'The Return of the Pink Panther' - the Film Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

'The Return of the Pink Panther' - the Film

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The Pink Panther Films
The Pink Panther (1964) | A Shot In The Dark | Inspector Clouseau
The Return of the Pink Panther | The Pink Panther Strikes Again | Revenge of the Pink Panther
Trail of the Pink Panther | Curse of the Pink Panther | Son of the Pink Panther

He is Sir Charles Phantom, the notorious Lytton.
- Inspector Clouseau, announcing his chief suspect for the theft of the Pink Panther.


In the African country of Lugash, a skilled burglar steals the world's largest diamond and religious symbol, the Pink Panther, leaving a monogrammed glove – the calling card of burglar The Phantom – and escaping into the night. The Shah of Lugash, remembering how Clouseau had recovered the jewel before1, requests that Clouseau be assigned to recover it. This is despite Clouseau's superior Dreyfus wishing to demote Clouseau and re-assign him to the remote Caribbean island of Martinique.

Clouseau immediately suspects Sir Charles Lytton, believed to be The Phantom. When Sir Charles learns of the robbery he realises that, as he is the chief suspect, no one will look for the true thief. He heads to Lugash, hoping to clear his name.

Clouseau investigates Lytton's wife, Lady Lytton, at her villa in Nice and follows her to Gstaad, Switzerland. Meanwhile, Sir Charles arrives in Lugash and narrowly escapes being killed by crime lord 'The Fat Man', only to be captured and interrogated by the head of the Lugash Secret Police, Colonel Sharki. Sharki himself is suspected by The Fat Man of having stolen the jewel in order to get rid of his political enemies. Sir Charles escapes and flies to Gstaad, followed by Colonel Sharki.

With everyone assembling in Gstaad (described by Dreyfus as 'today, a quiet ski resort in the Swiss alps, tomorrow, a wasteland), who will be revealed to be trying to assassinate Clouseau, and who stole the Pink Panther?


Characters and actors in bold appeared in other films in the series.

Inspector Jacques ClouseauPeter Sellers
Sir Charles LyttonChristopher Plummer
Lady Claudine LyttonCatherine Schell
Chief Inspector Charles DreyfusHerbert Lom
Colonel SharkiPeter Arne
Cato FongBurt Kwouk
PepiGraham Stark
Sergeant François ChevalierAndré Maranne
Fat ManEric Pohlmann
Hotel ConciergeVictor Spinetti
MacDavid Lodge
Blind BeggarJohn Bluthal
PsychiatristPeter Jones
BellboyMike Grady
Nice Police ChiefHerb 'Serge' Tanney
Swimming Pool DiverCarol Cleveland

Curiously, in this film the way some of the characters' names are spelt is changed from previous films. Cato is 'Cato' rather than 'Kato' as in A Shot in the Dark and he is given a surname, Fong. Sir Charles Lytton is credited instead as 'Litton'2 and François has gained his first surname, Chevalier.

Regular Pink Panther actors appear. Two of Peter Sellers' closest friends since his RAF days have roles in this film - Graham Stark, who had been Hercule, appears as Pepi and David Lodge plays Mac. One of Blake Edwards' friends, Herb Tanney, appears as the Nice Police Chief3. He would later appear in many Blake Edwards films, but always with a different alias.

Michael Sellers, in his biography of his father PS I Love You, described the casting by saying:

Dad admired [Herbert Lom] as an actor, having first worked with him on The Lady Killers. But while he valued their friendship, he never saw Herbert as a real friend as he did Graham [Stark] and David [Lodge], both of whom occasionally played supporting roles in the Panthers. Dad didn't ever forget his chums whenever he made a film. If there was a part he knew would suit a friend he would suggest their name for it.

