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Daily Dose of Doozy #11: Building a Character as Slapstick: Peter Sellers


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#1 Rejana Raj

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Posted 14 October 2016 - 02:39 PM

In the scene, I liked this gag performed by the eccentric Peter Sellers who rips the billiard board with the curved cue stick. The effect of it is that of ripping the cloth. I also liked other gags like stumbling with the cue stick stand and he unknowingly bumps through the wall which I think is a small homage to classic slapstick gags.

Inspector Clouseau is an amateurish detective who finds himself in odd and sticky situations. In other words, everyone may think that he is gawky and oafish with his silly actions but the character thinks that he is a diligent fellow.

Inspector Clouseau is one of the most memorable comic detectives who bumbles with their hilarious antics. Classic Slapstick Movies tries to bring comic elements in the movies which may bring laugh as well as suspense together. I find Leslie Nielsen version of detective Frank Drebin as an American version of Inspector Clouseau.

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#2 pumatamer

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Posted 08 October 2016 - 06:56 PM

Select one gag from this scene and describe why it is effective as visual and verbal comedy? (You can include discussion of performance, costume, props, set design, sound design) The gag with the pool sticks was my favorite. Pool is a game of concentration and his knocking down the sticks, that went in all directions, combined with the loud noise was brilliant. Also, Sellers, efforts to control the chaos just add to the comedy

#3 Popcorn97

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Posted 03 October 2016 - 09:16 AM

1. Select one gag from this scene and describe why it is effective as visual and verbal comedy? (You can include discussion of performance, costume, props, set design, sound design)

One of the gags I liked was the pool stick gag. How was curved. Because what makes that funny is because people who play pool almost want a curved pool stick for various moves. As we see it can only work one way.

 

2. From this scene, what are key characteristics you would use to describe Inspector Clouseau? Based on those characteristics, what makes Clouseau an effective slapstick character?

He is smart at times, clumsy, funny and even dumb. He uses whats around him in the scene on the set to make slapstick funny.

 

 

 

3. Making fun of police/detective work is a line of slapstick comedy that stretches all the way back to Mack Sennett's Keystone Kops in the silent film era. What does Inspector Clouseau add to the history of slapstick characters in law enforcement?

 

We laugh at him, he does dumb things but in the end always gets his man. And we can see another law enforcement comedy making fun of that dept yrs later with the Naked Gun films...it was also first a TV show by the way.



#4 rajmct01

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Posted 02 October 2016 - 01:57 AM

I was very fortunate that I saw The Pink Panther when it came out. There were sophisticated people all around and this buffoon trying to catch a jewel thief. In A Shot in the Dark, the scene where they are driving in his car, and are naked, and can be seen from an adjoining bus is nothing I have seen anywhere else.

.

Peter Sellers added the clumsiness of Clouseau while he is trying so hard to be taken seriously. Previously you did not have sound. Now the verbal adds to the scene.

#5 rajmct01

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Posted 02 October 2016 - 01:07 AM

I was very fortunate that I saw The Pink Panther when it came out. There were sophisticated people all around and this buffoon trying to catch a jewel thief. In A Shot in the Dark, the scene where they are driving in his car, and are naked, and can be seen from an adjoining bus is nothing I have seen anywhere else.

#6 fediukc1991

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Posted 01 October 2016 - 04:45 PM

One of the gags are when he tries to put one of the pool table sticks back with the rest and all of them falls. Inspector Closeau is a charming, clumsy charatcer. He is a protagonist in slapstick comedy. He adds clumsiness.



#7 Laughing Bird

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Posted 30 September 2016 - 09:53 AM

1. Select one gag from this scene and describe why it is effective as visual and verbal comedy?

 

The final punch: Clouseau has fixed his tie, regains his self-composure, restores his dignity with “Well, we shall continue this at another time,” bows politely and elegantly, then walks into the wall on other side of the opened door.  To repeat his drawing attention away from himself as when he blamed the cue rack designer, he scape-goats the absent architect.


2. From this scene, what are key characteristics you would use to describe Inspector Clouseau? Based on those characteristics, what makes Clouseau an effective slapstick character?

 

He is a romantic, proud, cultured and polite, declarative, counfounding, clutsy, self-effacing, accusatory, dead-pan, begrudgingly compliant.


