The Return of the Pink Panther

The Return of the Pink Panther is a 1975 comedy film and the fourth film in The Pink Panther series. The film stars Peter Sellers, returning to the role of Inspector Clouseau, for the first time since A Shot in the Dark (1964), after having declined to reprise the role in Inspector Clouseau (1968). The film was a commercial hit and revived the previously dormant series.

The Return of the Pink Panther
Theatrical release poster
Directed byBlake Edwards
Produced byBlake Edwards
Written byBlake Edwards
Frank Waldman
StarringPeter Sellers
Christopher Plummer
Catherine Schell
Herbert Lom
Music byHenry Mancini
CinematographyGeoffrey Unsworth
Edited byTom Priestly
ITC Entertainment
Jewel Productions
Pimlico Films
Distributed byUnited Artists (original)
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (current US distributor)
Focus Features
ITV Studios
Universal Pictures (current International distributor)
Release date
  • 21 May 1975 (1975-05-21)
Running time
114 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
United States
Budget$5 million
Box office$41.8 million (US) [1]

Herbert Lom reprises his role as Chief Inspector Charles Dreyfus from A Shot in the Dark; he remained a regular thereafter. The character of Sir Charles Litton, the notorious Phantom, is now played by Christopher Plummer rather than David Niven, who played the part in The Pink Panther (1963) and was unavailable. The Pink Panther diamond once again plays a central role in the plot.


In the fictional country of Lugash, a mysterious thief seizes the Pink Panther diamond and leaves a white glove marked with a gold-tinted "P". With its national treasure once again missing, the Shah of Lugash requests the assistance of Inspector Clouseau (Peter Sellers) of the Sûreté, as Clouseau had recovered the diamond the last time it was stolen. Clouseau has been temporarily demoted to beat cop by his boss, Chief Inspector Charles Dreyfus (Herbert Lom), who despises him to the point of obsession, but the French government forces Dreyfus to reinstate him. Clouseau joyously receives the news after fending off a surprise attack from his servant Cato (Burt Kwouk), who had been ordered to do so to keep the Inspector on his toes, and duly goes to Lugash.

Upon examining the crime scene in the national museum — in which he wrecks several priceless antiquities — Clouseau concludes that the glove implicates Sir Charles Litton (Christopher Plummer), alias "the notorious Phantom," as the thief. After several catastrophic failures to stake out Litton Manor in Nice (which he nearly demolishes), Clouseau believes a mysterious assassin is attempting to kill him. He follows Sir Charles' wife, Lady Claudine Litton (Catherine Schell), to a resort hotel in Gstaad in search of clues to her husband's whereabouts, and repeatedly bungles the investigation.

Meanwhile, Sir Charles is teased about the theft by his wife, and realizes he has been framed. Arriving in Lugash to clear his name, Sir Charles barely avoids being murdered and sent to the Lugash secret police by his associate known as the "Fat Man" (Eric Pohlmann), who explains that with the leading suspect dead, the secret police will no longer have an excuse to continue purging their political enemies. Escaping to his suite, Litton finds secret police Colonel Sharki (Peter Arne) waiting for him, who implies the Fat Man's understanding is correct, but reminds him the diamond must be recovered eventually. Sir Charles pretends to cooperate, but is unable to hide his reaction when he recognizes a face on the museum's security footage. He avoids another plot by the Fat Man and his duplicitous underling Pepi (Graham Stark) and escapes from Lugash, secretly pursued by Sharki, who believes Sir Charles will lead him to the diamond.

Still in Gstaad, Clouseau, still tailing Lady Claudine, is suddenly ordered by Dreyfus over the telephone to arrest her in her hotel room. However, when Clouseau calls back to clarify the order, he is told that Dreyfus is on vacation. Sir Charles is first to confront Lady Claudine, who admits she stole the jewel to spark excitement in their lives. Colonel Sharki shows up, but just as he prepares to kill them both, Inspector Clouseau barges in. Sir Charles explains things to Clouseau, and Sharki is about to kill the three of them. However, Dreyfus has followed Clouseau and is outside the hotel room with a rifle — Dreyfus is the "mysterious assassin" who has been trying to kill Clouseau all this time — and just as Dreyfus shoots at Clouseau, the Inspector ducks to check if his fly is undone, and the shot kills Sharki instead. The other three take cover, while Dreyfus, insanely enraged by his latest failure to kill Clouseau, goes berserk until he is arrested.

For once again recovering the Pink Panther, Clouseau is promoted to Chief Inspector, while Sir Charles resumes his career as a jewel thief (Lady Claudine's fate is not mentioned). At a Japanese restaurant in the epilogue, Cato unexpectedly attacks Clouseau again and triggers a massive brawl, naturally destroying the premises. Dreyfus is committed to a lunatic asylum for his actions, where he is straitjacketed inside a padded cell and vows revenge on Clouseau. The animated Pink Panther appears and films his antics, and concludes the credits with a smoke ring.



In the early 1970s, Blake Edwards wrote a 15-20 page outline for another Pink Panther film and presented it to series producer Walter Mirisch. The producer loved the idea, but the franchise's distributor and main backer, United Artists, rejected the film as they had no interest in working with Edwards nor Peter Sellers, whose careers had declined.[2]

British producer Lew Grade agreed to finance two films for Blake Edwards as part of a deal to get Edwards' wife, Julie Andrews, to appear in a TV special for him. The first movie was The Tamarind Seed. Edwards wanted to make a project set in Canada called Rachel and the Stranger, but Grade disliked the idea and offered to buy Edwards out of the second commitment. Edwards wanted to make a second movie, however; in order to help restore his tainted reputation in Hollywood. Grade said he then suggested making a new Pink Panther film and Edwards agreed, if Sellers would also agree to do it. Grade managed to talk Sellers into it and the project was on.[3] UA agreed to give The Return of the Pink Panther to Grade in exchange for world distribution and a share of the profits;[2] thereafter, Grade's company would permanently own worldwide rights to the film.[4] Grade said that Eric Pleskow of United Artists was offered the chance to come into the movie as a partner but declined, thinking the movie would be a financial failure; he only wanted UA to distribute.[3]

Richard Williams, later the animation director on Who Framed Roger Rabbit, did the animated open and closing titles for this picture and The Pink Panther Strikes Again, due to DePatie-Freleng's work on the Pink Panther shorts and other cartoon projects for TV and film. Williams got help animating this from two noted animators, Ken Harris and Art Babbitt.

