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

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#41 Pjdamon


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Posted 21 September 2016 - 07:25 PM

1. It's a toss up between the three gags. I chose walking into the wall. He's too busy talking to George Sanders to notice that he's on the wrong side of the door. The sound effect is partly makes it funny. The other thing is the remark that he makes that they need to have the house checked for the design. He acts like it's not his fault.

2. Sellers perfected Inspector Clouseau through the thick French accent, mspronounation or incorrect words and his bumbling ways. When you first look at him, he appears to be a typical detective then he opens his mouth or he he does something stupid like playing pool. Even in his more serious films there were subtle gags. This is also in his personality. He was known for his humor and gags off the set as well.

3. Sellers adanced slapstick with his comedy by being sarcastic comments while being funny. But in the end through him bumbling his way through he solves the crime. As another writer stated Leslie Nielson falls into this category. Gene Wilder and Robin Williams also come to mind.
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#42 Jenneferf



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Posted 21 September 2016 - 06:00 PM

Peter Sellers such a great slapstick artist!



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

The opening of the clip playing pool with a curved cue.  Sellers can see it is very curved, yet he continues to attempt to use it.  First with the curve up then down and cutting the felt of the pool table.


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?

Inspector Closeau is alert, yet clumsy and inept to many things.  This is what makes Inspector Clouseau an effective slapstick artist.  His antics are laugh out loud.  Just the simple act of placing a pool cue in place turns into a slapstick moment of wrestling with all of them

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

Inspector Clouseau adds to the long line of making fun of police/detectives.  Inspector Closeau is a bumbling fool, who does try to solve the case but makes messes along the way.


Thank you :)  

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#43 Chris_Coombs


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Posted 21 September 2016 - 05:47 PM

OMG Where to begin. A Shot in the Dark is IMO the best of the Pink Panther Movies. This clip is loaded with funny bits from beginning to end.

I will start at the beginning. Clouseau is in love with Maria Gambrelli (suspected of murder) so he is uptight when questioning Monsieur Ballon, Maria's lover. The fumbling of words (rit of fealous jage) is not just funny as a Spoonerism, but because we know Clouseau is terribly jealous himself. He wrings the pool cue and is visibly agitated as he speaks. This is contrasted with the suave, calm George Sanders as Ballon. What's also funny about his agitation is that he doesn't realize how he is behaving.


The next gag (pool cue) is funny if you see it in context. He has already made a few shots with it, to great comic effect, either missing the ball completely or sending it flying in the air. So THIS time he gives a side look before shooting as if to say 'NOW I know how to make a shot) and turns the cue over, giving a subtle take with the eyes before shooting to say 'NOW watch me hit the ball' The side look and the eye take are brilliant comic acting. Then, his reaction upon ripping the table is great. He is wonderfully nervous and uses the word 'grazed' which is underestimating the damage. [NOTE: I saw some posters suggest Clouseau warped the cue himself when he wrung it, but the cue was warped when Ballon gave it to him. Ballon gave him the warped cue as a joke on Clouseau (and as a commentary of his own opinion of Clouseaua]


Third gag is the pool cue stand. This is great because Sellers Brilliantly prolongs his discombobulation with all the cues and drags it out, keeping it funny the whole time. Another funny element is that Clouseau is indignant, some how suggesting it is the pool rack's fault and not his own clumsiness.


This leads to the final gag, where he exits into the wall. Sellers plays this beautifully, and sells the gag as completely believable and natural. Again he is indignant, and blames the architect (?!) rather than acknowledge his own tremendous clumsiness. The crescendo of events up to walking into the wall is what makes him so flustered that he could do anything so absurd.


A great clip, and funny from beginning to end.


The key characteristics of Clouseau are that he is bumbling, inept, and clumsy, yet he doesn't see himself that way. He thinks he is effective - he thinks his is a great detective. Whenever he does a scheme, like going undercover, he is completely ridiculous, fooling no one, yet he never realizes his own failings. The running gag throughout all the films is that in the end he succeeds DESPITE his clumsy, inept nature. He avoids multiple assassination attempts by sheer miraculous luck. he manages to catch the crooks the same way.


