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Indian actor Hurundi V. Bakshi (Peter Sellers) is employed as an extra in an elaborate Hollywood remake of Gunga Din but the accident prone Bakshi is dismissed after blowing up an expensive set before the cameras roll. Instead of ending up on his employer's blacklist he is mistakenly added to a list of invitees to a lavish party at the producer's high-tech home. Bakshi's natural curiosity creates further havoc at the party, attended by the director (Gavin McLeod) who fails to recognise the stumblebum he had fired in the first place. Only a sweet-natured French starlet (Claudine Longet) takes pity on him but even she falls victim to Bakshi's clumsiness.

Review by Keith Lofthouse:
If Charlie Chaplin was the world's funniest man in the 1920s, he was succeeded by W.C. Fields in the 30s, by Jacques Tati in the 50s and by a chameleon named Peter Sellers in the 60s. Sellers won international fame for his work as the bumbling Inspector Clouseau in the popular Pink Panther movies (a role that had been ear-marked for Peter Ustinov) but he had already rehearsed Hurundi V. Bakshi, the calamitous Indian clumsy-clot, by playing a poor Indian physician opposite Sophia Loren in The Millionairess (1960). Bakshi, a Bollywood import serving as a battlefield bugler in a Hollywood remake of Gunga Din, is a walking catastrophe who is ordered from the set when he accidentally blows-up a desert fortress before it can be filmed. Bakshi then wreaks further havoc when he blunders into a lavish party of obnoxious swells at which the film's hapless producer plays host. Apart from the opening and closing exteriors, the film is almost entirely shot on a set representing a swanky split level Beverly Hills pad, complete with indoor and outdoor pools that clearly signal a drenching.

A bleak, box-office failure on release, The Party was largely experimental, shot in improvised sequence from the bare bones of Blake Edwards' original idea and intended to approximate the plot-less style of the French master, Tati. But here, Sellers is Chaplin, Clouseau, Hulot and Stan Laurel, all at once. His timing is exquisite, even if Edwards (who had a habit of sustaining a gag for two moments too long) is off key. Bakshi is a humble "have not" among the "haves" of Hollywood; a tint-coloured fish out of water, trying to look cool, despite losing a shoe in the ornamental pool, or shooting his cowboy hero Wyoming Bill Kelso (Denny Miller) in the head with a kid's target gun, or squirming with the need to take a pee and then fighting a losing battle with the bathroom plumbing. Longet is the budding starlet who takes pity on Bakshi while trying to free herself from the tentacles of a lecherous director (McLeod) and Steve Franken received the best notices of his modest career as an insolent waiter who becomes increasingly inebriated as the party parties on.

Alas, the slapstick shenanigans become so relentless that it finally resembles a Marx Bros farce when everyone...from balalaika plucking Russians to baby elephants...jam into the house and tumble into the pool. The Henry Mancini soundtrack is pure Austin Powers (groovy, baby!) which tends to date it a bit, but for every laugh that misses many still hit the spot...or in this case, the clot. The Party influenced Edwards ten years later in the making of 10, a clever, more sophisticated comedy that starred Dudley Moore and Bo Derek as his fantasy. 10 recharged Moore's sputtering career...but it was Sellers who was given first refusal. Footnote: Former college basketball star Miller was the screen's first blond Tarzan.

Published September 1, 2005

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(US, 1968)

CAST: Peter Sellers, Claudine Longet, Gavin McLeod

DIRECTOR: Blake Edwards

SCRIPT: Blake Edwards, Tom Waldman. Frank Waldman

RUNNING TIME: 98 minutes

PRESENTATION: Widescreen (2.35:1/16:9) Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround. Languages: English, German, French, Italian, Spanish

SPECIAL FEATURES: Inside The Party featurette, Vintage interviews with Peter Sellers. The Party Revolution: A New Technology featurette. Filmmaker profiles. Photo Gallery. Sellers Barclays Bank Commercials. Original Theatrical Trailer

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Sony Home Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: August 24, 2005

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