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. 

Knives Out

In spite of the hype and overdone praise that this film has received, it is still a pretty basic “Who Done It?” Maybe there is a slight hint of a criticism of the 1% to make it seem socially relevant and topical. There is one scene where there is a direct discussion of current political events, but that feels like it will date the film rather than make it relevant. Writer/Director Rain Johnson would probably have been better off sticking to the traditional focus of a murder mystery, rather than trying to make it woke by including jabs at immigration policies and tax brackets.

The creative part of the film is the overlapping story of who is behind the investigation rather than who killed the victim. As told in a series of flashbacks, we see how the victim died, and it appears that there was a cover-up of an accident rather than a murder. It is only after motives get investigated that it becomes clear a crime really did occur. The intricacies of the plot are manifest in a series of vignettes that reveal what happened, what the suspects say about what happened, and what took place after those events. All of this gives a variety of actors a chance to strut their stuff on screen and create a collection of self centered privileged characters that we can smirk at for their foibles.

Christopher Plummer gets a second chance to play a rich octogenarian with issues surrounding his heirs. He turns in a slight but joyful performance. While he is not in the film long, there are some great moments that he shares with each of the main characters. Harlan Thrombey does not seem to be malicious in the decisions he is making regarding his family, but he is less concerned with his family than he is with his personal desires. Jamie Leigh Curtis, Don Johnson, Michael Shannon, Chris Evans, and Toni Collette all are given reasons to want to see him dead, but is he really murdered? What Johnson has done with his story is to find an alternative approach to the primary motivation. Daniel Craig as celebrated private detective Benoit Blanc is brought in to determine what really happened, but why he is there and who is paying is the mystery.

Ana de Arnas plays the old man’s nurse/companion who becomes a prime suspect but also the victim of persecution. The fact that she comes from an immigrant family and is not part of the rich inner circle is the thing that tries to establish some social credentials. It’s a shorthand plot device that works but in the long run, her families legal status is a distraction to the story rather than a justification for giving this movie any weight.  Michael Shannon and Toni Collette are the quirky spice in the blend. Don Johnson could have been playing the Chris Evans role thirty years ago, so it does feel like the casting decisions were right. Craig’s accent is laid on a little thick but since so much of the film attempts a comic edge I guess it works well enough.

About halfway through, I figured out who the antagonist really is, it’s not hard given the story structure. The real question is what are their motivations for choosing the course of action that was taken. The complex legal conundrum is brought up in the funniest scene where a welcome performance by Frank Oz, addresses the consequences of the dead man’s will. The extended scene is where half of the laughs in the movie can be located, not because there are jokes but because characters act out of their natures. This is a place where Johnson’s ideas stretch us a bit but do entertain us.

The film is a solid mystery puzzle and there are some good laughs to be had, but people suggesting that this is one of the great films of the year are over selling it to you. Go in with reasonable expectations of being entertained and you will be fine.

The Man Who Would Be King [Movies I Want Everybody to See]


Review by Richard Kirkham

 [ This essay was originally Published on the deleted site “Fogs Movie Reviews” in the Fall of 2013]

All you film fans out there who were born after 1970 are about to eat your hearts out. You may know that the 70s were the second golden age of Hollywood, after all that’s when “Star Wars”, “The Godfather”, and “Alien” all started. You may even be aware that the greatest adventure film ever made, “Jaws”, was released in the Summer of 1975. It would be a solid argument to make that 1975 was the apex of Hollywood film making in that decade. Here is a partial list of the movies released that year: “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Dog Day Afternoon, Barry Lyndon, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Rollerball, Three Days of the Condor, Shampoo, Nashville, Seven Beauties, Cousin cousine,The Passenger as well as the aforementioned fish story. ” That is a list of essential films for anyone who loves movies to partake of. Buried in the avalanche of great films from that year, is the one film that stars Michael Caine and Sean Connery together as the leading men (each had a small part in “A Bridge Too Far”) and as a bonus it was directed by John Huston.

“The Man Who Would be King” was a dream project for John Huston. He had tried to put together a version of the movie as far back as the 1950. His original choices for leads were Clark Gable and Humphrey Bogart. That was the royalty of the earlier film generation. When he finally did get to put the story in front of the cameras it was to feature the royalty of the next generation of movie stars. While other names had been mentioned, someone (likely Paul Newman who turned down the film) suggested that Huston stick to using British actors. That was the best advise Huston could get because this movie is a quintessentially British story focused on a time period when the English Empire was at it’s height and the ambitions of men who were it’s subjects knew no bounds. It is this condition that allows our lead characters to work so well in the tale.

