he attempts to control the situation, though he is trying very hard to live up to be the man he thinks he should be. Sellers through this makes Lionel more than a one note hood, as he makes it rather fascinating as he reveals Lionel essentially going through the same thing as John just through a different perspective. In the final showdown between the two men you really feel what the moment means to Lionel because of Sellers's performance. In the fight Sellers shows exactly what Lionel is fighting for, in every wretched attack of his. I only wish the film itself, and Todd had managed to match Sellers's own work, since Seller's portrait of Lionel is rather special. It's such a shame that the film's tepid reception apparently made Sellers swear off taking dramatic roles, since this is a great performance that suggests we never got to truly see everything Sellers was capable of as an actor.

21 comments:

mcofra7 said...

Yes! Second five for Sellers

Matt Mustin said...

I still think he should've got a five for Dr. Strangelove.

94dfk1 said...

Louis: Thoughts on Sam Raimi as a filmmaker?

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: Is there any possibility of Sellers being raised to a 5 for Dr. Strangelove? If not, what would you say holds him back?

Alex Marqués said...

Louis: If Lynch came back to directing, which modern actor/actress would you love to see in his film/s?

Anonymous said...

1. Sellers
2. Mills
3. Mitchum
4. Stevens
5. Salvatori
Louis: What are your thoughts on Frank Welker as Soundwave, Chris Latta as Starscream and Corey Burton as Shockwave?

Calvin Law said...

My bad, sorry about that.

Anonymous said...

Calvin: I wasn't the anonymous who insulted you, it was just a troll.
Louis: So, are you looking forward to the Netflix Punisher series?

Louis Morgan said...

Tahmeed:

To be perfectly honest I don't know why or even when I lowered his score.

94dk1:

Having only seen A Simple Plan, his Spider-man films and parts of The Quick and the Dead, I don't feel I have a clear view of his work as a filmmaker, especially since his early horror work is often touted as his best.

Alex:

Ben Foster and Marion Cotillard.

Anonymous:

I feel I covered Latta's take on Starscream when I gave my thoughts on him as a performer.

Welker - (Perfect lack of emotion. Interesting in that he somehow pulls off an interesting evil sound, even though it's pure in terms of being a robotic voice)

Burton - (I rather like his raspy voice for the character that gives the character a unique presence. This is despite the character having almost no point in the series, great character in the comic though.)

Anonymous:

Very much looking forward to it.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: I'm really glad Sellers has been raised to a 5 for Dr. Strangelove :)

Anonymous said...

Louis: Ratings and thoughts on Don Ameche and Tyrone Power in In Old Chicago.

94dfk1 said...

I go to school in a foreign country (Mexico) where Dr. Strange came out a week early. Here are my thoughts and ratings on the cast, and the film.

Overall en effective film IMO. The classic Marvel tropes are all found here (underwhelming villain, comic relief, familiar origin story, token love interest, ye old one-liners). However, the exploration of the world and the stunning visuals more than make up for it. I thought the action scenes were quite clever as well. 4/5/

Cumberbatch: 4- Capably fits the part of Strange. Brings some charm and humor to the part where they both feel natural. His accent never wavers and keeps it consistent. A good, albeit not great, leading performance.

Swinton: 3.5- Effective as the role of the mentor. Role seemed somewhat derivative of Neeson in Batman Begins, but does add a couple of her own touches.

Mikkelsen: 3.5- Yet another underwhelming Marvel villain. He does have great screen presence, however. I wish he would've been developed more.

McAdams: 3- The token girlfriend, but she is good at it, at least. Has good chemistry with Cumberbatch.

Stuhlbarg: 2.5- Not bad, just doesn't really do anything.

Ejiofor: 3.5- Has good comic timing and is interesting to watch in his scenes with Cumberbatch.

Wong: 3- He is good as the comic relief, but that's all he is to be honest.

Varun Neermul said...

I don't know why... but I would love to see Woody Allen in a David Lynch movie.

94dfk1 said...

Just saw Captain Fantastic. Really looking forward to Louis's review of Mortensen. I'm predicting a 4.5, though a 5 may not be out of the question. He was...well...the second word of the title of the movie haha.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Damn, the latest South Park was quite terrific. The sight of the Member Berries driving off to Toto's Africa, with a Goodfellas parody intertwined, was simply masterful.
Louis: Your thoughts on the "Fort Collins" episode of South Park.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Is Salvatori's review coming tonight.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Seen anything new last week.

Varun Neermul said...

Louis, rating and thoughts on Francois Truffaut in Close Encounters Of The Third Kind

Varun Neermul said...

Louis: Also, thoughts and ratings on Sanjeev Kumar in The Chess Players.

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

Power - (His old dull self that fails to enliven the material in any real way. He's been worse, but it's an uninteresting performance to be sure.)

Ameche - (Ameche has a bit of a natural flair to his performances that uses props him up a bit. That's the case here, but not enough to really make anything special out of his part still.)

Tahmeed:

A pretty funny episode. I also rather enjoyed the Goodfellas parody. In addition, although I don't find the election element all that compelling or funny, I continuing to be entertained by the troll plot line.

Luke:

Yes, and no.

Louis Morgan said...

Varun:

Covered Truffaut in Dreyfuss's review.

Kumar - 4(It's a very enjoyable performance. He's got great chemistry with his fellow chess player and their two constant bickering is very entertaining. Kumar successfully shows the narrow mindedness of the man in an endearing fashion though, as he brings such pure passion to the man as he wants to play chess while ignoring everything else.)