Two Way Stretch
Even if he's guilty, it's hard not to sympathize with someone stuck in a cell. Prisoner Dodger Lane (Peter Sellers) tests that sympathy as he runs his English prison, keeping those he works with (even the warden) under his charming spell while giving the other inmates lessons in how to be better crooks. He gets the daily newspaper, a steady supply of booze, and lives with the two thieves he went in with elder safe-cracker Jelly Knight (David Lodge) and mother-hounded juvenile Lennie Price (Bernard Cribbins). But when conman Soapy Stevens (Wilfrid Hyde White) shows up as a vicar in Dodger's prison to tell him about a heist, Dodger immediately becomes obsessed with the idea. There's only one conundrum: How do you commit a heist while still in jail? The opportunity for their daring robbery occurs the day before the boys are set to be released, which wouldn't be a problem if Dodger's favorite guard wasn't about to retire. Unfortunately for them, the hard edged P.O. Crout (Lionel Jefferies) is taking his place, and Crout believes in strict discipline and hard work something the entire jail's gone without for years, as the current warden is mostly concerned with his prize-winning vegetables. It's up to Dodger and his crew to somehow work their way out undetected and then break back in to get a £2 million score. Directed by television helmer Robert Day, 1960's Two Way Stretch is memorable solely for Sellers' performance. As a prison comedy it's filled with such familiar tropes as tunnel-digging and comical-crook scenes (Lennie's mother is mad at him for not trying to break out more often). But Sellers' Cockney performance is fun for those who admire his comic genius, and this is one of his better starring roles. From his references to the "George Raft" (Cockney for "draft"), one almost wants to turn on the closed-captioning to make sure one gets all of the rhyming slang that Sellers delivers with considerable charm. Part of "The Peter Sellers Collection," Anchor Bay's DVD release of Two Way Stretch presents the black-and-white film in anamorphic widescreen (1.66:1) with monaural DD 2.0 audio, which are both excellent. Extras include a Sellers biography and filmography. Keep-case.