Peachy Carnahan and Daniel Dravot are recently retired British non commissioned soldiers who decide the world at home is not big enough for the likes of them. They have developed a strategy to make themselves Kings. In particular, rulers of Kafiristan, a remote region of Afghanistan


Daniel Dravot:” In any place where they fight, a man who knows how to drill men can always be a King. We shall go to those parts and say to any King we find – “D’you want to vanquish your foes?’ and we will show him how to drill men; for that we know better than anything else. Then we will subvert that King and seize his Throne and establish a Dynasty.”

Before they begin this quest, they make the acquaintance of an English journalist working in India as well. This journalist turns out to be Rudyard Kipling, who wrote the story on which the film is based. These encounters with Kipling becomes the bookends for the film and give the story an even greater sense of adventure and  mystery. While the story itself is fantastic, the characters are ground in reality and the presence of Kipling as future narrator of the tale is all the more needed to set the mood. If you have not seen this film, be assured that when you get to the end you will empathize with the Kipling character and stare in wonder at the proof of it all. The tie in to the story concerns the masonic brotherhood that the English characters share in common. There are some great curves that follow from this early revelation. Christopher Plummer is unrecognizable in the role and he strikes just the right tone of concerned bemusement in the first act and utter astonishment in the conclusion.


After assisting the two adventurers, Kipling fades from the story and the focus is on the travel to Kafiristan. There are several exciting incidents on the road but eventually the spine of the story begins when they arrive and connect with the remnants of an earlier English expedition. The lone survivor is a gurkha soldier named Billy Fish. He becomes their interpreter and confidant. His part in the story reminds us that the relationship of the British to their Empire was not always hostile. These fierce hill people fought valiantly alongside their English counterparts in many battles over the last two hundred years. While the relationship is not one of equality, the two adventurers are not condescending to their third partner, in fact they trust him implicitly.

The second act of the film focuses on the battles and strategy that the two employ to gain the power that brought them to the remote land to begin with. There are several small incidents that test their friendship and commitment. There is a great deal of humor involved in the training sequences and in some of the moments of conquest. That humor may be viewed as politically incorrect at times, but it is not so much based on racism as ethnocentricity. The world is still a brutal place, and while those of us living in Western cultures might view some of the behaviors as relics of the past, it may not be as true as we wish. Of course the intercultural conflicts go both directions since the English soldiers are viewed just as differently by the tribesmen they encounter as we might treat a alien from another world.

All of this is offered up though through the performances of two of the greatest screen personae of the last fifty years of film. Connery and Caine are both Award winning performers from the generation of actors that came out of England in the sixties. Along with Albert Finney, Peter O’Toole and Richard Harris, they represent that moment in time when the culture of Great Britain was the Beatles and James Bond. Here they are in an adventure story that harkens to the glory days of the Empire and much as the Western is a romanticism of American history, a film like this served the same purpose for the English. Connery plays Daniel Dravot as the more blustery of the two itinerant soldiers. He uses his commanding voice and fierce expression to cow his enemies and establish a position of power with others. He can however take on a warm quality as he does with Kipling at one point and his subjects later on in the film. The dividing point for the two characters comes when Danny becomes infatuated with a local beauty that he sees as cementing the legacy of Alexander he has come to see himself playing.  The beautiful Mrs. Caine was cast in the part at the last minute as soon as John Huston met her.

Peachy Carnehan has the more subdued character. Caine is more sly and cautious, except for the scene on the train in the opening of the film. Peachy does get his dander up but almost always it is in response to his partner and not the other characters. It is Michael Caine’s  delivery of the opening framing story that gives the tale it’s magical quality.

Rudyard Kipling:”Carnehan!.”

Peachy Carnehan: “The same – and not the same, who sat besides you in the first class carriage, on the train to Marwar Junction, three summers and a thousand years ago.”

It is that prologue that sucks us in and makes us want to know what has transpired in the intervening three years. Caine has a breathless line reading that is haunting and fits really well with the coda of the story. It is his willingness to hold back his voice at times that allows the ruse these two perpetuate on the populace to work. He is the brains of the outfit but he has to stand back to let his partner gain the power that both of them seek. You can also see it in his face and posture when Danny gets full of himself and Peachy has to let some of the air out of him.

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Connery has said that this is his favorite film that he appeared in. I heard him say it in person at the Archlight Cinerama Dome Theater in Hollywood three years ago. He did a short five to ten minute introduction of the film at one of the AFI Night at the Movies events. It is easy to see why he would feel this way. He and Michael Caine get to play larger than life characters who are a little bit crazed. There is action, drama, comedy and suspense throughout the story.  While there are a number of other elements of the film that make it memorable and worthy, all of them would be for naught if the two actors at the heart of the story were not perfect.