3. Making fun of police/detective work is a line of slapstick comedy that stretches all the way back to Mack Sennett's Keystone Kops in the silent film era. What does Inspector Clouseau add to the history of slapstick characters in law enforcement?

 

He has a well-developed sense of culture and politeness inspite of his ineptness.

 

 

-Would you kill for her?  “Ofcourse...not.” He’s a romantic, yet still true to is idea of being incorruptible.

-Still you shot.... Yes... Vehement, must now draw in his reins.

-Sees that cue is curved, but too proud to change it. 

-rips cloth – oops – tries to fix it, obviously impossible – then is self-effacing and apologetic

- his presence as the heroic crime-fighting inspector gradually falls apart with each gag

-the obvious response after servant says phone call is for Mr. Clouseau ... “Ah, that would be for me.”

When he takes call, he is able to restore some of his dignity.

-Well-honed manners and use of big words, like “I wonder if you would oblige...”  And he always addresses Mr. Bellont when he talks to him.

-Bellont asks Clouseau to put away his cue for him – Rather than being insulted, Clouseau is begrudgingly compliant.

-Cues all come loose – he continues to try to gather them – great physical comedy.  Polite again, when he thanks the servant.  Then blames a third-party, non-present scape-goat- the cue rack designer.

-fixes his tie, restores his self-dignity, says, “Well, we will continue,” bows and walks into wall. 


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#8 Logano26

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Posted 26 September 2016 - 04:48 PM

"A rit of fealous jage!" Inspector Clouseau is educated beyond his intelligence. He has the words, floating around in his brain, but getting them out in the correct sequence is beyond him. Just as he's able to play billiards, but not without the calamity of a bent pool cue destroying the felt.

Clouseau isn't the smash-and-grab idiocy of the Keystone Kops, he's a subtler form of idiot. More refined and able to mingle with the high class, Clouseau almost fits into their world, until he talks for too long or tries to do essentially anything (like stack pool cues).



#9 Bill Holmes

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Posted 26 September 2016 - 03:22 PM

Sellers plays Clouseau as the perfect intersection of mental and physical bumbling, yet always forging ahead with oblivious confidence. What's funny is that he sort of owns up to the first gaffe (ripping the felt on the table), but tries to pass off the second goof (stack of pool cues) as a manufacturing defect and then, when walking into the wall, tries to cover his humiliation with righteous indignation. I don't think he could have handled a fourth - but there was no risk of that since comedy has a "rule of threes" for a reason.

 

What really makes this work is the unflappable George Sanders as the foil. Ray Davies nailed it in "Celluloid Heroes" ("If you covered him with garbage/George Sanders would still have style...") and any reaction whatsoever from his character would have ruined the slapstick slow burn the audience enjoyed...as we knew Clouseau was headed from the first disaster to the second to the third.



#10 T-Newton

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Posted 26 September 2016 - 11:20 AM

And, since it is Sunday, going off-topic... The Goonies were recorded and partly produced by a young George Martin, who went on to produce a bunch of raggedy muffins called The Beatles. Anyone heard of them? A bit of slapstick in their films, thanks to Richard Lester.

A Hard Day's Night, there wasn't a whole lot of slapstick, but 1965's Help! had quite a bit.

 

Anywho, getting to the questions

 

1. Select one gag from this scene and describe why it is effective as visual and verbal comedy?

 

My response: The door bit at the end of the scene. Clouseau, after making a mess out of the pool cue stand, which is also a great gag, tries to compose himself and rush out the door, only to hit the wall on the other side, therefore ending the scene by saying "I suggest you have your architect investigated as well." A brilliant comeback.

 

2. From this scene, what are key characteristics you would use to describe Inspector Clouseau? Based on those characteristics, what makes Clouseau an effective slapstick character?

 

My response: Peter Sellers is a British actor playing a French investigator, therefore, he uses an exaggerated French accent. Closeau, though he takes his work seriously as any police officer would, is a bumbling idiot, and Sellers uses his athleticism and tenacity to illustrate Clouseau's unintentional carelessness.

 

3. Making fun of police/detective work is a line of slapstick comedy that stretches all the way back to Mack Sennett's Keystone Kops in the silent film era. What does Inspector Clouseau add to the history of slapstick characters in law enforcement?

 

My response: Clouseau is a trooper in his own right. He practically goes along with whatever scenario he's in, good or bad, but in the end, he actually succeeds at what he does and is hailed a hero. That's pretty much what makes him different compared to other slapstick cop characters.



