National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation [1989)

It’s been awhile since I’ve written.

Got dumped by my fiancée.

Offered to be engaged again.

Got rejected again.

Worked my ass off at Starbucks.

Had one day off (Christmas).

And another today (New Year’s Eve).

Haven’t been feeling too well.

Failed experiments with getting off of anti-anxiety medication.

It’s tough.

People coming in the drive-thru in the wrong direction.

Getting stuck.

Taking twenty minutes to back out like Austin Powers in that infamous utility truck scene.

Work is stressful.

Christmas is stressful.

It puts a strain on many people.

Some go home and drink themselves to sleep.

While capitalism creates the most value, it is not without a price for the worker.

Getting a nice, cushy job can be easier than it sounds.

Perhaps I am dumb.

I’m not lazy, but I might be dumb.

I am smart in certain things.

But finding a place where my talents fit?

Well, I have done that a few times in my life.

But those were rare occasions.

It may be trite to say so, but life can come down to a roll of the dice here and there.

Is it chaos?

Is it God?

Did God invent chaos?

It’s true.

Some things which were formerly unexplained have become clearer as man has gained more knowledge of his world through science.

And here we come into the year 2020.

Where’s I’m at, there is a little less than two hours left.

I am glad to have my parents with me.

My dear, sweet mom.

My dear, sweet dad.

I am glad to have a roof over my head.

I’m glad to have heat.

Warmth.

Love.

And it is a joy to revisit this modern classic.

This was a film that my extended family (and my nuclear family) loved.

It is truly a city/country dichotomy.

From the very start.

Rednecks tailgate Clark Griswold as the family goes to the boonies in search of a Christmas tree.

But John Hughes does not paint a strictly disparaging portrait of rural folk.

Far from it.

For me, Randy Quaid is far-and-away the star of this film.

It is his best role.

Cousin Eddie.

It makes sense.

Quaid is from Houston.

And he has become quite a colorful character in real life on Twitter these recent years.

Scanning his bio, one can see that he attempted to migrate to Canada…with stops in Vancouver and Montreal.

But all that is secondary.

Quaid’s performance here is legendary.

And so he represents the country/rural pole.

But John Hughes, the film’s writer, did this lovingly.

Quaid is a lovable character here.

Not without faults.

Very three-dimensional.

This is where ’80s comedy approaches Dostoyevsky (in some weird sort of way).

At the other city/urban pole are the Griswold’s yuppie neighbors (notably including Julia Louis-Dreyfus).

Hughes takes as least as many pokes at the urban affluent as he does at the rural poor.

And there is nothing loving in his portrayal of the neighbors Todd and Margo.

But all of this is still secondary.

Because this film reminds me of my youth.

Times when things were a little more normal.

A big roaring fireplace out in the country.

And times when my dear cousin was still alive.

In rural areas, there is not much to do but watch movies.

And these were the days of VHS.

And video rental stores.

And so this film comes highly recommended by me.

It may not be one to watch year-round, but for my money it is more important and essential to my being than It’s a Wonderful Life.

One last thing.

Happy New Year to all!

May we not chain-smoke ourselves into early graves.

May we find peace and happiness and be able to handle the stresses of work and life.

I wish this for everyone.

 

-PD

The Matrix [1999)

I tried to make her understand.

I tried to tell her what she needed to hear.

I am still waiting.

Waiting for a sea change.

Assange is the superstar hacker.

Mendax.

QAnon lifted “follow the white rabbit” from this film.

Unless this film and the QAnon op stem from the same source.

Smith of 1984.

Turned.

Red-pill me on Tylenol.

LSD implications of Alice.

Mirror from Cocteau.

Keanu Reeves dips his fingers into Orphée (1950).

The Wachowski brothers have both now become trans women.

How fitting.

They are both (incidentally) married to women (Karin and Alisa).

From Walter Carlos to Wendy Carlos.

In which Neo wakes up in the “warm liquid goo” phase.

Brave New Fahrenheit 1984.

Baby farms of dystopia.

Elon Musk has been worried about the very premise of The Matrix.

