My, it’s going to be difficult to review many more of these. What is there to say? Sellers is brilliant, many jokes are funny, some are not. Let’s see what I can work out for everyone here on this one though…
After the events of Return of the Pink Panther–which I’ve never seen–(former) Chief Inspector Dreyfus (still Herbert Lom) has been committed to an insane asylum, and we open to find him theoretically rehabilitated, discussing with his doctor his previous homicidal impulse to destroy Clouseau (Sellers, of course) at every given opportunity. “Every day in every way, I’m getting better and better,” Dreyfus quotes (quotes what, I don’t know, but I vaguely recall hearing these words on an episode of Rocky and Bullwinkle, specifically a “Fractured Fairy Tale,” but my memory could be mixing things together) as he is let outside before being put before the Sanity commission. Here he runs into Clouseau, coming to give him kind words and a recommendation…as well as numerous trips into the neighboring lake. It’s no surprise that Dreyfus soon begins chasing Clouseau threatening once again to kill him. Naturally his escape must now be just that–not a signed, official release. He takes to crime, building a small group of criminals to kidnap Professor Fassbender (Richard Vernon) and his daughter Margo (Briony McRoberts). He makes one last solo attempt on Clouseau first during an extended “exercise” between Cato (Burt Kwouk, Cato, and not Kato, for all films after A Shot in the Dark) and Clouseau that involves multiple hand-to-hand weapons and the destruction of an awful lot of Clouseau’s apartment.
Failing once again, Dreyfus instead uses Fassbender’s knowledge to employ a doomsday device which he uses to threaten the population of the world into assassinating Clouseau for him. Dozens of assassins are sent out after Clouseau, all failing by pure chance, as usual, to stop the oblivious detective. One of them is none other than Deep Roy, ageless little person who also appeared in 1980’s Flash Gordon, some of the original Star Wars trilogy (alternately helping Kenny “R2-D2” Baker and playing smaller roles like Bith musician Droopy McCool), a few Doctor Who stories (including some starring my favourite Doc–Tom Baker), a rather harrowing episode of The X-Files, and most recently as “the” Oompa Loompa in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (singing voice by the master himself, Danny Elfman–but I’m so far off topic at this point…). This, Clouseau’s interrogation of the Fassbender household, and his “sneak” into Dreyfus’ hideout castle are the centerpieces of the film, with Sellers and Lom both noticeably aged from the last time I saw them–though that is skipping a few years and a whole film. Both are still on top of their game and continue to bring great life to completely ridiculous characters, with Sellers’ accent getting even more pronounced–I’m going to have to be careful not to accidentally refer to “reums” and “cleus” in the coming days.
One of the most obviously new elements was an animated title sequence made not by DePatie/Freleng, but by Richard Williams, this time the animated Panther leading the animated Inspector on a chase through numerous movie parodies, including Singin’ in the Rain, The Sound of Music and a few old silents that I couldn’t place. The animation has a cleaner look to it, thanks, most likely, to the more recent age and developments in technology between. It loses a bit of charm when it lacks the grain and muted colours of 60s and earlier 70s animation, especially from the DPF studio, but it does gain something from the new design Williams brings to it.
Still a strong entry in the series–and I hear the last. I’ll know soon enough, I suppose, with two more still to go in the box set I own.