Clouseau has a different take on the cop. In the Keystone Cop films and other silent films of the era, all the cops are of the same nature. In the Pink Panther films, ONLY Clouseau is a bumbling idiot. Dreyfuss, though eventually driven crazy, is very competent. Other police realize Clouseau is a clutz, but have to deal with him. The funny part is Clouseau ultimately succeeds in his cases despite his own ineptness, so he is given all these cases. Also, the 'Keystone Cop' in silent films was a 2 dimensional character - a simple bad guy or gag man. Clouseau is a 3 dimensional character, that we relate to, laugh at, but ultimately care about.

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#44 MarxBrosfan4



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Posted 21 September 2016 - 05:44 PM

The rack is my favorite. He tries to put it away and it all goes astray. With him trying to fix it, it becomes worse and it gets crazier when the butler gets in on it. He is funny at blaming everyone else for his bumbling like the stand and getting out of the door. He's a klutz with everything around him and yet manages to appear like he knows what he's doing.  This is one of my favorite Pink Panther movies.

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#45 Janeko


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Posted 21 September 2016 - 05:28 PM

My favorite gag is when Clouseau is asked to put away the cue stick.  Here he is, dressed in a suit and tie, standing in a lovely billiard room.  Then, once he attempts to put the cue back in the stand, calamity strikes!!  As he winds up wrestling with the cue stand, it's almost as though the stand takes on a life force of it's own, fighting back!!  And the butler's attempt to help simply make it a three way struggle!! Clouseau gets his zinger in about the person who invented such a rack!! It's a nice combination of physical and verbal slapstick.


Clouseau comes across as a very serious man with a convoluted way of looking at things.  He is a bumbler both in words and actions.  He has some sense of propriety as he apologizes for tearing the fabric on the billiard table and knocking over the cue stand. He is also capable of feeling embarrassed and tries to cover this with placing blame on the inventor of the cue stand as well as the house's architect after he walks into the wall instead of walking through the doorway.  All in all, though, he wants to do well and it's fun to watch him solve crimes in spite of himself!!


I couldn't help thinking at one point that he's a sort of alter ego for Peter Falk's Columbo.  They both have their trademark trench coats and both sometimes  come across as bumblers.  But Clouseau is a genuine bumbler where Columbo acts that way at times to catch criminals off guard.  And where Clouseau solves the crime despite himself, Columbo is a highly intelligent man who usually  knows who the criminal is, based on his years of investigative experience, but then has to prove it.




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#46 CynthiaV


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Posted 21 September 2016 - 05:13 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)

When Clouseau returns Ballon's pool cue to the rack.
Sellers makes the whole thing look effortless the way he knocks around and slips and slides on the cascading sticks, falling over while attempting to hold on to the upright sticks while reaching for the ones that have fallen. I love the sound the clanking pool sticks make when the camera is on Ballon. His expression gives away nothing of the disaster he is witnessing but the sounds tell us all we need to know. Even the non-response of Ballon and Maurice the butler works perfectly. And when the butler joins the frame Sellers adds him to the gag as if he is just one more prop.

The visual aspect of the gag works because it is just plain funny but what puts the cherry on the top is Clouseau's reaction. He doesn't laugh or smile or even look embarrassed as Ballon looks on. Instead, he remarks that the whole problem should instead be laid at the feet of the racks designer, as he deadpans, "...whoever invented that rack should have his head examined."

Ever since Dr. Edward's mapped out the geometry of the Marx Brother's State Room gag I've tried to pay more attention to the blocking of gag scenes. In this scene I noticed the abundance of upright lines, the paneling, the sconces on the wall, the urn and pedestal in the corner, the tall upright lamp, Ballon in his dark tux standing so tall and stately. The perfect verticality of the room helps anything horizontal look dissonant. So when Clouseau falls over, his and the sticks horizontal lines even though hidden are continued by the horizontal plane of the pool table and so look even funnier and more out of place.

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 a parody of other fictional police detectives and PIs such as, C. Auguste Dupin, Sherlock Holmes, Charlie Chan and especially Hercule Poirot. Clouseau thinks he is very intelligent and takes his job and himself very seriously even though he is clumsy and bumbling. Even when he misspeaks or causes havoc he maintains his pride and professionalism and tries to look dapper even when flailing about. He is a bit pompous and has no sense of humor but his infatuations, innocence and desire to maintain law and order are charming and help to offset his more egotistical traits. The secret to what makes him such a great slapstick character is this very thing. He THINKS he's Hercule Poirot but instead he's Jerry Lewis.

