The Pink Panther Collection Review
The role of Inspector Clouseau was originally meant for Peter Ustinov, as a Sûreté detective on the trail of a famous international jewel thief played by David Niven. In its original incarnation, it seems unlikely that The Pink Panther would have been anything more than an enjoyable but forgettable standard light-comedy thriller. When Peter Sellers took over the role at the last minute, it dramatically changed the tone of the first film and paved the way to a series of sequels where the world around Clouseau would also become somewhat eccentric and absurd and the films would become much more broad in their humour.
The Pink Panther (1963)
The Pink Panther remains for the most part a fairly mundane story of a suave, charming, international jewel thief, the Phantom (David Niven) attempting to gain the confidence of a beautiful princess (Claudia Cardinale) in order to steal the most fabulous diamond in the world, The Pink Panther. There is something of an imbalance still in the film – Sellers’ Clouseau is an island of clumsy incompetence among a cast of distinguished actors trying to play a sophisticated crime thriller. It’s like setting Charlie Chaplin loose in a Bond film. Frankly, the film is rather dull and tedious but for the presence of Sellers, whose every movement is pure comic genius and in many ways the semi-serious tone of the film works in his favour.
A Shot In The Dark (1964)
Blake Edwards, delighted with Sellers' creation, immediately started re-writing another script before The Pink Panther was finished, to give Inspector Clouseau centre stage. When a man is found dead in the maid’s bedroom in millionaire Monsieur Ballon’s château, Maria Gambrelli (Elke Sommer) is arrested on suspicion of murder. Clouseau is in love with her and believes her innocent, setting her free to lure out the real killer – but each time she is released from prison, another person dies. With a trail of bodies behind her, it looks like Clouseau has got it badly wrong. Generally considered the better 60’s Pink Panther, A Shot In The Dark doesn’t have the daring spontaneity and invention of the first film, but introduced Commissioner Dreyfus (Herbert Lom) and Cato (Bert Kwouk), both of whom would go on to take the series to ever more surreal and hilarious lengths.
The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976)
Patching up their differences, Edwards and Sellers returned to their creation again in the 70’s with a trio of Pink Panther films. In The Pink Panther Strikes Again, former Chief Inspector Dreyfus (Herbert Lom) escapes from the hospital for the criminally insane and, having finally been pushed beyond breaking point, embarks on a crusade to rid himself and the world of Clouseau. Amassing a team of master criminals in a Bavarian castle, he threatens to destroy the world if Clouseau is not handed over. After a demonstration of his power, each nation sends out its top assassins to eliminate Clouseau.
In terms of plotting and pace, The Pink Panther Strikes Again is one of the better Pink Panther films. The plot is pure cartoon comedy with Lom as a maniacal, deliriously over-the-top Phantom of the Opera pantomine villain. The film was ripped–off wholesale by Mike Myers for Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. There are some fabulous slapstick sequences from Sellers, notably the Agatha Christie-style English country house drawing-room investigation and his hilarious attempts to lay siege to the Bavarian castle.
The Revenge of The Pink Panther (1978)
Philippe Douvier (Robert Webber) is a successful businessman and head of the French Connection crime ring. He wants to send out a message to other crime organisations that he is still the most powerful man in France, hiring international assassins to eliminate Chief Inspector Jacques Clouseau, the most celebrated man in France. When it looks like they have succeeded, Clouseau’s former boss, Chief Inspector Dreyfus (Herbert Lom) is specially released from his psychiatric hospital to handle the investigation, but is horrified to see Clouseau, in different disguises, every time he turns around. Slightly running out of steam, the Pink Panther plots were starting to become repetitive here and the characters more mannered, with Sellers relying more and more on funny accents and silly disguises. Still a lot of fun though.
Trail of The Pink Panther (1982)
Although Sellers died in 1980, Edwards made another film using outtakes and scenes from earlier films, patching them together with newly filmed scenes to make an all new Pink Panther film. It sounds like scraping the barrel and the results are indeed poor. Joanna Lumley plays a reporter who, following the disappearance of the Inspector while on a case, tries to find out what he was really like from people who have worked with him. In a way it is a tribute to Sellers, but frankly, it’s a poor one.