Worried that his buddies at Google are creating for us the very hell foretold in this movie.

Really.

AI.

Pacified with free porn.

Zion of Joel Silver (producer).

With the “desert of the real”, we get Slavoj Žižek a few years later.

And one of my favorites:  Baudrillard.

Or vice versa.

Oracle like Oprah.

With cookies and everything.

Great acting by Gloria Foster who died in September 2001.

After 9/11.

And this film predates flying machines being swallowed by skyscrapers.

And mass shootings.

Indeed, Columbine kicked off a new era…a mere three weeks after The Matrix was released.

Hmmm…

Many kung fu rips.

It would be four more years before Tarantino began ripping kung fu with the first Kill Bill.

So The Matrix was first here.

A new Star Wars.

Luke Skywalker of Neo.

And the Holocaust chic costumes.

Schindler’s List set this up six years previous in 1993.

Kiss of life.

Great romance.

Sparks.

Channeling Bruce Lee the whole way through.

Great drum and bass tracks.

Cool soundtrack.

I can imagine Thom Yorke really getting into this shit.

The next Radiohead album after this film was the start of a new bleep bloop era.

Kid A.

And Carrie-Anne Moss is really pretty.

Good movie!

 

-PD

The Silencers [1966)

If you wanna know why Austin Powers was a “photographer” (strange bit of dilettantism that), then look no further than the beginning of the four-film spy-spoof series starring Dean Martin.

Matt Helm (Martin) is very much in the Derek Flint vein.

A couple of interesting possibilities exist in these films.

First, Martin’s parent agency in the spooky, alphabet soup world of espionage is ICE:  Intelligence and Counter-Espionage.

Second, the SPECTRE-like organization he fights is called The Big O.

obama.png

bigO

bigO2

Which brings us to #QAnon.

Sleeper.

…all of a sudden.

Hussein.

Tung-Tse might drink egg foo yung out of a can–might be a Dr. No knockoff, but it brings up the question:

Is QAnon real?

Fortunately, we have Stella Stevens to reassure us.

Just as magical as she was in the Jerry Lewis masterpiece The Nutty Professor.

But even hotter here.

Heat among friends.

Furnace.

Learn our comms.

Cyd Charisse drops in…festooned with pasties.

Twirling like an Amish stripper.

Now comes the pain.

Panic in DC.

 

-PD

bowie

Austin Powers in Goldmember [2002)

Nice recovery.

To recap:  first episode, pretty awesome.  Second episode #prettyterrible.  And third episode?

Quite good.

In general, all of the things you may have loved about the Austin Powers debut film return here as progressed elements.

Likewise, the shoddy aspects of episode two are herein absent or otherwise fixed.

I was pleasantly surprised.

Mike Myers recovers some of the real-life mojo he seemingly lost in the shag-a-flopic middle piece.

The character of Goldmember (played by Myers) is a significant improvement upon the generally stale Fat Bastard.

Beyoncé Knowles is pretty darn good in this film as well.

I was skeptical coming in.  Didn’t really know her as an actress.  Only slightly know her music.

But there’s a reason I didn’t know her as an actress.  Because this was her film debut.

Thank you Wikipedia.

Now we’re getting somewhere…

However, perhaps the most genius (evil genius?) dimension of this film is the dream-within-a-dream fourth-wall-destroying cameo sequence of Tom Cruise, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kevin Spacey, and John Travolta (among others).  Lot ‘a Scientologists there…

Continuing:

The big add-on, however, is Michael Caine.  It was really a choice bit of casting to introduce him into the mix.

That said, I’ve been a bit harsh on Mike Myers.  Really, it is formidable that he pulls a Peter Sellers by playing Austin, Dr. Evil, Goldmember, and Fat Bastard in this film.  They are all distinct characters.  In truth, Myers succeeds admirably by way of his talent for dialects.  Dutch is such an odd choice (as a spin on English), but Johan van der Smut (aka Goldmember) is indeed a novel attempt.

888 to you, my friend!

Yes…it’s not coming to the Criterion Collection anytime soon (unless it’s April 1st), but that’s alright.  After a grueling day this might be just the perfect film to make you forget for a moment.

