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Film / The Return of the Pink Panther

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The Return of the Pink Panther (1975) is the fourth film in The Pink Panther franchise, and the first one directed by Blake Edwards and starring Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau since A Shot in the Dark over a decade earlier.

The Pink Panther diamond is stolen from a Lugash museum, and Clouseau is called upon to seek it out once more. The evidence suggests the Phantom is again responsible, but in fact Sir Charles Lytton (Christopher Plummer) has been framed. The film follows the parallel plots of Clouseau trailing Lytton's wife Claudine (Catherine Schell) to Switzerland and Lytton's journey to Lugash to try and find out who actually did it. Meanwhile, Chief Inspector Dreyfus' (Herbert Lom) repeated attempts to kill Clouseau land him in a mental institution at the end, leading directly into The Pink Panther Strikes Again.

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Carol Cleveland of Monty Python fame has a small part as a woman diving into a swimming pool.


This film provides examples of:

  • Absurdly Long Limousine: The Pink Panther is shown riding in one during the opening titles.
  • Affably Evil: The "Fat Man" and Colonel Sharkey - a crime boss and Secret Police head, respectively - both come off as this, even when discussing committing murder with their intended victim.
  • Ambiguous Innocence: Dreyfus believes the blind man Clouseau was busy dealing with was a lookout for the bank robbers, but this is never confirmed.
  • Animated Credits Opening: Produced by Richard Williams' Studio. It can be seen here.
  • Artistic License – Gun Safety: Parodied with the realistic gun-cigarette-lighter Dreyfuss uses. He confuses it with his similar-looking pistol and shoots part of his nose off.
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  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Sir Charles and Lady Claudine would be this, if it wasn't for the fact that Sir Charles is innocent and Claudine stole the jewel by herself, not to frame him but for a bit of harmless fun.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Sharkey initially comes across as a cordial and competent investigator who's willing to acknowledge Clouseau's suggestion that analyzing the wax used in the theft might lead to a clue. Then, it's mentioned that he's using the theft of the diamond as a pretext to purge his political opponents.
  • Bringing Running Shoes to a Car Chase: The cabbie responds to Inspector Clouseau's command to Follow That Car by climbing out of the cab and chasing the car on foot.
  • Butt-Monkey: Pepi, who is repeatedly being outwitted and/or having his fingers broken by Charles.
  • Cartoon Bomb: Clouseau is handed one in his apartment and doesn't notice what it is for several seconds.
  • Clear My Name: Sir Charles's goal in traveling to Lugash and finding the real thief.
  • Corpsing: In-Universe. Lady Litton clearly recognizes Clouseau in disguise without any effort every time they meet, and is visibly trying not to crack up at his antics whenever he does something stupid.
  • Deadly Dodging: A couple of examples of it happening unintentionally.
    • Clouseau bends over at just the right moment, resulting in Sharki getting shot by Dreyfus instead.
    • Kato in the restaurant turning around a corner just as Clouseau jumps at him. Clouseau does a rather spectacular plunge into the kitchen.
  • The Don: He's aptly called "The Fat Man."
  • False Flag Operation: Colonel Sharki uses the search for the diamond thief to justify mass arrests of political dissidents, leading the Fat Man to theorize that he stole the diamond himself so he would have an excuse to do so. He didn't, but he wasn't about to pass up a good crisis.
  • Follow That Car: Spoofed. When he arrives in Gstaad, Clouseau jumps into a taxi and asks the driver to follow Lady Litton's car. The driver gets out of the car and follows said car on foot. Later, when Clouseau finally gets to the hotel, the driver can be seen still chasing the car.
  • Funny Background Event: Clouseau is oblivious to a bank robbery happening right behind him while he attempts to arrest a blind beggar.
  • Hotter and Sexier: Averted. Despite the other films in the series having some light Sex Comedy elements, this has even less.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Dreyfus tries to kill Clouseau with a rifle in the climax. By this point he's been driven to utter insanity by Clouseau's antics/existence, so after he misses his first shot, because Clouseau bends over at the last moment, he just ends up firing blindly into the hotel room, and none of his subsequent shots even come close to hitting Clouseau.
  • Improvised Zip Line: The thief escapes from the museum with the diamond by firing a zip line from a crossbow to an adjacent building, then sliding down the line into an apartment in the other building.
  • Indy Hat Roll: After the guard discovers the theft of the Pink Panther diamond, he triggers the activation of the security system and causes the door to the room to close. The thief rolls under the door and out of the room just before it closes.
  • Karma Houdini: No explanation (with the possible exception of Negative Continuity, or Clouseau just being too stupid to understand exactly what he was confessing to) is given for why Dreyfus is still on the force after killing nearly a dozen people in various ways while trying to off Clouseau in the previous film, followed by a public nervous breakdown where he tried to kill his inept subordinate with his teeth.
  • Landline Eavesdropping: Inspector Clouseau picks up a phone in an attempt to spy on the wife of Cat Burglar Charles Litton, subverted when we learn the conversation is occurring inside the house to draw him to a false lead.
