The so-called French Connection of international drugs smuggling is suffering a crisis of confidence with its leader in France, the boss Philippe Douvier (Robert Webber) is increasingly regarded as a weak presence at the top, and he means to find a method of bolstering his reputation with those who actually hold the power as well as those who work for him. He calls a meeting at his offices, and one of the board has a brainwave: how about Douvier orders an assassination of a leading law officer? If he can pull that off, his place in command will be undoubtedly assured. And the most obvious choice is the Chief Inspector, Jacques Clouseau (Peter Sellers), currently in Paris...
Revenge of the Pink Panther was not the final entry in that franchise, but it was the last to star the comedian most associated with it, Peter Sellers, for while there was another movie planned, tentatively named Romance of the Pink Panther, he had the misfortune to pass away before serious work could be started on its production, leaving his swan song the decidedly tone deaf The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu. Considering the degree of flak Burt Kwouk as Cato received (in character) from Clouseau this time around, with almost every scene he’s in having the manservant described as "yellow", and the not too enlightened racial politics of that career conclusion, one would hope for better.
But we would never know, as director and co-writer Blake Edwards, who enjoyed (or suffered) a love/hate relationship with his star, eschewed the plans for Romance for some unseemly tries at keeping the series afloat, first with Sellers in outtakes for Trail of the Pink Panther, then leaving him out altogether with Curse of the Pink Panther and the seriously belated Son of the Pink Panther. These three are considered low points of comedy and not a little insulting to the memory of one of cinema's great comic actors but looking at Revenge you may wonder if the rot had not set in here; The Pink Panther Strikes Again had been a partial return to form, but this follow-up was pretty thin stuff.
Certainly there were occasional chuckles when you had the impression Sellers was committed to the project, but the fact remained he was not a well man, mentally or physically, by the point this was made, and the manner in which he gave way to his stuntman for the slapstick more often than Roger Moore did for his action sequences in his later James Bond instalments was painfully obvious. He simply was not up to the demands of the role, and the whole shtick with the mangled French accent was growing very tired as Edwards and his co-scripters resorted to replaying old glories with reruns of Cato's attacks in the Clouseau apartment or Inspector Dreyfus (Herbert Lom) cracking up in the face of his old, oblivious nemesis who contrives to unintentionally return to haunt him after he thought he was rid of the nuisance.
There were scattered compensations, some lines were funny, some slapstick raised a chuckle, but by the final act when the cast and crew had moved to Hong Kong the film had grown tedious, which is not what you want from a Pink Panther effort. Dyan Cannon was the female lead and seemed to be having a far better time making this than we were watching it: that may have been a problem, as this one, more than any of the series, was notorious for having multiple takes ruined by those involved breaking out in laughter, so by the stage they had actually got something useable on film, the routines were past their prime. There are those who would tell you Revenge remained valid as a Sellers comedy, but you were tempted to regard that as the fans seeing their idol through the rose-tinted spectacles of nostalgia, as no way was this on a par with his greatest achievements. Fitfully funny, but not the best way to say goodbye to a classic creation. Music by Henry Mancini (who tries disco).