Catherine Schell can be seen laughing on at least two occasions in the film: once when Clouseau impersonates a telephone repairman to infiltrate her home, and again when he meets her in a restaurant and pretends to be "Guy Gadbois," a ladies' man; in the latter, the scene appears to cut suddenly as she starts choking on her drink from laughing. This magnifies the impression that Lady Litton sees Clouseau as amusing and no real threat. These scenes are frequently proffered as classic examples of corpsing, and it was not uncharacteristic of Sellers to goad his fellow actors to break character. Nonetheless, Schell has maintained in various interviews that she always considered it in character for Lady Litton to be amused at Clouseau's antics.

Carol Cleveland, best known for her regular appearances on Monty Python's Flying Circus, has a small part as a swimming pool diver.

A soundtrack album, featuring Henry Mancini's score for the film, was released by RCA Records.[5]

Critical reception

In The New York Times, Vincent Canby gave the film a positive review, writing, "Clouseau is the very special slapstick triumph of Mr. Sellers and Mr. Edwards."[6] Variety called it "another very funny film about the eternal gumshoe bungler, Inspector Clouseau. 'The Return of the Pink Panther' is in many ways a time capsule film, full of brilliant sight gags and comedic innocence."[7] Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film 2 stars out of 4, finding Sellers' first scene funny but for the rest of the movie, "we not only know when each and every joke is coming; we know exactly what that joke will be."[8] Charles Champlin of the Los Angeles Times wrote that the film was "I think, not up to what went before. Its calculations show and the inspector is somehow too entirely the buffoon, lacking a redeeming pathos I seem to remember from the earlier outings. But in its vigorous and bulls-eye way 'The Return of the Pink Panther' is a cheerful escape from all the things that ail us."[9] Gary Arnold of The Washington Post called it "a frequently hilarious and generally satisfying return to comic form on the part of Peter Sellers, recreating the role of the hapless but dogged French sleuth."[10] Penelope Gilliatt of The New Yorker wrote that Sellers was "working here at his best."[11]

The film holds a score of 89% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 18 reviews, with an average rating of 6.7 out of 10.[12]

Home media release

The film had been released on VHS, Betamax, CED and Laserdisc in the 1980s by Magnetic Video, CBS/Fox Video, and J2 Communications respectively.

In 1993 and 1996, LIVE Home Video under the Family Home Entertainment label re-released the film on VHS as part of the Family Home Entertainment Theater lineup and on a Widescreen Laserdisc. In 1999, Artisan Entertainment (LIVE's successor) re-released the film on VHS and debuting on DVD for the first time in the original widescreen format. The only bonus material seen on this release were cast filmographies, production notes and the film's original theatrical trailer.

In 2006, rights holder Granada (owners of the ITC catalog) sub licensed the film to Universal Studios Home Entertainment under Focus Features for distribution in the US and UK, with a new, bare-bones release featuring an anamorphic widescreen transfer being released in 2006 by Universal in both territories. In 2015, the 2006 UK DVD was reissued by Fabulous Films still under licence from Universal and ITV Studios (who acquired Granada and the ITC library), followed by a UK Blu-ray release by Fabulous in 2016.

As Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer has since acquired US theatrical, television, and digital distribution rights from Universal and ITV Studios[13], Universal/Focus and ITV still has all remaining worldwide rights. Due to its licensing output deals with both MGM and Universal, Shout! Factory included this film, along with the other Peter Sellers Pink Panther films, as part of a 6-disc set for the first time on Blu-ray under their Shout! Select label.[14] The set was released on June 27, 2017.[15]


  1. "The Return of the Pink Panther, Box Office Information". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 22 January 2012.
  2. Mirisch, Walter (2008). I Thought We Were Making Movies, Not History (pp. 170-171). University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, Wisconsin. ISBN 0-299-22640-9.
  3. Lew Grade, Still Dancing: My Story, William Collins & Sons 1987 p 227-228
  4. Ltd, Not Panicking. "h2g2 - 'The Return of the Pink Panther' - the Film - Edited Entry".
  6. Canby, Vincent (22 May 1975). "Distraction Stalks Inspector Clouseau". The New York Times: 32.
  7. "The Return of the Pink Panther". Variety: 26. 14 May 1975.
  8. Siskel, Gene (June 16, 1975). "That familiar, zany inspector overstays visit". Chicago Tribune. Section 3, p. 6.
  9. Champlin, Charles (May 20, 1975). "Sellers Back in 'Panther'". Los Angeles Times. Part IV, p. 1.
  10. Arnold, Gary (21 May 1975). "Welcome 'Return of The Pink Panther'". The Washington Post: B1.
  11. Gilliatt, Penelope (2 June 1975). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker: 92.
  12. "The Return of the Pink Panther". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 18 November 2018.
  13. "Official KINO Insider Announcements Thread: STRICTLY MODERATED: READ GUIDELINES".
  14. "Blake Edwards' 'The Pink Panther Film Collection' Blu-ray Announced". 6 January 2017.
  15. "The Pink Panther Film Collection Blu-ray".
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