Crack a laugh if you can.

Heartily recommended for James Bond aficionados in need of psychic adjustment.

Or something.

-PD

Johnny English Reborn [2011)

With film reviews, a critic either reviews the film or reviews themselves.  Selves?  Self.

Continuing…  There are two major modes of writing about art.

If I tell you that film was designated the seventh art by Ricciotto Canudo, am I telling you more about film or more about myself?

I would argue that I am trying to flaunt my intellect.

Every once in awhile my brain serves me well.  At other times I am painfully aware of my shortcomings.

And so, Johnny English…not exactly King Lear by Godard.

Nay…  ,,but a near piss-perfect spy spoof.

Piss-perfect?

Now there’s an odd turn of phrase.  Can’t say I’ve thought of that one in awhile.

Really, it makes little sense…unless…drug test?

Who knows…

It’s certainly not timoxeline barbebutenol.  No.  I’m assured by my ever faithful companion Wikipedia that that (2) is a fictional drug.

It does, however, share a molecular formula with two actual drugs:  amobarbital and pentobarbital (respectively).

C11H18N2O3

Yes…

Now<>  If I followed this particular tangent I would be indirectly commenting on the film at hand.

The ostensible “meaning” would be that this film is so devoid of substance that I had been reduced to concocting literary small talk in its absence.

But that is not the case.

And so in the great literary tradition of the Choose Your Own Adventure books, I shall forego the pharmacological flourish and focus on what’s really important.

Johnny English Reborn, while not a masterpiece in the Palme d’Or sense, smashes both the first two Austin Powers films (and indeed its own predecessor) to infinitesimal bits.

[If I allowed myself the indulgence of an aside involving quantum computing and its version of bits (qubits) I would really be showing my arse.]

Because I don’t know quantum computing from linear regressions.  [Figuratively speaking.]

And so I will be plain as day ->  I identify with this film

I know.  It’s sad in a certain way…

“The Great Pretender”…I sometimes think.  I think of Richard Manuel crooning that song with such pain in his heart.

Yes, Levon Helm was right:  the moments that Richard took the spotlight for ballads…those were the real highlights.

“Georgia On My Mind”…

A guy with a great big beard.  As weird and wistful as Brian Wilson in a giant sandbox.

Uhhh…yes.  Where were we?

Johnny English.

Reborn no less…

Indeed, a few things are different here.

First we must thank director Oliver Parker.

This film really holds together.

Lucky for him he had Rowan Atkinson in top form as the title character.

But there are two supporting players who deserve special mention.

The first is Daniel Kaluuya.

Mr. Kaluuya, himself of Ugandan ancestry, fills some very big shoes left vacant by his predecessor Ben Miller.

I really did Miller a disservice by failing to mention his fine performance in the first Johnny English film.

But Kaluuya takes a somewhat different tack.

I may be imagining things, but I get the feeling that Kaluuya was playing this role for all it’s worth (like an athlete or musician with a make-or-break chance).

Sure…films employ multiple takes.  Drop a line?  No problem.  Let’s take it again.

And yet, Kaluuya adds a gentle urgency to this farce by way of truly accomplished thespian abilities.

I certainly hope someone in the film world was paying attention as his filmography does not reflect an appreciation for his immense talents.

And finally, I must mention the redemption of Rosamund Pike (reborn, if you will).

I last left her on my site as a rather tragic villain figure in the actual Bond film Die Another Day.  Mercifully, she does not exit this film with a volume of Sun Tzu shishkababbed flush to bosom.  [What?]

Quite the contrary…for here she is the good guy (girl)…and her acting is as impeccable as her true beauty.

But poor Johnny…poor Rowan Atkinson.

I’ve hardly mentioned him at all.

Must I tell you again what a genius this fellow is?

Perhaps so.

I haven’t been effusive enough regarding a man whose talents are of the most rare kind.

True, born-to-yuck talents.  Born-to-ham.  I would only put him in a race with Roberto Benigni.

Those two.

They are of another era.

Like Peter Sellers.

