5 January 2001 | jhclues
The Return Of "Clouseau"
The famous and invaluable diamond known as the Pink Panther is stolen once again from the museum in Lugash, and the authorities decide immediately that to effect the return of this National Treasure they must seek the help of the one man they know will bring the needed expertise to the case: Clouseau. And so it is that `The Return Of The Pink Panther' is entrusted to none other than the inimitable Inspector (Peter Sellers) from France, much to the chagrin of Chief Inspector Dreyfus (Herbert Lom), who, knowing what unbridled mayhem Clouseau is really capable of, would like nothing more than to be rid of him once and for all. But such a request from the sovereign authorities of a friendly nation cannot be denied, and Clouseau is therefore dispatched with all haste to Lugash, with orders to bring the criminals to justice, and insure that the case is indeed-- to quote Clouseau-- `solv-ed.' Some ten years had passed since director Blake Edwards and Sellers had teamed up for the brilliant film `A Shot In The Dark,' before coming together once again for this third installment chronicling the misadventures of the `belov-ed' Inspector Clouseau. But the wait was certainly worth it. Cleverly written and delivered, it affords Sellers ample opportunities to do what he does best: Make you laugh. Whether affecting an alias in disguise or forthrightly confronting the usual suspects, Clouseau deftly uncovers every `ploy' attempted by the unscrupulous thieves he seeks. There are moments so hilarious that even co-star Catherine Schell (Claudine) has trouble keeping a straight face at times; but rather than being a distraction (as you'd think it would be), it somehow makes it even funnier. And it's a great example of why this movie is so good, and why it works so well. Simply put, it's fun. Edwards has a formula for success that begins with having a good story at the core, an excellent supporting cast to flesh it all out, then mixing it all together with the main ingredient which is, of course, Sellers. It's one that works, and of which directors of some of the more recent fare being proffered as `comedy' could benefit. Christopher Plummer is well cast as debonair master thief Sir Charles Litton, bringing an air of sophistication to the film that contrasts so well with the antics of Sellers. Characters returning after debuting in `A Shot In The Dark' include the terrific Lom, whose Chief Inspector Dreyfus is the perfect foil for Clouseau; Andre Maranne (Francois); and of course Burt Kwouk as Clouseau's ever-attacking manservant, Cato. The scenes between Sellers and Kwouk, in which they spar at Clouseau's house, are a riot, as is the way Sellers and Lom play off of one another throughout the film (or the series, for that matter); Lom's `reactions' alone to what Sellers is doing are classic bits of comedy. Rounding out the supporting cast are Peter Arne (Colonel Sharky), Peter Jeffrey (General Wadafi), Gregoire Aslan (Chief of Lugash Police), Victor Spinetti (Hotel Concierge) and John Bluthal (Blind Beggar). A number of elements go into making a comedy work, and `The Return Of The Pink Panther' has them all, but most especially, Peter Sellers, who without a doubt is one of the funniest actors ever to grace the silver screen. His comedy works because he always plays it straight and allows the humor to flow naturally from the situation at hand; there's never a laugh that is forced or false. Consider one of the opening scenes in which Clouseau, walking a beat, questions a blind beggar with a monkey about having the proper permits to beg, all while the bank in front of which they are standing is being robbed. There's a purity about it that makes it a joy to watch; the kind of film you can see over and over again and never get tired of. One of the great things about video and DVD is that it affords us the opportunity of cuing up this film-- as well as the other `Panther' movies-- at will. For a lot of laughs, take advantage of the technology at hand and check out Peter Sellers and discover what `classic' comedy is all about. It never gets old, and somehow just keeps getting better with age. I rate this one 9/10.