Blu-ray Review: The Pink Panther Film Collection Starring Peter Sellers



Inspector Jacques Clouseau wasn’t supposed to be the star of his first film yet alone be the cinema icon of a blockbuster cinematic series that includes 11 features. But then again, he wasn’t supposed to be played by Peter Sellers. Peter Ustinov was originally hired to be the detective investigating the David Niven’s jewel thief. But he left during preproduction and writer/director Blake Edwards hired Peter Sellers who was freshly off Stanley Kubrick’s Lolita. Sellers did his physical comic magic and stole the film from Niven. He was Clouseau to millions of moviegoers. Blake Edward’s The Pink Panther Film Collection Starring Peter Sellers contains all six of the films that put Sellers in the trenchcoat and hat.

The Pink Panther (1964 – 113 minutes) takes us to Lugash as the young Princess Dala receives the world’s largest diamond named The Pink Panther because a tiny discoloration. Years pass and Dala (Claudia Cardinale) goes on vacation to Switzerland. She has no clue of who is waiting to swipe the Pink Panther. Sir Charles Lytton (Niven) is being his usual suave English self. Except he’s got a second life as the notorious jewel thief known as The Phantom. He leaves a white glove with a dazzling P to mark his heists. Also around is Lytton’s nephew George (Hart to Hart‘s Robert Wagner) who is also a scam artist needing a big score to pay off serious gambling debts. Now you think Dala could feel safe with Inspector Clouseau (Sellers) on the slope. Except the detective is oblivious to his wife (Capucine)having an affair with Lytton and involved in a bit of underworld action. Clouseau thinks his wife is so frugal that allows her to live a lavish life on a civil servant’s pay. Things get wilder in Rome where everyone wants to swipe the diamond except Clouseau who proves he bumbles the right way. Things get wild at the end including a chase with men in gorilla suits zipping around in convertible sports cars. The film had a great mix of romance, suaveness and slapstick that it became a major hit. Sellers solidified his name in America as a new major star instead of being a cult actor in English comedies. There was little waiting for the sequel.

A Shot In the Dark (1964 – 102 minutes) was a comic mystery stage play that didn’t feature Clouseau, but Blake and Sellers changed that quickly. The film is about a maid (Elke Sommer) accused of murdering a chauffer on a millionaire’s estate. The French police assign Clouseau to the case by accident and accidents quickly happen as the Inspector destroys so much while hunting for clues. The film establishes key elements to the series. First is Commissioner Dreyfus (Herbert Lom) being driven nuts by his detective. Dreyfus yanks Clouseau off the case, but the millionaire (George Sanders) wants the bumbler back on the case after more staff dies. Clouseau does not think the maid is guilty even as all signs point to her. He’s got a crush on her so he doubts she’s guilty. Is he being taken for a ride again like with his wife in the first movie. The movie also lets us see Cato (Burt Kwouk), Clouseau’s butler who has been instructed to answer the phone and attempt to kill his boss. The slapstick goes into high gear as the two battle around the apartment. It’s hard to think how this play existed with Clouseau. Sadly the next film Inspector Clouseau did not feature Blake or Sellers. It was Alan Arkin in the lead with Bud Yorkin directing. The good news is you don’t have to see it in this boxset. We go straight to the early anticipated reunion.

The Return of the Pink Panther (1975 – 114 minutes) takes us back to Lugash where a mysterious thief breaks into a museum and steals the Pink Panther through extremely complicated methods to beat the alarms. The only clue found is a white glove with the P. Has the Phantom come out of retirement. The country wants Inspector Clouseau of the Sûreté to once more rescue their diamond. Little do they know that Dreyfus has busted the inspector to a beat cop that’s easily distracted by a monkey to not notice a bank robber. But after a battle with Cato, Clouseau is happy to be back on a major case. He head to Lugash and then France to track down Lytton (now played by Christopher Plummer). Lytton is upset that someone has stolen his Phantom identity to pin the crime on him. He heads to Lugash to track down the real thief. Clouseau gets on the trail Lady Claudine (Catherine Schell) to see what’s really up. Lytton uncovers the real thief, but can he get the diamond before Clouseau. This film really scored bit in the mid-70s. The routine with the monkey and the organ grinder was repeated by people like lines for Borat. The movie quickly spawned another installment.

The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976 – 103 minutes) pits Clouseau against his greatest villain ever: Dreyfus. His antics have finally driven the commissioner into the insane asylum. He is almost cured of his homicidal desires against the inspector when Clouseau shows up to speak in behalf of his boss. This makes Dreyfus snap completely. He escapes from the asylum and puts together a dream team of international criminals. He nabs a renowned scientist that can build a laser that vanishes building. Dreyfus wipes out a major landmark and declares he will destroy more with his doomsday machine if someone doesn’t kill Clouseau. This leads to one of the greatest comic scenes of bungled assassinations. The film is brilliantly over the top in stunts and story. There’s a great moment when Cato destroys his boss’s romantic encounter.

