A Movie A Day: REVENGE OF THE PINK PANTHER (1978) As a tribute to my memory you open this Chinese Nookie Factory?
Published at: Sept. 15, 2008, 4:19 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.]
Today’s Panther flick follows one of my favorites of the series so far (THE PINK PANTHER STRIKES AGAIN) and isn’t as great, but I found it enjoyable.
First of all, they kept the theme of “everyone’s trying to kill Clouseau” going from yesterday’s AMAD, but this time tried to set it in a kind of Godfather-spoof world, which was far less entertaining that the international assassins plot of the last.
In fact, the first 6 minutes of the movie is a gangster flick, with a young Robert Loggia being pimp as hell, no less, as we find Loggia going to deliver a warning to Robert Webber (who was in our very first AMAD, HARPER) that the Godfather doesn’t have faith that Webber has any power anymore.
In a bid to prove that he can run drugs with the best of ‘em, Webber holds a conference with his guys and the suggestion is made to kill Clouseau, now heavily respected and honored by France’s president.
What I dug about this sequence was seeing how the legend of Clouseau had spread. There are a couple gangsters that say they heard he has thrwarted 16 previous assassination attempts and that he’s almost super-human. Others say they hear he’s a bumbling fool, but who can believe that with his track record of success?
The difference here is that one of the assassination attempts works… kind of. Clouseau had a mix-up on the way to an ambush and ended up being robbed by an infamous transvestite thief who takes his car and clothes, leaving him standing on the side of the road in high-heels and dress.
Of course, this poor bastard is brutally shot down and everybody believes Clouseau is dead.
That’s the charm of this movie, even if it’s not completely successful. We see what the world would be like if Clouseau was killed.
The biggest beneficiary is our favorite Dreyfus (Herbert Lom) who is cured of his insanity the second he hears the news. Even though it completely betrays any sort of continuity, I loved that they didn’t bother trying to explain the ending of the last one where Dreyfus was essentially disappeared out of existence. He’s back in the asylum and is a new man now that Clouseau (he thinks) is gone.
In fact, he’s brought in to investigate Clouseau’s murder, completely reinstated in a publicity move by the French powers that be, a sort of public wrap-up of their feud.
He admits to his psychiatrist that he feels only joy and elation, no guilt, over Clouseau’s “death” and is warned that point of view only invites guilt to sneak up on him, essentially that he’ll be haunted by Clouseau, which, obviously, opens the door for some awesome gags down the line.
Lom is still the man. Dreyfus is my favorite character in these films, hands down. My absolute favorite scene in this movie is when Lom is forced to give a eulogy at Clouseau’s “funeral” and he has to read all these amazing testimonials to the man he hates so much. When he sputters through it, almost gagging at the words, everybody thinks he’s being overcome with emotion. God, what an awesome funny moment…
The film is very smart, playing with the conventions of the franchise, but a little like RETURN there just seemed to be a lack of fire in the storytelling and Sellers’ performance. Both were better than adequate, but you know what I’m talking about, that tangible feeling when everything is just working and everybody’s pumped.
Another benefit to this one is more Cato. When you see what he’s done to Clouseau’s apartment in the maybe 2 days he’s disappeared after supposedly dying you’ll lose your shit. I did, at least. And then he ends up actually being Clouseau’s sidekick as they travel to the events in the final act, in Hong Kong, where racial stereotypes are thrown out fast and furious.
Dyan Cannon plays the love interest in the movie, Webber’s ex-secretary and mistress who joins up with Clouseau to bring her old boss/lover down. I never really got her sex appeal, but from a performance stand-point, she does a good job with a rather uninteresting character.
Final Thoughts: A lesser entry to the series, but Herbert Lom Herbert Lom Herbert Lom. I wouldn’t say the series has lost its way, but you can clearly tell the comedy isn’t coming as naturally as it was in yesterday’s STRIKES AGAIN and the first two brilliant entries. The last bit with Clouseau and the pigeon on his head is pretty damn great, though. Same goes for his Swedish Seaman with an inflatable parrot. There just needed to be better villains than random Italian gangsters and more Lom!