Movie Report: The Return of the Pink Panther (1975)

Book coverI kind of remember the Pink Panther movies from my younger years. I’d like to say that I saw one of them at the drive-in with my parents. We went a couple of times when I was younger, sometimes my parents, my brother, and I, and at least once with my mother and her friend the country singer and her two boys. Enough to think we went all the time, kind of like how a handful of Christmases and holidays from my very younger years set the pattern. But going to the drive-in in the late 1970s was already trending toward an anachronism. I’ve thought about taking my boys down to Aurora for the drive-in there (and mentioned it to my beautiful wife while talking about this film, triggering Facebook ads for that very drive-in). But I am sure my boys would find the experience underwhelming. I also think that I saw parts of a Pink Panther film when we later at the home of the country singer, her husband the wedding singer, and their two boys, either on a sleepover or in the interim month between exiting the projects and decamping for Missouri at the end of the school year–I remember the bit about Inspector Clouseau’s butler attacking him. I also remember that Inspector Clouseau was a bit of a, what, trope? when I was younger. You’d say someone was a Clouseau who was stating the obvious or was making a bad deduction. And look at his attire on the cover: He was the inspiration for Inspector Gadget, ainna?

At any rate, with the title The Return of the Pink Panther, I thought it would be the sequel to the first film. But, no: This is the fourth in the original series of 11 films (with two 21st century rebooted movies starring Steve Martin instead of Peter Sellers). It came out in 1975, eleven years after the first. So I have no idea of whether I’ve seen bits of this film before–probably what was showing in the drive-in or on HBO at the time would have been later entries in the series.

So: Someone has stolen The Pink Panther, a large diamond with a flaw in it that looks like a leaping pink panther (not like the Owen Corning pitch cartoon character–the cartoon character originated in the titles for the film series) is stolen (again), and Clouseau is tasked with investigating (over the wishes of his commander, who has finally succeeded in getting Clouseau off of the force). His old nemesis The Phantom (Christopher Plummer) is suspected of the crime, but he did not do it–so he sets out also to find out who did. A number of humorous set pieces later (my oldest passed through while I was watching it and guffawed at a bit), and Clouseau is there when the culprit is revealed: the Phantom’s lover, who did it to spice up the retired Phantom’s life.

Uh, retroactive spoiler alert, but it is a 48-year-old movie that isn’t about the whodunit it but the cartoonish comic pieces, like when Clouseau enters the suspect’s hotel room and destroys it with a vacuum cleaner.

I don’t know that I have seen any of the other films or reboots in the wild, but I might pick them up in the future if they’re a buck or so (as this was when I bought it in April).

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