What could be more fun than a whirlwind trip from Paris to "Lugash" (read 'an exotic Middle-Eastern country replete with teeming bazaars and a night club taken right from Casablanca'), to Nice, and ending up in Gstaad, Switzerland in de luxe style? The sumptuous visuals, including impeccable set design, and a background of skillfully composed music used with a light touch make this film a lovely sensory experience for the viewer. Add a dash of mystery and fill to the brim with hilarity and you've a recipe for one of the most memorable comedy films of all time.

The original Pink Panther was released in 1964 to great popular success. Creative differences between star Peter Sellers and director Blake Edwards forced the public to wait eleven years for the return of the inimitable rose-colored denizen of the jungle to the silver screen. And return he did, arguably eclipsing the popularity of the first Panther. Now, this review assumes that many have seen the film (those who haven't — rent it, or better, buy it — it was just released on DVD). So let's juxtapose this film with its modern kin. Spoilers have been all but eliminated for those who'd be convinced by this glowing analysis.

Old School

This is filmmaking the old-school way, absent fancy computerized special effects. It's very, very funny yet definitively a "G" rated film and proves that one can get a belly laugh working clean without being corny. That was difficult to do in 1975; it's near impossible these days. The humor is not the ribald, outrageous style brought to us by one or more of the myriad veterans of television's  Saturday Night Live. This film need not include genitals inserted in a pie to humor audiences. And it makes no statement, political or otherwise. It just tells us a crime-mystery story whilst straying into the humor vein over and over again.

Composer Henry Mancini's title score carries over into the background music for the film. Mancini also composed the delightful incidental music and all of the cues for the film, and in the serious music embraces '70s-chic without failing to demonstrate his brilliant ability to write melodies which are timeless. Even as recently as 2004, the album from Virgin U.S.A. entitled "Pink Panther's Penthouse Party" continues to embrace and expand on Mancini's themes. Before you run out and buy the album, let the fact that it's classified in the relatively new "lounge" genre - intended for retro-hipsters, forewarn you that many of the cuts are definitively retro, although a few are interesting techno riffs. (As a side-note, it was the theme music from the Pink Panther movies that made Henry Mancini a household name, even though his competitors, composer/arranger Nelson Riddle and, to a lesser degree Andre Previn were contemporaries who arguably wrote better music overall.) It was the popular success of the Panther theme, as well as the theme from television's Peter Gunn, and to a lesser degree "Baby Elephant Walk" from Hatari! which got more radio air-play for Mancini than his contemporaries, though.


The versatile Peter Sellers demonstrates restraint and timing remarkably in this film. Enough to convince those who'd pooh-pooh slapstick as a dated way of amusing an audience. As the peculiarly-affected and bumbling Inspector Clouseau he rises to new comic heights as he goes about his business as usual. Clouseau's "as usual" is anything but usual. The character of Clouseau starts with his voice; a parody of a French accent that makes little sense, and leaves all the characters who converse with him mystified. Some laugh it off, but some are genuinely irritated by it. And the audience laughs with the characters and also at Clouseau.

Clouseau's boss, Charles Dreyfus, played by Herbert Lom, is the perfect foil. Whilst other characters are willing to accept Clouseau for who and what he is, Dreyfus is driven slowly but surely to madness by his own hatred of Clouseau's peccadilloes and peculiarities. Again, Sellers's ability to convince the audience that Clouseau is completely ignorant to the hatred his boss has for him makes the audience desperate to see them interact again and again. By the end of the film, Dreyfus consults a psychiatrist with disastrous results (the poor doctor had asked Dreyfus to free-associate about his hatred for Clouseau; Dreyfus projects his rage upon the doctor and nearly strangles him to death). The insane Dreyfus is included in the brilliant end-titles, straightjacketed and writing on the wall of his padded room with a crayon.

The first Panther featured David Niven as Lord Charles Lytton, the jet-setter who doubles as a criminal genius. This film features the suave, James Bond-esque Christopher Plummer as the character, to better effect than even the skilled Niven. Lord Lytton's moll is none other than his spouse, played by smart sexpot Catherine Schell.

Edwards and co-screenwriter Frank Waldman excelled at keeping the other characters very simple and without excess detail, to allow the four stars to shine. Again, the fact that the film is taken quite seriously as the mystery of a stolen world-class gem which takes place in four locations necessitates that the other characters merely be straight-men (and women) to Clouseau and Dreyfus.

