Peter Sellers is one of the most legendary actors of the 20th century, not only for his comedy and versatility, but also his ability to improvise. Those who knew him and worked closely enough to witness his methods first-hand have told stories of his ingenious improve. It has been said that a large number of his lines were thought up during production. These are just a few examples of the comedic visionary in action.
A Shot in the Dark
After being summoned to investigate a murder, Inspector Clouseau aka The Pink Panther, finds himself interrogating a butler and a maid, who is suspected of pulling the trigger. The Butler, while explaining his version of the events that transpired,indicates the maid, Maria Gambrelli, who is played by Elke Sommer. When the butler asks, conveying disbelief, “You believe her?” Clouseau responds with the ominous words, “I believe everything, and I believe nothing. I suspect everyone, and I suspect no one.” Classic!
“Nothing matters but the facts. Without them, the science of criminal investigation is nothing more than a guessing game,” Clouseau explains. He is convinced that Maria Gambrelli is covering for the true murderer, which would have explained the “still smoking gun” left in her hand after the shooting. Soon after being removed from the investigation, he’s back on the case, by some miracle, educating HerculeLaJoy on his masterful insight into the cases intricate details. Once he has expertly laid out the intricate details of the event, he leaves us with his famous line, “What was that you said?”
The Pink Panther scores, once again, with his perfectly timed charm. During a brief visit to discuss the case, Maria Gambrelli, manages to transform the moderately arrogant Clouseau into an awkward Casanova. In an attempt to impress her with a show of strength, he makes a call to address her complaint about prison conditions (where she is being temporarily detained). While waiting for response from the prison superintendent, he tells Gambrelli,“sometimes it’s necessary to cut through the red tape and cut directly at the heart of the matter. “Brilliant!
The Pink Panther Strikes Again
Upon accepting the task of capturing former Chief Inspector Dryfus, who has escaped an asylum and threatened the world, Clouseau delivers a moving speech. In response to Superintendent Quinlan’s warning that the job won’t be easy. “Nothing ever is,” Clouseau says, with confidence.“Perhaps that is why I always fail where others have succeeded. To me, the greater the odds, the greater the challenge (pronounced shallonge).” Afterwards, he exits with is famous words, “the case is solved.”
The Return of the Pink Panther
I this particular scene, Clouseau is confronted by a livid Chief Inspector Dryfus, who has been forced to reinstate the disaster prone police offer. When Dryfus screams, “I want you out of my office in five seconds!” Clouseau replies, with that remarkable Pink Panther wit, “Five seconds is nothing. I can be out of here in three.” And once again, “the case is solved.”
Revenge of the Pink Panther
Taking on the ultimate challenge, Inspector Clouseau, who is thought to be dead, goes undercover as Chief inspector Dryfus and infiltrates what turns out to be Cato’s “Chinese nookie house.” As he is overtaken by Tanya, who is an employee of the establishment, he exclaims, “I warn you, Tanya that eats the Lotus. I am opposed to women’slibs. Man is the master and women’s place is in the home!” This has to be one of his gut-shattering, laugh out loud pieces of dialog in the movie, if not the series.
The credits for “Revenge of the Pink Panther roll,” and Inspector Clouseau appropriately enters a costume shop in search of his newest disguise. Minutes later, he is decked out in a pint sized Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec costume, which he wears for the first half hour of the movie. Unsurprisingly, the master of concealment puts on an acclaim-worthy performance, finding himself neck deep in the usual capers. In this installment, he survives an attempt on his life and goes undercover to find the man (or woman) responsible. In these six scenes, the Pink Panther goes incognito, inducing a wave of spleen-rupturing amusement.
Claude Russo (Transvestite)
He inadvertently masquerades as a transvestite after an unfortunate incident that only the great awkward inspector could find himself in. Against his better judgment, he picks up a strange and slightly pushy woman at a bus stop. Seconds later, she’s holding a gun to his temple and ordering him to take off his clothes. As it turns out, Claude Russo is not the delicate female, Clouseau believed her to be. After she commandeers his famous trench coat and hat, leaving him stranded with a lovely mink and a pair of heels, he is forced to take embrace a new identity like only the famed inspector can.
Chief Inspector Dryfus
His first official disguise in Revenge of the Pink Panther may be his most challenging, one which he miraculously pulls off. After the Claude fiasco lands him in a mental institution, he escapes by donning himself as Chief inspector Dryfus and incidentally lands himself in a suspicious establishment. Luckily, his convenient getup grants him access to the business, which turns out to be managed by his assistant, Cato, who had mistaken him for dead.
Next, Clouseau steps into the role of a priest, serving at the inspector’s own funeral, ironically. He reveals himself to a disappointed Dryfus, striking with impeccable, comedic mastery. In just over a minute Peter Sellers demonstrates why is a master of satire.
By the timeClouseau resurfaces, he has transformed himself into a Swedish sailor “from the salty sea.” In this disastrously hilarious segment, he tucks one knee into a wooden peg, and mounts an inflatable parrot on his shoulder. This is one of the inspector’s many “close call” scenes, prompting more than a few clenched jaws. That is, until we realize the man who greets him at the pier is actually an old acquaintance rather than the potentially whistleblower we originally suspected. Still, the costume itself is a nice touch. Well played, Sellers. Well played.
Mr. and Mrs. Lo Kee
Sellers unleashes an unforgettable performance, in Hong Kong, as the male half of aficticious Asian couple. It’s difficult to keep a straight face watching him, in his full kimono and weaved, conical hat, sign Mr. and Mrs. Lo Kee into the hotel guestbook. With Simone at his side and Cato somewhere in the vicinity, he renders one of the movie’s more uneventful charades.
With Cato and his new friend, Simone, Clouseau move to intercept an exchange between Douvier and a New York mafia godfather named Julio Scallini. What makes Peter Sellers or the Pink Panther, in this case, such a great entertainer when he steps into his alternative roles is the suspense that the audience feels as the various scenes unfold. The bits are funny, hilarious in fact, but you always wonder whether he will actually pull it off. Here, things move forward without a hitch, for a few minutes at least. Then the notoriously rich antics begin.