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Trail of the Pink Panther

Dullsville

Trail of the Pink Panther (1982)

     I find it hard to say anything positive about a movie that essentially amounts to a cinematic version of a sitcom clip show and taking Trail of the Pink Panther in context perhaps even worsens one’s opinion. Peter Sellers died of a heart attack in 1980, but director of the Pink Panther franchise Blake Edwards insisted on releasing an Inspector Clouseau movie without collecting any new footage. The result is this flick, which resorted to molding a story based on a “missing” Jacques Clouseau whose life is recounted through flashbacks to the scenes and outtakes of past movies.

    Trail of the Pink Panther did not sit favorably with critics, nor did two subsequent Pink Panther films Edwards made without Sellers’ image: Curse of the Pink Panther in 1983 with Ted Wass as a policeman similar to Clouseau, and Son of the Pink Panther with Roberto Begnini posing as Clouseau’s illegitimate son.

     There is something to be said about paying homage to a fine actor, but to essentially bastardize his work by faking a film using old footage seems an insult to Sellers’ memory driven more by greed than a love of the franchise. I cannot presume Edwards’ motives were money-based but it seems unlikely there could be any other driving reason.

     Using footage from Pink Panther Strikes Again, the film opens on Chief Inspector Jacques Clouseau visiting his disguise man and purchasing a hunchback outfit complete with fake nose and teeth. He manages to insult the shop owner’s wife by asking to purchase the nose she is “wearing.” He is being followed, but the movie will never really explain what that is all about. Clouseau goes on to set a number of things aflame in his office before being assigned to assist in again recovering the Pink Panther gem, which has been stolen. After flying to London, Clouseau takes off for the fictional country that owns the diamond. His plane “disappears” and he is thought lost at sea.

     Clouseau’s potential death thrills Inspector Dreyfus (Herbert Lom) who is still undergoing therapy for his Clouseau obsession. It also attracts the attention of a television reporter (Joanna Lumley) who spends the remainder of the film seeking out the detective’s closest friends and colleagues to essentially craft a tribute story. On her list are manservant/sparring partner Cato (Burt Kwouk), former assistant Hercule (Graham Stark), David Niven as Sir. Charles Litton (from The Pink Panther), and Clouseau’s father, played by Richard Mulligan. She is also kidnapped by gangster Bruno (Robert Loggia) who insists she stop looking into the Clouseau disappearance. The close of the film has a body double for Sellers standing on a cliff somewhere, looking at the ocean as we suppose he is still alive and in hiding for some inexplicable reason.

      The scenes with the father are probably the most amusing. He runs a winery where naked women stomp the grapes. They recently lost Fifi and the wine does not taste the same without her. The man is also a bit insane as he is unable to recall anything about his son after 4 p.m., by which point the day’s wine tastings have gone to his head. The funniest part of the movie for me was the maid Clouseau Sr. employs and the dog he has lead her about. The decrepit old woman attempts to bring a tray of wine to the old man and the reporter, and through whistling and other vocal cues, Clouseau Sr. instructs the dog as to how to herd the woman. The pet growls and pulls at the old lady’s skirt to get her to the correct destination.

     It is a wonder to me that the actors who appeared in the former Pink Panther movies would agree to return for this slapdash movie that lacks any real involvement from the star carrying the picture. Perhaps they were all after a paycheck, but it seems at least Niven would have been well established enough to not add this blotch to his career.

     Trail of the Pink Panther is not unfunny. It has its moments but because most of them are repeats of scenes from films past, the whole presentation is a bit tarnished.

Source: TCM.com

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Pink Panther Strikes Again

Ring a Ding Ding

Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976)

     I thought I was watching the Pink Panther movies in sequence, but my powers of deduction have fooled me into thinking The Pink Panther Strikes Again was the third in the series, when in fact I’ve missed The Return of the Pink Panther that was released the year prior. Nevertheless, I did not notice I’d missed anything and was thoroughly able to enjoy the latest of my viewings without hindrance while still noticing jokes that point back to previous films.

     The now-familiar former Chief Inspector Dreyfus (Herbert Lom) is about to be released from the mental institution where doctors believe he’s been cured of the insanity and urge to kill caused by the troublesome Inspector Jacques Clouseau (Peter Sellers). When now-Chief Inspector Clouseau visits Dreyfus on his day of release, the patient reverts to his murderous desire after interaction with his nemesis lands him wet and with a “bemp” on the head.

     Dreyfus escapes from his imprisonment hell-bent on destroying the world lest Clouseau is assassinated. He kidnaps a scientist and his daughter to gain the technology to remotely zap buildings into nonexistence. The scientist resists until his daughter is subjected to torture via nails on a chalkboard. Not only is Clouseau investigating the kidnapping, but he soon must evade assassins from every country on the earth, who are out to win his head and save the world.

     Naturally, along the way a female assassin falls in love with Clouseau after she thinks she makes love to him in a darkened room, when in fact she has bedded a Greek assassin played by an uncredited Omar Sharif. The inspector’s manservant/sparing partner (if you will) Cato (Burt Kwouk) also reappears in an extended battle sequence near the film’s start, but is injured by a bomb (“the exploding kind”) and is out until the film’s end when in familiar fashion he jumps into bed with the lovers.

     The sequence with the female assassin (Lesley-Anne Down) might be my favorite in this picture. One assassin dressed as Clouseau enters the chief inspector’s hotel room. Sharif follows and kills him in the bathtub, thinking it is Clouseau himself. When the female assassin, Olga, enters, she declares her love for Clouseau and seduces Sharif in a dimly lit room. Sharif leaves and now the actual Clouseau arrives. He moves throughout several rooms turning on lights and turning off others while Olga is doing the same. He’s befuddled as to what is happening with the lighting and even more surprised when he gets into bed with some “cold hands.” Olga thinks she is with the same man, and a confused Clouseau escapes to the bathroom, where he now finds the body. He calls the front desk and declares “Hello?… Yes. There is a beautiful woman in my bed, and a dead man in my bath.”

     I have truly only discovered Blake Edwards after starting this blog and have managed to herald a handful of his movies in that time (Victor/Victoria, The Great Race). This movie was as enjoyable as I expected but I would not declare it the director’s best (although the opening credits might be). TCM’s Robert Osborne says most people consider The Pink Panther Strikes Again to be the best in the series, but although  highly amusing, I am sticking with A Shot in the Dark as my favorite.

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