Plot and Comic Devices

The plot is filled with twists and turns that keep the viewer sufficiently involved in between fits of laughter. There's no dearth of action, either. Clouseau and Lord Lytton both suffer various attempts to kill them; Clouseau during his pursuit of the diamond thief, and Lytton while going about proving that he is indeed retired, and did not steal the diamond. Of course, Lytton will have to discover the identity of the real diamond thief in order to clear his name.

The brilliant Sellers, as Clouseau, utilizes everyday items as comic devices. A telephone and a doorbell, in Clouseau's hands, become vehicles for slapstick that will elicit belly-laughs. The lowly vacuum cleaner wreaks more havoc and gets more laughs than any board or pipe or baseball bat wielded by lesser comic actors (yes, this is funnier and more cerebral than any Three Stooges or Marx Brothers slapstick). Remember what I mentioned hereinabove about the sumptuous set decoration. Imagine an opulent suite in a grand old Swiss hotel. A parrot sits in a cage. The room is lit only by daylight, as nobody's there (but for Clouseau, cluelessly snooping around for clues). An enormous woman (who reminds one of the ubiquitous "fat lady" who sings the aria at the end of an opera) wields said vacuum cleaner. She finally discovers Clouseau, and all hell breaks loose. Need I say where the parrot ends up? And in the single most overtly sexually-related shtick in the entire movie, the business end of the vacuum cleaner becomes stuck to one of the woman's ample breasts. More kudos to Edwards; he made sure, for good measure, that unlike most vacuums, this one has a "reverse" lever, which causes the contents to issue forth from the hose and wand attachment. Sure, he was milking the gag. But remember, part of what's funny about Clouseau is that every single time he begins wreaking mayhem on a set, the mayhem fails to cease until most, or sometimes the entirety of the set is in total disarray and destroyed.

A character of note is Cato (played by Burt Kwouk), Clouseau's manservant, with whom he practices martial arts. The key is that Clouseau has, apparently, instructed Cato to attack at any given time, without warning, so as to keep Clouseau's reflexes sharp. The awful timing of these exercises results in the destruction of a Japanese restaurant and Clouseau's own apartment. To say any more would spoil things.

A Comic "Columbo?"

A comparison can be made to actor Peter Falk's character "Columbo" of TV-movie fame. Columbo is a simple man of modest means who feigns ignorance in order to catch crooks. Columbo's wrinkled raincoat and ancient, broken-down car contrast well with the trappings of the wealthy and privileged criminals he interacts with. Clouseau's clothes are similarly dowdy and simple. Again, the set designers or props people hit the nail on the head when they provided Clouseau with a three-wheeled delivery van, emblazoned with the national telephone company's logo, to use whilst posing as a telephone repairman in order to gain entry to the Lytton's home. This is in dramatic contrast with the clothes worn by the Lytton's, and the luxurious cars they drive.


The modern public's thirst for excitement, as well as Hollywood's inability to resist using toilet humor when making comedy pictures, leads this reviewer to believe that it may be a long time, or even never again, that we shall see a comedy picture of such overall excellence as this one. Sure, the James Bond series has pretty much kept up quality of characters, plot and visuals (with, to their credit, an occasional chuckle here and there). But so much of quality film making today is about "art" (say that seriously, in a basso tone) and about "making a statement." The stuff intended to entertain us is pretty much a vast wasteland of mediocrity, not without the occasional cactus-blossom of quality. Were it not for Woody Allen we'd not have very much of that quality.

Okay, that's enough. Now go out and rent the DVD, like I said before. Or see it again.

DejaMorgana says "It might not have had the Pink Panther itself in it, but don't forget the first Panther sequel, A Shot in the Dark. Excellent stuff, different from the PP heist movies but with classic Clouseau action. Also, it contains the part where Clouseau tells Kato to attack him at any time, especially when he is unprepared.


  • Allmovie (Beta): http://www.allmovie.com/cg/avg.dll?p=avg&sql=1:41105 (Accessed 3/16/07)
  • Rotten Tomatoes website: http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/return_of_the_pink_panther/cast_crew.php (Accessed 3/16/07)
  • IMDB http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0072081/ (and various pages; accessed 3/16/07)
  • NNDB http://www.nndb.com/films/807/000036699/ (a less-than-useful reference; accessed 3/16/07)
  • Space Age Pop: http://www.spaceagepop.com/mancini.htm (Accessed 3/16/07)
  • 8 Notes http://www.8notes.com/biographies/mancini.asp (Accessed 3/16/07)
  • Pink Panther's Penthouse Party(enhanced) CD: Virgin US 2004
  • The experience of the writer with the movie.

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