Eric Pohlmann had appeared as Bergesch in Inspector Clouseau, the only connection with the previous film. The minor roles are played by people well-known to British television comedy and science fiction. Peter Jones, the psychiatrist, is famous for being the Book in the radio and television series of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Catherine Schell is best known for being Maya in Space: 1999 and would later star with Peter Sellers again in The Prisoner of Zenda. John Bluthal, a close friend of Spike Milligan, would go on to play Frank Pickles in The Vicar of Dibley. Carol Cleveland, who has a brief bikini-clad appearance, was famous as the female performer of Monty Python's Flying Circus. Victor Spinetti appeared in three Beatles films, A Hard Day's Night, Help! and Magical Mystery Tour and would later be the voice of villainous Texas Pete in cartoon series SuperTed.

Although David Niven had played Sir Charles Lytton in The Pink Panther he was unavailable, busy filming Paper Tiger, leading to Christopher Plummer being cast in the same role. Christopher Plummer had appeared with Blake Edwards' wife Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music. He is also famous for being General Chang in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country and later voiced the villainous Charles Muntz in Up. He is also the oldest actor to win an Oscar, in 2012 for Beginners. David Niven returned to play Sir Charles Lytton twice more, in Trail of the Pink Panther and Curse of the Pink Panther.

Additionally, two characters are mentioned but not seen. The first is the replacement Commissioner. The second is a Dr Auguste Balls of Nice who Clouseau mentions successfully treated an aunt with high blood pressure; presumably the same Doctor Auguste Balls responsible for creating Clouseau's disguises.

Peter Sellers would later move to Gstaad with his fourth wife, Lynn Frederick in 1979.

The Making of Return of the Pink Panther

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, both Blake Edwards and Peter Sellers experienced difficult periods of their careers. Thirteen Peter Sellers films in a row had flopped, including the financial catastrophe Casino Royale and The Magic Christian. Three films were not even released, and even The Party had only been a disappointingly modest success. He began appearing in minor films, on television and even in adverts, desperate to keep his acting career afloat4. Similarly, Blake Edwards was experiencing a decline in his career after the spectacular failure of Darling Lili and The Tamarind Seed. United Artists, who now owned the Mirisch Corporation, were uninterested in resurrecting the Pink Panther series, represented by two burned-out talents and the flop that was Inspector Clouseau.

Highly Graded

However, Lew Grade remembered the first two films fondly and so his television company ITC Entertainment approached Blake Edwards, intending to make a 26-episode Clouseau television series. Blake Edwards convinced Lew Grade to make a film instead. Lew Grade purchased the rights to the film himself by giving United Artists a percentage of the profits and short-term worldwide distribution rights, with the rights to later revert back to ITC5.

ITC made several television series in the 1950s-80s, including Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons, and The Muppet Show. It made many notable films, including Capricorn One, plus Jim Henson films The Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper, and The Dark Crystal. However, ITC suffered from two box office failures in 1980, Can't Stop The Music, a film starring the Village People released just as disco lost its popularity, and Raise The Titanic, a film which cost twice as much as The Empire Strikes Back and only recovered 20% of its phenomenal cost.

Return to Form

Both Sellers and Edwards, who had last worked together on The Party were keen to be given this second chance to prove themselves after the failures of recent years, and so eagerly agreed.

Peter Sellers would describe his return to playing Clouseau with the words:

He's basically the same. He looks the same, the only difference is we've made some of his pronunciations more marked.

Blake Edwards referred to his making the film with the words:

If you caught Peter when he was on a down grade he'd be okay he was manageable, he'd be rational and wanted to be successful so he could get back on top. Peter was extremely happy because I was able to negotiate almost for him in terms of a certain amount of risk-taking but if it worked the rewards would be enormous so Peter got quite wealthy from that project. And again it was a fun time, really enjoyable great time.

The cinematography was by the legendary Geoffrey Unsworth OBE, one of the 20th Century's greatest cinematographers. He won two Oscars and five BAFTAs in his career, and was responsible for photography on films including 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Night To Remember, Cabaret, The Magic Christian with Peter Sellers, A Bridge Too Far and Superman. As a result, the film is beautifully shot.

The film script was written by Frank Waldman, who had co-written Inspector Clouseau and The Party, and Blake Edwards, who had co-written the first two Pink Panther film scripts.

Michael Sellers wrote in his biography of his father:

Blake Edwards invited me to work on the video equipment of The Return of the Pink Panther. My initial enthusiasm however quickly waned. For three months I just hung around on set, with less to do than the clapper boy.

