One of Peter Sellers’ less well-known comedies, ‘The Party’ still shows off his improvisational talents to the max.
Another product of his partnership with ‘Pink Panther’ director Blake Edwards, the film has a much less structured feel and look to it than the ‘Panther’ movies and consists largely of a series of set pieces in which Sellers’ character can wreak havoc to his heart’s content.
It just wouldn’t be made nowadays, at least not in its present form, as his portrayal of Indian actor Hrundi V. Bakshi would tick all sorts of boxes with the Equality and Human Rights Commission although the comedy is purely situational.
Bakshi, a movie extra, is fired from his latest job for ruining too many shots and blowing up an entire set by accident. The director fires him and immediately calls the studio head, General Fred R. Clutterbuck (J. Edward McKinley), about the incident. Clutterbuck writes down Bakshi’s name in order to blacklist him, but he inadvertently writes Bakshi’s name on the guest list of his forthcoming dinner party.
An invitation is duly sent and Bakshi’s arrival at Clutterbuck’s state-of-the-art home sets in motion a catalogue of mishaps as he tangles with the house’s technology and his fellow guests. The one bright point of his evening is his encounter with starlet Michele Monet (Claudine Longet) who takes a shine to him.
Filled with genuine laugh out loud moments, the film reaches a chaotic climax from which Michele and Bakshi make good their escape.
Sellers is the master of awkward interaction throughout and it’s a performance that would even put some of his Clouseau moments in the shade.
It still has a cool cult quality to it and demonstrates further, as if was required, the comedy genius of which Sellers was capable when he had a director who was willing to turn on the camera, point it in his direction and trust him to do what he did best.