The Pink Panther DVD Collection is beautifully designed and packaged in a fold-out digipack, containing five discs of films, one disc of extras and a booklet insert. All films, commentaries and extra material are subtitled in English and a number of other languages. There are a number of other Pink Panther films not included here, but the only essential film missing is the Blake Edwards/Peter Sellers Return of the Pink Panther (1975), which is licenced to Universal and already available on DVD.
There is a fair bit of white dust speckling throughout The Pink Panther and occasionally some other mild print damage - there is scarcely a frame that doesn’t have a mark of some sort – but that is not as big a problem as it sounds. Colours are wonderful – a bright, clear and crystal sharp 2.35:1 anamorphic image with superb tone and contrast and not a speck of grain. The other 60’s film A Shot In The Dark is just as impressive, with much less of the print damage. The 70’s films are also fabulous – clear and sharp with few marks. Colours are not as warm as the earlier films and some scenes show low levels of grain and the occasional fluctuation of colour, brightness and contrast. Nevertheless, these are impressive presentations of all the films.
The audio is fine – the remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks of The Pink Panther and A Shot In The Dark are totally faithful to the original mono track by being practically completely centre speaker based. In Revenge of the Pink Panther the dialogue in the main stays centre speaker, but effective use is made of the surrounds for Henry Mancini’s terrific score. In each film the sound is always strong, clear and effective.
The first film, The Pink Panther comes with a Commentary by Blake Edwards. Edwards has a rather laid-back delivery and can go quiet for periods now and again, but this is still a valuable extra, full of reminiscences and memories of making the film and working with a spectacular cast. Trivia Titles can also be selected for the first film, providing very informative facts, biographies of the cast, anecdotes and trivia, pretty much without any gaps throughout the whole film. The Trivia Titles are only available in English. Theatrical Trailer’s are also included on each film disc.
The Pink Panther Story (28:41)
A documentary dedicated to the creation and development of the series and the characters, primarily through interviews with director Blake Edwards and producer Walter Mirisch.
That’s Panthertainment (46:41)
This is an older documentary from the 70s, made-up of snippets of interviews and footage from the press-junket for Revenge of The Pink Panther, but relying heavily on clips from the films. Not of any great substance, but there are some outtakes, goofs and gags.
The Unknown Peter Sellers (51:36)
A comprehensive look at Peter Sellers’ career in radio and film featuring lots of rare footage from lost and forgotten early TV series and films. The documentary doesn’t probe as deeply into Seller’s psychology as some recent BBC documentaries or books, but this is an interesting and worthwhile documentary.
The Commercial Peter Sellers (10 mins)
Three one minute Barclay’s advertisements and 3 TWA advertisements, with a four minute behind the scenes featurette on the TWA ads – this is fabulous, showing another aspect of Sellers’ comic brilliance and his ability to create and inhabit very funny characters.
Behind The Feline (10:49)
David DePatie talks about the development of the Pink Panther cartoon character, originally designed by DePatie and Friz Freleng as a title sequence for the film, it expanded into the successful and Oscar winning cartoon series.
5 pristine prints of these Pink Panther cartoons, 6 minutes each in length, and one Inspector cartoon are included in the extra features. The original ones, before the All-New Pink Panther was voiced, pointlessly, by Matt Frewer. The originals though are fabulous cartoons - classic stuff indeed.
Shots In The Dark
A large selection of black and white stills and promos for the first Pink Panther film.
This is a beautiful DVD package. All the films have been carefully and respectfully transferred to DVD, allowing them to be seen in the best way possible. Great attention has also gone into the packaging of the DVD and the inclusion of extensive, yet informative and interesting extra material. There is variation in the standard of comedy in the films, but they nevertheless show Sellers at his best in his most famous creation. The absence of Return of the Pink Panther is regrettable, but it’s clear from the effort that has gone into this set, that if it had been at all possible to get around licencing issues, they would certainly have done so. Incomplete then, but nevertheless, a great example of how to present and package a good series of films. Highly recommended.
Last updated: 16/06/2018 06:10:00