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The Party
cast: Peter Sellers, Claudine Longet, and Steve Franken

director: Blake Edwards

95 minutes (PG) 1968
MGM DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by J.C. Hartley

The Party

This is a slight, but fondly remembered collaboration between Peter Sellers and Blake Edwards, following their earlier success with The Pink Panther and A Shot In The Dark. It's remarkable for the improvisational approach adopted in developing scenes, the film is an early study in the comedy of embarrassment.

Hrundi V. Bakshi (Peter Sellers), a jobbing actor, sabotages filming of a northwest frontier movie through a combination of over-acting, continuity oversights and clumsiness. Warned he will never work again his name is inadvertently added to the guest list for the party to be thrown by the wife of the studio head. Bakshi arrives in his little sports car and proceeds to wreak havoc like a diffident Hindustani M. Hulot. Sellers manages to make much of a role that clearly existed more as a notion than as a character on the page, while those around him inhabit their own self-concerned little worlds, largely only called upon to react to the mayhem that Bakshi engenders.

French actress Claudine Longet as Michele Monet (a character name she reprised for an episode of TV's Alias Smith And Jones) is the hopeful starlet whom Bakshi saves from the casting couch. Steve Franken (Westworld) plays an alcoholic waiter occasionally called upon as Sellers' foil. The laughs are gentle ones although the combination of sight gags and slapstick, and Sellers' linguistic idiosyncrasies might go down as a bigger hoot after a return from the pub. The scene where Bakshi, in a house full of bathrooms, desperately searches for somewhere to pee is a brilliantly developed gag.

The hosts' hi-tech pad and the hip pot-smoking jazz trio provide cultural indicators for the late 1960s, and then the studio head's daughter arrives accompanied by her rich-kid trendy friends and a baby elephant daubed with 'far-out' graffiti. The daughter (Kathe Green) is the most unlikely radical ever but does well showing off her long legs in a miniskirt and diving into the indoor pool to rescue her mother. The party concludes as the residence is taken over by encroaching soap bubbles, generated by Bakshi and his young helpers' attempts to wash the elephant combined with some overactive air-conditioning. The jazzmen playing on, like the orchestra on the deck of the Titanic, as they disappear under the foam is one of the high spots of the film. The soundtrack combines some early sitar stuff, mainstream psychedelic vibes, and cool jazz; Henry Mancini provides the sounds, and his Meglio Stasera from The Pink Panther can be heard in one scene.

A second disc provides a host of extras, including filmmaker profiles and a couple of documentaries, a 'making-of' featurette, and a look at how then-new technology was harnessed to provide Edwards with video footage of scenes on set. There is a collection of interviews with Sellers, and three commercials for Barclay's bank, wherein he plays 'Monte Casino', the wide-boy duping unsuspecting punters out of their cash, unlike the banks that do it legitimately with extortionate charges.
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