Revenge of the Pink Panther (1978 – 98 minutes) has Philippe Douvier (Robert Webber) wanting to prove he’s not the weak element in the French Connection. The businessman figures the right way to show the New York mobsters that he means business is to kill Cousteau. He does his best, but Clouseau escapes all the assassination plots through his normal method of blunder and twisted luck. He even takes out the most dangerous man in the world when he believes it’s just merely Cato. When everyone thinks Clouseau is dead, the inspector is able to sneak to Hong Kong with Cato and Douvier’s secretary (Dyan Cannon) to try to break up the ring with the Chinese supplier, the French middle man and the American distributor mobsters. It’s a final bout of slapstick. Seller was at the end of his life with failing health so he didn’t do much of the physical work himself. However Blake shoots the action right so it’s not really noticeable if you’re not looking for the body double action. This would be the last time Sellers acted in a Pink Panther film, but not the last time he appeared in one.

Trail of the Pink Panther (1982 – 96 minutes) is a strange movie since it stars Sellers who had died back in 1980. There have been films before that were finished after their star died such as Bruce Lee in Game of Death and Bela Lugosi in Plane 9 From Outer Space. But Sellers hadn’t begun a sixth Panther film with Blake Edwards. The first half of the movie are deleted scenes from The Pink Panther Strikes Again. Supposedly Blake wanted to make the film 3 hours long, but saner minds won out. But Blake had all these great scenes and this was at a time before Deleted Scenes were put on Blu-rays. He figured out a story about the Pink Panther being stolen a third time. When the movie runs out of outtakes, the story turns into the mystery of what happened to the Inspector. Joanna Lumley is a reporter hot on the case which leads to actors such as David Niven, Herbert Lom and Burt Kwouk flashbacking to the previous films. The final act of the film is flashbacks to the childhood of Cousteau. As a stand alone film, it’s a rather crass way for Edwards to squeeze one more movie out of Sellers. But as part of a boxset with the other five films, Trail of the Pink Panther is an amazing bonus feature giving a sense of what more could have been in Strikes Again. Turns out that Clouseau setting his desk on fire was a running gag.

Blake Edward’s The Pink Panther Film Collection Starring Peter Sellers is a pure joy. There have been previous boxsets, but they didn’t include The Return of the Pink Panther since it had a different distributor. Now they are united and all look so marvelous. Sellers so absorbed himself into the character of Clouseau that after watching the movies, it’s strange to hear Sellers speak with an English accent. Blake made a movie series that rivaled the James Bond films for the ability to keep up the entertaining after numerous sequels. Now with all the bonus features, you can get a sense of the rush that greeted the movies when Sellers returned to the role in the ’70s. The Pink Panther series reminds us that if you persistently bumble, you’ll always get your man. It’s a great thing that Peter Ustinov ditched the role because so much comedy would have been denied the world.

The video is 2.35:1 anamorphic for all six films. The HD transfers bring out the best in Sellers’ performances. Audio Selections include 5.1 DTS-HD Master Surround, 2.0 DTS-HD Master Stereo and DTS-HD Master Mono so you can pick whether you want to hear the original mix or remaster. The movies are subtitled in English.

The Pink Panther Story (28:42) allows the living major players explain the evolution of the series. Blake originally had the film with Peter Ustinov and Ava Gardner. Blake reminds us that working with Sellers wasn’t always fun and games.

Beyond the Feline: The Cartoon Phenomenon (10:51) discusses how the Pink Panther went from a cartoon on letterhead to the opening credit sequence to his own cartoon series. The lack of real words in most of the cartoons helped make him an international superstar.

The Coolest Cat in Cortina: Robert Wagner (10:53) is recent interview with the actor. He talks about how he snagged the role in the middle of a bad divorce. He had a great time working off the unpredictable Peter Sellers. He has a twisted tale of taking a bathroom break on a mountain top with David Niven.

Interview with Claudio Cardinale (11:11) is a recent interview with the star. She had to learn to ski for the role. She could look good in motion, but stopping was an issue. She speaks French so the screen is subtitled.

The Tip-Toe Life of a Cat Burglar: A Conversation with Former Jewel Thief Bill Mason (9:43) has a real felon talk about what it takes to steal. He didn’t leave clues or calling cards. He did dress up to party with his rich victims. He stole Phyllis Diller’s diamonds! He was in the real estate business for his day job. Where is the movie based on Bill?

Diamonds: Beyond the Sparkle (6:53) seems to be a promo from the diamond industry. They do talk about the Pink Panther diamond.

The Pink Panther Trailer (3:50) has the Panther giggling while checking out the film straight from the reel.

Poster Gallery (2:45) are the various way the film was sold around the world. Most involved the cartoon panther and a bed.

Still Gallery (6:21) are dozens of shots from the production.

