A Movie A Day: THE PINK PANTHER STRIKES AGAIN (1976) Every day and in every way I’m getting better and better.
Published at: Sept. 14, 2008, 3:22 a.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day.
[For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.]
Now this is what I’m talking about. I can’t pass full judgment on THE RETURN OF THE PINK PANTHER until I see the full flick (thanks Scratchy McScratchalot DVD), but the first half showed me a movie where Blake Edwards and Peter Sellers were struggling to find the right tone and pace, rusty after years of being away from the universe of Inspector Clouseau.
They still came up with some funny stuff, particularly in the Cato fight scene, but something was just off and I felt it as a viewer. It’s like Sellers wasn’t fully invested.
But not with THE PINK PANTHER STRIKES AGAIN. It’s like THE RETURN OF THE PINK PANTHER was their warm up and when Sellers and Edwards followed it up they knew what kind of movie to do and were firing on all cylinders.
Of course, Herbert Lom was my favorite surprise of the series and they had the brilliant idea to involve him a ton more here.
We open in an insanitorium where Dreyfus is meeting with his psychiatrist and convincing him that his furious hatred of Clouseau is now under control and he’s ready to be released into the world again.
The psychiatrist tries to psych him out, but Lom just laughs him off. He’s cured. A time is set for Lom to go before a committee, but that’s just a formality before he’s released. Lom takes a nice stroll around the grounds and guess who pops up.
After sending Dreyfus into a pond a few times, Clouseau and he have a chat. Clouseau is now holding down Dreyfus’ old job and Dreyfus has some trouble with it, but he struggles to keep his composure.
Afterall, Clouseau is there to speak on his behalf, which is what really sets Dreyfus off when he finds out, seeing his freedom now in jeopardy by the man he hates the most in this world.
Of course, by the end of the opening, Dreyfus is once again raging and trying to kill Clouseau, his freedom now taken from him.
Then we get what is probably my favorite so far of the Pink Panther animated credits sequences set to Henry Mancini’s awesome music. I loved this sequence because a great majority of it is set in a movie theater as the cartoon Clouseau watches various film clips of The Pink Panther in different movies.
We get Frankenpanther, Singin’ In The Rain Panther, Buster Keaton Panther… for a movie geek, it was definitely the most fun opening (and we get a Jaws reference in the closing credits!).
And to my great surprise the next scene opens with Lom, now escaped from the asylum, shadowing Clouseau, trying to kill him.
What a brilliant idea for a Pink Panther movie. Seriously, it’s a great way to break the formula of the previous movies. Clouseau bumbles his way into discovering this thief or uncovering that mystery. Not here. Here it’s Clouseau bumbling his way into avoiding death at every turn, stalked by a crazy man.
Lom’s first attempt at assassination is being stringed up in the apartment underneath Clouseau’s as he returns home and suspects Cato is waiting in ambush.
He karate-stances his way though the apartment, making a mess of things, of course, but there’s no Cato.
When Cato does jump out of his hiding place it is my absolute favorite Cato fight. Nunchakus comes out of nowhere, the men creep around the apartment, barely missing each other and when they fight it’s hilarious. The slow motion screams of fury as Clouseau jump kicks and misses is so ridiculously over-dramatic and goes on for so long that I was rolling.
Then when Dreyfus falls in the apartment below them they do the same effect and I was crying. They do sound humor! While still upstairs we hear the muffled version of the slow-motion screaming as Dreyfus falls below Clouseau and Cato. Brilliant.
Dreyfus ultimately decides it’s foolish trying to kill Clouseau himself and ends up masterminding a team of robbers and killers to do the job for him. He also hedges his bet by kidnapping a scientist and his daughter to build him a doomsday machine that can disintegrate anything and he makes an announcement to the world that he will use it on a large city if Clouseau isn’t killed.
Suddenly Clouseau is being hunted by the world’s best assassins, each country hoping to be the one who kills him so they can get control of the awesome power of the Doomsday Machine.
Of course that leads to one of the best sequences of any of the Panther films as these assassins converge on Clouseau at an Oktoberfest in Germany, taking out each other and failing miserably at getting Clouseau.
One of the assassins is noneother than Deep Roy, who was all the Oompa Loompas in the Tim Burton Wonka remake.
Leslie-Anne Down, of all people also makes an appearance as a Russian hit-woman who falls in love with Clouseau… the reasons for her love are hilarious, but I won’t spoil it.
Of the series so far, this film and the original two are great examples of how this series works. And maybe the end of RETURN makes up for what I felt was a lackluster and a little hollow beginning, but I can’t say until I can see the whole thing.
STRIKES AGAIN goes into some ridiculous-ass territory. The Doomsday Machine is straight out of the Batman TV show as a ridiculously unreal weapon or threat and Lom is a cartoon character, but goddamnit if you can’t tell that everybody’s have a good time here.
And the parallel bars moment with Clouseau is one of the hands down funniest slapstick moments of the entire series.
Final Thoughts: A pleasant upswing from the downward trend of (the first half) RETURN OF THE PINK PANTHER. Everybody’s enjoying themselves again and it pays off. It might cross that line and go a little too ridiculous, but if you’re at all like me you’re enjoying yourself too much to care. Seller’s hunchback disguise is awesome and Herbert Lom is my goddamn hero. Tomorrow takes us to our second to last PANTHER flick, REVENGE OF THE PINK PANTHER. Looking forward to seeing the series out, even if I am a little nervous about TRAIL…