Like Jacques Tati.

And, of course, back to the fondateur Charlie Chaplin.

The modern world does not embrace this visual sort of humor.

Every once in awhile it reappears.  Benigni wins Best Actor.

And then it’s gone again.

Atkinson, dear boy, if you’re out there on the brainwave wavelengths…

You’ve still got it, old chap!

-PD

Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me [1999)

This one is painful.  No getting around it.

Mike Myers is a very talented guy, but this film is seriously lacking in creativity.

I get it…  The James Bond series is very formulaic, but a spoof franchise can’t afford to be so predictable.

And thus it is little wonder that Austin Powers only lasted three installments.

But to be fair, let’s give this film a chance.

Austin starts out learning that his luck was too good to be true.

Elizabeth Hurley.  Not a professional model until age 29.

Speaks of a certain beauty.  Timeless.

Perhaps.

Daughter of Angela Mary Titt (!)…you can’t make this stuff up.

Bruce Beresford cast Hurley in Aria (1987) [a compilation film which happened to feature a vignette by my idol Jean-Luc Godard].

Aria was her debut.

Ok, enough about Hurley. She’s not in much of this film, but I really did her a disservice by completely failing to mention her performance in the first Austin Powers movie.  Really, she is a fine actress and her contribution to that movie was significant and impressive.

By now you may be noticing that the current film under consideration (installment two) must be quite a clunker for me to be going on about an actress who appears in about ten minutes of this feature.

If you have surmised thusly, you have surmised correctly.

Moving on…

There are moments in this movie when things briefly coalesce.  Dr. Evil’s headquarters atop The Space Needle hosts one such moment.  The schadenfreude I felt as a patron of a particularly lackluster Starbucks (watch the movie) was, in this scene, among the highlights of a rather limp film.

There is, of course, the addition of the 2′ 8″ Verne Troyer in this installment.  Troyer does a fine job as Mini-Me.

Even the Fat Bastard character is entertaining (up to a point).

I suppose that is the M.O. of the Austin Powers franchise: to go beyond the limits of ridiculousness and good taste.

When it works, it’s quite special.  When it doesn’t (as in most of this film), it’s a rather tragic affair.

Unfortunately, Rob Lowe is not really allowed to shine in this film.  His comedic gifts deserved better.

One player who makes the most of her small role is Kristen Johnston.  Kudos to her for making the sport of chess as exciting and bizarre as Marcel Duchamp and Henry Miller would have done had they wound up in this shambles of a film.

And now on to the bright spot of the film:  Heather Graham.

Yes, I know…I know.

Though it’s not as powerful as her breathtaking performance in Boogie Nights, it’s not a bad performance.

No…far from it.

Graham takes the charm of Elizabeth Hurley and ratchets it up a few notches.

But the story…oy vey, the story.  Really, there is no story.  The same story.

It’s pretty sad when a spy spoof is less entertaining than a Bond clunker such as Moonraker.

Back to Graham…anyone who’s dated Adam Ant is alright in my book.

Pushing onwards…

Dr. Evil at least happens upon the perfect name for his doomsday laser:  The Alan Parsons Project.

Like the evil Starbucks Space Needle, it is one of few highlights.

One of the few storyline threads to come through intact is the one involving Powers’ mojo.

Unfortunately, the naïvete of enlightenment which somehow alighted upon the first Austin Powers film is not present here to sustain the promising premise of mojo lost and found.

Strangely, the series itself seemingly lost its mojo in this its sophomore slump.

There’s one final twist at the end involving Fat Bastard.  For a moment the film threatens to redeem itself.

But alas, as they say…

-PD

Johnny English [2003)

What to say…  A witty beginning, perhaps?

An arresting turn of phrase?

No, I shan’t deign preface my critique with decorum.

Rather, one needs must hold steadfast to the cocked-up tone of this talkie in order to convey its essence.

Johnny English.

Take three measures of Peter Sellers in the Pink Panther films, one of Sean Connery in Dr. No, half a measure of Joseph Beuys.  Shake it very well until it’s gasp-inducingly funny (might take quite a bit of shaking, er…), then add a surprisingly adept turn by Natalie Imbruglia.  Right?  Right.

