Synopsis: Peter Sellers is “in top form” (Cue) in this zany adventure that finds the accident-prone Inspector Clouseau using some of his most outlandish disguises ever. With “ferociously funny karate encounters” (Time) with the enigmatic Cato (Burt Kwouk) and dangerous intrigue with a sexy Russian spy (Lesley-Anne Down), this hysterical comedy will strike your funny bone!
Driven over the edge by the maddeningly incompetent Clouseau, former Chief Inspector Dreyfus (Herbert Lom) commandeers a doomsday device and threatens to destroy the world. His only demand? Clouseau’s death! But thanks to his nemesis’ dumb luck, the assassins hired to kill him can’t seem to finish the job – although Clouseau may do it himself by tripping over his own two feet!
‘The Pink Panther Strikes Again’ finds Peter Sellers arguably incarnating the best of his renditions of the bumbling idiot Inspector Clouseau. While he was incredibly ill at the time, and a stunt double was used for many of his more physical scenes, Sellers had, by his fourth appearance in the series (a series that saw a slight departure with Alan Arkin taking over for one installment in the late ’60s), really gotten the character down: his blind pride and self-confidence, his complete inability to clue into what was painfully obvious to those around him, his physical presence (which consisted largely of being a demented bull in a china shop), and his painstaking attempts to maintain some form of dignity in situations that would fell the average person.
It might seem to some as though Inspector Clouseau was simply written this way, and that it would be obvious to play the character: just say the lines and pratfall when required. But it’s not so easy: to maintain the balance, to prevent overplaying or under-playing the role, requires a good sense of self-control. For instance, it would be easy to mug for the camera and to go very broad. It would also be easy to simply say the lines and expect them to do the work for you. The proof is in the pudding: neither Alan Arkin nor Steve Martin, despite their considerable experience, have managed to walk that fine line.
In fact, it is Peter Sellers’ considerable comedic skills that made the character a breakout hit in the first place – he was, after all, only a secondary character and wasn’t ever meant to stand out as he eventually did. But crowds adored Inspector Clouseau so much that he ended up going solo – leaving the Pink Panther itself, and the other players surrounding it, in his wake. I have no doubt that first pick Peter Ustinov wouldn’t have managed this, thus, many of us are grateful that he pulled out at the last minute – otherwise this classic series would never have been.
Without Sellers, we would never have seen the duel of wits between Inspector Clouseau and Chief Inspector Dreyfus (played unforgettably by Herbert Lom), never enjoyed Clouseau’s altercations with his man-servant Kato, watched in utter horror as he tried on one failed disguise after the other, snickered gleefully at the reactions of his beleaguered staff and peers, and laughed out loud at the various shenanigans that this “lunatic” got up to – frequently bringing mass chaos along with him.
Our lives would have been the poorer for it.
And, while the series is now very dated, what with the way that the films are directed, and due to the overall feel of the productions, ‘The Pink Panther Strikes Again’ is still amazingly entertaining. Granted, it becomes far-fetched, cartoonish even, but it’s not nearly as bad as the series became afterwards – and yet, when one thinks about it, the film probably should be cartoonish, considering the style of humour, the lead character and the fact that it spawned an uber-popular cartoon series.
So, while it may no longer elicit as many or the same kind of laughs that it did back in the day (or for the first gazillion times that I’ve seen this film), I really enjoyed watching ‘The Pink Panther Strikes Again’. Again. To me, it’s one of the best of the Pink Panther series (along with ‘A Shot in the Dark’) and it’s one of the greatest performances of Peter Sellers’ career – it’s only over-shadowed by a few others, such as the ones in ‘Dr. Strangelove’ and ‘Being There’.
‘The Pink Panther Strikes Again’ is a must-see classic, and I can guarantee that I will watch this one again and again.