Synopsis: The world believes that Clouseau has become the victim of Douvier, a drug lord who has just blown the hapless inspector’s home into a million pieces. At the funeral, Inspector Dreyfus performs the eulogy with tears in his eyes – from attempting to suppress his happiness! But it’s Clouseau who has the last laugh. Very much alive, he has headed for Hong Kong with the drug lord’s discarded mistress to investigate Douvier and a heroin deal worth 50 million francs. But can Clouseau, disguised as the Godfather, intercept the deal? Will inspector Dreyfus, who’s also on the case, see past the disguise in time to avoid killing his subordinate…or will he just kill him anyway?
Revenge of the Pink Panther 7.75
eyelights: its mixture of comedy and drama. its capable cast.
eyesores: the weakness of the third act.
“You mean Douvier killed a wandering transvestite just to impress his godfather?”
After making ‘The Pink Panther Strikes Again‘, Blake Edwards and Peter Sellers decided not to make another film together; their relationship, always a difficult one, had become so strained that Edwards said of Sellers that, by the mid-’70s, he was so far gone that he could not be distinguished from actual mental patients.
And yet, within only two months, the pair were in production on their fifth -and final- Pink Panther film together. It would prove to be their highest-grossing one, exceeding even the phenomenal success of ‘The Return of the Pink Panther‘. It would essentially seal the reputation of the series for that entire decade.
‘Revenge’ is a flawed but nonetheless droll piece of work.
Clearly inspired by the series’ previous entry, this film’s premise is that the French Connection decides to bolster their reputation by killing off Chief Inspector Clouseau. After failing an attempt that everyone believes has succeeded, Clouseau goes undercover to find the perpetrators, with the help of his trusted side-kick Cato.
The picture is filled with nice touches:
- The opening set-up is excellent, which shows the crime syndicate exploring options to make their New York friends respect them again, culminating with Douvier giving the authorization to kill Clouseau… just as the Pink Panther theme begins. Perfect.
- The credits see the return of DePatie-Freleng, who hadn’t been around for the last two films. Alas, it’s an amusing but slightly random and unsophisticated (ah, the ’70s!) affair. Richard Williams, who had replaced them temporarily, had raised the bar since their last effort.
- There’s an early scene when Clouseau speaks to his boss after a bombing attempt on his life. He’s still spewing smoke from the incident, which causes a memo his boss gave him to spark up. By the end, he’s trying to leave before his oblivious boss notices that his desk on fire! I love the sight of the two talking with the fire blazing in the background.
- Douvier’s right-hand man hires a martial artist from Hong Kong called Mr. Chong. He proves his worth by beating up a few assassins and then proceeds to bust Douvier’s desk to hammer the point across. Douvier coolly looks at him do it, while sitting at that same desk, then gets up to retrieve a dustpan for his right-hand man. Stoic, subtle, funny.
- As has become routine, Clouseau comes home expecting Cato to attack him. He tries to dissuade him, to no avail. Meanwhile, however, Mr. Chong break in, fully intending to kill the Chief Inspector. Clouseau naturally think he’s Cato and gives him a taste of his own medicine. It’s all very ridiculous, but quite funnay.
(Funnay? Did you say funnay?)
- I love the whole set-up with the “death” of Clouseau and its aftermath, with him being taken to a mental institution because no one believes his claim that he is who is, especially since he is in drag (“Don’t let these legs fool you! I am not your ordinary, run-of-the-mill transvestite!” he protests.). And the sudden rehabilitation of the now reinstated Chief Inspector Dreyfus.
- I love the plot point that has Dreyfus thinking that he’s losing his grip on his sanity because he keeps seeing the “dead” Clouseau pop up in the weirdest of places. His therapist had suggested that he might feel some guilt and that it might manifest in various ways, leading him to disbelieve his eyes. Nice touch. And funny, too.
- Clouseau returns to his flat after escaping the institution, only to discover that Cato has already moved on, redecorated and opened up a brothel in his home (“So as a tribute to my memory, you open this… this Chinese nookie factory?” he asks, disconcerted.). It’s impossible in the given time, but it’s funny anyway.
- Chief Inspector Dreyfus’ speech at Clouseau’s memorial is priceless because he was forced into reading it, and he has a difficult time keeping his composure saying things opposite to what he believes. Herbert Lom’s performance, walking that fine line between laughing and crying is pure genius. And it’s hilarious.
It all adds up to a pretty good film, but ‘Revenge’ unfortunately trips up in the third act, when Clouseau, Cato and Simone go to Hong Kong to spoil Douvier’s plans: it’s funny, but it’s far too incredible that Clouseau’s crappy disguises wouldn’t ring any alarms with any of those people. This feels geared at the kiddie crowd, not adult audiences.
In fact, one gets the impression that, by this point, the series was turning into a live-action cartoon: with people falling yet leaving their hats behind in mid-air, Clouseau driving a disassembling “Silver Hornet” car, clothes flying off of Clouseau during explosions, and an overblown ending in a warehouse filled with fireworks. Who knows what the future held.
Alas, we were never to find out.
Although Sellers had planned to continue playing Jacques Clouseau in a film he co-wrote called ‘Romance of the Pink Panther’, he would die of a heart attack (his last of many throughout his life) on July 22, 1980, at the age of 54. ‘Revenge of the Pink Panther’ would be the final collaboration between Peter Sellers and Blake Edwards.
While the series dragged on a bit longer, it was the last proper Pink Panther picture.
“The Great Inspector Clouseau will not be bothering us anymore.”
Post scriptum: Inspector Clouseau would be revived in 1982 for the outtakes tribute picture ‘Trail of the Pink Panther’, as well as in 2006 in the woefully inept Steve Martin reboot. But nothing would ever replace Peter Sellers’ mad genius in what was the role of a lifetime. With his passing, the series perished – Edwards himself couldn’t breathe life back into it.
Date of viewing: October 23, 2014