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 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) attempts to kill Clouseau land him in a mental institution at the end, leading directly into The Pink Panther Strikes Again.
This film provides examples of:
- Absurdly Long Limousine: The Pink Panther is shown riding in one during the opening titles. Also doubles as Getting Crap Past the Radar, since the long, pink-colored vehicle strongly resembles... well, something else.
- 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.
- Animated Credits Opening: Produced by Richard Williams' Studio. It can be seen here here.
- 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.
- 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.
- Clear My Name: Sir Charles's goal in traveling to Lugash and finding the real thief.
- Follow That Car: Spoofed. When he arrives in Gstaad, Clouseau jump into a taxi and asks the driver to follow Lady Lytton's car. The driver goes out of the car an follow the said car on foot.
- Hotter and Sexier: Averted. Despite the other films in the series having some light Sex Comedy elements, this has even less.
- 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.
- 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 and he just ends up fires blindly into the hotel room, none of his bullets coming close to hitting Clouseau.
- 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.
- 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 Lytton 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 Sharkey, 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: 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 Lytton'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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- Super Window Jump: This is the way Sir Charles Lytton 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.
- 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.