Shout! Factory brings all six of the seminal Blake Edwards' Pink Panther films to star the late, great Peter Sellers to Blu-ray for the first time with the aptly titled The Pink Panther Film Collection. Not that this is not a complete collection, as the non-Sellers entries are not included, but it's still a cause for celebration for fans of the Sellers run as Inspector Clouseau. Before we get to the technical aspects and extra features for this release, let's take a quick look at the films themselves…
The Pink Panther:
Directed and co-written by Blake Edwards in 1963, The Pink Panther is the one that started it all. The story opens with a scene where young Princess Dala is given a gift from her father, the Shah Of Lugash, in the form of the largest diamond in the world, dubbed The Pink Panther. When Dala reaches adulthood, there's an uprising in Lugash and the rebels insist that she hand over the gem. Dala (Claudia Cardinale) refuses and is soon on holiday in Switzerland completely unaware that British jewel thief Sir Charles Lytton (David Niven), alias ‘The Phantom,' hopes to swipe the gem out from under her. Unaware that Charles is ‘The Phantom,' George (Robert Wagner), Charles' nephew, is also hoping to steal the gem, and not only that, he hopes that ‘The Phantom' will take the rap for it.
Hoping to stop ‘The Phantom' is one Inspector Jacques Clouseau (Peter Sellers) of the Sûreté. He arrives in Switzerland with his wife, Simone (Capucine), who unbeknownst to Clouseau is not only sleeping with Sir Charles but assisting him in his crimes as well. It gets more complicated from there when young George falls for Simone himself, and proves quite persistent in his amorous ways. While Clouseau might be more than dedicated to seeing justice served, he's quite possibly the most bumbling detective to ever walk the face of the Earth. As such, sorting all of this out will not be easy.
Very classy, stylish and ‘mod' in its appearance, The Pink Panther is never the less a masterpiece of physical comedy, slapstick humor and quick witted writing. Edwards keeps the action moving at a good pace, managed to even build some genuine suspense in a few of the theft attempt scenes, but really focuses more on the style and the humor inherent in the movie. The mid-sixties European locations come alive with color while the outfits and costumes (some of which were designed by Yves Saint Laurent) all look fantastic. Add to that the classic score from Henry Mancini, that has gone on to become genuinely iconic, and some very posh, slick production values and this not only shapes up nicely but holds up remarkably well even by modern standards.
Of course, none of this would matter that much if the cast weren't up to par, but thankfully that is not the case. David Niven proves the perfect choice to play the British playboy type. He's clearly having a great time where and is just spot on in the role. Claudia Cardinale couldn't be more beautiful if she tried, and she's got enough of an exotic look to her that she to excels in the part. Robert Wagner as the young upstart George is a lot of fun to watch while Capucine does a great job as the inspector's philandering wife. In the middle of all of this is Peter Sellers as Inspector Jacques Clouseau, delivering a performance that has rightly gone on to be regarded as one for the history books. He handles the dialogue perfectly. His comedic timing is excellent. His accent is hysterical. His penchant for physical comedy beyond reproach. The Pink Panther is a legitimately great movie, yet somehow Edwards and Sellers would outdo themselves with the sequel…
A Shot In The Dark:
Co-written by Edwards and William Peter Blatty, and made a year after the first film in 1964, A Shot In The Dark opens when Miguel, the Spanish driver of a rich man named Benjamin Ballon (George Sanders), is found dead, the victim of an assassin's bullet. Inspector Jacques Clouseau (Sellers again) is soon on the scene and his initial investigation points to Ballon's maid gorgeous Maria Gambrelli (Elke Sommer). After all, the body was found in her bedroom and she was a gun in her hand. Clouseau, however, can't get over his attraction to the woman and takes this to mean that he must prove she must be hiding a secret of some sort… and that she must be innocent.
Later that night, the inspector is awoken by what he fears is an attempt on his life by a Chinese killer, only to learn that it's his valet, Cato (Burt Kwouk), working his hardest to help the inspector keep his wits about him. Clouseau manages to get Maria released from prison and once she's free, he starts to tail her. As he follows her about, those she comes into contact with almost always turn up dead shortly thereafter. This doesn't look good for Maria, who keeps getting tossed in jail only to have the inspector spring her again, while Clouseau's superior, Charles Dreyfus (Herbert Lom), begins to lose his patience. Dreyfus wants to take Clouseau off the case, but Ballon himself is putting pressure on the department to keep the inspector on it, which leads to the commissioner suffering a mental breakdown.