  • Lighter and Softer: The most lighthearted entry in the series. Especially compared to the previous "canon" entry, A Shot in the Dark, which was a murder mystery.
  • Literal-Minded: The Swiss cab driver Clouseau tells to 'follow that car'. He does so. On foot, leaning Clouseau sitting in the back seat of the taxi with a confused expression. A few minutes later, as Clouseau walks past the cab again, the cabbie's still running after the car.
  • Mathematician's Answer: Clouseau asks if a man can give him directions. The man's answer: Yes.
  • Mood Whiplash: The bulk of the story following Clouseau (and Dreyfus) is very much a slapstick comedy. In contrast most of the scenes following Sir Charles Litton are played as straight action-drama with his meetings with the "Fat Man" and Colonel Sharki in particular having genuine menace and danger that wouldn't have been out of place in a '70s James Bond film.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: While trying to shoot Clouseau, Dreyfus accidentally shoots Colonel Sharki, who was planning to kill Clouseau himself, along with Charles Lytton (the Phantom). At which point Dreyfus loses it and wastes all his ammo mindlessly trying to kill Clouseau.
  • No Fourth Wall:
    • After Cato attacks him in the Japanese restaurant, Clouseau says that there's a time and a place for everything. Then he looks at the camera and says "And this is it!" before jumping at Cato.
    • The end credits roll as we see Dreyfus in a padded cell; when Peter Sellers' credit appears, he shouts at us, "Kill him! Kill him!"
  • No Peripheral Vision: Clouseau does not realize that Colonel Sharki is in Lady Litton's room when he enters it.
  • Only a Lighter: Chief Inspector Dreyfus has a pistol cigarette lighter that looks identical to his actual gun. This results in a Running Gag where he mistakes his lighter for his pistol, or vice versa. When François sees it before Dreyfus lights himself a cigarette, after informing Dreyfus that Closseau is to be reinstated as a detective, we get this exchange:
    François: Sir?!
    Dreyfus: What? (looks at pistol-shaped lighter) Oh, it's a birthday gift from my wife.
  • Organ Grinder: Not an organ per se, but the "blind" street musician with an accordion and monkey at least invokes the trope.
  • Pinball Protagonist: If Clouseau had been cut from the movie, the only part of the actual investigation that would change is the question of how the Littons escaped from Colonel Sharkey in the climax, as without Clouseau's bumbling, Dreyfus wouldn't have been there to try to shoot him and end up killing Sharkey by mistake.
  • Reference Overdosed: During the opening credits, the animated Panther impersonates a series of classic movie stars and characters (John Wayne, Groucho Marx, Charlie Chaplin, Mickey Mouse, Frankenstein's Monster, etc.) while walking in and out of a pair of doors with Clouseau in pursuit.
  • Regional Riff: The generic middle eastern music that plays to signify that the action has moved to Lugash.
  • Reliably Unreliable Guns: Dreyfus not only repeatedly gets his pistol mixed up with a lighter that looks the same as his pistol, but his pistol also never fires when he wants it to and always fires when he doesn't.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: Clouseau spends most of the movie tailing Lady Litton in the belief that by doing so she will lead him to her husband, and through him the Pink Panther. He ends up finding both as a result, but only by chance: Lady Litton stole the diamond, and her husband eventually confronted her in order to get it back.
  • Roger Rabbit Effect: The end credits have the animated Pink Panther interacting with a straitjacketed Dreyfus.
  • Room Full of Crazy: In the end, Dreyfus is in a padded cell. The walls are covered with writings about his desire to kill Clouseau, which he apparently wrote with a pencil held between his toes.
  • Rules Lawyer: The 'blind' beggar at the start of the film appears to demonstrate this knowledge, as he argues that he isn't breaking the law against playing music in public for money without a licence as people give the monkey sitting next to him the money rather than the man himself, and the monkey just happens to live with him rather than him legally owning the monkey (this may not be true, but the explanation at least sounds plausible).
  • Running Gag:
    • Dreyfus repeatedly confuses which is the real pistol and which is the lighter.
    • Poor Pepi keeps getting his fingers broken.
  • Sarcasm-Blind:
    Dreyfus: How can an idiot be a policeman? Answer me that!
    Clouseau: It's very simple. All he has to do is enlist...
    Dreyfus: Shut up!
  • Shout-Out: During the animated opening credits, the Pink Panther imitates several famous movie actors, including Carmen Miranda, Charlie Chaplin and Boris Karloff.
  • Stiff Upper Lip: The Littons in the face of danger.
  • Super Window Jump: This is the way Sir Charles Litton goes out of the den of the Fat Man.
  • Tae Kwon Door: When the burglar breaks into a museum to steal the title diamond, the alarm goes off and guards pursue the burglar. As a guard is approaching a door the burglar throws it shut, hitting the guard and knocking him out.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Lady Litton isn’t mentioned at all in the "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue despite being the one who actually stole the diamond. Assuming the museum guide relaying the story at the end knows the whole plot, she presumably went to prison.
  • Who Needs Enemies?: Invoked by name when Sir Charles goes to the Fat Man for help in proving he didn't steal the Pink Panther. Instead, the Fat Man, in order to protect himself, plans to kill Sir Charles and give the body to the police as the culprit.
  • Wrongly Accused: Sir Charles claims to be this when the Pink Panther is stolen. As it turns out, his wife stole the Pink Panther.


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