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With: Peter Sellers, David Niven, Robert Wagner, Claudia Cardinale, Elke Sommer, George Sanders, Herbert Lom, Dyan Cannon, Christopher Plummer, Robert Loggia, Burt Kwouk
Written by: Blake Edwards, Maurice Richlin, William Peter Blatty, Frank Waldman, etc.
Directed by: Blake Edwards
MPAA Rating: PG
Running Time: -99
Date: 03/18/2013
IMDB

The Pink Panther Film Collection (2004)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Think 'Pink'

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Growing up, I first came to the Pink Panther through the wonderful cartoon shorts. When I saw my first of the feature films, The Pink Panther Strikes Again, I expected to see a film about a six-foot panther. Instead I was surprised and delighted to see a movie about the clumsy, yet dignified Inspector Clouseau (Peter Sellers). I was hooked.

Now MGM/UA has released a spectacular six-disc box set with five movies, two documentaries and six cartoons.

Ironically, since I originally saw the series out of order, the first film doesn't really feel like a Pink Panther movie to me. It was intended as a comic spy film for David Niven, with Peter Ustinov originally cast as Inspector Clouseau! But the audience responded instead to Sellers, to the animated titles, and to Henry Mancini's memorable score. Since director Edwards didn't really know what he had at the time, it comes across as a mixture of two movies, a strong comedy and a feeble spy film.

Clouseau became, almost by accident, a clumsy idiot who against all odds believes in his own skills and instincts. Probably due to Sellers' comic skill, his confidence somehow comes across as endearing rather than arrogant, and we quickly grow to like him, or at least become fascinated by him.

The second film fares much better, despite its haphazard origins. Sellers was attached to star in A Shot in the Dark, an adaptation of a stagy, talky play that no one really liked. In desperation, he brought it to Edwards, and the pair of them agreed to turn it into a Clouseau film. It debuted the same year as the original and it went much further in terms of Sellers' performance. He refined his comic accent and his pratfalls. Elke Sommer co-stars as a sexy maid who looks like the main suspect in a murder, and only Clouseau has fallen in love with her and believes in her innocence.

The box set omits the third film in the series, the maligned Inspector Clouseau, starring Alan Arkin, as well as the fourth, The Return of the Pink Panther (1975), the rights of which are inexplicably owned by Artisan.

The box instead goes straight to the fifth, The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976). Both it and the sixth film, Revenge of the Pink Panther (1978), fare about the same, sloppier and with more deliberate laughs. Clouseau wears more ridiculous disguises, his accent gets thicker and he continually says words like "bomb" and "bumps." The lovely Dyan Cannon co-stars in Revenge, giving it the edge over Strikes Again.

The box set concludes with Trail of the Pink Panther (1982), the final film in the series to star Sellers, even though Sellers had died in 1980 at the age of 60. It consists mostly of outtakes and flashbacks, and Edwards was forced to invent a plot about Clouseau suddenly disappearing in order to get a feature film out of the material. What's there, though, still has some laughs, in a sad kind of way. Robert Loggia co-stars and David Niven returns from the first film.

Thankfully, the box omits the final two films, the dreadful Curse of the Pink Panther and Son of the Pink Panther, the former with Ted Wass and the latter with Roberto Benigni in the slapstick roles.

Best of all is the sixth disc, which contains six vintage cartoons: four Pink Panther, one "Ant and Aardvark" and one Clouseau. The first one is the Academy Award-winning "Pink Phink," which deserved its accolades. This disc also comes with two short making-of documentaries, featuring Edwards.

As for extras, Edwards provides one commentary track for the original film. The original also comes with pop-up trivia and each film comes with its own trailer. The set comes in a very cool patent-leather case that reflects the feel of the early films, but the six discs are wedged into three panels, and can be difficult to remove.

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