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?

The faultless incorporation of verbal and visual humor. Clouseau does both brilliantly. I love his French accent. It's so weirdly French even other French characters can't understand him. Also I just love that he addresses transvestites as, "Sir or Madam"!! He's PC before PC. The Pink Panther is hysterical whether spinning off a globe, getting his hand trapped in a knight's glove or delivering a deadpan," Oh well, if you've seen one Stradivarius, you've seen them all."
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#47 clark2600



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Posted 21 September 2016 - 05:03 PM

As far as his publicity goes, he is known as top aced detective Inspector Jacques Cousteau.  Otherwise, as far as the bedroom is concerned, he is not so worthy.  Whereas, his wife has an eye for every man but his impresario.  The misleading facade of the the doting wife, while she is off gallivanting with another man.  She seems unamused, even bored with him.  The team of criminals seem to pay more attention to his presence, concerning their outwitting, foreplay, as well as walling technique.

#48 MrZerep



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Posted 21 September 2016 - 04:50 PM

The opening where he is telling the other inspector about the affair, Sellers is fidgeting with the stick to the point it is curved, then he takes his turn and rips the felt!  Hilarious.  Visual pun as, if I'm not mistaken by the billiard term, he "scratched" the table.  He does it so nonchalantly and matter-of-factly.  Genius!


I see Clouseau as very inept, playful almost, but striving to be professional. The ineptness leads to the silly gags, but he tries to remedy the situation but it gets worse or more complicated.  All done with a professional attitude the entire time.


Inspector Clouseau adds a bit of class to his slapstick, due to the part he is a police inspector, a job that is to be taken seriously.  In his job he inadvertently encounters situations that will test his physicalness (physical slapstick) and his explanations or discourses are silly, yet sound serious (verbal).

#49 Lawrence Wolff

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Posted 21 September 2016 - 04:25 PM

1) Favorite gag - shooting with the curved pool cue. What we missed was that he had previously tried shooting with the curve going up, and missed the ball. ​But now he is smarter and turns the curve downward. Hearing the rip and cutting to George Sanders and then back to Clouseau trying to fix the rip was great! Better to see and imagine what has happened and then seeing the result is wonderful. Working your imagination with the joke makes it funnier. And George Sanders keeping a straight face makes it all the funnier.


2) He maintains his serious composure in the face of all the destruction and mistakes he makes (including knocking over the cue stand and walking into the wall.) This makes the gags even funnier.


3) Never apologizing like other police officers do in films. He is a bit arrogant with others saying that THEY are the problem. I've worked with people like this, but they weren't nearly as funny as Peter Sellers!

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#50 Heather Mary

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Posted 21 September 2016 - 04:05 PM

I was just giddy with delight know when we were now going to go into inspector Clouseau . Peter Sellers, the best! You got your Lucille Ball and you got your Peter Sellers. It's a good week. The gag I pick to break down : When the inspector accuses George Sanders of "rid of Fealous jage" My dictation refuses to let me miss spell.… Anyway he is slowly twisting on the pool stick as his eyes Pierce George Sanders in complete seriousness with his ridiculous delivery. And then he bends over with a now deformed pool stick links his eyes a few times as he turns it around so he can put his all into hitting the ball. BUT , Of course he rips the pool table. Cut back to George Sanders and then a quick cut back to a bumbling fingered Clouseau trying to fix the rip. Very funny. And the edit was a big part of the laugh. But Peter Sellers dead serious, goes to slightly embarrassed blinking I has he tries to play, and then the fumbling fingers and apologetic expression on his face as he tries to fix pool table. Comedy gem.
Inspector Clouseau is a perfect slapstick, gag character. He is very sincere, serious, intense, and a bumbling fool. Always has an answer for his ridiculousness: Blaming the person who made the pool stick holder and the architect that put the door on the wrong side of the wall. Perfect recipe for funny. Peter sellers was a brilliant actor. And perfection as inspector Clouseau.
Because of all the attributes I wrote above, inspector Clouseau is perfection in the bumbling cop genre.
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#51 oregon1965



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Posted 21 September 2016 - 03:54 PM