Deleted Scenes

When making this film, Peter Sellers often improvised. Consequently, many scenes were recorded and left out of this film. These include a cameo appearance by director Blake Edwards' wife Julie Andrews, who appeared as the maid who carried Clouseau out of Lady Lytton's hotel room to his own small room after Lady Lytton had poisoned him. Edwards had hoped to use some of these scenes when he later compiled clip show Trail of the Pink Panther; he was unable however to afford the price that ITC were charging. Sadly to date the deleted scenes have never been released.


Edwards and Lew Grade had made a highly perceptive move, as Return of the Pink Panther became the second most successful film of 1975 worldwide, after Jaws. The film had cost only $2 million to make and had made over $100 million profit. Following this success it was inevitable that United Artists would be keen to continue the series.

Perhaps the greatest legacy of the film is how it has inspired police comedy since. Clouseau is a gendarme (before being reinstated as inspector) with a moustache who mispronounces words. The character of Officer Crabtree in television sitcom 'Allo 'Allo would also be a gendarme with an identical moustache who mispronounces words to comic effect. Clouseau's investigation of the scene of the Pink Panther theft shares similarities with the investigation of the Crown Jewel theft in the film Johnny English.


Henry Mancini returned to compose for The Return of the Pink Panther. Once again the soundtrack would be dominated by instrumental numbers with a single song with lyrics by Hal David, 'The Greatest Gift'. Sadly this song is not one of Mancini's strongest, and comes across as the sort of song you would expect to hear in a high-quality lift. As in the first film, the theme that everyone associates with the Pink Panther was used to represent the Phantom jewel thief, rather than the Pink Panther diamond itself. It is played at the start of the film during the robbery sequence, and again when Sir Charles and Lady Lytton are reunited.


A soundtrack album was released for this film. It contained the songs:

  • 'The Pink Panther Theme'
  • 'The Greatest Gift' (Instrumental)
  • 'Here's Looking At You, Kid'
  • 'Summer in Gstaad'
  • 'So Smooth'
  • 'The Return of the Pink Panther' (Part I and II)
  • 'The Greatest Gift'
  • 'The Orange Float'
  • 'Dreamy'
  • 'Disco'
  • 'Navel Maneuver'
  • 'Belly Belly Bum Bum'
  • 'The Wet Look'


In many ways, The Return of the Pink Panther is indeed a return to The Pink Panther, with dollops of the other two films Blake Edwards and Peter Sellers had collaborated on, A Shot in the Dark and The Party, thrown in for good measure. Just as in The Pink Panther the film begins in the fictional country of Lugash before the credits roll, followed immediately after the credits with a daring robbery with the villain escaping capture by the police. Just like The Pink Panther much of the film is set in a hotel in the Alps next to a ski resort. And just like The Pink Panther, the real jewel thief is a woman, allowing Sir Charles Lytton to be the chief suspect.

The supporting characters of Dreyfus and Cato return from A Shot in the Dark, with Cato's character settling into the role and escaping from the apartment in which he was previously confined. Cato is, as before, on instruction to attack Clouseau without warning to help hone his self-defence skills. His first attack again ends with a phone call from Dreyfus, identical to A Shot in the Dark. Dreyfus, having been on a murdering rampage in A Shot in the Dark, has been severely punished for his crimes by being demoted from Commissioner of Police to Chief Inspector, but even this harsh sentence does not prevent him from once again going on a killing spree.

Blake Edwards references other films, particularly Casablanca and To Catch a Thief. Casablanca's 'As Time Goes By' can be heard shortly after Sir Charles arrives in Lugash, and the line 'here's looking at you, kid' is not only in the film but is also the title of a track on the soundtrack. Much of the plot revolves around the idea that only a retired jewel thief can catch the real thief, with 'The Phantom' replacing To Catch a Thief's 'The Cat', and the real jewel thief being revealed to be a woman. The overflowing toilet joke and the destruction of Lady Lytton's hotel room painting seem like retakes of similar scenes from Edwards' film The Party.

