[box cover]

Heavens Above!

The Peter Sellers Collection

  • Carlton-Browne of the F.O.
  • Heavens Above
  • Hoffman
  • I'm All Right Jack
  • The Smallest Show on Earth
  • Two Way Stretch
  • When a clerical error sends the wrong John Smallwood to be a factory town's vicar, he's not what the locals expect. Smallwood (Peter Sellers) immediately befriends the garbage man (Brock Peters) and asks him to be his counsel, while he then insults the church's wealthy benefactor (Isabel Jeans) by mentioning something about a camel getting through a needle's eye. Though his messages of love come straight from the Bible, the Church of England finds Smallwood to be thoroughly distasteful and works to get the right John Smallwood (Ian Carmichael) back into place. But somehow the wrong vicar's words get into Jean's heart, and his message starts reaching the local townsfolk with her help. Unfortunately this message of peace and community interferes with the town's commerce, and when he mocks Simulax — the sedative/laxative that's the town's main business — the fiscal repercussions hit the townsfolk so much that his advice and presence leads to tumult. The Boulting Brothers comedy Heavens Above! (they also did I'm All Right, Jack and Carlton Browne of the F.O.) is a look into how this modern world doesn't exactly live up to its Christian heritage. Though Smallwood is essentially teaching the words of the Bible, those aren't necessarily what the townsfolk or the religious leaders want to be taught. It's a powerful message of hypocrisy that anyone with a base understanding of religion can grasp, but it's also played out as a smart comedy. Sellers is perfectly cast as the head-in-the-clouds minister, and he never sells his character short for the sake of comedy. His part is (thankfully) never made the butt of piece — even if some jokes are made at his expense (it seems the good vicar has a taste for dog food). Though the conclusion in the small town is what it probably should be, the film meanders in its last act when the Church of England tries to find another acceptable venue for Smallwood. As the film was shorn 15 minutes for its American running time (the DVD is uncut at 118 min.), one wonders if that was what was left out. Just the same, it's the sort of Capra-esque social commentary that is a welcome relief from the more empty headed modern variants. Part of the "Peter Sellers Collection," Anchor Bay presents Heavens Above! uncut and in anamorphic widescreen (1:66:1). The black-and-white print is in admirable shape, while the monaural audio is on a DD 2.0 track. Extras include a Sellers biography. Keep-case.
    —DSH



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