Appellate Judge James A. Stewart says this movie about Clouseau doppelgangers isn't just Chief Inspector Dreyfus's nightmare.
"You don't look like a detective, do you?"—Weaver
The detective that Alan Arkin (Freebie and the Bean) is trying hard to resemble is Peter Sellers's classic creation, Inspector Jacques Clouseau. Sellers and Clouseau creator Blake Edwards dropped out of their Surete spoofing series after two entries (The Pink Panther and A Shot in the Dark), but its success (the two modest movies took in more than $10 million each) spawned this second sequel, helmed by Bud Yorkin (Come Blow Your Horn).
Facts of the Case
Inspector Clouseau begins with a sign of The Times—literally, since it's plastered on a truck for the famed London daily. It says "Tension at No. 10." The truck passes No. 10 Downing Street just as a government figure leaves, besieged by reporters after a tense meeting with the Prime Minister.
Meanwhile, Inspector Clouseau disembarks from a plane just landed in London. He's on a secret mission and, despite the advice of his English counterparts, goes through customs to maintain his cover, which is blown by all the weaponry the officials find on him. Seems there's been a 2.5 million pound train robbery and Scotland Yard can't get very far because of a leak, so they've brought in an outsider. The theory is that the bad guys are planning a larger crime with the capital from the train job.
Alan Arkin's first scene as Clouseau is a promising start, with the detective realizing that he's left his shoes on the plane and returning to get them (it's not that simple, of course). The pantomime scene shows Clouseau in classic hapless but determined form.
After that, the movie kind of wanders, since it doesn't know exactly what to do with its hero without Blake Edwards and Peter Sellers on hand to do the steering. You get some spy spoof gags like a laser cigarette lighter, some mild sex-farce shenanigans about Clouseau trying to evade the attentions of Weaver's wife while trying to get time alone with the man's comely maid, a doppelganger plot twist straight out of The Avengers, and a caper that seems vaguely reminiscent of Diabolik.
There are some good scenes, like a car chase in which both Clouseau and his quarry are stumped by roadside obstacles, but there's little of the inventiveness that Sellers and Edwards brought to the character. Instead, Inspector Clouseau becomes a Sixties pastiche. By the 1990s, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery could bring in a breath of fresh air by replaying these familiar images, but this movie doesn't have the ironic underscore of changing times behind it.
Alan Arkin's Clouseau seems childish—he finds himself arguing with British counterpart Weaver (Frank Finlay, The Three Musketeers) over a game of jacks—and arrogant as he boasts about crime-solving abilities that quickly appear dubious. His fake French accent seems too much like an imitation of Sellers's voice, rather than a new interpretation, underscoring the derivative nature of the movie. Instead of trying to roll with and cover for disasters, he seems oblivious to them. This makes for an interesting scene late in the movie as the weight of Clouseau's bumbling hits his consciousness at once, but keeps him from becoming a likeable striver as in Sellers movies. Still, Arkin fares better in later scenes, when it's clear even to Clouseau that the baddies have the upper hand and he gets a chance to play the underdog.
The movie doesn't do much with its supporting players, a roster that includes Anthony Ainley, Patrick Cargill, and Barry Foster. Actress Beryl Reid (The Killing of Sister George) is merely the butt of jokes as Weaver's Scottish wife, and leading lady Delia Boccardo (The Assisi Underground) is attractive, but bland.
The picture isn't bad, since care was taken to remaster the sixties Technicolor. The sound is adequate, but it seems that even composer Henry Mancini ditched Inspector Clouseau. As for extras, forget it; not even a Pink Panther cartoon.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
If you're curious enough to check this movie out, you'll find that it's not a complete disaster, just redundant and derivative. Even so, it probably had a decent lifespan as a two-hour filler flick on independent stations in the pre-Fox days.
I didn't hate Inspector Clouseau. I even got a few smiles, since I liked most of the movies and TV shows it cribs from. Still, if you're curious about Alan Arkin's antics, rent it or wait for it to turn up as an Inspector Closeout in the bargain bin.
Guilty. Peter Sellers might have won this copycat caper an acquittal, but Alan Arkin couldn't clear it of the charge of mediocrity.
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