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The world's favorite Pink Panther super-sleuth is back and at it again in this outrageous comedy caper, starring Alan Arkin as the beloved but brainless Inspector Clouseau. When a nation's in trouble, criminal masterminds don't stand a chance against the French detective with a knack for recklessinvestigation. Tension is building at Number Ten Downing Street when it's discovered that the money stolen in the Great Train Robbery is merely operating capital for a bigger criminal plan. Never to fear, Clouseau is here! The bumbling detective sets out on a clumsy crusade to catch the crooks.But the case takes a riotous twist when Clouseau's face is seen masquerading from Swiss bank to Swiss bank for the heist of the century. Will Clouseau manage to save the day, or will the case of mistaken identity end his crime fighting forever?
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A bit of history, "The Pink Panther" and "A Shot In the Dark" were made in 1963-1964 and Peter Sellars invented the character of Inspector Clouseau in his own comic genius. Inspector Clouseau was relatively believable in those movies, perhaps a bit slow on the uptake, but hardly a fool. He was believable, even a character we could sympathize with.
In 1975 the Return of the Pink Panther came out and somewhat exaggerated the character of Inspector Clouseau, making him outrageous, less believable and more clown than anything else. By the last of the Peter Sellars movies, Clouseau was a caricature of the original from the sixties and the movies were more like something you'd expect from the Marx Brothers. To be assured, they were still entertaining, but the ambience had changed drastically.
This 1968 film is more in the spirit of the first two movies, albeit with a different director and cast. Alan Arkin has a unique talent of playing a character that is believable, sympathetic, but with a vein of the outrageous which is exposed rarely, and to great effect. Arkin's Clouseau acts normally, much of the time, has a veneer of arrogance, but is not all that far from average. He's a detective with a great track record and he knows it. He also seems to have a talent for falling into success, but in the end he is successful and you believe it.
One scene, especially, comes to mind. Clouseau rushes into at room, dressed as a bomb-disposal expert and carrying a long pole. Predictably, he has trouble getting through the door, but here's where Arkin's own comic genius comes to light. As soon as he realizes that the pole has to be threaded through the doorway, he stops, threads the pole through the doorway just like anyone else would do, then rushes into the room to act outrageously once again. Unlike the Three Stooges, he showed that he was capable, albeit a bit inept when in a rush.
That moment, to my sensibilities, summarized the reason I feel Arkin nailed the character, and in some ways out-shined Sellars. You could believe that this guy was a real detective. You could believe that he was able to solve crimes. The character made perfect sense, which I would say to be true of the first two movies in the franchise, as well.
By 1978's Revenge of the Pink Panther, Clouseau was someone most people would avoid in real life. Arkin's Clouseau is someone I could imagine having a cup of coffee with. There was redeeming value to the character. There is a scene where he is in a railcar compartment with a mother and her two children. The children try to interact with him and he comes across as kind and considerate. A few minutes later, when he is alone in the compartment, he is playing jacks and taking the game quite seriously, but that only adds to the charm.
If you liked the first two Inspector Clouseau movies, you might find this one to your liking, as long as you realize that Arkin's Clouseau will not perfectly mesh with Sellars'. I don't think that this is a bad movie in any sense of the word, but it is different and has its own energy and ambience. It's also a fine showcase for Alan Arkin, who has so very much to offer.
Alan Arkin is a fine and usually dependable actor. he turns up in several of my favorite films, such as The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, The Rocketeer, and Get Smart. but alas, he we find him replacing an actor in what had become his signature role. not even a Sir Laurence Olivier or a Charlton Heston is to be envied under those conditions.
it can be done, so i pride myself on my ability to accept favorite characters (most obviously Sherlock Holmes) as played by more than one actor. hell, my favorite tv series, Doctor Who, practically depends on your ability to accept a cast change. nor am i afraid to point out, for instance, that the supposedly "definitive" James Bond was in fact out-007'd by just about everyone who followed him. so let's just say that my advice not to bother isn't driven by that particular hang-up.
it's not like Arkin is a terrible Clouseau. he does a pretty good job once you realize that he's using own interpretation rather than simply cloning Peter Sellers. but he might as well have, since Sellers' shadow looms over every inch of his performance. (although he is credited with introducing a few elements Sellers would pick up when he finally resumed the role a few years later.)
nor is it as though the project was bereft of potential. it has a pretty solid plot as this sort of thing goes, and a pretty well assembled cast gives Arkin what support they can. but they too can only do so much when the shadow of Peter Sellers refuses to get out of their way.
there's also he fact that it was directed not by Blake Edwards, but Bud Yorkin. but Yorkin isn't exactly Ed Wood either, so assigning any blame to him is an ambiguous matter.
well, if nothing else, this film beats the hell out of Edwards' desperate, decade-removed attempt to revive the franchise, Son Of The Pink Panther.
what it boils down to is, i just couldn't get passed the lack of Peter Sellers. here's hoping you have better luck with it. not really expecting, but hoping.
Top international reviews
Für eingefleischte Peter Sellers Fans ist dieser Film natürlich eine derbe Enttäuschung. Alles in Allem hat der Film aber seine lustigen Momente, wenngleich Alan Arkin Clousau mehr dümmlich als tollpatschig spielt. Für Sammler sicherlich eine nette Bereicherung, ansonsten zwar ein sehenswerter Film, aber leider nicht mehr als einmal alle 2-3 Jahre vielleicht...