This blog post was delayed by a couple of days for three reasons. 1, I had an interview for a permanent office position at work that I wanted to be prepared for. 2, this is my first week on the evening shift in a couple of months. 3, over the weekend, I adopted a pair of kittens. That third one has been taking up a fair amount of my attention this week.
In the original Pink Panther series, Inspector Clouseau is a major outlier. It’s the only Pink Panther movie during Peter Sellers’ lifetime in which he doesn’t appear. It’s the only movie in the original series that Blake Edwards doesn’t direct. It’s also the only movie in the original series not scored by Henry Mancini. All three of them were involved with The Party at the time. Despite this, the Mirisch Company (they owned the rights to Pink Panther at the time) decided to move forward with a third movie in the franchise anyway. The result was a critical and commercial failure, and for the most part, this movie has faded into obscurity since.
While shooting A Shot in the Dark, Sellers and Edwards’ relationship deteriorated to the point where they vowed never to work together again. Producer Walter Mirisch wanted a third Pink Panther film, but Sellers repeatedly refused the role. Following his successful breakout role in The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming, Mirisch asked Alan Arkin if he would fill the vacant role. Even after they hired Arkin, Edwards turned down the director’s seat, so Mirisch brought in Bud Yorkin instead. He had previously directed Come Blow Your Horn, Never Too Late, and Divorce American Style. Of the three, Divorce American Style was well received at the time, the other two I didn’t find any information about beyond the basic plot.
Just before they began filming, Sellers approached Mirisch, stating that only he could play the role of Inspector Clouseau. He said that he would, so long as he could approve the script. Mirisch turned him down on that note.
Reviews for the film were between mixed and negative. The New York Times called the film, “one of those episodic, all-purpose arbitrary comedies in which anything goes – and nothing works.” Roger Ebert wrote in his 2.5/4 star review, “Arkin provides some funny scenes … these good scenes are the exception and not the rule.” Time Magazine stated “Arkin follows meticulously in his predecessor’s flatfootsteps, but the result is only a parody of a parody.” The New Yorker’s review was especially savage, calling it “an incredibly bad film, but Alan Arkin is sometimes very funny in it, especially when he doesn’t try to be.”
The movie ended up earning $1.9 million. I can’t find the budgeting numbers, but considering A Shot in the Dark earned over $12 million, even if it was profitable (which it wasn’t), the studio would have certainly disappointed with this film’s performance.
As for my own thoughts, there’s really not much to say about it. There are a handful of mildly amusing scenes, but for the most part, I spent more time shrugging than I did being genuinely invested in this movie. More often than not the jokes fall flat. The mystery itself is not all that compelling. The movie sees Clouseau being brought into the UK to help uncover an organized crime case, where a gang has been robbing banks all across Europe. Their reason for bringing in a foreign investigator? They believe it’s an inside job. It makes sense when you think about it, and Clouseau’s solved several famous cases by this point. But you’d think they’d go for some sort of government agent first if it’s involving a gang that’s been robbing banks across the continent.
At one point, they create multiple Clouseau masks in order to frame Clouseau for the robberies, but they don’t even try to mimic his voice or his accent. It makes their plan very hard to take seriously, not to mention they rob multiple banks at once while wearing Clouseau’s face. The masks don’t even look that great, although I wonder if that’s in order to help the audience know when it’s someone in a mask … even though their voice and accent gives it away every time. Somehow, this still manages to fool several police officers and guards who had previously met the real Clouseau.
The closest thing to an amusing scene is the moment where Clouseau is talking to his superior in an office, and he keeps switching to different locations, confusing his superior. But even that didn’t make me smile, and the joke went on too long. Other scenes where Clouseau is bumbling around and talking like an idiot come across as grating more than anything else. There’s one scene where he’s searching for a bomb, and it’s not even close to funny. It’s just annoying.
Both the lead actor and director had made successful comedies before taking on Inspector Clouseau, but this is both of them trying to fill the shoes of other people. It results in a movie that feels like little more than an imitation. I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone, and would suggest that if you decide to do your own marathon of the Pink Panther movies, you should skip this one. I’ve often heard it said that there are very few types of movies that are worse to sit through than a bad comedy. I’ve looked at worse even on this blog, but this movie makes a good case for that statement.
Next up is Return of the Pink Panther, which sees the return of Edwards, Sellers and Mancini. It’s also the first movie in the series that I ever saw, but I haven’t seen it since I was a teenager. It’s been too long.