By Mike Derderian
If you are attending a party, never try to grab a frog no matter how much appealing and exciting the experience sounds. Never play with the electrical light switches or jump around a fountain for that matter too. It was the birthday party of a renowned and wealthy girl “an airhead” I knew at school and just like Hrundi V. Bakshi (Peter Sellers), who was invited to the private party of a Hollywood producer by mistake in Blake Edwards’ masterpiece comedy The Party I was probably there for the same reason.
My infatuation with cold-blooded animals like lizards, snakes, frogs and alligators was my downfall. Well-dressed in a suit, looking smug and suave, I dared grab a slimy frog with my bare hands in front of a group of my school’s finest girls. Why? Not a clue.
For the first time I found myself disillusioned with Hollywood images of heroism and chivalry. Never try to impress girls or women with your hunting abilities especially if the hunted, in their opinion, is something disgusting.
The images of Indiana Jones and Crocodile Dundee’s heroic cliffhangers that included fighting villains, saving and impressing damsels in distress and fending off the dangers of creepy critters—Indiana of course failed the latter when he acknowledged that he fears snakes—evaporated from my mind when half of the girls I asked for a dance declined my invitation.
From that day on I never laid a finger on a frog in the presence of a lady, and no I didn’t try to kiss it thinking that it would turn into a princess.
Enough about me and let us talk about the funniest movie ever to be made and starred Peter Sellers, who is one of my favorite British actors. Thanks to my father, who rented this 1968 movie, I found myself—when I was eight years old—laughing non-stop through the entire movie.
If you don’t laugh when Bakshi repeats “Birdie Num Num” then you must be a corpse. It is probably the best scene in this crazy movie that certainly infuriated a lot of Indians with Sellers’ brilliant portrayal of the accident-waiting-to-happen Indian character Hrundi V. Bakshi.
With a tagline like “If you ever been to a wilder party… you’re under arrest” you will discover that this droll comedy about an Indian film extra, who gets fired after blowing up an entire movie set and is invited by mistake to the house of the producer, is funnily and entertainingly wild.
Denny Miller, Elianne Nadeau, Marge Champion, Jean Carson, Danielle De Metz, Cavin Macleod, Steve Franken and Claudine Longet as Michele Monet, an aspiring actress and singer, who through the festive evening becomes the love interest of Bakshi, were all invited to star in Edwards’ party.
In addition to Bakshi and Monet “Wyoming Bill” Kelso, a Hollywood Western films star that was portrayed by the statuesque Denny Miller is one of the film’s memorable characters.
“Howdy Partner” Bakshi yells out in an Indian accent pointing his gun-cum-hand at the towering movie star. Bakshi interrupts an intimate pool game in which Kelso is trying to teach a non-English speaking Italian woman how to shoot pool. The cowboy doesn’t seem to be annoyed by Bakshi, who tells Kelso that he is a big fan as he repeats some of his cowboy movie quotes.
Despite of its slow pace action, the jesting nevertheless lives up to the films hilarious spirit and is a perfect fit to Sellers’ own humor and slapstick fumbling. Edwards’ movie has all the necessary elements a comedy must have: A simple storyline, good actors, a lavishly constructed set and a memorable soundtrack composed by Henri Mancini, who is a longtime collaborator with Edwards.
If the name Mancini rings a bell it is because Mancini was the man who also composed the hypnotic Pink Panther theme that half the world’s population knows how to whistle. Sellers, a long time collaborator with Edwards, starred in two Pink Panther movies as Inspector Jacques Clouseau.
Since we deviated from the party you should know that a week ago Daniel Craig was given the honors of putting on the James Bond suit in a film based on Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale. Sellers starred in a 1967 “comic spoof” based on Fleming’s first novel about the hard-boiled martini-gulping spy, in which David Niven enacted 007 as an aging retired secret servicemen referred to after retirement as “Sir James Bond.”
Steve Franken, who played the role of Levinson the waiter who decided to taste the alcohol that he was serving cup by cup, was another successful addition to the films repertoire of funny characters created by accomplished slapstick actors. In addition to Bakshi he was quite an efficient wrecking ball himself.
The Party is an endearing family film that will yield memorable laughs and kicks that were improvised by Sellers and the rest of the cast that worked with a 40-page outline instead of a full and complete movie script.
Must-watch-scenes: Bakshi wrecking an automated bar, clogging the toilet and flooding the bathroom; Monet performing a song entitled Nothing to Lose (watch Sellers in the background); the billiard game scene in which Bakshi shots Kelso in the head using a toy gun fitted with a suction cup arrow; and of course the parrot-feeding scene when Bakshi delivers the “Birdi Num Num” unforgettable phrase.