James Stewart stars as a railroad man hired to secretly carry a payroll despite his suspected connections to outlaws
Peter Sellers' Clouseau sets out to prove chambermaid Elke Sommer's innocence in the second irresistible outing for the daft Inspector
"I submit that you arrived home, found Miguel with Maria Gambrelli, and killed him in a rit of fealous jage!"
Say what you like about Blake Edwards, but he could pick a winner. Having used Clouseau as a supporting character in The Pink Panther (1963), Edwards shoved the bungling detective centre stage for this sequel (released only months after the premiere of the first film), and never looked back.
Here Clouseau is sent to investigate a murder at the mansion of a well-connected millionaire (Sanders). It seems like an open and shut case. After all, chambermaid Maria Gambrelli (Sommer) was found standing over the body holding a smoking gun. Clouseau isn't so sure. She's too dishy to be guilty, so he releases Maria in the hope that she'll flush out the real killer. Even the trail of bodies she leaves in her wake doesn't throw his conviction that she's being set up, much to the fury of boss, Chief Inspector Dreyfus (Lom). Of course, justice will out in the end but, as ever, by pure fluke.
Obviously the picture's success relies heavily on Sellers' peerless comic ability, but this is far more of a collective effort than the following, inferior sequels. The script (by Edwards and The Exorcist's William Peter Blatty) provides a wealth of one-liners, fantastic visual gags and a succession of inspired set-pieces - including a nudist camp scene, a priceless seduction and a brilliant riff on the Poirot-esque confrontation of suspects. The supporting cast do their bit too, playing straight without blinking, save for Lom, whose twitchy portrayal of escalating insanity almost steals the show and ensured his place in the rest of the series.
The second Pink Panther film is a timeless piece of knockabout comic artistry and undoubtedly the best of the series.
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