TRAIL OF THE PINK PANTHER - Golden Oldies Finally On DVD
TRAIL OF THE PINK PANTHER
For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, June 30, 2017
EDITOR’S NOTE: A new Blu-ray set of the first six ‘Pink Panther’ movies was released this week. I only had the opportunity to review one of them, the last and weakest, but for the record, here it is, originally published in the Deseret News on Dec. 21, 1982. (And little did I know when I wrote that only Sellers could successfully play Inspector Clouseau, that one day Steve Martin would tackle the role — twice!)
Peter Sellers is Inspector Clouseau, and it’s hard to imagine anyone else filling his shoes.
Sellers’ death two years ago led Blake Edwards to think about replacing him with Dudley Moore or someone else, so the series could continue. But then he decided to use old outtakes of Sellers that were excised from the “Panther” pictures, and he has come up with some very funny, heretofore unseen clips of Sellers-Clouseau in action. And those alone are worth the ticket price to Sellers’ legion of fans.
But unfortunately, “Trail of the Pink Panther” also suffers from Edwards’ typical excesses, including gratuitous, tasteless moments and comic scenes that ramble on far too long.
The plot here is simple enough, with the opening scene resembling “The Return of the Pink Panther.” The title jewel is stolen again and Clouseau, still driving Dreyfus (Herbert Lom) crazy, is requested to help track it down.
The cartoon credits, as usual, set a lickety-split pace (here, the panther occasionally turns into a Pac-Manish gobbler), but Edwards lets the live-action film get too sluggish. He apparently needed to pad the film, so some scenes — particularly those outtakes — tend to run on past the punchlines.
But there are some gems. Sellers setting off the fire-extinguishing sprinkler system in his office in various ways is very funny, as is the scene in a hotel, with Sellers eventually hanging out the window by his telephone cord (who cares if Laurel & Hardy did the same thing years ago — it’s still funny).
Those scenes contrast starkly, however, with the opening moment in a costume shop and a scene in an airplane toilet. It’s easy to see why these were eliminated the first time around.
Anyway, the first half of the film is little more than an excuse to string together the unused Sellers footage (with a double performing some segues), while the last half is little more than an excuse to tie together some “best of” footage.
Midway through the film, Clouseau is on a plane that disappears, so a TV reporter (Joanna Lumley) researches his life, giving people like David Niven, as Sir Charles Litton (alias “The Phantom”), and Capucine, as Litton’s wife (she was married to Clouseau in the original 1964 “The Pink Panther”), an opportunity to reminisce about Clouseau, via flashbacks that show us scenes from “Panthers” past.
For some reason, the Lumley sequences frequently go on for what seems forever — particularly a completely pointless scene with Robert Loggia as a mobster. Edwards shot another film, “Curse of the Pink Panther” in conjunction with “Trail,” and I can only assume those scenes have to do with the next film, in which a new bumbling detective will replace Clouseau (“Curse” comes out next summer).
A Spanish lobby card of 'Trail of the Pink Panther' (1982).
Later, Lumley meets up with Clouseau’s father, an elderly Clouseau, a winemaker whose grapes are stomped by two nude women. This character is hilariously played by Richard Mulligan (Bert on TV’s “Soap,” the wacko director in Edwards’ “S.O.B.”).
On the whole, however, this film is intended as much as a salute to Sellers as it is a transition piece to a new “Panther” character (the opening credits say, “To Peter, the One and Only Clouseau”; the end credits tells us that “Curse” is on the way). That’s OK with me. Even as talented an actor as Alan Arkin failed to bring Clouseau to life in the one non-Edwards film, “Inspector Clouseau.” It’s wise to not have another actor try to succeed Sellers.
As for Edwards; he is the best sight-gag artist in movies today, but he should know by now that poor taste is no substitute for gag-building.
“Trail of the Pink Panther” is rated PG for the aforementioned nude scene, some profanity and a few crude jokes. It’s loose, incoherent and somewhat frustrating but it’s very nice to see Sellers again.
I for one prefer to think of this as Sellers’ final film, instead of the dreadful “Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu.”