Inspector Clouseau travels to Rome to catch a notorious jewel thief known as "The Phantom" before he conducts his most daring heist yet--a princess' priceless diamond with one slight imperfection, known as "The Pink Panther."
To prove that he still is strong and powerful, Philippe Douvier decides to kill Clouseau. Once news of his "death" has been announced, Clouseau tries to take advantage of it and goes undercover with Cato to find out who tried to kill him.
By a twist of fate, the clumsy, yet good-hearted aspiring actor, Hrundi V. Bakshi, is invited to Fred Clutterbuck's big party, after ruining utterly the set of his latest feature film. However, unbeknownst to the host, Bakshi is present at the gathering, merrily mingling with the hand-picked guests in his magnificent hi-tech villa, where the drinks are flowing and everybody is in high spirits. But much to everyone's surprise, when Bakshi accidentally has his first-ever sip of alcohol, only God knows how this well-thought party is going to end up. Written by
I once had the pleasure of telling the legendary Dodgers announcer Vin Scully that he was in a Peter Sellers comedy, this one of course. He is heard calling a game on the radio while Sellers' character, Hrundi V. Bakshi, is looking for a restroom. Scully was quite pleased about this, glowing in fact, and I was able to walk away knowing I scored a point with the Hall of Famer.
"The Party" is the kind of pleasure that keeps delivering, in ways big and small. Reading the many reviews here about how sidesplitting the film is for them makes me a little jealous, because the comedy isn't all that for me. It's funny, yes, but it works for me more as a good-hearted film about people without much of a chance in life finding strength and purpose in each other.
The key line in the movie for me is when Bakshi, standing up for a pretty girl, is confronted by a nasty producer played effectively by Gavin MacLeod. "Who do you think you are?" the producer demands.
"In India, we don't think who we are, we KNOW who we are!" Bakshi counters. It's Bakshi's one great stand-up moment in a film which shows him taking pratfall after pratfall, and evidences his secret strength against all the derision around him: He has integrity.
So does the girl, as played by Claudine Longet, later famous for giving the Rolling Stones the inspiration for one of their classic bootleg songs after she shot and killed her skier lover. Longet is not really a looker in my book, only mildly pretty, but she has great charm and provides Bakshi with a measure of validation in the way she appreciates him and champions him after everything else in her life crashes down. "Nothing To Lose," she sings, a great Henry Mancini song that offers ironic counterpoint since she has much to lose in one sense, trying to get her big break, but not in the sense that she is willing to sacrifice her integrity for it.
"The Party" isn't an easy film to describe. Bakshi is accidentally invited to a party, where he finds himself very much a fish out of water. Polite to a fault, he tries to make himself inconspicuous and fails, making a mess of the living room and rocketing a Cornish game hen onto a woman's wig. People walk all over him, but he takes it in stride. When a cowboy star named Wyoming Bill Kelso gives him a painful handshake, Bakshi grins and says he would have been disappointed if Kelso hadn't crushed his hand.
The film just ambles along, in its charming way, bathing us in its West Coast '60s ambiance and making us feel like we are watching a very silly festivity go down in real time. The feeling of the film is note-perfect, even when the jokes are labored. We get a sense of a multitude of characters, including a dancing model, a dipso waiter, a frustrated host, and many others, many of whom are only glimpsed in the background and give the film a real sense of being lived rather than acted.
Sellers shines as Bakshi, because he manages to give us a character we can really care about even as we laugh at his misadventures. It would be easy to simply have made Bakshi the butt of every situation, but sometimes he's the bystander while others create the craziness, and other times he manages with a sly smile to turn a potentially hazardous situation to his advantage.
"The Party" may be a great example of the virtue of keeping a good attitude about life, and in realizing how much more important it is to be true to yourself than conform to others' expectations. "Wisdom is the province of the aged, but the heart of a child is pure," he says, before admitting he doesn't really know what it means. But watching "The Party," I think we get a pretty good idea what he meant.
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