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Peter Sellers Is the Life of 'The Party'

January 03, 1991|ROBERT ROHWER

Remember the cocktail party segment of television's "Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In," where everybody in bell-bottoms and miniskirts danced to "hip" late-'60s music, pausing only long enough for somebody to tell a joke? Well, that's essentially the plot of "The Party," directed by Blake Edwards.

The team of comic genius Peter Sellers and Edwards brought to life one of the screen's most unforgettable characters, Inspector Clousseau, in 1964's "The Pink Panther" and "A Shot in the Dark." While the bumbling French detective went on hiatus until 1974's "The Return of the Pink Panther," the two men responsible ran smack into the peace and love movement.

"The Party," recently released on videocassette, is Edwards' flamboyant look at a chic Hollywood party circa 1968, and while it isn't as mean-spirited as his "S.O.B." (1981), it does take some pokes at the people who grease the star-making machinery. Its focus, however, is on Sellers as actor Hrundi V. Bakshi from India.

The movie's cleverest moment comes early on, when Bakshi, as the trumpeter in a "Gunga Din" remake, makes the most of his death scene, taking bullets from both the enemy and his own troops before sounding his last blast. After accidentally blowing up a fort before the director gives the signal, Bakshi is run off the set and told he'll never make another movie. "Does that include television, sir?" he responds.

But instead of being placed on a blacklist, Bakshi winds up on an invitation list to a party at the house of the movie company's president.

Edwards, who co-wrote the script with Tom and Frank Waldman, uses the ultramodern house (a lavish set with an indoor swimming pool, retractable bar, control center and every luxury in the old Monsanto Home of the Future at Disneyland) for Sellers' sight gags. He pulls off the physical comedy, which ranges from the sublime to the ridiculous, with ease.

Sellers' love interest is Claudine Longet, who plays an aspiring actress from France (what a stretch!), attending the party on the arm of Hollywood agent C.S. Divot (Gavin MacLeod).

"The Party" (1968), directed by Blake Edwards. 99 minutes. No rating .

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