KAMAD Throwback Thursdays 1975: Return of the Pink Panther

Throwback Thursday #TBT

Throwback Thursday on the KAMAD site will be a regular occurrence in the next year. As a motivational project, to make sure I am working on something, even in a week where I don’t see a new film in a theater, I am going to post on movies from 1975. Along with 1984, this is one of my favorite years for movies and it is full of bittersweet memories as well. 1975 was my Senior Year in High School and my Freshman Year in College. The greatest film of the last 60 years came out in 1975, as well as dozens of great and not so great cinematic endeavors. Most of the films in this weekly series will have been seen in a theater in 1975, but there are several that I only caught up with later. I hope you all enjoy. 

Return of the Pink Panther

One of the reasons I am pursuing this Throwback Thursday exercise, is that it allows me to wallow in the nostalgia of my own nostalgia sometimes. Today’s film is one of those occasions.  I covered “The Return of the Pink Panther” on my original project in 2010. You can read that post here

. My original memories of the film are catalogued there.

One thing that has changed in the past thirteen years is that there is now a trailer for the film available on YouTube, which like on most of my posts, you will find at the top of this essay. Back in 2010, the only thing I could find was the title sequence, and that link is now gone. If you watch the titles, you will get a delightful Pink Panther cartoon, one where the silent feline does impressions of movie characters, including Bogart, Groucho Marx and Charlie Chaplin. I don’t know what the inspiration for this theme was, but it feels completely fitting for a Blake Edwards film. 

At this point in the series, the movies became a vehicle for Peter Sellars to do physical comedy and verbal humor. The plot is not really important, which is why Christopher Plummer feels almost invisible in the movie, he is second billed but completely detached from most of the things that happen in the story. In fact, it is actress Catherine Schell who is most involved in the plot as Sellar’s Inspector Clouseau, searches for her character’s husband, played by Plummer, and also tries to find evidence of his involvement in the theft once again of the legendary titular diamond.  One of my favorite comedic beats comes from her as Lady Litton, running back into the bathroom where Clouseau and a bellboy are hiding in a sauna. The steam from the sauna has made the floor wet, and Sellars and the bellboy have already gotten some laughs with their feet slipping out from under them. When Schell comes back in, she slips as well, but grabs on to a column in the large bathroom, and does a perfect spin on it. The fact that she is in a bathrobe, almost makes it look like she is doing some pole dancing.

When I read my original article after watching the movie this morning, I noticed I had made mention of a joke about a telephone in the foyer of the Litton Family estate. Clouseau, masquerading ineffectively as a telephone repair person, is trying to get into the office to do some digging, and he has to come up with a reason why the phone right there in the foyer will not work for his repairs. It is a throw away minute that I was not paying attention to this morning. After I read my earlier comments, I went back and looked at the moment again, yep, there it was. A visual joke that Sellar’s pantomines through and gave me a huge laugh. Again I will not spoil it for you, but be alert if you get to that moment, don’t look away. 

“Return of the Pink Panther” was one of the films my fellow Lamb Dave Anderson used this last week on the Lambcast, when arguing that 1975 was the greatest movie summer. I might well have chosen it myself if I had been defending 1975, which as you can tell from this year long project, is pretty special to me. 

This is the iteration of the films where Clouseau’s boss, played by Herbert Lom, goes mad and becomes the antagonist for the next few entries of the series. Lom is very amusing as the frustrated Chief Inspector Dreyfus. His twitching eyebrows and maniacal looks let us know he is on the brink of losing it. In the opening section in his office, he is so flummoxed  by the ridiculous Clouseau, that he almost kills himself and his assistant by accident. So between the bellboy, Lom, Schell, and the continuingly reliable Burt Kwouk, it is clear that the slap stick was not just limited to Sellars, but that Blake Edwards had a lot to do with it as well.

Just as a side note, I saw the actor playing the Hotel Concierge, and kept asking myself where I’d seen him before. Victor Spinetti was not a familiar name, but it suddenly broke through to me that he was the frustrated T.V. director in the Beatles Film, “A Hard Days Night”. So if you are looking for a stream of consciousness recommendation for a film to put on today, you can’t do better than that. 

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