The Party Review
The relationship between Blake Edwards and Peter Sellers was always a rocky one, but one that tended to bring the best out of both director and actor. After making the second Pink Panther film, A Shot In The Dark and swearing they would never work together again, they managed to put their differences aside in 1968 to make The Party, simply because they both thought it was a great idea – an improvisational comedy built around a simple idea that would be a homage to the early silent comedies.
For The Party Peter Sellers adopts the character of an Indian actor, Hrundi V. Bakshi, whose incompetence gets him fired from a film set with the admonition that he will never work in the industry again (“Does that include television?”, he asks). Top Hollywood movie mogul Fred Clutterbuck inadvertently notes the name of the ostracised actor onto the guest list of a party he is throwing for some big-wig Hollywood executives. Hrundi arrives at the party, where his propensity for saying the wrong thing and, often literally, putting his foot in it causes the kind of havoc that would become an obvious inspiration for Mr Bean – but let’s not let hold that against either Sellers or the film.
And what a party! On-set and off-set the whole party atmosphere of the setting and the actual shooting makes its way through onto the screen, providing a great deal of entertainment. At this cool party are sixties chicks in mini-dresses, grooving to the jazzy Henry Mancini score, alcoholic starlets and exotic birds of the feathered kind, lots of cool gadgets to play around with, as well as some stylish water features and, inevitably, swimming pools. Lots of potential then to cause havoc and lots of room for Peter Sellers and Blake Edwards to make a funny movie. The drunk waiter, Levinson, played by Steve Franken serves as another occasionally welcome distraction, so that Peter Sellers isn’t expected to be funny for the whole film. His character is slightly less subtle however, inevitably descending to situations involving food and swinging doors. Sellers, wrapped up in the personality of Hrundi V. Bakshi is less predictable, more individual and often simply inspired, relying less on slapstick and more on comic timing and expressions, of which he is undoubtedly a master.
MGM’s Special Edition of The Party is a step above their usual back-catalogue releases, containing animated menus with words rather than obscure icons and containing a second disc of interesting extra features. The disc is encoded, dubbed and subtitled for wider European and Australian distribution.
There is a slight fuzziness to the image that is not so noticeable on a smaller screen, particularly during normal playback, but the problems are noticeable when examined more closely or in freeze-frame. A slight blue edging and slight edge-enhancement can also be seen when figures are seen against a bright background. Generally though, this is only the kind of problem that picky reviewers like myself complain about and won’t trouble the casual viewer too much. But while I’m being picky, I’d also note that there is a little bit of grain and artefacting visible (particularly when examined more closely or in freeze-frame). The colours are fabulous however, bright, vivid and er, well colourful, I suppose. There are no marks, scratches or dust spots anywhere on this print.
The soundtrack has been remixed to Dolby Digital 5.1, but it’s a subtle mix that only occasionally sounds a little artificial during the dinner party. It’s rather appropriate however to have a surround ambience considering the party theme of the film. Most of the audio and the dialogue remains centre-speaker based, with some stereo effects, including a wider soundscape for Mancini’s score and occasional, but rare use of the rear speakers when required. Generally, the sound is quite clear and warm with not too much distracting background noise.
English hard-of-hearing subtitles are included as well as a variety of other European languages. All the extra features, including the Barclay’s Adverts, are fully subtitled.
Inside The Party (24:00)
An extensive documentary covers the Edwards chemistry and stormy working relationship between Blake Edwards and Peter Sellers and the day-to-day improvisations that making the film involved. Cast members Denny Miller and Steve Franken reflect on the film’s making and there are interviews also from Blake Edwards, and producers Walter Mirisch and Ken Wales.
The Party Revolution: A New Technology (16:30)
Because of the improvised nature of the filming, Edwards wanted to immediately view what had been shot. This documentary, mainly based around interviews with the crew and Jim Songer, shows how video assist techniques were developed.
Interviews with Blake Edwards (5:59), Walter Mirisch (4:25) and Ken Wales (7:19) on how they got into the industry.
Vintage Interviews with Peter Sellers
This is actually one 20-minute interview broken up into nine small fragments. Frustratingly, they can’t all be played together and the questions are edited out, however the interview is a bit of a mess and the interviewer has no control of Sellers as he gives little personal details away, hiding behind Goons character impersonations. The interview has little relevance to this title.
Barclays Bank Commercials
Likewise these three advertisements with Sellers in character as Monty Casino have little relevance to the title and are the same ads included in Pink Panther Collection boxset.
Original Theatrical Trailer (1:54)
The photo gallery is divided into two slideshow sections, one with posters and promotional material for the film (0:35), the other with behind-the-scenes stills (1:48).
The Party doesn’t quite manage to make a full movie’s worth of fun out of its limited situation, but the idea was original, inspired and is often brilliantly played-out through one of Peter Sellers’ funniest characters. The film is at least worth seeing just for those Sellers moments, the wonderful wall-to-wall Mancini soundtrack and the ‘Birdie Num-Nums’. The film is adequately well-presented on a Special Edition DVD, although the picture quality isn’t perfect, while the extra features have one or two interesting documentaries and a lot of filler.