Although many of the jokes have been used before, there is no denying that sometimes the old ones are the best and still work. There are some brilliant and unforeseen comic moments. This can be seen in how actress Catherine Schell cannot keep a straight face during her scenes with Peter Sellers, which as an actress she has justified by arguing that Lady Lytton would be similarly amused by Clouseau.

There are some new ideas in the film. The jewel, the Pink Panther, has suddenly become Lugash's religious symbol for over a thousand years, even if it is kept in the Royal Museum rather than a temple or mosque. Lugash also seems to have had its monarchy restored, with frequent mention of a Shah of Lugash. How the Pink Panther returned to Lugash and what happened to Princess Dala is never explained. The film feels larger in scope than it appears, implying off-screen political intrigue, with the character of Colonel Sharki using the theft of the Pink Panther as an excuse to dispose of his political enemies.

Christopher Plummer works well as a replacement for David Niven. It is true that the plot splits the action between the Sellers half of the film and the Plummer half, with the two only meeting at the end; however this allows the film to be both a tense crime drama in the Lytton half and a comedy in the Clouseau half. Once again Clouseau does not solve the case, but instead is led to the conclusion when the culprit is revealed by Lady Lytton. The ending is left a little open, as Clouseau arrests both Lord and Lady Lytton, but even though the Pink Panther is in their possession, neither is imprisoned. Presumably both Lyttons accused Colonel Sharki of stealing the jewel, framing the Phantom and wishing to kill both the Lyttons and Clouseau to cover up his crime once he had eliminated his enemies in Lugash.

Animated Credit Sequence

Unlike previous films, the animated opening sequence was by Richard Williams Studio with Ken Harris. De-Patie-Frelang Enterprises were busy making the 'Pink Panther and friends' television series for United Artists and unable to do the credits at the time. Richard Williams had previously animated credit sequences for Peter Sellers films What's New, Pussycat? and Casino Royale, and would later animate Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

Like the start of The Pink Panther, the credits open with a zoom in on the Pink Panther jewel. However, the panther inside the jewel is seen standing with his back to the camera, neither sitting as he did in The Pink Panther, nor leaping as described in the films. He smokes, puts on a top hat, transforms his cigarette holder into a cane, turns his hat into a smaller hat and does a dance as the Inspector character appears beneath him. The names of the stars appear on screen in bright lights as if they were at a classy cinema and the panther walks through a door, chased by the Inspector. The panther drives off in a giant stretched limo to a cinema red carpet while the Inspector arrives by a small, wobbly scooter. The Panther dances in a fruit hat and walks through another door, chased by the Inspector. The panther impersonates a gangster, a John Wayne-esque cowboy, Groucho Marx, Charlie Chaplin, Mickey Mouse, a ballerina, and Frankenstein's monster, which throws a switch and electrocutes the inspector. The panther tap dances up some steps, cuts a ribbon and swims gracefully while the Inspector breast-strokes after him, before multiple panthers walk across the screen.

The end credits have the panther visiting Dreyfus in his padded cell, waving at him, calling the credits to roll, and filming Dreyfus writing 'The End' with his right foot.