What could go wrong?

Well, in contrast to this film’s beginning, pleasantly little.

It’s true:  the opening credits of this picture have not aged well at all.

They make the kitsch titles of Austin Powers’ first film (which also suffers from clunky mise-en-scène) seem positively polished in comparison.

It’s a shame neither of these spy spoof franchises sprung for a Maurice Binder.

But I digress…

My point is that Johnny English gets better over the course of its 88 minutes.

Coming into this experiment I figured that Rowan Atkinson clearly had the superior comedic chops vs. Mike Myers.

And he does.

But Johnny English suffers from some strange virus of general incompetence.  Something doesn’t quite click in the process of potentially calling the film under review a masterpiece.

Not that I expected as much…

Happily, Johnny English is a tremendously enjoyable flick.

I laughed harder and more earnestly during this picture compared to Austin Powers’ debut, yet Jay Roach delivered a more seamless spy spoof for Myers than the film under consideration.

But let us not throw Peter Howitt under the double-decker quite yet…

Howitt turned in a quite an admirable film.

In actuality, the story of Johnny English is stronger and more convincing than that of Austin Powers:  International Man of Mystery.

But back to comedic chops…  When Mike Myers is good, he’s very good.  When Rowan Atkinson is good, he’s great.

And so, there are moments in this film which I wouldn’t trade for anything in the Austin Powers opener.

I can’t say the converse is true.

Natalie Imbruglia is as good in this film as John Malkovich is bad.

I know, I know…

Sounds impossible…

I have a feeling that Malkovich cherished (in some perverse way) the clunky role he was given.

He plays it as if he’s in a high school musical.

I am not doubting Malkovich’s acting skills.  They are world-class.

Yet, for some reason, he is the acting equivalent of a Styrofoam cup herein.

Imbruglia, on the other hand, amazingly (!) out-acts Elizabeth Hurley.

Notice, if you will, the fact that I did not even mention Hurley in my piece on Austin Powers.

That was because her performance was largely limp.

Sure…she’s exquisitely beautiful.  Yes, she has acting chops…

But Imbruglia took a small role in a cursed film and turned it into a moment in which to really shine.

But but but…

Let’s not get too lost in the praise.

Really this whole thing would be lost at sea were it not for Rowan Atkinson.

He indeed approaches the genius of Harpo Marx.

That is no small feat.

I, for one, wish Atkinson’s oeuvre was larger so that I could devote more attention to his talent.

Perhaps the best is yet to come.

We can certainly hold out such hope!

-PD

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery [1997)

I imagine I’m the only film critic in the world simultaneously engrossed in the oeuvre of Godard and the semi-genre of spy spoofs.

Yet it’s true.

And this film sets a sort of modern standard.

When I first saw this picture it didn’t have the same effect on me which it does now.

The difference?

Total immersion in the James Bond series.

This brings me back to my first statement…stated differently:

How could a person delve into the deepest recesses of French intellectual film and yet appreciate a notoriously shallow succession of pseudo-cinematic pap?

The James Bond franchise succeeded in its early years on sheer will of confidence (expressed in the nonchalant swagger of Sean Connery).

And so for those of us who are drawn to films such as Dr. No like moths to a flame Austin Powers provides just the right measure of fun to mercifully deflate our nonsensical ambitions.

Truth be told, most average citizens (myself included) would make horrible secret agents.  We can’t keep secrets.

We can’t outrun a young assassin.

But we like to dream.

There are always analyst jobs.  Perhaps…

But let’s get on with it…

What makes this film special?

It is that outsider/outcast aspect which plagues Austin “Danger” Powers.

The most poignant (poignant?) touch is Austin in the casino bar flashing a peace sign (V) of naïvete to a tableful of unsympathetic twits.

It should be noted that Mike Myers actually does a formidable job of not only referencing the various minutiae of Bond films but also of evoking the humanism of Chaplin embodied in the closing speech of The Great Dictator.

Put simply, this is a very smart movie.  Don’t let the fart jokes fool you.

