THE RETURN OF THE PINK PANTHER (1975)

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When the Pink Panther diamond is stolen from a museum in the fictitious Middle Eastern country of Lugash and a familiar calling card – a white glove embroidered with the initial P – is left teasingly in its place, the authorities are convinced that the gem was lifted by the notorious gentleman thief Sir Charles Litton, the same thief (although with a slightly misspelt surname) who stole the jewel in the original movie.

It makes sense that the policeman who solved that case and recovered the diamond the first time around should investigate this new heist. Unfortunately, Inspector Clouseau (Sellers) has just been suspended by his boss Chief Inspector Dreyfus (Lom) after an unfortunate episode with a blind street musician and his monkey that resulted in the rather pompous and catastrophe-prone Clouseau inadvertently assisting a bank robbery.

Dreyfus is forced to reinstate Clouseau and send him to Lugash, and it’s the last straw. Clouseau has reduced Dreyfus to a twitchy neurotic mess, and now Dreyfus is obsessed with murdering the detective.

Meanwhile, Clouseau’s investigation of the robbery is as inept as always. He is certain that Litton is the thief, but Litton (Plummer, stepping into the role played by David Niven in the first film) didn’t do it and is investigating the theft as well. Maybe the key to everything is the beautiful Lady Litton (Schell) who is the focus of Clouseau’s hunt, but solving this caper will take smart thinking which means that Clouseau is already at a serious disadvantage.

This is the fourth in the hugely successful Pink Panther series, and marked Seller’s return to the role after Alan Arkin played the detective in 1968’s Inspector Clouseau (Peter Sellers’ last outing had been in 1964’s A Shot in the Dark which was co-written by The Exorcist’s William Peter Blatty). For many people, it is also the best entry in the long-running franchise, and it certainly comprises some of the series’ better-known, and much loved, gags: the scene with Clouseau, the street musician and his ‘minkey’ is a deserved classic, as is a sequence much later in the film when Clouseau – disguised as a hotel cleaner – vacuums Lady Litton’s hotel room and manages to suck a parrot into the hoover. Watch out, too, for Clouseau pretending to be a telephone repairman and inadvertently gluing himself to an expensive antique chair. There’s also an amusing karate fight between Clouseau and his manservant Cato, which was one of the running gags of the series. It’s the kind of slapstick you can never grow tired of watching.

Like most of the Panther films, the theft of the diamond is just an excuse to showcase Peter Seller’s comic artistry and dress him up in ridiculous disguises with appropriately stupid voices. Yes, the crime is solved at the end, but who really cares? The joy of the Pink Panther movies isn’t in reaching the destination, it’s the comic journey it takes to get there. Fans of the series will love this new Blu-ray presentation, which looks immaculate, although sadly it’s devoid of special features. And for newbies, this is a pretty good place to start.

Let’s just forget the Steve Martin incarnations ever happened.

THE RETURN OF THE PINK PANTHER / CERT: PG / DIRECTOR: BLAKE EDWARDS / SCREENPLAY: FRANK WALKMAN, BLAKE EDWARDS / STARRING: PETER SELLERS, CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER, CATHERINE SCHELL, HERBERT LOM / RELEASE DATE: JANUARY 11TH

 


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