[Special Screenings] Movie of the Week: 'The Party'

The Party

Hrundi V. Bakshi (Peter Sellers), a movie extra from India, bumbles off a movie set and into the Hollywood Hills of the Swinging ’60s. He winds up at a sprawling party, and before anyone figures out the nosy little nobody does not belong, he has destroyed everything in his path. Blake Edwards’ 1968 film was improvised from a 56-page outline, and there are some painfully long stretches that don’t quite click, a disease that struck many similar flower-power comedies from that period, including Casino Royale, which came out a year earlier and also starred Sellers. The Pink Panther comedies Edwards and Sellers collaborated on before and after The Party were much more cohesive, and the actor scored his greatest success in another clueless fish-out-of-water tale, Being There, which won him the Best Actor Oscar in 1980. But The Party is a remarkable misfire that will have you applauding the filmmakers for defying convention, such as shooting in sequence to build upon the comedic tension from scene to scene. The company town becomes one big playground for Sellers, one of the few actors ever who could have been just as hilarious in silent films as he was in talkies. But amid the chaos fueled by booze, grass, Russians, an elephant and a lovely French actress (Claudine Longet, best-known for being the fatal shooter of her ski-legend boyfriend, Spider Sabich), Sellers deadpans some genuinely funny lines.

Director: Yes, you. Get off of my set and out of my picture. Off, off! You’re washed-up; you’re finished! I’ll see to it that you never make another movie again!

Bakshi: Does that include television, sir?

Bay Theater, 340 Main St., Seal Beach, (562) 431-9988; www.baytheatre.com. Sun., 6 p.m.; Mon., 8 p.m.; Thurs., Jan. 1, 6 p.m. $8.


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