Blu-ray: The Party (1968)
Hrundi V. Bakshi (Peter Sellers) is an inept Indian actor whose bumbling antics result in him being fired from a movie set and told that he’ll never work in the business again. However, through a communication mixup, he inadvertently gets invited to a swish Hollywood party at the home of the people who have admonished him. What can go wrong?
Let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way first, and no, it’s not the painted one that appears in the movie…more on that later. Peter Sellers is blacked-up, well, browned-up to be exact, as an Indian actor. This is something that would cause an outcry on social media these days, but you have to remember that this was 1968 and a different world to today. There, first elephant moved out of the room.
The whole premise of this movie is to serve as a showcase for the comic talents of Peter Sellers. 95% of it takes place at the party, and probably the same percentage of the dialogue was improvised too. Writer/director Blake Edwards (who already had a working relationship with Sellers from previous movies) gave the actors carte blanche to play out the scenes, often resulting in genuine looks of surprise from all involved.
Yet despite the fantastic comedic performance from Sellers in The Party, it is his pathos that shines through the brightest. Wandering alone through a sea of people who care nothing for him at all, he continually seeks to make friendships, yet is rejected at almost every turn. The one exception being Michele (Claudine Longet), a French actress who is similarly being cold shouldered by the Hollywood bourgeoisie. Together they form a bond that allows them to smile as the inevitable chaos ensues. The barely suppressed melancholic looks that Hrundi expresses as he walks solitary around the sycophantic masses, are ones that pull at your heart strings and makes you empathise with him even more, despite the chaos that he will inevitably cause.
Hrundi put me in mind of an amalgam of Frank Spencer and Charlie Chaplin; an innocent clumsiness, accompanied by comical physical feats which are usually the climatic outcome of his wrongdoings. No matter how much damage he causes though, you are usually found cheering for more as those around him become ever more obnoxious.
As the narrative progresses, the situations get ever more outrageous. A painted baby elephant is brought to the party (surely a staple for EVERY party!?) and once again the compassionate side of Hrundi is brought to the fore as he insists on the guests washing the paint from the elephant. This leads to things getting even crazier as the whole house gets full of soapy bubbles and even more chaos. Also, the inevitable drinking game with The Party is; take a shot whenever anyone falls into water…see if you can make the end credits!
This is most definitely Peter Sellers movie and he is exceptional in it, though I also have to give high praise to Steve Franken whose performance as Levinson, a waiter who gets progressively more drunk as the party continues, is one which had me in fits of laughter. His ever more wide eyed stare and physical comedy put me in mind of the great Buster Keaton.
With 2 silent comedy greats already cited in this review, it is no surprise that the physical comedy in The Party is exceptional. Add to this the improvised dialogue that allows the actors to go off on unexpected tangents, and you have a comedy classic, that despite being aged by its 1960’s music and fashion, stands the test of time almost 50 years later. Just remember to keep an eye open for those heartfelt solitary looks by Sellers…what a genius.
- Gorgeous 1080p presentation of the film on Blu-ray
- Original stereo PCM soundtrack
- Optional English SDH subtitles
- The Party Revolution (16 mins) – a video piece on the groundbreaking filming methods used in the films production
- Inside The Party (24 mins) – A behind the scenes look at the making of the film
- Blake Edwards profile
- Walter Mirisch Profile
- Ken Wales Profile
- Original theatrical trailer
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Review by Dave (host of 60 Minutes With) from a disc kindly supplied by Eureka Entertainment.