The reason I saw mostly uninteresting because on the surface it is a standard caper comedy of sorts. David Niven is pretty dull in the lead role, the female characters are quite boring, and I'll be getting to Robert Wagner in a bit. If you were to record my reactions to this film as it preceded you would notice a quite bit of boredom but semi frequent bits of me bursting out in laughter. Now these bits were not a coincidence but rather it indicated whenever the only saving grace of this film was on screen which of course is Peter Sellers. Peter Sellers is this movie and the film's biggest problem is that he is a supporting character here because the only time the film comes to life is when Sellers shows up as the hapless Inspector Clouseau.
It is rather interesting to note that Clouseau was only a side character in this film when the series that came out about it became excursively about Clouseau. Sellers's turn here is a bit different in that he does not do that (purposefully) over the top French accent in this film which he adopted for his later performances. His accent is much more muted this time and is almost the type of accent he might use if he was trying to portray the Inspector in a serious fashion. Perhaps though his somewhat more serious demeanor this time actually makes his slap stick all the funnier like for his first scene where he seriously talks about catching the thief but then falls in a rather amusing fashion from pushing a big globe too hard.
Sellers is comedic gold here and his timing is flawless here always trying to get the most out of any scene no matter what. His performance is almost somewhat curious in that he does kind of play it straight in a way well going completely absurd at the same time. He never seems like he is trying to be funny, but perhaps that is why he is so funny. I think perhaps comedic timing is too often overlooked as this film is a great example of its importance. Robert Wagner as the Lytton's nephew actually has slap stick moments as well, but he does not illicit a single laugh because his performance of it is well rather forced. He never flows with the material the way Sellers does, and whenever he was clearly trying for laughs all I thought was "Wagner stop trying to be funny, you’re not funny, Sellers is funny".
Sellers probably does not get enough screen time here but he always does pick up the film with his antics throughout. He is just always on trying to bring something funny in every scene that would otherwise be dull. It is pretty fascinating the way Sellers will do this in either a big way like his reaction to lighting a Roman candle instead of regular one as well as his line delivery of "What kind of candle is zis?", or even in a small way like when he accidentally kisses a man's hand instead of a the Princesses. He's consistently energetic and fun during the picture and I would say the only problem with this might be I actually only cared about him so when the other characters mocked him all I could think was "Shut up at least he's funny".
This is probably one of the most incredible examples of an actor stealing a show. David Niven meant this to be his film as well as his franchise, but Peter Sellers not only stole the film from right under him but the series as well. It is no wonder he did this not only because Niven doesn't do much with his role, but as well because Sellers is the movie. The biggest problem with the film is that there is not enough Sellers to go around and that does diminish just how much he can do for the film as a whole. Whenever he is on screen he is a delight and the film actually is the comedy it is meant to be. This is a true comedic gem even though it is in the rough, nevertheless this performance shows exactly why Sellers went on to play the role as many times as he did.