This second film takes everything that was great about the first movie and dials it up to eleven. The script is funnier, it's wittier and it affords its cast more opportunity to strut their comedic stuff. Sellers is at the peak of his comedic abilities here, really working that over exaggerated French accent for all that it's worth, while the addition of both Burt Kwouk and Herbert Lom to the cast really just adds to the overall lunacy inherent in the storyline. Kwouk, doing his best Bruce Lee as Cato, is amazing here, leaping out and assaulting Clouseau at the most inopportune of times, while Lom is perfect as the commissioner. Once he starts to suffer from his break down the role really lets him go over the top, though somehow never to the film's detriment. Add smoldering Elke Sommer to the cast and a sneaky George Sanders too, and this one really just comes together wonderfully.
Again, Edwards proves adept at using great locations and sets as well. When the action isnt' taking place on the streets or in a prison it's a posh mansion or somewhere ripe for comedy like, say, a nudist colony. The pacing is perfect, the score is once again completely terrific and A Shot In The Dark remains the highpoint of the Seller's films in the series (which is saying a lot as they're all pretty great).
The Return Of The Pink Panther:
After Inspector Clouseau in 1968 in which Alan Arkin took over the role, Sellers returned with 1975's The Return Of The Pink Panther. When this movie begins, Clouseau has been demoted to beat cop by Dreyfus, who simply cannot stand the constantly bumbling inspector. However, when an agent is needed to travel to Lugash to investigate the theft of the Pink Panther diamond, Clouseau is reinstated and shipped abroad.
After scoping out the museum, Clouseau comes to the determination that Sir Charles Litton (now played by Christopher Plummer) is attempting to recreate the most famous heist of his storied career as the jewel thief known as ‘The Phantom.' Clouseau is excited at the prospect of going up against his old foe, the same man who landed him in prison not all that long ago (tying this film into the first one quite nicely). Clouseau does what Clouseau does best, bumbling his way through the investigation and then eventually being tricked into leaving to follow Lady Claudine (Catherine Schell) on a trip to Switzerland. Elsewhere, Litton reads of the heist and it quickly dawns on him that someone has framed him for a crime he did not commit. He launches an investigation of his own and soon comes to the realization that he knows who really stole the gem… while Clouseau once again proves more than capable of driving his superior off the deep end, an agent named Colonel Sharky (Peter Arne) tries to kill some suspects and Cato gets up to his old tricks again.
A very worthy follow up, this picture again sees Sellers steal the show. By this point in the history of the series he really had made the character his own (not to take away from the films in the series made without him, but the Sellers entries are better regarded for a very good reason) and his comedic talents are once again on full display. Lom is also in fine form here as the increasingly deranged Dreyfus and how can you not love Burt Kwouk as Cato? Sure, the whole storyline is fairly preposterous but it doesn't matter. Edwards' direction is great, the pacing is just fine and once again there's loads of eye candy on display in the form of some interesting sets, locations and costumes.
The Pink Panther Strikes Again:
Made a year after the last film, 1976's The Pink Panther Strikes Again opens with former Chief Inspector Charles Dreyfus (Herbert Lom) recovering from his stint at a mental hospital. His murderous impulses seem to be under control until Clouseau (Sellers) no Chief Inspector in Dreyfus' absence, comes to pay the man a visit. His bumbling ways drive Dreyfus insane again and he's basically locked back up, only to escape shortly after, bent on sending Clouseau to his grave.
After an attempt to bomb Clouseau's apartment doesn't work, Dreyfus teams up with Anthony Tournier (John Sullivan), a bank robber the inspector put behind bars at one point, to take Clouseau down. With the help of a few other crooks who Clouseau has had run ins with other the years, they kidnap a nuclear scientist named Professor Hugo Fassbender (Richard Vernon) and his daughter Margo (Briony McRoberts) and force him to build them a doomsday device. Meanwhile, Clouseau is trying to solve the case of Fassbender's disappearance in England, much to the dismay of Scotland Yard's Director Alec Drummond (Colin Blakely) and Superintendent Quinlan (Leonard Rossiter). One Dreyfus gets the device he needs, however, he makes it clear… if Clouseau is not killed, he will use what he has to destroy the world!
