The Pink Panther Collection (1964-1982)
The Pink Panther:
A Shot in the Dark:
The Pink Panther Strikes Again:
Revenge of the Pink Panther:
Trail of the Pink Panther:

Directed by Blake Edwards
Starring Peter Sellers, Herbert Lom, Burt Kwouk, David Niven, Capucine


Released by MGM
Rating: PG except for Pink Panther, which was NR
Region: 1
Anamorphic: Yes.

My Advice: Any sensible person should own.

The Phantom has his eyes on the jewel known as "The Pink Panther." It's held by Princess Dala (Claudia Cardinale), who is currently in exile and living large at a ski resort. Little does she know that The Phantom is really Sir Charles Lytton (Niven). Inspector Jacques Clouseau (Sellers) is after The Phantom and trying to protect the jewel...but little does he know his wife (Capucine) is secretly Lytton's lover and accomplice.

That's the setup for the first film--and I can't rightly tell you much more about the overall synopsis of the series, because I hate spoilers. Trust in the fact that Clouseau, widely recognized as one of the top policemen in the world, will always endure--no matter how big a buffoon he actually is.

Let's face it, though, there's not terribly much to give away about the later films in the series. They are, after all, just excuses to let Edwards and Sellers get together and create completely out of control situations for physical comedy. Kwouk, who plays the long suffering manservant (and assailant) Kato, referred to the series, according to the DVD set here, as one long movie that just took close to twenty years to shoot.

If the films are that similar, one might ask, then why care? Well, because it's Sellers, dammit, and he's a genius. Edwards I have respect for--when the man's on, he's on--however, when he's off, he's really off. Blind Date, anyone? Sellers was perfect in the role and had a great supporting cast in Kwouk and also Herbert Lom as even more long suffering Dreyfus. But it's Sellers who is the linchpin. It's his schticks I can watch over and over again and laugh every time.

The first film I find to be an extremely weak start to the series, however. The character of Clouseau is there, but not evolved into the comic force he is in later films. It's funny, doubt not, but it feels extremely even, testimony to the fact that Sellers was a last minute recast that wound up becoming the lead over Niven. And the fact that the entire movie stops to allow a musical number is...well, dumb, to be frank.

A Shot in the Dark is the best of the lot for just straight comedy. Clouseau is perfectly balanced before he went out of control in the later films. We are introduced to Lom and Kwouk's characters and some moments in the film are simply the stuff of comedy legend. The nudist colony, anyone?

Of course, there are clouds to every silver lining. With the tragic death of Sellers in 1980, the character of Clouseau should have been retired. However, Edwards kept on, doing three more movies without him. They were all horrendous shitpots. The first of them, Trail, is included in this set. We can't fault MGM for doing so, since this is to be a collection of Sellers Panther films and he does appear as Clouseau in it. Except, of course, this is nothing but cut footage, flashbacks and outtakes cobbled together to make a film. Audiences responded by giving this horrible idea some equally bad box office, bringing in only a fifth of the take the previous film had. This, of course, is what everyone remembers when they talk about bringing someone else into the role.

But enough bitching and reminiscing. The series stands fairly well, with the exception of Trail, and of course Return of isn't owned by MGM, so it couldn't appear here anyway. Time to talk DVDs.

The first film has the most stacking going on as far as bonus features. The commentary with Edwards is sparse at times. He does talk about what it was like to bring Sellers in at the last minute and also the creation and evolution of Clouseau, but the commentary does not astound. Coupled with the large gaps in Edwards talking, it's only a fair showing. Much more amusing is the pop-up trivia track. Granted, when you start talking about what type of wines the actors liked, you're reaching for content--but still, facts and stories about everyone involved are welcome. If you're going to do the commentary, I recommend turning on the trivia as well so you can knock them both out at once.

The making of featurette, clocking in at less than a half-hour, is a bit underwhelming. It's disappointing that the cast members we still have with us--Kwouk and Lom--could not participate for whatever reason. And while the information about Sellers is nice to have, it definitely left me unsatisfied. For a series of this magnitude, it needed a bit more meat. There's a featurette on the animated Panther as well--which is nice enough--along with a few cartoons.

Each disc comes with a rather nice photo gallery--shots of Edwards performing yoga on the set of the first film are bizarre and classic at the same time. There are trailers for each of the films--and ye gods, these things are terrible. It's no fault of the filmmakers--not really--trailers back then were pretty much all around godawful. Still, they are cringeworthy. Also, the new animated menus with artwork by Shag are atrocious and should be put down in the street, but if you click quickly you can pretend you never saw them.

Now here's the thing--this is probably the best we're going to see out of this series from MGM, so is it worth picking up? Certainly. The films look amazing and the DVDs are nice enough, if not as stacked as we would wish. Fans of the series will want to own, but everyone should at least rent.

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