Revenge of the Pink Panther (Blake Edwards, 1978)

From The Forum With No Name:

I thought Revenge of the Pink Panther started out strong, with Edwards playing off the idea that Clouseau is world-famous.

The first Balls scene ('The Great Balls,' it turns out, is the man who provides Clouseau with his grotesque disguises) isn't very funny until the explosive shows up (and for that you have to find round black bombs with sparking fuses funny), but the scene where Clouseau, immediately after the explosion, reports to his superior, is given a letter, and promptly sets the letter on fire with his smouldering clothes is so superbly underplayed you can miss it entirely if you were paying attention to what they were saying (which we were). In which case, we were staring at this dull scene where two men were talking endlessly and before we knew it, the entire office was in flames.

The Chinese brothel scene I liked ("you two" Clouseau says, pointing at a prostitute's bosom, "should be ashamed of yourselves!"). I thought the idea of having the brothel's customers say they are "Inspector Clouseau" was particularly inspired--as if Cato, mourning his master, was paying him some kind of kinky tribute (and making serious dollars on the side). Dyan Cannon blowing up at Robert Webber I liked--she's a wonderful spitfire, and he's the perfect hapless stooge to receive the brunt of her fury.

Maybe the best single scene in the whole picture involves ex-Chief Inspector Dreyfus (Herbert Lom at his most demented) trying his utmost best not to crack up while he delivers Clouseau's eulogy. "He was a great man," Lom says, eyelid fluttering, lips twisting into a grimace, and the audience sobs, thinking he is overcome with grief.

Then...it kind of peters out. Sellers wasn't at the best of health by this time, and you can see where Edwards inserts stunt men to do the pratfalls, which takes away from the unity and fluidity of the shots. It's a long drought until the moment when Clouseau in Hong Kong, running for his life, yells at Dreyfus, who is shooting at him with a pistol: "it's me!" to which Dreyfus replies "I know!" Knowing this would be the last of the Sellers Panther films and knowing that the line is funny because of everything we know about both characters makes the moment as moving as it is funny.

Better than I expected (I remember feeling this was a letdown after The Pink Panther Strikes Again), but still the weakest of the three sequels, I thought.

Chris H: Herbert Lom is far underrated, especially in the Pink Panther films. When I first saw them as a kid, one of the things that made me laugh hardest was when Dreyfuss blows off the tip of his nose with a gun that he thinks is a lighter. The ironic thing about his character is that he may not get top billing, but despite turning into a crazed maniac, he's much easier for the audiences to identify with than Clouseau; we *know* why he wants to kill Clouseau, and suspect we'd do the same thing if we were in his shoes.

I suppose Lom represents our reasonable, humane, intelligently civilized selves, and how we would end up thinking and feeling if we ever met someone like Clouseau for any length of time.

Sometimes I think Clouseau's everywhere; sometimes I just think he's sitting in The White House.

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