The Return of the Pink Panther (1975) Review

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What is your current threshold for slapstick?

The Return of the Pink Panther (1975): 5 out of 10: After an eleven-year absence (or a seven-year absence if you are one of those weirdos that consider Alan Arkin’s Inspector Clouseau a proper Pink Panther film) Inspector Clouseau is back on the case. Someone has stolen the Pink Panther diamond. They have left the calling card of Inspector Clouseau’s old nemesis the notorious Phantom.

The Pink Panther makes its appearance… and an extra wearing an ascot overacts.

The Good

The Good: Herbert Lum as Chief Inspector Charles Dreyfus is for my money the best thing in the movie. His gag with the cigarette lighter that looks identical to his service pistol never fails to get a laugh and is easily the funniest thing in the film.

I don’t know why this silly gag puts a smile on my face.

The opening credits by Who Framed Roger Rabbit animation director Richard Williams are incredible. The Return of the Pink Panther sports some of the best opening credits of any film in the seventies, and yes I include James Bond films in that statement.

Teh opening credits are a highlight of many a Pink Panther film.

There is some lovely scenery in The Return of the Pink Panther with location shooting in Gstaad and Morocco among others.

Beautiful Scenery.

The Bad

The Bad: Do you like slapstick? What is your current threshold for slapstick? The Return of the Pink Panther is going to test those thresholds. Part of the problem is that slapstick has both fallen out of favor since 1975 and gotten a bit more creative and sophisticated. Jackie Chan falling off ladders one after another is a world apart from Peter Sellers with a bad false nose accidentally vacuuming a bird.

This gag is not just stunningly unfunny, but it goes on for twenty something minutes. Drains the life out of the film.

The Return of the Pink Panther isn’t just slapstick mind you there is also a diamond heist that honestly is right out of a Mission Impossible movie. It is very well done but has nothing to do with the rest of the film tonally or otherwise outside of getting the MacGuffin in play.

A very high quality heist.

Speaking of not fitting the tone of the rest of the film… Look, I love to see Christopher Plummer tan, blonde, and happy but good Lord is he wrong for this role. Replacing David Niven as Sir Charles Litton, alias “the notorious Phantom,” Plummer has a different feel to him. Plummer looks like he can kill someone with a karate chop… possibly because in actual life he can.

Christopher Plummer tan and rested

Then there is the plot with which The Return of the Pink Panther saddles poor Christopher Plummer. It is one straight action scene after another with Plummer in a white dinner jacket as if he was rehearsing for a Bond film or a Saint reboot. The straightforward homage to Casablanca in these scenes was so over the top that Overdrawn at the Memory Bank was embarrassed.

I mean, if Casablanca took place at the Bombay Bicycle Club.

The Ugly

The Ugly: Burt Kwouk as Kato. What was a fan favorite in 1964’s A Shot in the Dark simply doesn’t work here. It isn’t just Peter Seller’s continually saying things such as “Cato is in hospital. They nearly blew his little yellow skin off!” that sounds a bit rough to my delicate modern sensibilities. The more significant issue is that Kwouk is too old to play a houseboy, looks awful in drag, and doesn’t seem as fun as he did in A Shot in the Dark. Maybe it is because the surprise is gone and the gag had run its course.

I love the bust. (A comment I often have to avoid making in the photos.)

Not in Conclusion

Not in conclusion. I don’t know where to put the former Bond girl and Space 1999 alumni Catherine Schell on this list. She plays Christopher Plummer’s wife and bluntly has a more prominent role than he does. On the one hand, she is easy on the eyes with an adorable smirk that reminds one of Priscilla Barnes or Cameron Diaz.

Fly birdie Fly

On the other hand, she keeps laughing uncontrollably during her scenes with Peter Sellers. She is like a female Jimmy Fallon. I can only imagine how bad were the takes they didn’t use.

You can literally see the unfunny. There is a bellhop, for God’s sake.

In Conclusion

In conclusion: I don’t think The Return of the Pink Panther was ever a great film, but I can’t help think it was once an entertaining film. It has aged fairly badly but make no mistake, this is hardly the worst Pink Panther movie ever made. There is some stiff competition in that category.

Okay, the other opening gag with the monkey and the blind accordionist while Clouseau is trying to prevent a possible bank robbery is also hilarious. As one can note through the window on the left, it is not going well for Clouseau.
Your mission, Phantom, should you choose to accept it.
Inspector Clouseau and Chief Inspector Charles Dreyfus at the start of their conversation.
Inspector Clouseau and Chief Inspector Charles Dreyfus after a few minutes
I love the Bric-à-brac and overall decor. A mall ninja flail and a taxidermy baby alligator from you last Florida vacation.
Inspector Clouseau in his traditional garb.
There is a sale at Pennys.
Competing with the endless vacuum/ bellhop scene, we also have a telephone repairman John Lennon also sucking the life out of the movie.
Someone left the house wearing that red striped tuxedo.
Christopher Plummer and Catherine Schell
are such a cute couple, they should have had their own movie.
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[…] Slapstick isn’t my thing, admittedly, but there are some pretty good laughs contained within. I also recently saw 1975’s The Return of the Pink Panther, and this is a better film. It has a much better story and has a broader well of humor to draw from. It is possible that this […]