Back to the Start: The Origin of the Pink Panther (23:10) is an interview with production company chief Walter Mirisch. Mirisch goes back to work at Monogram Films. Walter explains so much including why Sellers didn’t play the Inspector for a while after Shot In The Dark. He also explains how he didn’t produce The Return of the Pink Panther.

Audio Commentary by Jason Simos of the Peter Sellers Appreciation Society is extremely informative. He makes sure we see the genius behind the opening that sets up so much with minimal character interaction with dazzling fluid masters ending in gun shots.

Blake Edwards and Julie Andrews on The Dick Cavett Show (7:06) is Blake presenting the outtakes from Shot In the Dark.

Theatrical Trailers (9:54) is a major push for the film. One features a talking bullet who is helping out the Inspector. There’s also a trailer from when a double feature of The Pink Panther/A Shot in the Dark was reissued in 1966.

Photo Galleries (10:02) includes studio stills, production candids, theatrical release posters, and vintage lobby cards.

A Bit of Passion and Lots of Laughs: an interview with actress Catherine Schell (21:48) has her discuss how see saw the first one dubbed in German so she didn’t know of Sellers’ accent as the Inspector. She was a fan and excited to get the call. Blake joked a lot during her interview for the role.

A interview with production designer Peter Mullins (28:03) lets him discuss making 3 Pink Panther films with Sellers and three without him. He discusses designing sets for mayhem. There was a bit of improvisation with the slapstick and he had to roll with it.

Audio Commentary by Jason Simos of the Peter Sellers Appreciation Society deals with what brought Blake and Sellers back to the Inspector. He covers a lot of background.

The Return of Laughter (8:21) is the studio going behind the scenes for The Return of the Pink Panther in 1975. You get to see Blake stage the opening bank robbery with Sellers.

Theatrical Trailers (5:09) reminds us that the Pink Panther is back.

TV Spots (3:25) takes us back to 1963 to what was going on in the world when the Inspector was on the case. Now he’s back.

Radio Spots (2:29) a bad Cagney impersonator wants you to give crime a break with the return of Clouseau.

Photo Galleries (6:19) includes studio stills, production candids, theatrical release posters, and vintage lobby cards.

Panther Musings: an interview with actress Lesley-Anne Down (21:49) reflects upon her career and how she got to be the Soviet spy that loved Clouseau.

A Cut Above: Editing the Pink Panther Films (24:31) is an interview with editor Alan Jones where he talks how he took over from the editor when Blake decided to shoot more scenes for Return of the Pink Panther after everyone thought the had wrapped. He had a big adventure with Blake. He kept cutting after various previews. He became Blake’s man in the editing room when the film was a success. He was able to collaborate with Blake on a few scenes.

Audio Commentary by Jason Simos of the Peter Sellers Appreciation Society covers so much.

Clouseau: The Greatest Fumbler in the World (The Making of The Pink Panther Strikes Again) (7:18) is the original featurette from 1976. Reminds us that this is a new case while reviewing their previous films. Blake and Sellers talk from the asylum location.

Theatrical Trailers (5:54) includes rare teaser trailers that has Clouseau supposedly operating the projector. Another has a fake Henry Kissenger promoting the movie.

TV Spots (2:56) promise mayhem and disguises.

Radio Spots (2:55) is what you’d hear driving around in a Pacer.

Photographer Colin Cadle’s on-set gallery (2:03) have a giant Pink Panther next to the studios. Most of the shots are from the Doomsday Machine set.

Photo Galleries includes studio stills, production candids, theatrical release posters, and vintage lobby cards)
 
Audio Commentary by author and film historian William Patrick Maynard makes up for a lack of specific featurettes about Revenge of the Pink Panther. He tells about the last go around with Sellers and Blake.

Theatrical Trailers (3:04) include a teaser trailer that makes Clouseau appear like Bond.

TV Spots (1:57) deals with how revenge can be so funny.

Radio Spots (2:21) teases commuters with getting to see Sellers find his own killer.

Photo Galleries includes studio stills, production candids, theatrical release posters, vintage lobby cards and photos from Alan Jones’ Personal Collection.
 
Audio Commentary by author and film historian William Patrick Maynard fills in many of the details as to how Trail of the Pink Panther was brought all together. He points that the studio wanted Trail made to set up Blake’s Curse of the Pink Panther.
He mentions how Blake Edwards wanted Dudley Moore or Rowan Atkinson as the new star of the Pink Panther films, but ended up making Curse of the Pink Panther with Ted Wass. He’s great for background.

Theatrical Trailers (3:22) makes it seem like Sellers really made one final Pink Panther movie.

Photo Galleries includes studio stills, production candids, theatrical release posters, and vintage lobby cards.

Shout! Factory presents Blake Edward’s The Pink Panther Film Collection Starring Peter Sellers. Directed by: Blake Edwards. Starring: Peter Sellers, Herbert Lom and Burt Kwouk. Boxset Contents: 6 movies on 6 Blu-ray discs. Released: June 27, 2017.

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