The Return of the Pink Panther

The Return of the Pink Panther (1975) Director: Blake Edwards

“Now he’s off to Gstaad. Today… a paradise in the Swiss Alps; tomorrow… a wasteland! Compared to Clouseau, Attila the Hun was a Red Cross volunteer!”

★★★★★

After a failed Pink Panther film which was absent Peter Sellers (Inspector Clouseau), Blake Edwards and Peter Sellers were persuaded to put their differences aside and try to make another Pink Panther movie in order to reboot the series. Both had incentives to do so as their careers had gone somewhat downhill, and Peter Sellers was struggling with heart problems. What followed was the best Pink Panther film in the series and one of the funniest movies of all-time (apparently it was the highest grossing Hollywood comedy up to that time, as well). After its release and subsequent success Blake Edwards attempted to turn the concept into a television show but it never materialized.

The movie begins in a fictional Middle Eastern country called “Lugash” where the rare pink panther diamond is held under strict lock and key. However, that evening a criminal manages to outmaneuver the security and steal the pink panther diamond leaving behind a single glove with a “P” much like the notorious calling card of the “Phantom” or Charles Litton in the first film.

Next we find Inspector Clouseau (played by Peter Sellers) in the midst of one of his funniest gags in the whole series. He is walking the beat in Paris when he comes upon a blind man playing an accordion with monkey. Clouseau is too busy detailing the rules around musical instrument licenses to realize the bank behind him is being robbed. it is later revealed that the blind man was the robbers’ lookout. For his incompetence Clouseau is promptly suspended for six months without pay by Chief Inspector Dreyfus (played by Herbert Lom), however almost immediately the Shah of Lugash phones the Commissioner requesting Inspector Clouseau’s help recovering the pink panther diamond since he had done so the first time around. Meanwhile back at his home Clouseau’s servant Cato (played by Burt Kwouk) conducts a surprise attack and then a bomb goes off in Clouseau’s apartment -somehow he manages to survive.

Clouseau travels to Lugash where he believes the diamond theif to be Sir Charles Litton (played by Christopher Plummer though the character was played by David Niven in the original), who is in retirement living at a vast estate along the French Riviera. Charles decides to travel to Lugash to discover the true identity of his imposter but he gets caught in a trap with a notorious criminal named “the fat man” and the secret police under Colonel Sharki (played by Peter Arne) who is concerned about a coup in Lugash. Meanwhile Clouseau travels to the Litton manor in Nice, France posing as a telephone inspector. Lady Litton (played by Catherine Schell, the Bond girl from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service) decides to send Clouseau on a ridiculous mission to Gstaad, Switzerland via a false telephone scheme. Amusingly enough Carol Cleveland, best known for her regular appearances on Monty Python’s Flying Circus, has a small part as a swimming pool diver in this section.

Soon enough Charles discovers the true identity of his doppelgänger -his own wife! Moments later Clouseau and Colonel Sharki are right on their trail, as is Chief Inspector Dreyfus who is caught in a fit of madness attempting to kill Clouseau. Once again, Dreyfus tries to shoot Clouseau but misses as Clouseau checks to see if his fly is undone (Dreyfus actually kills Colonel Sharki). At the end we see Dreyfus strapped to a straight jacket in an enclosed space, obsessed with killing Clouseau.

In the end Dreyfus is tried and found not guilty by reason of insanity. On the flip-side, Clouseau becomes a decorated hero and is promoted to Chief Inspector.

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