When the fabled diamond, The Pink Panther, is once again stolen by an expert thief, it falls to inept Inspector Clouseau to track down the guilty party whom he is convinced is The Phantom returned from his past.
While certainly a far lesser film than either The Pink Panther or A Shot In The Dark, this third venture for the dotty Clouseau, Seller’s immortal doofus, has enough hilarious inspiration to mark it as one of the better ones once the series deteriorated into painful re-runs of outmoded slapstick. With the plot a basic reworking of the original film — Clouseau versus elusive upper-class thief — with a touch or two from Hitchcock’s To Catch A Thief, Blake Edwards was hardly working on a creative high, resting assured that his leading man was still capable of sublime silliness.
Ostensibly, the film is just a collection of those great Clouseau moments interrupted by some fairly uninteresting plot-stuff with Christopher Plummer taking over from David Niven in the role of the gentleman thief who is, now, being taken off by an impostor. Out there amongst the comedy routines, costumes suddenly became a big deal — we get Sellers with a big fake nose, Sellers as a cranky fisherman, Sellers as midget artist Toulouse Lautrec slumping about on his knees while clutching a “berm” (that is a bomb) with a lit fuse. There is far more of Clouseau’s ongoing attempts to educate his Chinese manservant (Burt Kwouk) in the subtle art of self-defence, including the chopsockey crazy Cato brilliantly concealing himself inside a fridge. There is, of course,, the ongoing conflict with his anal boss Dreyfuss (Herbert Lom) who will end up driven far beyond the limits of his sanity. And there is Sellers’ near-Chaplin-like gift for slapstick as he wrestles with vacuum cleaners and disco dancing, and the surreal borders of his impenetrable accent — “Do youuu aave a leesense for your minkey?”
Edwards doesn’t interfere too much, just lifting the production from Gstaad in Switzerland to Morocco to the all-important French Riviera to grant it a glossy international sheen. And Henry Machini’s music remains as indelibly perfect as ever.
Peter Sellers was always the best thing in the franchise and manages to produce chortles from modern audiences too.