1) The warped pool stick. The fact that inspector Clouseau has gripped and stroked the stick so hard it has warped, yet he still chooses to use it, hoping that the suspect won,t notice.                                                                                                                                                                                                     2) He,s clueless and inept even through all this, He still trying to portray a man who has it all together.                                                                                                                                                                    3) Even through all that happens to him,He manages to keep up the facade that no matter, what its all part of the game. It happens then he,s on to the next thing leaving behind chaos and destruction in his wake                                                                                                                                                                               

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#52 Marianne


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Posted 21 September 2016 - 01:29 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’ll pick my favorite gag, which is the last one in the clip. Inspector Clouseau has trouble putting his billiard cue in the rack with the others and creates a funny scenario when he gets tangled up in all of them (visual use of props). He quips, “Whoever invented that rack should have his head examined.” When he makes his exit, he misses the doorway and continues the theme by telling Ballon, “I suggest you have your architect investigated as well.” The gag uses a combination of props, physical comedy, and verbal one-liners (and uses exaggeration, make-believe, and physicality: three out of the five characteristics of slapstick listed at the start of the course).

An Aside: Monsieur Ballon’s name reminds me of the villain from Gilda, the nightclub owner with the same name who marries Gilda and escapes Brazil when he becomes a murder suspect. I wonder if the choice of name was intentional.
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?

Inspector Clouseau takes himself and his work very seriously, although he’s completely clueless (pun alert!) about both himself and his work. The combination of seriousness, ineptitude, and cluelessness is perfect for slapstick.
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 Peter Sellers’s delivery of one-liners adds a lot to the slapstick canon. His Inspector Clouseau is another very quotable slapstick character. Inspector Clouseau becomes the focus of attention in a rather different way in the Pink Panther movies: The other characters and the viewers are all in league, so to speak, watching his physical comedy and reacting (or not reacting, in the case of Monsieur Ballon) to his funny lines.

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#53 Motorcitystacy


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Posted 21 September 2016 - 01:02 PM

When we first see Clouseau in the clip, we assume he is a dignified officer of the law until he says "rit of fealous jage". Then we start to see the lovable, bumbling detective. We wonder if he deliberately pointed the curved cue stick in the direction so the felt ripped. If he turned it the other way, the ball would probably go flying and destroy a piece of priceless artwork or a window.


The best gag is the cue rack, where Clouseau clumsily tries to put his stick back and sends the other sticks all over the place. Getting the butler involved further fuels the fire in the gag.


Law enforcement has been made fun of since the Keystone Kops. Clouseau's character is sophisticated on the outside but a clown and a fool on the inside. He also adds to the aura of European sophistication, especially since many of the crimes he tries to solve involve the well-to-do instead of working and middle class like in earlier films.

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Posted 21 September 2016 - 12:54 PM

1. The gag where Closseau has to put up the billiard cues on the rack and the way that he tries to set them back up is effective in both visual and verbal comedy for the precise amount of timing and the case of involving another person in the scene to fix up the gag only to end disastrously with a mess of pool cues on the floor.


2. The rambling of words that are misspelled, his body movement that causes accidents to happen in the scene is timed precisely with the setup, his extensive use of pratfalls, and is able to make any situation that is dramatic/serious into a comic relief for the film. His use of an exaggerated foreign accent that is a throwback to ethnic humor is also memorable.


3. That he represents a bumbling police detective that often finds himself in humorous situations that would lead him to trouble or in a predicament that could lead him to another clue of solving the case. His character would be the model for Maxwell Smart in Get Smart (1965), and Inspector Slege Hammer in Sledge Hammer! (1986) that also land the title characters into humorous situations that could be troubling to the other characters.

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#55 gtunison


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Posted 21 September 2016 - 12:47 PM

The gag that stands out in this clip is when Clouseau attempts to put the pool cue back. It quickly turns into a wrestling match withe cue caddie winning. All the while George Sanders looks and simply says to him not to bother that the butler will take care of it. The Clouseau makes his exit on the wrong side of the door and says that Sanders should have his architect investagated too.

Both are great examples of visual (wrestling with the pool caddie and losing) and verbal (redirecting the situation back to Sanders because he walked out of the room behind the door).



Clouseau appears physically to be a top notch policeman. Well dressed, neat in appearance but then he speaks and it is obvious he is a bumbling boob.


