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See original 'Pink Panther' at AVAM's Flicks on the Hill

Gifts for live-action visual comedy and sophisticated slapstick have been rare in movies ever since the disappearance of the silent clowns. But Blake Edwards, who died last December, had the talent to invent crackling lunacy that tickled the funny-bone and provoked belly-laughs with precise yet antic choreography. When he and Peter Sellers created the maladroit Inspector Clouseau in "The Pink Panther" (1964), they took viewers by surprise with a blend of pratfalls and cosmopolitan elegance. If you've never seen it -- or haven't in 47 years -- pay tribute to Edwards, give yourself a break and watch this movie at the American Visionary Art Museum's Flicks on the Hill at 9 p.m. tonight. (For the Sun's FindLocal event information, click here .)

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Set mostly in an Italian ski resort, it's a combination caper film and Cuckold Soup: both Sir Charles Lytton (David Niven) -- in reality, the notorious jewel thief, "the Phantom" -- and Lytton's con-artist nephew (Robert Wagner) woo Clouseau's wife (Capucine) while the inspector tries to prevent the theft of the fabulous Pink Panther diamond. By the end, even the gem's owner, the exotic Princess Darla (Claudia Cardinale), conspires against him.

But Clouseau proves to be clumsy and unsinkable. Brilliantly riffing on the character's stilted bearing and intense self-seriousness, Edwards and Sellers turn Clouseau into an archetypal figure -- the man of injured dignity who won't admit that any damage has ever been done to his pride. Under Edwards' direction, Sellers' eccentric, stop-and-go slapstick style hilariously frays the edges of the most elaborate set pieces.

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The movie provides a pleasant snowy dream of the high life, but what audiences love is Clouseau wagging a finger that lands in someone else's nose, or cooling off his burnt hand by stuffing it in a friend's stein of beer.

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