Clouseau’s ridiculous accent and dialog are hilarious, but there’s also tons of great physical humor in this film, so I wanted to start with this short on physical comedy:
While Mr Bean is an older show that carried the tradition in tone of Sellers in the Pink Panther, Archer feels like the closest modern show carrying the torch of a ridiculous detective solving crimes despite his seeming idiocy. If there is any big idea in all of these films, perhaps that idiocy and a complete lack of awareness for oneself and any sort of social EQ is a sort of superpower.
Some tidbits that we learned about doing background research:
Sellers was Edwards second choice for Inspector Clouseau - his first was Peter Ustinov who pulled out of the film when Ava Gardner pulled out - and as the story goes, Edwards and Sellers reworked the story and the character on the way from the airport to the location. Although the original Pink Panther film was centred on David Niven, who played the jewel thief, Peter Sellers’ performance was so popular that the resulting series would be built around Clouseau rather than Nivens’ character of the Phantom/Sir Charles Lytton. / wikipedia
Chief Inspector Dreyfus and Cato who are important characters throughout the series first appear in the second installment of the series, A Shot in the Dark.
The third film, Inspector Clouseau, was not directed by Blake Edwards, did not have a score by Henry Mancini and the title role was not portrayed by Peter Sellers. All three were filming The Party (with Blake Edwards).
Edwards and Sellers returned as Clouseau for The Pink Panther Strikes Again and Revenge of the Pink Panther, and died 2 years after the 5th film was made. There are 12 Pink Panther films in total.
Sellers came to resent having to portray the comic caricature over and over when he would have preferred to be a handsome, polished leading man. He became more and more difficult to direct ultimately leading Edwards to say “The most fun and the worst times were with Peter,” Edwards said in 2002. “When he was at the top of his form, he was great fun. When he was in his depressed, angry world, he was impossible.”
There’s not a ton of critical analysis that leaps to mind about The Return of the Pink Panther. So rather than analyzing the deep meaning of the film, I think it makes more sense to talk about what makes it great and different than a comedy that gets made today.
As we saw in the short, physical comedy is a big part of this film. This is perhaps unsurprising given that Blake Edwards’ grandfather was a director of silent films and he grew up studying that tradition. There are many minutes long runs without dialog, which call to mind the visual jokes of Looney Tunes, Jackie Chan, Jim Carrey, and Mr Bean. You don’t really see extended visual comedy scenes in film these days, and it seems visual humor is much more prominent as one liners (either in film or, more often, in internet memes). When you do see an extended visual joke in video format, often part of the joke is how drawn out it is (the scene in Family Guy where Peter hurts his knee and says ‘ow’ for like 60s or the scene in Archer where Archer fumbles the tumbler for thirty seconds before dropping it on the floor and everyone listens to it roll around for several more seconds).