Film (1976). United Artists. Produced and directed by Blake Edwards. Screenplay by Edwards and Frank Waldman. Cast includes Lesley-Anne Down, Joe Dunne (uncredited stunt work), Dick Crockett, Burt Kwouk, Herbert Lom, Briony McRoberts, Peter Sellers and Richard Vernon. 124 minutes, cut to 103 minutes. Colour.
This fifth film in the sequence of slapstick crime capers that began with The Pink Panther (1963) – all starring bumbling and strangely-accented Inspector Jacques Clouseau (Sellers) – introduces an sf device. Former Chief Inspector Charles Dreyfus (Lom), driven insane by Clouseau's past ineptitude and incarcerated in an asylum, is obsessively determined to kill Clouseau (who has replaced him as Paris Chief of Police). After escaping, and failing in an initial bomb attempt, Dreyfus assumes the role of super-Villain to assemble a criminal team. Professor Hugo Fassbender (Vernon) is kidnapped by them, along with his daughter Margo (McRoberts), and forced to build a huge Disintegrator Ray at Dreyfus's castle hideout. Destroying the UN building in New York to demonstrate his power, Dreyfus offers the world a choice: assassinate Clouseau or face similar destruction. His Weapon becomes a McGuffin sought by numerous assassin-agents and Clouseau himself; many complications ensue, with rival international operatives mostly killing each other off. Ultimately Dreyfus attempts to destroy England, but Clouseau accidentally damages the doomsday machine at a key moment, thus turning it instead on Dreyfus (who is seen dissolving while playing the organ) and his castle.
The Pink Panther itself, a huge diamond stolen in the first film, inspired the stylish animated credits featuring a literal pink panther. This popular character, along with a cartoon Clouseau, starred in many short spinoff animations for 1970s Television; Gold Key Comics published 87 issues of The Pink Panther and the Inspector 1971-1984 and nineteen of The Inspector 1974-1978, their storylines being unrelated to the films. [GFi/DRL]
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