If this film takes things to even more preposterous levels than the ones that came before, so be it. It's still very funny, with Sellers going so over the top with the physical comedy and prat falls, not to mention the accent, that you can't help but laugh at this through and through. Again, there's great interplay here between Sellers and Kwouk as well as some great moments between Clouseau and his English counterparts. Lom goes so far over the top this time around that he's almost become a parody of a Bond villain, but that doesn't mean he's any less great in the part. Throw in a cameo from Omar Sharif and a supporting role from the lovely Lesley-Anne Down as a would be Russian assassin, a great recurring gag with Clouseau and a bridge, some wonky dental humor and some playful but very funny digs at world leaders and you can see why this entry remains a favorite. There's even a funny Jaws gag at the very end of the movie.
The Revenge Of The Pink Panther:
Made in 1978, The Revenge Of The Pink Panther is starting to seem more than a little formulaic given how it follows many of the same trappings as the earlier films, but it's still a very funny film. The story follows a corrupt French businessman named Philippe Douvier (Robert Webber) who is making a deal with the Mafia in New York City involving a complex drug smuggling operation. When the Mafia members hold back, fearing that Douvier is too old and weak to hold his own, he decides to prove his worth by taking out Chief Inspector Clouseau. Bombs don't work and neither does an attempt to have a martial arts expert take him down, so Douvier decides to do it himself. He calls the inspector pretending to be an informant and sets up a meeting. Clouseau heads off to make contact but has his clothes stolen by a transvestite who is then mistaken for Clouseau and killed, leading Douvier and the others to believe the inspector really and truly deceased.
When news gets around about this, Charles Dreyfus (Herbert Lom) is soon to be freed from the latest mental hospital he's been locked up in while Clouseau, assumed to be the transvestite, is tossed into the loney bin himself. When Dreyfus sees him, he passes out, allowing Clouseau to steal his clothes, impersonate him and escape. Now free, Clouseau and Cato decide to track down the fiend who tried to kill him and see that justice is served, while Dreyfus, no certain he saw the transvestite and not Clouseau, eulogizes the inspector at his funeral… until the inspector reveals himself, at which point all bets are off. Elsewhere, Douvier, aware that the authorities could very well be closing in on him, has to call things off with his secretary Simone LeGree (Dyan Cannon) and try to reconcile with his wife… it gets even more complicated from there.
A step down from the earlier pictures in this set, The Revenge Of The Pink Panther still has enough going for it that, for fans of the franchise and for Sellers in particular, it's very much worth watching. Again, plenty of sight gags keep the humor coming quickly and Sellers' bumbling style is style very funny to watch. There's some nice creativity on display in some of the more ridiculous set pieces even if the plot is a little more predictable than some of the other entries. Sellers, Lom and Kwouk are all excellent here while supporting work from pretty Dyan Cannon and Robert Webber is both admirable amusing. Production values are good, the score is great and the cinematography captures the sets, locations and costumes rather well.
Trail Of The Pink Panther:
The final film in the set, 1982's Trail Of The Pink Panther was made after Sellers had passed away in in 1980 at the all too young age of fifty-four, the victim of a heart attack. The story once again sees the titular diamond stolen and Clouseau again called in to investigate despite protests from Dreyfus. He travels to London, survives what he believes to be an attempt on his life, and then to Lugash under orders from Dreyfus.
From here, the inspector goes missing, prodding a television journalist named Marie Jouvet (Joanna Lumley) to investigate the circumstances behind his disappearance and basically do up a character piece on him. She does this by interviewing various people who have known him over the years, at which point the movie becomes very dependent on ‘flashback footage' (unused bits and pieces from the earlier movies) as various characters from Clouseau's past recount some of their collective exploits. She even manages to track down the inspector's father (Richard Mulligan), which sheds some light on how and why he came to be as clumsy as he was. As Jouvet uncovers the details of the story, a mobster named Bruno Langlois (Robert Loggia) tries to throw her off the case.
This last entry in the Sellers run is weak. Clearly the fact that Sellers had passed away played a huge part in this, but the reliance on clips from previous films definitely hurts things and this one really feels more like a cash in on the success of the earlier films than anything else. The plot involving Jouvet isn't very interesting and while it's fun to see David Niven, Herbert Lom, Burt Kwouk and a few others from the earlier films appear in this picture, it falls flat in the last half. While the sentiment behind some of the dialogue here is not only an affectionate tribute to Sellers but seemingly quite sincere as well, this never comes together the way that it should.The Blu-ray:
Shout! Factory notes that "For the first time in any home entertainment issue, all six Clouseau comedies are available together in a single collection, with four making their debuts on Blu-ray, including A Shot In The Dark and The Pink Panther Strikes Again, both presented in new 4K scans of the interpositives." All six pictures are presented, each on their own 50GB disc, in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition presentation framed at 2.35.1 widescreen.
