Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Funniest Pink Panther Movie of Them All

When I was growing up, my family did a lot of things together.

But no experience compared to that of seeing a funny movie with my parents.

Sometimes we would watch funny movies on TV because they had been out of the theaters for years, and TV was the only place you could see them. Most of the time, my parents had seen those movies before, and they knew when their favorites moments were coming up.

But sometimes we caught the movies at the theaters. They were new to my parents on those occasions, and Mom and Dad had no idea when the funniest moments would occur.

Whether we were watching the TV in our living room or the big screen at a theater, I always knew when my father thought something was genuinely funny. He had a laugh that seemed to roll its way up his windpipe, gathering momentum as it did, and then exploded from his mouth — as if there was simply no way he could contain it.

I tended to judge a supposedly funny movie by how many laughs like that it could coax from him.

On many occasions, a movie might get one such laugh from him. The rest of the time, he might give a polite laugh or two when something was supposed to be humorous, but, for the most part, those movies were not genuinely funny.

The more belly laughs a movie could prod from him, the funnier it was.

"The Pink Panther Strikes Again" — which made its debut on this day in 1976 — had him laughing from start to finish.

It was genuinely funny.

Actually, all of the "Pink Panther" movies were family favorites. My mother, as I have said before, was a huge Peter Sellers fan, and both of my parents were devotees of detective fiction.

That made the "Pink Panther" movies naturals — and, for my money, the one that premiered on this day 35 years ago was the funniest of them all.

It was a spoof of everything — from the running gags in the previous "Pink Panther" flicks (we all got a kick out of Clouseau's man servant, Cato, ambushing his employer in his cavernous apartment to keep him on his toes) to the jokes that abounded at the time about then–President Ford's legendary pratfalls and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger's thick German accent.

Most of the humor in the movie derived from the former chief inspector (Herbert Lom) who had escaped from the asylum to which he was sent after Clouseau's idiocy drove him over the edge.

After his escape, the former chief inspector assembled a gang of the world's greatest criminals whose sole objective would be to kill Clouseau — and it became Clouseau's objective to stop him.

Thus, the wheels were set in motion for what may have been the most wildly improbable detective story ever. Even now, I am hesitant to reveal any more of the details — because if you haven't seen it, you should.

Of course, I wouldn't recommend seeing it without seeing the others first. It simply won't be as funny otherwise.

So go ahead and do that.

We'll resume the discussion when the case is solv–ed.