Anyone who’s been on a movie set, or any professional or social setting for that matter, knows that one lovable but clumsy wrecking ball who constantly trips over stuff, fucks shit up and inadvertently causes disaster wherever they go. In Blake Edwards’s brilliant 60’s screwball comedy The Party that someone is Peter Sellars as Hrundi V. Bakshi, a hapless Indian extra actor who just can’t seem to get it right, despite his best intentions.
Hrundi is blacklisted after causing what was probably a million dollar mistake on set, but the producer accidentally logs his name into the guest list of the swankiest party Hollywood has to offer, and he’s gonna crash the hell out of it. It turns out to be one of those straight-laced, button down industry affairs somewhere in The Hills, and he ends up standing out like an elephant at a house party (that later crosses over from metaphorical to literal, by the way). From the moment he walks through the door he’s knocking shit over, hitting the wrong intercom buttons, nosediving into the fancy indoor pool thingy and generally cultivating a level of uproarious pandemonium that reaches near maniacal heights in the third act. I’ve been to some barnstormer house parties in my day but never one with parrots, bows and arrows, rooms filled with soap bubbles and a painted elephant. Okay, maybe I have, but just not with the elephant.
The cool thing about this character Sellars creates is that despite being an outright moron and harbinger of unavoidable mayhem, he’s actually the sweetest, gentlest human you could meet and just seems cursed with the shitty luck of being the clumsiest guy at the circus. You can see by the way he protects a budding starlet (Claudine Longet) from the slimy sexual advances of a nasty mega producer and just in the simple way he treats people with earnest kindness that he’s a far cry from the polished but seedy diplomacy one usually finds at these events. He’s endlessly watchable and Bakshi is my favourite character he’s ever come up with, whether he’s literally talking back to a parrot who’s yapping at him (Birdy num nums!!), trying to fix the destruction caused by a severely liquored up waiter (Steve Franken) or fanboying over his favourite western movie star (Denny Miller), he’s an unbridled joy to watch and I still can’t believe this never got a sequel. The house in question is designed like a carefully primed mousetrap of pratfalls and slapstick hijinks and the script is a breezy, unconstructed playground for this guy to tear around like a driverless ATV in a Walmart. I used to watch this film with my dad all the time, it was one of his favourites and has become one of mine, the ultimate comedy of errors that has a beating heart and enough comic set pieces to blast the roof off the house. Brilliant film.