#11 startspreading

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Posted 25 September 2016 - 08:56 PM

1. Select one gag from this scene and describe why it is effective as visual and verbal comedy? (You can include discussion of performance, costume, props, set design, sound design)

 

I chose the billiard gag, in the beginning of the clip. We first see Clouseau angrily passing his hand through the billiard cue while he questions the suspect, and we see then the effect: the cue now has a curve! Here we have our first visual joke. Then, Clouseau proceeds to play with the curved cue, he holds it and we hear, off screen, the sound of the curved cue tearing the billiard table. We have in this gag mainly the visual and sound elements.

 

2. From this scene, what are key characteristics you would use to describe Inspector Clouseau? Based on those characteristics, what makes Clouseau an effective slapstick character?

 

Clouseau is, above all, clumsy. And he doesn’t seem to care, or at least he tries to keep a serious expression in his face when most people, in his situation, would be embarrassed. His clumsiness makes him very likeable – we like Clouseau just like we like Chaplin’s Tramp, Buster, Lloyd’s “glasses” character or Cantinflas. He is an underdog we root for, and one who has, deep down inside, something good to offer (not his brains, of course).

 

3. Making fun of police/detective work is a line of slapstick comedy that stretches all the way back to Mack Sennett's Keystone Kops in the silent film era. What does Inspector Clouseau add to the history of slapstick characters in law enforcement?

 

Clouseau is, at first, completely incompetent – and yet he is the one who is called when a difficult, puzzling case appears. It is like we are informed that we can’t trust a law enforcement person, but we have no choice, no matter if it is Clouseau or the Keystone Kops.



#12 ln040150

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Posted 25 September 2016 - 04:20 PM

Peter Sellers would so completely lose himself in the characters he played, that he lost his sense of self.
 
When an interviewer asked him, "Who is the REAL Peter Sellers?", Peter famously replied, "There is no real me.  There was one once, but I had it surgically removed."
 
Peter first became famous on the BBC Radio series "The Goon Show".  It's a masterpiece of surrealism and lunacy (Spike Milligan, who wrote it, claimed he'd sacrificed his sanity for it.),  and incredibly clever word-play.  The episodes are easily found on the internet, but, unless you're really good with accents, they can be hard to follow.  I'm the only one in my family who can understand them.  I've heard them so many times that I now have a Pavlovian response whenever I hear some of the feed-lines.  For example, whenever someone says, "My name is...", I instinctively shoot back, "What a memory you have!". 
 
Other things the Goons have taught me:  "Spoon" is always pronounced "spune".  When you're sick, you have the Lurgi.  And one of the most annoying voices in my repertoire is Bluebottle's frequent falsetto cry of, "Yeuheuheuheu!  You rotten swine!  You have deaded me!  I do not like this game."
 
The Goons were a huge influence on the Pythons and the Goodies.  When Prince Charles was a child, he loved "The Goon Show" too.

And, since it is Sunday, going off-topic... The Goonies were recorded and partly produced by a young George Martin, who went on to produce a bunch of raggedy muffins called The Beatles. Anyone heard of them? A bit of slapstick in their films, thanks to Richard Lester.

#13 Larynxa

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Posted 25 September 2016 - 03:50 PM

Peter Sellers would so completely lose himself in the characters he played, that he lost his sense of self.

 

When an interviewer asked him, "Who is the REAL Peter Sellers?", Peter famously replied, "There is no real me.  There was one once, but I had it surgically removed."

 

Peter first became famous on the BBC Radio series "The Goon Show".  It's a masterpiece of surrealism and lunacy (Spike Milligan, who wrote it, claimed he'd sacrificed his sanity for it.),  and incredibly clever word-play.  The episodes are easily found on the internet, but, unless you're really good with accents, they can be hard to follow.  I'm the only one in my family who can understand them.  I've heard them so many times that I now have a Pavlovian response whenever I hear some of the feed-lines.  For example, whenever someone says, "My name is...", I instinctively shoot back, "What a memory you have!". 

 

Other things the Goons have taught me:  "Spoon" is always pronounced "spune".  When you're sick, you have the Lurgi.  And one of the most annoying voices in my repertoire is Bluebottle's frequent falsetto cry of, "Yeuheuheuheu!  You rotten swine!  You have deaded me!  I do not like this game."

