The original Chief Inspector Dreyfus has passed away.
Source: Herbert Lom, Frustrated Boss of Inspector Clouseau, Dies at 95
One of the most under-rated actors of our time, Herbert Lom, has died at the age of 95. He had a remarkable film career, though Lom's most memorable/famous role was of Chief Inspector Dreyfus in the Pink Panther films. Playing the straight man to Peter Seller's antics as inept Clouseau you couldn't help but feel sorry for the guy, yet also crackle with a giggle anytime something bad befell him. Probably my favorite scene of the entire Panther series was in The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976), when Dreyfus, about to be mentally cured and released is visited by the bumbling Clouseau, which slowly and surely drives him insane again. Just the way Lom plays Dreyfus in the scene makes it so memorable to me. He tries to resist his past impulses, but given the chaotic force that is Clouseau, it is inevitable that he is going to crack again.
I enjoyed the post-Sellers movies more than I should have because Lom took the franchise on his shoulders. In the final Panther entry (and his final film), Son of the Pink Panther, (1991), Inspector Dreyfus actually got a happy ending, which was actually satisfying given the hell he was put through for over thirty years.
Though Chief Inspector Dreyfus was his more famous role, my personal favorite was as the Phantom/Professor Petrie in Hammer's Phantom of the Opera (1962). Unlike other movies based on the book, his version of the Phantom was the most tragic and least villainous of the lot. He never does anything overtly vicious or evil. All the character wanted was show the world his music. Alas, the world was quite cruel to him instead as the person he showed his lyrics, Lord Ambrose (played gleefully smugly evil by Michael Gough), steals and destroys his entire life. Yet, even when life hits him so low he sees a second chance with Christine and mentors her to be the singer she was meant to be. No love affair between the two, save the love they both have for the music which in a way makes much more sense.
Lom plays the Phantom as a strict lover of the art. Of all the Phantoms, when his end comes, you can't help but wish this character had gotten a happier ending. That was the only true flaw of the film. The other note that I loved about his Phantom is that he was the first Phantom to use the famous Bach's Tocata N Fuge in D Mnior, something when played instantly makes you think of the Phantom.
I guess that's another quality I enjoyed about Lom when he acted. He really made you feel or care about his character and if they “checked” out. You would feel quite sad about it, wishing that character would have survived. That's a rare testament for an actor to do that in any role he was in. The Staff at the Outhouse wishes to express their thoughts and prayers to the Lom Family.