Sure…some aspects of this film have not aged so well, but it was made in a spirit of fun.

Did this opening installment in the franchise pander to the mediocre intelligence of American movie-going audiences?

Of course.

But hey…that spirit has powered (no pun intended) some of the great films of all time.

What Austin Powers brought to the world was really a reawakening of the American comedy zeitgeist from the 1980s.

Think of those great, enjoyable films like The Three Amigos (and especially Spies Like Us), Trading Places, the National Lampoon movies, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles…  I don’t care what anyone says:  those were great movies!

Those are the films I grew up on.  Airplane, Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure…heck, even Romancing the Stone pulled me in every time it came on TV.

Director Jay Roach did a really nice job of providing that enjoyable experience with this film.  We all need some laughs.

Life is too hard; too sad.  Too serious!

But Austin Powers is most of all the gold standard of Bond spoofs.  When you can’t watch Goldfinger for the umpteenth time, give yourself a break with this film.

It will feel like a masterpiece.  We all need a funhouse mirror in which to see our own reflection and laugh.

There’s no shame in that 🙂

-PD

The Man with the Golden Gun [1974)

Third nipple.  It had to be said.  Nay, not even the great Roger Moore could get away with a strictly biological description.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way…  Indeed, Scaramanga was the most interesting and well-rounded villain yet in this series (by far).  This is Guy Hamilton’s directorial masterpiece.  Any who look down upon action/adventure movies are missing the fun of life.  C’est la vie.  It is an honor to write about a living legend–a true auteur.  I salute you Monsieur Hamilton!

Sure…there are some funny bits.  Coal and oil would soon run out?  Well, 40 years have gone by and we are still burning away.  But let us not dwell upon a minor hitch.  This film is so enjoyable to watch!

The location shoots are immaculate.  Macau, Hong Kong, Thailand…  I must admit I got a bit wistful hearing traditional Thai music (something I was lucky enough to study at university).  Hamilton pushes all the right buttons (rather the opposite of Miss Goodnight’s errant derriere).

I would dare say this is the best Bond film up to this point in the “canon”…without question!

It is not a matter of Connery vs. Moore, but rather of Hamilton vs. cinema.  There were great moments earlier in the series, but this really is the whole package.  It’s a shame Connery and Hamilton didn’t get the opportunity to hit on all cylinders as Moore and Hamilton did with this vehicle.

Bond takes one for the team early on by swallowing a piece of forensic evidence:  a golden bullet which had become the erstwhile navel ornament of a belly-dancer in Beirut.  Not long after we are introduced to an indispensable character:  Nick Nack.  Yes, that’s right…Tatoo from Fantasy Island, but officially the late Hervé Villechaize.  The MI6 base aboard the wreckage of the RMS Queen Elizabeth was a brilliant touch.  Special notice should go to Joie Vejjajiva and Qiu Yuen who are masterfully cute and pugnacious as Hip’s nieces.

There is certainly a hesitant feminism which asserts itself from time to time.  It is rather awkward in such a chauvinistic series, but welcome nonetheless.

Maud Adams is wonderful (if I may say so) particularly when she is playing dead (or, as the film would have it, actually dead).  I am speaking of course about the Thai boxing match scene.  It must have been no small feat to look so icy-cold in such a heated environment.  The whole mise-en-scène is so delicately artful that there is no doubt what we are seeing is thoroughly cinematic (meant in the most superlative sense).

Britt Ekland is wonderful as the bumbling white-hot Bond girl Mary Goodnight.  No wonder she and Peter Sellers had been married.  She’s a right bird!

Guy Hamilton must have really taken to Clifton James as the latter unbelievably reprises his role as Louisiana Sherriff J.W. Pepper.  This really does make the film essential viewing for Cajuns the world-round.  The AMC chase with Moore and “deputy” Pepper is exhilarating and hilarious.  This really shows the European influence of Hamilton, though one might think him Italian rather than French.  Nonetheless, the mélange of emotions warrants mention as particularly “other” from the Anglo-American milieu in which we seem to be racing around.

