- Blake Edwards and Peter Sellers were two enormously capable comedic minds. They came together often in the 1960s (this is the third and final archiveable film between the duo)- but this is the only time they collaborated outside of the wildly successful (and hilarious) Pink Panther films.
- Sellers here plays Hrundi V. Bakshi- an Indian man. Certainly, this would not happen in casting today, but it was not outside of the norm in the 1960s and Sellers often played characters from different races and nationalities (in Strangelove he plays an American and a German). In The Pink Panther and the others in the series he plays a Frenchman. Sellers often patterned himself after Alec Guinness (he saw Guinness firsthand in The Ladykillers in 1955) to show off his range and Guinness would often play characters of varying backgrounds and races (in 1968 here we are only a few years removed from Guinness playing Prince Faisal in Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia). I am not defending it- just explaining the context.
- Bakshi is in Hollywood, and he just finished shooting (and, comically, ruining) a film that could be Gunga Din. Bakshi is accidently (key word in this film) invited to a Hollywood party (which I think is the main target of Edwards’ ire).
- Sellers dons the khaki suite and white shoes for the entire film at the party.
- There is a talented crew assembled- Henry Mancini does the score (he’s a frequent collaborator with Edwards include The Pink Panther, Experiment in Terror, Breakfast At Tiffany’s, but also worked on Charade) and Lucien Ballard (The Wild Bunch) is the director of photography.
- But again, it is mainly the Sellers show. There is no plot to speak of and there is not much dialogue. it is just a collection of comic sketches at a great set piece (the Hollywood mansion, complete with gadgets like the retractable floor over the pool). It is about escalating mayhem—and it is hard not to see Tati’s Playtime (1967) as a cousin to this film. Tati’s film is vastly superior of course.
- Edwards must have been to over 1000 of these Hollywood parties by 1968. I don’t doubt the authenticity of the setting- rife for parody.
- Some would argue that Steve Franken, playing the drunk waiter, steals a decent chunk of this film away from Sellers.
- Bakshi is a remarkable klutz (this a throwback to Chaplin and Keaton- even if that sort of physical comedy wasn’t Sellers’ strength). The character is noble and sweet though- he helps the damsel in distress. It is the gross producer and buffoonish pituitary case of a cowboy actor that is really made fun of here.
- These really are not filmmaking set pieces but, instead, comic skits: the fountain of the boy peeing, a really short chair at the dinner table, setting off sprinklers, the floor that retracts. I think when we talk about Edwards as a filmmaker, we have to describe him as a man who came up with great ideas—not as a great stylist or artist.
- Recommend but not in the top 10 of 1968
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@Graham- thank you- should be good to go now