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#56 picasso55


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Posted 21 September 2016 - 12:43 PM

The bent pool cue gag is one that has been done many times before this film and by iconic slapstick actors so the audience knows that this is going to go poorly. The fact that he can take what could have been a tired old gag, adapt it to a more modern setting combined with his expressions and timing, and then execute a really funny scene that feels fresh is pretty amazing.


Peter Sellers was a rare comic genius evidenced in the Clouseau series and characters he played in movies like The Party to even small cameo appearances in pictures like The Road To Hong Kong. In my view, the brilliance of Sellers is in his ability to so totally own the character and simultaneously take seriously the ridiculous character and situation while also poking fun at the same. Nothing in the scene is off limits as a prop or subject area for a gag. Often when one is viewing a film or TV show, it can be irritating when a gag is entirely predictable. With Sellers, he not only telegraphs the gag but he is painfully patient in its execution so the anticipation adds to the comedy. That is incredibly hard to do even once but he can do this to a viewer continuously throughout a film and it does not get old.


The Clouseau character of the bumbling detective takes a step forward from his predecessors in that he is not simply a bumbler who is the butt of the joke. He is a lovable character that you want to succeed and although he leaves chaos in his wake, he does actually, albeit by accident, solve the crimes. Peter Falk performed the next evolution to this character type in Columbo. He dressed like Clouseau and appeared to be a bumbling detective but in fact was the brilliant detective using that persona to his advantage.

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#57 Patti Zee

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Posted 21 September 2016 - 12:20 PM

The character of Clouseau is a perfect set of contradictions. If he were standing stii, not saying a word we would probably think of him as a dignified, well dressed, totally in control upper level police officer...then he speaks and as he becomes more excited spoonerisms erupt (that he does not appear to notice and George Sanders' character is too well bred to mention.

My favorite gag in this scene is Clouseau's attempt to put the pool cue away. His approach is a bit tentative and evolves into a wrestling match with all the cues on the floor as Sanders looks on bemused and slightly concerned. Sellers succeeds in pulling the butler into the battle as he extracts himself and attempts to regain his dignity and authority by blaming the designer of the cue rack. Clouseau never wants to appear at a disadvantage in front of his social superiors or inferiors which makes his quick recovery from his bumbling actions all the more hilarious. The door gag is the perfect way to end this clip.

Seller's Clouseau is a much more fully constructed character than say, the Keystone Kops or the cops in Chaplin's films. They were simply means to an end and we never really cared about them. We care about him, we see him in all phases of his crazy life and wish him well in solving the crime and anxiously await his next move with laughter and a few cringes.
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#58 jay1458


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Posted 21 September 2016 - 12:01 PM

I love how Peter Sellers builds his character, The bent pool cue on the green felt covering on the table, Clouseau makes his shot ripping the felt and then he ties to put it back together. I think this makes the gag very effective in both verbal and visual comedy. I would describe Clouseau as a trench coat wearing, bumbling fool, who can'r play pool. Clouseau in my opinion displays the right type of zany,.clutzy, and buffoonish characteristics that make for a very effective slapstick character. I think Clouseau added a little more sophistication to the gags of slapstick.

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#59 judith46


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Posted 21 September 2016 - 11:47 AM

Clouseau's mangled words are always so funny!  He's almost creating a new language.  The setting up of the pool shot, anticipation growing, growing, and then RRRRIP!  is classic visual SS.  This film is my favorite Pink Panther.


The description of "judas goat" (new to me) is very apt for Clouseau;  he bumbles so badly but just muddles through, causing mayhem for everyone around him.  He, of course, hasn't a clue; nothing is his fault.  


Sellers furthers the cop as comedy by updating for new generations, and maybe making it more personal  

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#60 robinlee



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Posted 21 September 2016 - 11:36 AM

I am a fan of Pink Panther movies (Peter Sellers only), so I have watched this movie many times, even so it is always funny. You know all the cue sticks are going to fall over, you wait for it and laugh anyway. I do also enjoy his verbal slapstick- you just try saying " a rit of fealous jage". 

I think that what makes Clouseau a good slapstick character is that he is- like Keaton and Lloyd- an ordinary guy, an everyday man. This also makes for  a good slapstick policeman- he is the same as other people, but he still saves the day. 

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