Cast & Crew
The inmates at Huntleigh Prison enjoy a pleasant life: milk and newspapers are delivered each morning at 7, the cells resemble luxurious bed-sitting rooms, and classes are held on subjects ranging from basketweaving to safecracking. Cellmates Dodger Lane, Jelly Knight, and Lennie Price are visited by Soapy Stevens, an old cronie who, posing as a clergyman, has a plan for stealing a large number of jewels from a visiting maharajah scheduled to match his weight in diamonds on his natal day. The men agree that it should be relatively easy for them to break out, pull off the job, and sneak back into prison with the gems. Just as their plans are being made final, however, the easygoing warder is replaced by the vicious, ever-suspicious Sidney Court. In spite of the setback, Soapy sneaks them out in a paddy wagon, and aided by Dodger's girl friend Ethel and Lennie's mother, they successfully execute the robbery. The diamonds are brought into prison in a dust cart and are hidden in the governor's safe. The next day the men are officially released, and they brazenly walk out with the diamonds, but Dodger's fumbling causes them to lose the jewels on a train, and Soapy is recognized by Crout and arrested. Though disheartened, they are not defeated, and with hope gleaming in their eyes, they attend the maharajah's "weighing" ceremony.
Jacques De Lane Lea
E. M. Smedley-aston
Two Way Stretch is a quintessential caper film. Three prison trustees (Sellers, David Lodge and Bernard Cribbins) are living the life of Riley in an extremely lax lock-up, where they receive milk, eggs and the paper each morning and attend edifying classes to prepare them for life on the outside. With hard labor banned by the reformist prison governor (Maurice Denham), the quarry has been closed for years and prisoners enjoy an easy, albeit confining life, with all the modern conveniences. As Sellers and his cellmates contemplate the final days of their stay, Soapy (Hyde-White), the fourth in their gang, entices them to sneak out of prison to steal the Sultan's diamonds, which will be passing through town. Disguised as their vicar, Soapy meets them regularly during their final prison days to hatch the plan. Everything is going perfectly until their friendly warden is replaced by a hardnosed fanatic, Crout (Lionel Jeffries), who adds an unexpected risk to their plot.
Peter Sellers was wracked with insecurity throughout his career, and flouted his chameleon nature to mask the fact that he had no true personality of his own. He was in professional competition at the time with Jeffries, and, according to Sellers biographer Roger Lewis in the The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, he was so impressed by Jeffries' performance in Two Way Stretch that he repurposed pieces of it for several of his own characters, including Inspector Clouseau and Dr. Strangelove (at the time, however, he told others he thought Jeffries' acting was "over the top"). He also took Jeffries' line "Silence when you are talking to me!" for What's New Pussycat? (1965). In the next several years, however, Jeffries, a year younger than Sellers, aged quickly, and played men much older than he actually was for the rest of his career. In Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, for example, Jeffries plays Dick Van Dyke's father, though he was only six months older than him. Sellers and Jeffries reunited for one final film The Prisoner of Zenda (1979), during which Sellers reportedly called him at all hours of the night, seeking his advice.
Sellers' immersion in his roles is notable, and his first wife, Anne Howe, was never sure how deep he would go. Biographer Alexander Walker writes in Peter Sellers: "When the film character began 'possessing' Sellers, Anne was never quite sure who might be returning home that night. Sometimes it was a stranger, whose trancelike state she was powerless to break and not a little scared to behold. Perhaps it wasn't so alarming when only a convicted mastermind came through the front door, fresh from filming the comedy Two Way Stretch."
The film's director, Robert Day (The Man with Bogart's Face, 1980), remembers Sellers' seriousness about his acting in The Life and Death of Peter Sellers: "'You feel with Peter as he reaches for a character...He works his way towards the perfection of the role.'"
Known for his excess, Sellers admitted he was always searching for happiness, going through material things-houses, cars, playthings-as readily as he seemed to change wives; he was on his fourth marriage when he died of a heart attack at the age of 55. Being There (1979) is considered Sellers' best role, though the far less critically acclaimed The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu (1980) marked his final feature.
Producer: M. Smedley Aston
Director: Robert Day
Screenplay: Vivian Cox, Len Heath, John Warren; Alan Hackney (additional dialogue)
Cinematography: Geoffrey Faithfull
Art Direction: John Box
Music: Ken Jones
Film Editing: Bert Rule
Cast: Peter Sellers (Dodger Lane), David Lodge (Jelly Knight), Bernard Cribbins (Lennie Price), Wilfrid Hyde-White (Soapy Stevens), Maurice Denham (The Governor), Lionel Jeffries (Chief P.O. Crout), Irene Handl (Mrs. Price), Liz Fraser (Ethel), Beryl Reid (Miss Pringle), Noel Hood (Miss Prescott), Myrette Morven (Miss Meakin), George Woodbridge (Chief P.O. Jenkins), Edwin Brown (Warder Charlie), Cyril Chamberlain (Gate Warder, Day), Wallas Eaton (Gate Warder, Night), Andrew Downie (Garden Warder).
by Emily Soares
Location scenes filmed in Aldershot, Maidstone, Windsor, Pirbright, and London, England. Opened in London in February 1960. Working title: Nothing Barred.