Paris Police Chief Inspector Charles Dreyfus (Herbert Lom) has been committed to a psychiatric hospital after one of his inspectors, Clouseau (Peter Sellers), literally drove him mad with his bumbling and accident-prone ways. Now, however, his doctor (Geoffrey Bayldon) believes him to be cured after three years of treatment, and this afternoon he will be discharged from the institution; needless to say, Dreyfus is delighted and not even the doctor calling out Clouseau's name at random moments can rile him. That is before he ventures out into the grounds and suffers a meeting with the Inspector whch sees him hit on the back of the head with a croquet ball and repeatedly dunked in the lake...
So it would appear that Dreyfus's madness and fixation on Clouseau would be taking centre stage in this, Sellers' fourth film in the series. On the other hand, usual director Blake Edwards, writing with one of his regular collaborators Frank Waldman, seemed more content to restage various scenes that he knew would be surefire crowd pleasers, which had the effect of making this the best Clouseau movie after A Shot in the Dark, but also had a sense of running over past glories. Not so much that the previous instalment, Return of the Pink Panther had done, though, as there was a more ambitious plot to be reckoned with.
It's a pity that Sellers and Lom don't share more scenes other than at the beginning and at the end, because they worked so well together, and when they do appear in the same sequence the antagonism the Dreyfus character feels for the Clouseau character prompts some decent laughs. Still, elsewhere they do pretty well, with Sellers' highlight coming when he goes to England to investigate a country house kidnapping (or murder, as he has it) and ends up destroying the front room in front of the aghast staff. With Dreyfus absent from these bits, it's left to Leonard Rossiter to fill the exasperated police chief role, and while an excellent comic actor, he isn't offered enough to do.
Why is Dreyfus absent? That's because he is off acting as if he were a villain from a James Bond movie, and has plans to destroy the world (or England, anyway) if his demands are not met. The kidnap victim is a professor (Richard Vernon) who with his teenage daughter (Briony McRoberts) is being held in a Bavarian castle that doubles as Dreyfus' home and his base of operations. It is there, after a spot of torture (fingernails down the blackboard unless you give in!), that the professor designs a vanishing ray that is used to disintegrate the United Nations building as proof that the madman means business (presumably that ray operates on a curve seeing as how it's halfway round the world to the U.N.).
Dreyfus demands that Clouseau be killed, a simple request which ends up with a bunch of assassins on the Inspector's trail, most memorably ending up at Oktoberfest where a collection of unlikely heavies try and fail to bump off our hero. One of them is the Russian agent Lesley-Anne Down, who thanks to a misunderstanding (she thought he was Omar Sharif - oh, you'd have to see it to understand) ends up falling in love with Clouseau. Elsewhere, the sort of business audiences had come to expect from these films, all taken from the admittedly better A Shot in the Dark, was well to the fore, so manservant Cato (Burt Kwouk) attacks when least wanted, and the slapstick tends towards the extravagant. At its best when most ridiculous (Clouseau posing as a dentist for the reliable laughing gas gag), Strikes Again was perhaps the last consistently funny film Sellers made, and worth seeing for that. Music by Henry Mancini, including the famed theme. Oh, and that's not my dog.