The film was nominated for four Academy Awards: art direction, costume design,editing and screenplay. Amazingly it did not win any of those categories. Even more amazing is that the two leads and the fine supporting performance from Plummer were not recognized at all. It is ideal to imagine that this was a result of the lushness of the films of the period. It was clearly not the inadequacy of the work done by the film makers. The score is by Maurice Jarre, the man responsible for the music of “Lawrence of Arabia” and “Dr. Zhivago”. So you can expect the music to reflect the grandeur of the setting and the heroics and faults of the two main characters. If you listen to the opening track that accompanies the titles, you will hear echos of “Gunga Din” and those 1960s classics as well.

As the story unfolds and you witness the relationship between Danny and Peachy, you will see why Huston thought of Bogart and Gable and later Redford and Newman. There is great byplay with the two actors. At one point they had hoped to share the screen again, this time with their pal Roger Moore, in a version of James Clavell’s Tai Pan.  It is something to lament that this coupling of actors could not be accommodated later on. That makes it all the more important to treasure this match up of two great actors the likes of which we may never see again. 800__man_who_would_be_king_blu-ray_8_


Richard Kirkham is a lifelong movie enthusiast from Southern California. While embracing all genres of film making, he is especially moved to write about and share his memories of movies from his formative years, the glorious 1970s. His personal blog, featuring current film reviews as well as his Summers of the 1970s movie project, can be found at Kirkham A Movie A Day.

TCM Film Festival Day 2: The Man Who Would Be King


Early on Saturday morning, but not too early, I drove down to Hollywood for day Three of the Festival (although for me it was just the second day). As soon as I saw that “The Man Who Would be King” was scheduled in the program, I knew I would be there.  This is one of my personal favorite films. It arrived in 1975, along with a plethora of other fantastic seventies classics. For my money, 1975 was the apex of the second golden age of Hollywood, and films like this are a clear demonstration that this is true.

Once again I stood in line and chatted with other Festival goers about what amazing things they had seen. Most of the people that I spoke with were still talking about the Alec Baldwin interview of Dustin Hoffman, but a couple of people mentioned “Don’t Bet on Women”. My fellow Southern California blogger Michael appeared and we decided to stick to the location that we’d had the day before. Once we were seated, introduction were made by the Festival officials and we were joined by writer/critic and all around nice guy Leonard Maltin as host for this event. I suppose that Maltin and Baldwin were called upon so frequently during the festival because the beloved Robert Osborne was unable to attend this year. Our host then introduced the guest for the morning screening, Christopher Plummer. I’d recently participated in a blogathon in which I wrote about two neglected supporting performances from 1975. I wanted to kick myself for not including Plummer’s marvelous impression of Rudyard Kipling on that list. The make-up and hair certainly added to the performance but Plummer’s voice and the way he carried his body as the traditional English gentleman who loved India and wrote about it with such heart was the real strength of the performance.


Mr. Plummer discussed the tussles he had with John Huston over the wig that had been made for him. According to his account, Huston was willing to throw him off of the picture if he did not get it replaced with an appropriately shaded alternative immediately. My favorite story that he told however had to do with Sean Connery standing up for him and the part he was playing. Apparently, executives from the studio were questioning the inclusion of Kipling in the story at all. They seemed to believe it distracted from the action and it sounded like there were the usual studio notes suggesting that those sequences be cut. As Plummer tells it, Sean Connery got in an elevator with the executive and when the door closed, grabbed him by the throat, pushed him against the wall and said “If you cut out Kipling, I’ll walk off this picture and you will never see me again.” When the man who may have been the biggest star in the world at the time starts to throw his weight around, people listen. Plummer said that was the last anyone heard of that suggestion.

It was very obvious that he was proud of the picture but Mr. Plummer did have one reservation. He thought that the score from Maurice Jarre was all wrong. He preferred the Ravi Shanker music that had originally been planned. A great deal of indigenous music still makes it into the film, but Plummer thought the bellicose theme music was an attempt to turn the film into something more of an epic. I would respectfully disagree with the star. The theme is needed to contrast the colonial trappings of the English soldiers to the world that they immerse themselves in. The hymn that Peachy and Danny sing is both traditionally English and military based at the same time. Jarre mixes those themes into the score in a number of spots to heighten the perceptions of the two hero/criminals. 2015-03-28 10.12.08Anyway, there is a great deal of respect for the film shown by everyone in the audience as well as the two gentleman speaking before the movie began. Several years ago, the AFI sponsored “A Night at the Movies”. This event matched important personalities with a movie that they contributed to. There was a ten or fifteen minute introduction by the film maker and then the movie screened for an audience. The two years that this event took place, a dozen films played simultaneously on different screens in the Arclight theater complex. One of those years, I attended and I had the pleasure of seeing Sean Connery introduce this film in the Cinerama Dome. So now that I have heard from two of the three principle actors, I want to know where Michael Caine is going to show up to speak on this film so I can complete the trifecta.