Movie review: The Revenge of the Pink Panther (1978)

The Revenge of the Pink Panther is the fifth of the Blake Edwards’ Pink Panther movies that starred Peter Sellers as Clouseau…and the last time Sellers played Clouseau.

The diamond “the Pink Panther” is nowhere to be found in this movie plot. Instead, the plot revolves around the French Connection and their attempt to kill Clouseau. It’s not that the French Connection necessarily has anything against Inspector Clouseau (unlike Clouseau’s literally mad former boss, Chief Inspector Dreyfus). It’s just that someone is backing out of a huge deal for them because they doubt that the French Connection can pull off the deal.

To prove that they have mojo, the members of the French Connection decide to knock off the famous, nationally decorated Chief Inspector Clouseau. Clouseau has survived 16 assassination attempts, including two by his boss (Chief Inspector Dreyfus). Killing Clouseau might impress their contact.

Dreyfus is doing time in a mental hospital, driven mad by Clouseau. (It is not clear how Dreyfus goes from being obliterated by the laser in the previous Pink Panther movie to being alive in a mental hospital.)

Clouseau still bumbles clueless through scene after scene. Through his bumbling, he manages to “solve” cases. His good luck has led to him becoming a beloved icon of France. (Some do suspect that he really is an idiot though.) He is so beloved that even the Pope attends his supposed funeral.

The French Connection didn’t really succeed in killing him. But Clouseau uses his presumed death to “work under the covers” as he puts it. Dreyfus, upon hearing about Clouseau’s death, has a sudden complete recovery. He is released from the mental hospital, though he is tasked with finding Clouseau’s killer.

His mental recovery is sort of short-lived. Clouseau keeps popping up and appearing around him—as a transvestite in his closet at the mental hospital, as an Orthodox Catholic priest at his own funeral, as a New York City godfather in a hotel. Dreyfus thinks he is going mad again. Until he realizes that it really is Clouseau, whom he then runs after, shooting wildly from a handgun.

Kato (Bruce Kwouk) appears as Clouseau’s equally bumbling sidekick. Within hours after his “death”, Clouseau returns to his apartment only to find that Kato has completely redecorated it (to the point that the apartment is unrecognizable) and turned it into an Asian brothel. Kato quickly closes the brothel and accompanies Clouseau and Simone (played by Dyan Cannon) to Hong Kong as their translator. He is of little help with the super thick glasses he wears as part of his disguise.

Clouseau’s disguises are taken to a new level with the appearance of Professor Auguste Balls, the owner of Balls, a store that designs, makes, and sells disguises. His motto:  “When duty calls, look no further, you’ve got Balls!” In The Revenge of the Pink Panther, Clouseau’s disguises include a Toulouse Latrac outfit (so, as Auguste Balls describes it, he can mingle with total anonymity in either Montmartre or the Left Bank), a Swedish sea captain costume (complete with inflated parrot on his shoulder and a peg leg), and a godfather-style New York City mobster getup.

Some of the dialogue is witty, but not enough. I would have preferred more of it. In one scene, Simone relates to Clouseau how she was the assistant of the head of the French Connection, and this head is now trying to kill her. “Why do you suppose he wanted to have me killed?” Clouseau replies, “Elementary. He wanted you dead.”

I yearned for more interaction between Herbert Lom and Peter Sellers, along the lines of the reprimand scene in The Return of the Pink Panther. Alas, the interactions between Lom and Sellers involve little dialogue. They mainly consist of Sellers surprising Lom again and again while Sellers was supposedly dead.

The most interaction between them is when Dreyfus shoots at Clouseau as he runs after Clouseau. Clouseau in his godfather disguise, yells, “It’s me!” And Dreyfus retorts, “I know!” as he keeps shooting and chasing him.

In my opinion, The Return of the Pink Panther is not one of the better ones in the original Pink Panther series. But I must admit, I like the new persona of Auguste Balls.

Reviews of all the Pink Panther movies

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