It is a little uneven, but if you stick to it you end up liking this warm and fuzzy little film, the only Blake Edwards and Peter Sellers comedy without Chief Inspector Jacques Clousseau.
Sellers had played an Indian before. In THE MILLIONAIRESS (1960) he was an Indian doctor working for the poor in London who attracts the world's richest woman (Sophia Loren). That film has it's moments (when the original George Bernard Shaw play creeps out) but this improvised film of 1968 is far better.
Sellers is an Indian film actor who somehow was signed up to do a lead part in a Hollywood production called SON OF GUNGA DIN. Sellers' actor is playing this supposed fictional character (really fictional, as Kipling never wrote about his brave water carrier having a family). In the opening fifteen minutes Sellers demonstrates the wisdom of being hired by refusing to die properly (or is he trying to stretch out his deathbed sequence for the screen?). He is shot (while badly wounded) blowing a bugle call to the British troops about to be entrapped by the Indian "rebels". Instead of falling down dead he keeps beeping his bugle again and again and again until the director tells him to stop it. Later he ruins a shot where he kills an enemy picket by forgetting that the movie is set in 1878, and Sellers is still wearing his waterproof wristwatch! Finally (I think Stan Laurel would have appreciated this) he ruins the one-chance-only destruction of the fort by explosives simply by tying his shoe on the plunger.
Fired after the last (he asks the director if he can still do television), Sellers should be seen no more. But the director and the film producer (Gavin McLeod - later of MCHALE'S NAVY, THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW, and THE LOVE BOAT) call the studio President, Mr. Clutterbuck (J. Edward McKinley) and tell him about what has just happened to send the film's budget into the stratosphere. McKinley says he'll see the actor never works in the film industry again, and writes the name (Hrundi V. Bakshi) on a paper on his desk. Unfortunately, he did not realize it is a list of his guests for a fancy dinner party the next day. So Clutterbuck's secretary sends Bakshi/Sellers) an invitation).
What follows is a disaster upon disaster improv. Unlike THE PINK PANTHER and A SHOT IN THE DARK, Edwards and Sellers approached THE PARTY as an experiment where they were creating escalating disasters at the dinner party that engulf all the guests. The escalating disasters is par and parcel for the work of Edwards' favorite comedians, Laurel & Hardy, for whom his slapstick comedy THE GREAT RACE (1965) was dedicated to.
Sellers arrives at the party and quickly demonstrates the wisdom of inviting him. His shoe is muddy so he tries to "nonchallantly" clean it off in a pool (the clean water rapidly turns black) but the shoe floats away. Later, due to Sellers' ineptitude the shoe ends up on a tray of canapés being served. Still later, when he hurts his hand Sellers sticks it into a mound of ice on a table, only to find the caterer put beluga caviar within the "mountain" of ice.
His real problem is he is a square peg in a round hole. He can't mingle and join the people at the party, many of whom have hostility towards him (Marge Champion, not dancing in this film, is the stiff wife of a Congressman who just never cottons to Sellers). He tries to laugh at jokes, not hearing them completely but laughing anyway, or laughing at anecdotes that aren't funny. In his curiosity he experiments with the pushbuttons of the living room, causing all kinds of odd, disruptive errors to occur. He even ends up feeding "Birdy num nums" to the host's pet parrot.
Only one person is actually friendly to him at the start - a western film star, whom Sellers enjoys watching. They get on pretty well, except for one mishap with a toy dart gun (though Sellers isn't blamed for it). Then McLeod shows up with his latest protégé, Michelle Monet (Claudine Longet) and a second person turns out to be out-of-place at the party, only a French lady, not an Indian man.
In the meantime the problems multiply during dinner, when besides Sellers the host and guests have to deal with a drunken waiter (Steve Franken - best recalled as Dobie Gillis' rich rival Chatsworth Osborne Jr.). The dinner reduced to a shambles between Sellers and Franken (including causing a squab to get twisted into a guests wig - don't ask), the guests do the best they can.
I can't get into all the sequences - that spoils the fun here. One of the best deals with Sellers desperately trying to find a place to pee, and finding the bathrooms in use (once by Mrs. Champion), and finally using one in the master bedroom, that he causes a flood in, and even causes the band drummer to lose his drum (don't ask).
However, one sequence actually shows that for all the confusion and destruction he causes, Sellers is actually pretty level headed. He confronts McLeod on the latter's miserable treatment of Longet, and shows up the former as a total creep. One recalls that with the other Edwards-Sellers stumble-bum, Clousseau, he is a walking disaster maker - but he is a first rate detective for all that.
As I said, it is a little slow at points, and disjointed at times, but stick to THE PARTY. It is a worthy film for it's star and for it's cast.