In one of their few non-Clouseau efforts, director Blake Edwards (Victor Victoria) and star Peter Sellers preserve the spirit of the French bumbler in the person of Hrundi V. Bakshi, an accident-prone Indian actor. Brought to Hollywood to play the title role in SON OF GUNGA DIN, Bakshi destroys the film's most elaborate set with his bungling and is banned from the set by the film's producer. But because of an error by the producer's secretary, Bakshi's name is added to the guest list of his next party, an A-list affair. Shortly after arriving, Bakshi begins accidentally dismantling the producer's carefully staged event, destroying a flower bed, knocking a servant through a bay window, and triggering the lawn sprinklers, soaking his pretentious guests. Sellers is typically brilliant in a film abounding in sidesplitting sight gags with a script by Edwards, Frank Waldman ('The Pink Panther Strikes Again') and his brother Tom Waldman ('Inspector Clouseau').
After working together on two consecutive films, 'The Pink Panther' (1963) and 'A Shot in the Dark', director Blake Edwards and actor Peter Sellers had a falling out and vowed never to work together again. As fans of that comedy franchise know, Edwards and Sellers, like many others who have made such declarations (looking at you, Mr. Connery), eventually broke their word. The two reunited just a few years later to make 'The Party'.
'The Party' stars Sellers as Hrundi V. Bakshi, a bumbling Indian actor who has inexplicably made his way to Hollywood to appear in the epic "Son of Gunga Din." In the opening sequence of 'The Party', Hrundi quickly, though unintentionally, gets fired from the set due to being the cause of a series of costly foul-ups. Although studio head General Clutterbuck intended to blackball Hrundi, a mix-up results in Hrundi being invited to a Hollywood dinner party at Clutterbuck's home.
Once Hrundi arrives at the home, 'The Party' reveals it never fully intended to tell a story and instead presents a series of comedy bits. Some scenes could easily have appeared in a silent film, which Edwards reveals in the extras he initially wanted to make even though he was a few decades too late. Hrundi has to deal with the modernity of Clutterbuck's house, from losing his shoe in the entryway's water feature to dealing with the electronics panel that runs things such as the intercom and the retractable bar, but it's just for laughs and offers no commentary.
Compounding the notion that Edwards' script was slight is how the plot progresses with little rhyme or reason. Things take a dark turn when producer C.S. Divot (Gavin MacLeod) tries to force himself upon his date Michèle Monet (Claudine Longet). When she rebuffs him, he cancels her screen test. Hrundi tries to console her and they begin to fall for each other as only happens in movies.
Things get stranger and the chaos increases when a Russian dance troupe shows up to the party, as if Edwards found them on the studio lot and threw them in to see what would happen. Then the Clutterbuck's daughter, who I don't even remember being mentioned before her arrival, shows up with friends, a group of protesting hippies, and an elephant. Plots don’t need to make sense in comedies, but if they become nonsense, they have to compensate with laughs, which doesn't happen here.
Unfortunately, 'The Party' delivered more lulls than laughs. Many scenes felt like watching Sellers rehearsing as he and Edwards worked out ideas that might lead to comedy. Levinson (Steven Franken) the drunken waiter was much funnier. Sellers in brownface would set off today's online social-justice warriors but he didn’t play the part in a mocking or derogatory manner. The decision is curious though because little seemed gained playing the character as an Indian as opposed to an Englishman. Many aspects of the film come across as being not well thought out, as happens with many boring parties.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Kino Lorber Studio Classics present 'The Party' on a 25GB Region A Blu-ray disc housed in a standard blue case. The disc boots up directly to the menu screen without any promotional advertisements.
The video for 'The Party' has been given a 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC that is displayed at an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The opening establishing shot is grainy and has a bit of flicker and jitter, but don't let be cause for concern as the image stabilizes through the remainder of the film.
The video delivers bright hues, as seen in the objects on the set of the film-within-the-film sequence as well as the psychedelic colors ushered in by the young people at the party. Blacks are rich, whites are accurate (see Hrundi's shoes) and the contrast is satisfying.
The image mostly looks clean, though dirt and damage can be seen in establishing shots when the story transitions to new locations. There's an ample amount of depth and textures. However, edges can be soft at times.
The audio is available in DTS-HD 2.0 Mono, which sounds free of defect from age or wear. The dialogue is usually clear and understandable. It is part of a balanced mix combined with the music and the effects. The dynamic range is limited but meets the film's needs. Henry Mancini's score is full-bodied and the instruments, including the sitar, come through with great clarity.
The gunfire heard during the making of the film is soft and lacks power. The ADR comes across hollow. Worst of all, its inauthenticity is compounded when Michèle "sings" "Nothing to Lose" accompanied on screen by a guitar, off screen by guitar, bass, piano, flute, and drums.
All taken from a previous 2004 DVD release:
I found 'The Party' to be a bore, but while it didn't work for me, I would recommend Kino Lorber Studio Classics' Blu-ray for those who are already fans of the film. The disc offers a good HD presentation until a restoration happens and contains an interesting bonus feature about the making of the film.