The Return of the Pink Panther
Starts off well with a clever and sometimes dazzling animated opening. Moves nicely into a heist reminiscent of Topkapi. Then gets down to real business with the arrival of Inspector (now demoted to foot patrolman) Clouseau, who manages to completely miss a bank robbery going on behind him as he debates with a blind man playing the accordion as to whether he needs a permit for street performances with his minkey. “With my what?” “Your minkey.” “Oh, my monkey.” Clouseau’s French accent has grown so awful that throughout the movie even the French speakers can’t understand him. So basically we have two threads going on here: The supposed jewel thief (Christopher Plummer replacing David Niven) and his efforts to find the real thief of the Pink Panther diamond, and Clouseau’s inept efforts to find the thief. Naturally you want the scenes with the thief to just move along so we can get to the stuff we really came to see, Peter Seller’s physical and verbal comic genius, but you do need some sort of plot to hang these antics on. It’s basically a series of set pieces where Sellers wrings every possible laugh from a situation, such as his battles with a big vacuum cleaner. Much of this had to be improvised, as you couldn’t really predict how some of it would go. There are several scenes where he is talking to Catherine Schell where she cracks up, and I thought it was real, that she really couldn’t stop laughing. Most people agree that it was. And I just learned that in the theater this is called “corpsing.” It means deliberately trying to make some other cast member break character, as Tim Conway used to do so regularly with Harvey Korman on “The Carol Burnett Show.” Apparently the term came from trying to get the worst possible cast member to react, that being somebody on stage playing a dead body. Learn something new every day.