To this day, Judge Dennis Prince won't visit France for fear he will erupt into an uncontrollable fit of hysterics the first time he hears an officer assert, "Stop, in the name of the leauu!"
Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the movies…
Clouseau: It started when my Great Aunt was kidnapped and held for ransom by
an Armenian phrenologist—
And so goes yet another dialectic indiscretion by France's most improbable inspector, Jacques Clouseau. He's been the man responsible for foiling some of the world's most dangerous criminals, typically by way of backing into a snare meant for him only to unwittingly trip it upon his exasperated foes. Despite his uncouth style and uncanny dumb luck, Clouseau has come to be regarded a legend in his own time and box office gold through his collaborations with Writer-Producer-Director Blake Edwards.
In this 1978 sequel, Edwards and Sellers put the insufferable inspector back on the trail of crime, outfitting him with a cavalcade of zany disguises while embodying the overtly frantic demeanor of the previous two misadventures.
Let the record show that the defendant here has not invoked a plea of "not guilty by reasons of insanity." Go figure.
Facts of the Case
When a New York crime boss questions whether his French counterpart, Philippe Douvier (Robert Webber, S.O.B.), still exerts requisite control over the "French Connection," Douvier assembles his criminal advisors to devise an ultimate show of power. Their plan: kill the world's greatest international inspector, Jacques Clouseau (Peter Sellers, Casino Royale, 1967). Having bumbled his way safely through numerous assassination attempts and gaining decoration by the Head of State for his "achievements," Clouseau, on paper, appears a formidable force in service of the French Sûreté. He's now recognized as Chief Inspector following the demise (or just disappearance?) of his former superior, Inspector Charles Dreyfus (Herbert Lom, Asylum). After a rogue transvestite criminal posing as Clouseau is gunned down, Douvier and his henchmen bask in their mock success. Clouseau, donning various disguises and assisted by Douvier's now estranged secretary/mistress, Simone Le Gree (Dyan Cannon, Deathtrap), sets about to unravel the case if only he can keep from being killed by his perpetually sparring manservant, Cato (Burt Kwouk, Goldfinger).
Revenge of the Pink Panther was to be Peter Sellers's last complete entry in the series. Two years following completion of the film, he suffered a fatal heart attack. As such, this fifth entry in the Pink Panther franchise (excluding 1968's entirely forgettable Inspector Clouseau with Alan Arkin poorly fit into the trench coat) is to be cherished as a last look at a film legend in his most-recognized role. Although the series started with Clouseau being more of an ancillary character (The Pink Panther was reference to an imperfection found in a coveted diamond), Sellers's performance in the 1963 feature convinced Edwards to build a follow-up feature, 1964's A Shot In the Dark, entirely around the trench-coated dimwit. The series took an 11-year lapse before the aptly titled The Return of the Pink Panther was released with a more deliberate bent toward slapstick situations, elaborate pursuit stunts, and with distinct relation to the clever 1969 cartoon series. The next year, audiences were again tickled by the even wackier The Pink Panther Strikes Again. With these subsequent installments, Sellers's characterization as Clouseau included more slapstick elements—lingering long-takes, neck-snapping double-takes—and a progressively more outrageous French accent. Likely inspired by the completely unhinged dentist sequence of Strikes Again, this picture manages a plot device—Clouseau's supposed death—that allows Sellers to alternate offbeat disguises with frequently hilarious results (see the Swedish sailor and his inflatable parrot). New to this picture is the expanded role of Burt Kwouk's 'Cato,' relentlessly denigrated as the "yellow" manservant. It was a deft move, really, since one of the best sequences is that of their well-intentioned confrontation up and down three floors of a housing flat. Also new is the inclusion of a female compatriot to Clouseau. Dyan Cannon's performance is suitable yet lacks the sort of comedic precision that would make her scenes with Sellers more effective. She's certainly pretty to look at but offers little else beyond a plot device.
All told, Revenge of the Pink Panther delivers a decent share of solid laughs and MGM/UA Home Entertainment delivers a decent new DVD as well. The transfer is anamorphically enhanced, presented in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The image quality is generally good but certainly not of reference quality. Color saturation is well managed as are black levels and contrast control. Unfortunately, detail levels are a frequently sub-par, resulting in softness through much of the playback. The audio is presented in a new Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround mix which is clear and intelligible but, as far as surround effect, is somewhat disappointing. While some musical cues and explosions gain rear channel activity, most often those speakers remain silent. For fans of the original mono track, that's available as a selectable audio option. The disc is stingy on extras here, delivering only a photo gallery with brief bio notes and an anamorphic trailer that's in rather rough shape.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Despite its moments of well-executed comedy, this is not the strongest of the pictures. Much of what you see here is largely inspired by—if not blatantly cribbed from—the preceding two features. Without a doubt, it seems that writer-director Blake Edwards is guilty of stretching the gag and, when that happens in a comedic series, the joke can only elicit a half-hearted chuckle on the second or third go-round. As mentioned, some of the sight gags work extremely well but the majority of the word play falls flat (disappointing since audiences were previously counseled to listen sharp lest some of the best laughs could be missed). This picture relies on the sight gag and, therefore, results in too many sequences where the viewer politely sits by awaiting the next genuine laugh. It's not a complete failure, but it's definitely not on par with the previous films.
It is the opinion of this court that Peter Sellers, alias Jacques Clouseau, is merely an accomplice to the crime of comedic impropriety beset upon him by the true perpetrator, Blake Edwards. Sellers is to be commended for doing his best to present a worthy performance of previously-used material and, for his efforts, saves Revenge of the Pink Panther from becoming a complete and utter retread.
For those who wish to inspect this evidence for themselves, this court recommends a rental.
Case dismissed. Court adjourned.
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