Connections with other films

  • Disguises
    All films in the series feature disguises:
    • Clouseau's as a man from Acme Swimming Pool Service.
    • Clouseau as the telephone repair troubleshooter Emile Flournoy.
    • Clouseau as a hotel porter with vacuum cleaner, complete with a private moustache.
    • Clouseau's best disguise: hiding in Lady Lytton's sauna with a towel over his head.
    • Clouseau's final disguise: nightclub attendee Guy Gadbois.
    • Sir Charles Lytton's fake passport, in which he is Dr Marvin Tanny.
    • Cato's as a Japanese waitress, in order to attack Clouseau.
  • Clouseau Clumsiness:
    • He falls over holding onto a trolley, similar to his earlier escapades with a globe.
    • He rushes into the Lyttons' room just as the is door opened, similar to in A Shot in the Dark.
    • Clouseau again falls into water – in this case a swimming pool, twice, both times in cars.
    • Clouseau manages to destroy Lugash Royal Museum, a bell, a vacuum cleaner and a radio.
    • Clouseau glues his trousers to a chair and a Bell Boy later pulls his trousers down. His suit was torn in A Shot in the Dark.
  • Dreadful Dreyfus:
    • Accident-prone Dreyfus shoots his face, his nose and accidentally shoots Francois. He was clumsy with stationery in A Shot in the Dark.
    • When talking to his psychiatrist, Dreyfus says 'minkey' and 'soul-ved'.
  • Clouseau tells a taxi driver to 'Follow that car!' He had previously done so in Inspector Clouseau.
  • Clouseau asks a blind beggar whether he has a licence for playing musical instrument for purposes of commercial enterprise. Clouseau was frequently arrested for not having licences in A Shot in the Dark.
  • After falling in the swimming pool and getting soaking wet, Clouseau talks of getting pneumonia, just as he had in A Shot in the Dark, only with the Nice Police Chief.
  • The Gstaad hotel parrot defecates on Clouseau. He was defecated on by a crow in A Shot in the Dark.
  • Clouseau carries a baguette and is disliked by the landlady across the corridor. This would recur in The Pink Panther Strikes Again.
  • Just like in A Shot in the Dark, someone delivers Clouseau a bomb.
  • Again Clouseau has a bath, which breaks and floods along with the toilet. Baths featured in the previous two films starring Peter Sellers, and a flooding toilet featured in The Party.
  • Cato and Clouseau fight in slow motion for the first time, repeating the stunt in 'Strikes Again' and 'Revenge'.
  • Like Inspector Clouseau, the film climaxes in Switzerland.


A novelisation was written by Frank Waldman, and published in 1976. This is 141 pages long and has 31 chapters. Although it does follow the plot of the film, there are frequent changes and additional scenes, and the style it is written in is humorous, but not as successfully as the film. It begins with a new scene of Clouseau arresting a nun in front of the Notre Dame Cathedral for loitering, which is given as the reason why Clouseau has been demoted from Inspector to Gendarme. The National Museum, rather than Royal Museum of Lugash is described as containing only the Pink Panther and the museum's toilets, with visitors only there because Lugash Airport was where passenger aeroplanes on their way to more important destinations often stopped for a few hours to refuel.

The Doctor Auguste Balls who treated Clouseau's aunt's blood pressure is now Dr August Tufield, and the person attempting to assassinate Clouseau is revealed as soon as the brakes on his swimming pool lorry are tampered with. The Nice Police Chief is called 'Bonnard', Lady Claudine Lytton is Lady Caroline Lytton. Clouseau's 'reum' at the hotel in Gstaad has more prominence, described as being a small room just large enough for a bed and wardrobe with a microscopic bathroom in the sub-basement. A scene occurs after he has been poisoned in which he awakes frozen bent over at a 90 degree angle in his room in desperate need of the toilet and unable to move.

The novelisation has a slightly different ending. Sir Charles and 'Caroline' Lytton have five children. The newly promoted Chief Inspector Clouseau visits Dreyfus in the lunatic asylum, and to make the asylum feel like home for Dreyfus brings him nuts and a clock which constantly says 'Cuckoo - Cuckoo', presents he feels are perfect for someone who is nuts and a little cuckoo. This angers Doctor Duval, Dreyfus' psychiatrist, a character who appears at the beginning of The Pink Panther Strikes Again.

The Pink Panther Films
The Pink Panther (1964) | A Shot In The Dark | Inspector Clouseau
The Return of the Pink Panther | The Pink Panther Strikes Again | Revenge of the Pink Panther
Trail of the Pink Panther | Curse of the Pink Panther | Son of the Pink Panther

1Technically he was framed for its robbery in the film The Pink Panther.2Though for consistency, we will refer to him throughout as Lytton.3The chief of police for the French town of Nice, not someone playing Good Cop, Bad Cop.4Despite his own career failure, he still used his influence to begin and fund an advertising campaign for Mel Brooks' film The Producers, which was being ignored and undistributed after it was made.5This is why this film is not contained within Pink Panther box sets.

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