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Comedian Peter Sellers, posing in 1974 as Inspector Clouseau in The Pink Panther Returns, made two short films in 1957, before he became a successful movie star. ((Evening Standard/Getty))

Two short films starring Peter Sellers and scripted by Canadian novelist Mordecai Richler will be screened to the public for the first time in more than 50 years.

The Southend-on-Sea Film Festival, located about 60 kilometres east of London, will be showing the two 30-minute films, created as spoof government documentaries, next May.

Sellers, perhaps best known for his portrayal of bumbling Inspector Clouseau, made Dearth of a Salesman and Insomnia is Good For You in 1957, at a time when he was already a radio star on BBC’s The Goon Show.

The neglected films had been nestled in 21 canisters that were salvaged outside a film company’s office in 1996. The building’s manager, Robert Farrow, said he was supervising the refurbishment of Park Lane Films’ old office when he took the canisters, intending to use them to store his Super 8 collection.

Farrow said he almost threw out the film inside the canisters.

“It was then I realized they were two Sellers films,” Farrow told BBC News. “It was amazing.”

Soon after making the short films, Sellers’ movie career took off. The actor went on to star in successful films such as The Naked Truth, The Pink Panther, Being There and Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.

Sellers died in 1980 after collapsing from a heart attack. Richler, whose acclaimed books include The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, Solomon Gursky Was Here and Barney’s Version, passed away in 2001.

Mark Cousins of the Peter Sellers Appreciation Society in Britain said the films were “missing pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.”

“These early films, although they’re only shorts, are quite important because they were really made before he hit the big time.”

Both films will be shown at the festival’s opening night, May 1.

With files from the BBC