 

The Goons were a huge influence on the Pythons and the Goodies.  When Prince Charles was a child, he loved "The Goon Show" too.


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#14 Larynxa

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Posted 25 September 2016 - 03:38 PM

The Pink Panther..... I can remember watching the cartoon of the panther, that happened to be pink, and when I saw in the TV Guide (as a child) that there was a movie about this pink panther, I was thrilled.... only to be confused by what was clearly NOT the pink panther with which I was familiar. :angry: I've had an aversion to this movie ever since, never giving it a second change.  Looks like I may need to revisit that childhood disappointment to see what this is all about!

 

The Pink Panther cartoons were created by DePatie-Freleng, after their animated credits for this movie were such a hit with the public.



#15 Ninnybit

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Posted 25 September 2016 - 08:59 AM

I've watched a lot of Peter Sellers but I never thought of this until I just now. It applies to this clip, maybe not elsewhere, but this whole pool room scene is hilarious even though--maybe because--you see it coming. You know when he turns that bent stick the other way he's going to tear the felt, and you know when he goes near that forest of sticks it's going over, and you know he's going to go the wrong way out of the room, so I think the projection builds tension, and then you can laugh because what you expected to happen happens. 

 

The pool-stick nest is hilarious. And his face with the serious pinched mouth and the wide eyes is hilarious, and George Saunders is the perfect straight man. He did this scene beautifully. He can afford to let Clouseau tear his house up a bit. He's almost not even exasperated.


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#16 Bgeorgeteacher

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Posted 25 September 2016 - 07:07 AM

The Pink Panther..... I can remember watching the cartoon of the panther, that happened to be pink, and when I saw in the TV Guide (as a child) that there was a movie about this pink panther, I was thrilled.... only to be confused by what was clearly NOT the pink panther with which I was familiar. :angry: I've had an aversion to this movie ever since, never giving it a second change.  Looks like I may need to revisit that childhood disappointment to see what this is all about!

 

1)  This entire scene made me laugh.... but at the end when Sellers, after all of his other embarrassments with pool sticks, walks into the wall and announces that the architect must be examined as well....that was the best!!   He's already trying to escape an awkward moment, and he's just made it worse.  The payoff is the deadpan style of transferring the blame onto something completely unrelated to his own misgivings - that's priceless!

 

2)  From this scene, you can determine that Clouseau is a bumbling, not-very-bright inspector that perhaps catches the criminal by complete accident.  These characteristics allow Clouseau to effectively pull off the slapstick elements viewed in this scene from the curved pool cue, to tripping over the rack of them, to eventually walking right into the wall.  

 

3)  Clouseau carries on that Keystone tradition in this scene by poking fun at the seriousness of law enforcement.  Clouseau has a man in front of him that is clearly a suspect, but end up apologizing all over the place for the pool table, messing up the rack, etc.  Rather than taking control of the scene, properly arresting the suspect or questioning him further, he does what he can to get out of the room without further embarrassing himself.  


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#17 TexasGoose

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Posted 24 September 2016 - 04:36 PM

I am a fan of Peter Sellers but not a fan of Inspector Clouseau.

The gag with the pool sticks is great. First with the curved stick, his tearing of the pool table cloth, and finally the entire scene of putting his cue in the rack. The set-up of the curved stick makes you ready for the torn pool table top and as the rack scene starts you are ready for a full belly laugh. lumsiness.

Peter Sellers plays Clouseau as a bumkin who is more than he appears. You would hope so as the viewer as he is an police inspector. But is he clever or just really lucky. You watch Inspector Clouseau as one watches a train wreck, you can not turn away.

His clumsiness is pure slapstick as is the mispronouncing of words. The character is complete.



#18 Schlinged

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Posted 23 September 2016 - 10:42 PM

Questions:
1. Select one gag from this scene and describe why it is effective as visual and verbal comedy? 
 
The first gag in the clip when Sellers is accusing Sanders of killing for Gambrelli's love (where the title came from) his costume is dirty and torn on the left side, selects a curved pool cue in trying to figure out how to his the short, wryly looks at the camera as if he's solved the mystery and then proceeds to tear the felt on the table, which you hear. And then says "I seem to have torn your felt." The room  was a game room of a Victorian villa, his host is dressed in a tuxedo, playing billiards, not pool, and I think it all worked into a good visual and verbal gag.
 
