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#2,875. The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976) - The Films of Peter Sellers

Posted on the 05 December 2022 by Dvdinfatuation
#2,875. The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976) - The Films of Peter Sellers
The fourth film (after The Pink Panther, A Shot in the Dark, and The Return of the Pink Panther) with Peter Sellers as bumbling inspector Jacques Clouseau, Blake Edwards’ 1976 movie The Pink Panther Strikes Again features some of the funniest moments in the entire series. Loads of them, in fact. It is hilarious.
But The Pink Panther Strikes Again is also a mess. Its story is incohesive and bounces all over the place, from one subplot to the next, with no rhyme or reason. At times it feels more like a series of vignettes with a common theme than it does a feature film.
Rest assured, however, that these “vignettes” will have you rolling on the floor.
It has been three years since Chief Inspector Dreyfus (Herbert Lom) was committed to an asylum for the criminally insane. His former colleague – and the reason he lost his mind in the first place – Jacques Clouseau (Sellers) has since taken over as Chief Inspector of the Sûreté.
Given a clean bill of health by his doctors, Dreyfus was about to be set free. That is, until Clouseau came to visit him, an encounter that caused enough injury, and stirred up enough mayhem, to “break” Dreyfus once again. His hopes of a pardon dashed, Dreyfus escapes from the asylum, more determined than ever to kill Clouseau.
To this end, the former Chief Inspector:
1. Recruits the world’s most notorious criminals
2. Stages a daring bank robbery, and
3. Kidnaps renowned British physicist Hugo Fassbender (Richard Vernon) and his daughter (Briony McRoberts).
His plan: force Fassbender to build him a Doomsday machine, a laser so powerful it can wipe out an entire continent.
Once the weapon is completed, Dreyfus demonstrates its power by making the U.N. Building in New York vanish without a trace, then issues his demands to the world: turn Clouseau over within seven days, or he will destroy an entire city!
As for Clouseau, he is on the case, first teaming up with Scotland Yard to track down the kidnappers that abducted the Fassbenders, then setting his sights on finding Dreyfus’s secret hideout. But even if the blundering Clouseau does crack the case, odds are he will, in the process, do even more damage than the Doomsday Machine!
The Pink Panther Strikes Again gets off to a brilliant start with an hilarious pre-title sequence, during which a calm, sane Dreyfus is reduced to a quivering mass of nerves after spending just five minutes with Clouseau. There are other great moments as well, such as Clouseau returning home for the evening and getting into an epic battle with his servant Kato, not realizing that the escaped Dreyfus is in the apartment below, plotting to blow him to smithereens (a recurring gag involving Dreyfus drilling holes and watching Clouseau with a handheld periscope had my sides splitting).
But wait, there’s more.
Sellers is near flawless in the scene where Clouseau is questioning the household staff at the Fassbender Estate; and later, he takes a trip to Oktoberfest, where assassins from at least a dozen countries are trying to eliminate him (there’s a moment in a bathroom stall that is comedic gold).
Still, as good as Sellers is, one of the best things about The Pink Panther Strikes Again is that it gives Herbert Lom more screen time than he had in any of the previous movies, and his “lunatic Dreyfus” gets his share of laughs as well. The scene where he “tortures” Fassbender’s daughter is arguably one of the film’s most memorable.
There’s even a handful of amusing sequences set inside the White House, with President Gerald Ford (Dick Crockett), Henry Kissinger (Byron Kane), and the rest of the cabinet discussing how best to deal with the terror that Dreyfus has unleashed on the world.
Along with the comedy, The Pink Panther Strikes Again has a daring jailbreak set on a moving train; and a finale so elaborate it would have been at home in any of the James Bond movies.
That’s a lot to cram into one film, but it is still not the half of it, and herein lies the main issue I had with The Pink Panther Strikes Again. It’s just too much!
In addition to everything above, we get a few scenes in a gay bar, where the Fassbender’s butler, Jarvis (Michael Robbins), has a drag act (his singing voice was dubbed by Julie Andrews, Blake Edwards’ wife); as well as sequences set in Scotland Yard, where Superintendent Quinlan (Leonard Rossiter), who suffered an injury due to Clouseau’s incompetence, must decide whether or not to tell Paris their Chief Inspector is a moron.
There is even a poorly developed romance that blossoms between Clouseau and Russian assassin Olga Barlosova (Lesley-Anne Down), who was originally sent to kill him. And on top of all this, Omar Sharif turns up in a cameo… as an Egyptian assassin!
After doing a little research, I found out the film's issues likely developed during the scriptwriting phase. Initially, Blake Edwards and his co-writer Frank Waldman were going to turn Clouseau and The Pink Panther into a TV series. Eventually, that idea was dropped, and the script they had been compiling was turned first into The Return of the Pink Panther, then this movie.
The Return of the Pink Panther was at least somewhat structured, but by the time they got to The Pink Panther Strikes Again, they had to throw everything that was left into it, whether it made sense or not (there is no logical reason Clouseau went to Oktoberfest in the first place).
Apparently, there was even more! The first cut of this movie was three hours long (much of the excised footage would be re-used in the dismal 1982 failure Trail of the Pink Panther, a cheap attempt to keep the series going after Sellers passed away in 1980).
Not that any of this confusion matters in the end. You watch a Pink Panther movie to laugh, and when the chips are down, The Pink Panther Strikes Again works because it is flat-out hilarious.
Rating: 7 out of 10

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