But there is no missing the recurring reference to The Lady from Shanghai in the funhouse mirrors which bookend this wonderful movie.  Nick Nack, likewise, presages Mini-Me of the Austin Powers franchise.

One final thought…  There is a troublesome moment when Bond pushes a Thai boy into a canal.  For a moment, reality erupts within the spectacle (to more-or-less quote another famous Guy:  Debord).  It reminds us that espionage is not all fun and games.  People get hurt.  People are used.  There are many means to an end.  But I credit the series and even this film with upholding a certain stereotype of the British which I think has some truth to it…in a couple of words:  tact and manners.  Bond doesn’t really hurt the boy, though it is rather cruel seeing as how the boy had just helped him out of a “jam” only to have Bond, moreover, immediately renege on a 20,000 baht reward.  But even Scaramanga seems to appreciate the “sporting” nature of British fairness…offering Bond a chance.  True…Bond kicks a martial arts opponent in the face during the preordained moment for bowing to the sensei of the dojo, but Bond was outnumbered 20 to 1 (or thereabouts).  The final test comes when Nick Nack ends up in a suitcase courtesy of 007.  We assume from Ekland’s response that Bond has thrown the little person overboard, but we see at the end that the devilish manservant ended up in a wicker cage hoisted up the junk’s rigging.  I admire this delicacy.  Keep Bond and carry on!

 

-PD

The Revenge of the Pink Panther [1978)

It all starts to blur together.  After the masterful return to form in The Pink Panther Strikes Again, this film fails to distinguish itself from the series.  There are some amazing moments.  True.  But perhaps it would have behooved the creators to have set the entire film in Hong Kong rather than merely the last portion.

The saving grace of the Bond series from Eon Productions is that, though formulaic, one can differentiate one film from another (more or less) by the location shooting.  The original Pink Panther movie boded well for just such expectations by having Clouseau go off to Cortina d’Ampezzo for a postcard background.  When one thinks of Bond, we can picture Jamaica (Dr. No), Turkey (From Russia With Love), Japan (You Only Live Twice) and Switzerland (particularly On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, but also Goldfinger) to name just a few.  Such differentiation was sorely lacking in this parallel string of sequels.

Back to the film at hand:  it is not at all bad.  It just becomes difficult to tell it apart from the preceding four installments (not including 1968’s Inspector Clouseau which featured Alan Arkin rather than Sellers).  [I suppose Arkin is the Lazenby of this franchise.]

There are some nuggets in this film–some “set pieces” which make it wonderful viewing in spite of its meta-laziness.  When Sellers manages to kill Ed Parker…that’s surely a laugher.  But what follows is even better.  As Clouseau has the floor sawn from beneath him, we once again enter a surreal world of Sellers vs. Kwouk (which Blake Edwards had begun to capture ever more rivetingly in the preceding two films).  Sellers ends up largely covered in blue paint (which also splatters on the walls of the apartment beneath his…a half-finished renovation) and the whole thing begs the question as to whether Sellers and the creators of this film were versed in the history of Yves Klein.  Klein, of course, in addition to “patenting” a particular shade of blue (International Klein Blue) was also a martial arts enthusiast (becoming a master of judo at age 25).  And.  He was, of course, thoroughly French.

Dyan Cannon looked lovely in this film and the scene with Sellers by the fireplace is both charming and hilarious (in a Samuel Beckett sort of way).  Sellers as Godfather Scallini presages the Austin Powers “fat suit” antics of Mike Myers.  Finally, the medal presentation at the end of the film is befitting for the aging Sellers:  a grand exit from the series proper.  [One last trio of antics…the faulty sword, the pigeon on his gendarme casque, and the thorough unraveling of the French president’s necktie.]

Graham Stark is excellent in yet a third separate role (over the course of the series) as Auguste Balls.  Special notice should also be given to André Maranne who was an iconic face and personality throughout the franchise’s run.

Sellers contributed a magnificent archetype to cinema with his storied presentation of the Clouseau character over the course of these many films.  He is, and always will be, (notwithstanding Casino Royale) the anti-Bond.  Farewell sweet soul.

 

-PD