2. From this scene, what are key characteristics you would use to describe Inspector Clouseau? Based on those characteristics, what makes Clouseau an effective slapstick character? 
 
He didn't have all the key characteristics that one would normally associate with Clouseau in this scene - the trench, the hat. But he does have the accent, malaproprisms, being outwitted, overconfident, and bumbling. Based on those, Sellers had to be athletic to go through all the pratfalls in the scene with the cue rack. It hits all the five necessary elements, violence in falling over the rack, repetitive, physical, the accent makes it make believe, and exaggerated (again with the accent and the length of time he took in trying to right the pool cue rack).
 
 
3. Making fun of police/detective work is a line of slapstick comedy that stretches all the way back to Mack Sennett's Keystone Kops in the silent film era. What does Inspector Clouseau add to the history of slapstick characters in law enforcement?
 
He is an iconic character - as they said in 11 films, with multiple other actors playing the character. And I think Blake Edwards made one film after Sellers died that was searching for the character of Clouseau. And I think from the Pink Panther, Clouseau was not the main character, but a supporting role and went on to become the main character in a series of films.

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#19 Thief12

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Posted 23 September 2016 - 10:40 PM

I'll start by saying that the only film I've seen of Sellers is Dr. Strangelove, but I absolutely loved this  :lol:

 

I was ready to select the "cue in the rack" gag as the most effective, but then he finished with the "door gag", and that one killed me  :D First, the "cue in the rack" gag works because he just keeps adding to it, and the way the scene is edited takes it from being a clumsy guy to a "how the heck he got into this?" situation, topped by his attempt to dismiss it with a comment.

 

But then the door thing worked better because I really wasn't expecting it. The angle of the scene made it hard for one to see the way the door was open, added to the fact that we were focusing on Clouseau and the rack still. So when we see him walk behind the door and hear the thud, I had to laugh because I hadn't realized he was walking the wrong way. Add to that his deadpan reaction, wow, priceless! 

 

The best way I would describe Clouseau is clumsy, careless, and somewhat oblivious to it. I think that describes a lot of slapstick characters because it's funnier to see someone involved in a slapstick situation trying to play it straight and serious than just laughing it all out (i.e. Airplane?)


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#20 Knuckleheads Return

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Posted 23 September 2016 - 09:44 AM

1. The gag I selected was the putting the billiard cue back on the rack gag. It appears to be a simple task... put the cue back on the cue rack. Not rocket science...right? Well in a growing visual mess Peter Sellers - Clouseau turns this simple task into a big monstrous deal. His clumsiness is like no others. The sound of the wooden cues all crunching together adds to the effect. Falling down dragging the rack along,  then stepping on the cues and of course Sellers - Clouseau can't leave it alone he has to have the last word:  "Who ever invented that rack should have his head examined". The sound of the cue banging together just grates on ones nerves.

 

2. Clouseau as a character: we discover that we have an English actor portraying a French Detective speaking English with a French accent. He speaks in Clouseause. Dapper, well dressed, neatly trimmed mustache he tries to be a French "James Bond" but instead he is clumsy oaf. Sellers' ability to repeat this character again and again in 11 films is amazing. Just like Chaplin's Little Tramp and Harold Lloyd's character "The Boy", Clouseau is the same yet new again in each film. We see Seller's Clouseau using exaggeration, physicality, he follows a ritual in his mannerisms and daily routine (a little karate with Cato each evening) violent and it has to be make believe (could anyone be that incompetent ? {don't answer that}. In short Sellers' Clouseau meets  all five conditions of slapstick single handed.

 

3. Making fun of police/detective work is a line of slapstick comedy that stretches all the way back to Mack Sennett's Keystone Kops in the silent film era. What does Inspector Clouseau add to the history of slapstick characters in law enforcement? I think that Sellers' Clouseau adds a policeman who the audience can identify and can identify with and sympathize with. As seen in Sennett's Keystone Kops, the police were portrayed as a mass of faceless nameless bunglers. In several Chaplin films we see the police as the authority figures to be outwitted and outsmarted. In Keaton's silent "Cops" we see the police as a throng of nameless almost robotic uniformed figures. In Sellers' Clouseau even at his "bunglingest" a real character who will go on to make 11 films as the French Inspector.


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