The transfer for the first feature seems to mirror the 2009 Blu-ray release. While some might lament the absence of a new scan, the fact of the matter is that the transfer still holds up quite well, although some have complained that the image is slightly squeezed resulting in a bit more picture information on the sides and a slightly elongated image. That issue aside, the picture quality is good. The bit rate is high and the image is clean and nicely detailed with good color reproduction. There's another issue in The Return Of The Pink Panther, during the monkey scene towards the end, where the awning behind sellers and then the van that the criminals get into, shows through him, an odd effect (have past versions been like this?).
As to the rest of the transfers, most of the same comments apply, sans the squeezing issue. Colors really pop, detail is quite strong and black levels are solid. There's no evidence of artificial sharpening or edge enhancement nor are there any compression artifacts to note. There's very little print damage anywhere worth noting, just the occasional small white speck that most won't likely notice in the first place. There's good depth and texture here as well, the picture quality is solid through and through.Sound:
Audio options are provided for the six films in the set as follows:
The Pink Panther: DTS-HD 5.1, 2.0 Stereo, 2.0 Mono
Optional subtitles are provided for each film in English only.
All three tracks do sound quite good, while the 5.1 and 2.0 stereo options open things up a bit in terms of the score placement and some of the effects and foley work featured throughout the six film run. Clarity is fine throughout and dialogue stays clean, clear and easily discernable. There are no noticeable issues with any hiss or distortion with noting.
There is one issue, however, that might irk some, and that's the Stereo and Mono mixes on The Pink Panther Strikes Again seem to have a slightly different pitch than the 5.1 track. This results in the voices and music sounding just a bit lower than they do on the 5.1 track.Extras:
Extras in the set are film specific and are spread across the six discs in the set as follows:
The Pink Panther:
Kicking off the extra features is an audio commentary by writer/director Blake Edwards, carried over from past releases. For those who haven't heard it before it's a very detailed track that explains the origins of the film, some of the writing process, the locations that were used, and of course working with the various cast and crew members assembled for the shoot, not the least of whom was the infamously difficult Peter Sellers.
Moving on to the featurettes, we start off with a new piece called Italian Indian: The Pink Panther Princess which is an interview with actress Claudia Cardinale. This piece runs eleven minutes and it allows Ms. Cardinale to wax nostalgic about getting the part, working alongside Nivens and Sellers, her thoughts on the film and the trials and tribulations of learning to ski for a movie role. Carried over from past editions, however, are a few other pieces that fans should appreciate, beginning with The Pink Panther Story. In this twenty-nine minute piece Edwards talks about collaborating with Sellers on creating the character of Inspector Clouseau and how they really got to become quite friendly with one another while working on this together. Lots of great stories in here and if you haven't seen it before, do yourself a favor and take the time to check it out. Up next is Behind The Feline: The Cartoon Phenomenon. As you'd guess from the title, this eleven minute piece is an examination of the cartoon legacy of The Pink Panther and the role that the animation plays in the feature films that share its name. From there, check out A Conversation With Robert Wagner: Coolest Cat In Cortina in which the storied actor looks back on his work on this picture for roughly eleven minutes. He's got some great stories to tell here, including what it was like working alongside Sellers and Niven on the film and how everyone got along on set. He looks back on this with a real affinity for the era and the project. Diamonds: Beyond The Sparkle examines the gems that inspired the film over the course of seven minutes by way of some impressive photographs and interviews with expert gemologists. The Tip-Toe Life Of A Cat Burglar: A Conversation With Former Jewel Thief Bill Mason is exactly what it sounds like. Over the course of ten minutes Mason talks about the techniques that are used in the real world in careers such as his as well as what it was like working as an actual cat burglar.
Closing out the extras on the first disc are a theatrical trailer and a selection of still galleries showing off production shots and ephemera.
A Shot In The Dark:
Extras start off with a new audio commentary by Jason Simos of The Peter Sellers Appreciation Society. This track starts off by talking about the film's opening scene and how it was written in the script with very little direction. From there, the track elaborates on everything you'd expect it to: plot points, revisions that happened from script to screen, the film's use of music (and the importance of the lyrics of one song in particular), the animated credits sequence, and of course the details of Sellers' performance in the picture, from his reactions to Elke's character early in the film to his reactions to other characters later in the picture. He also notes the pettiness of certain characters, how the story began life as a play under the same name and evolved into the film that we all know and love, how Clouseau's love of disguises begins in this film, the introduction of the Dreyfus character complete with the eye twitching and of course, Cato as well. It's a good track, even if Simos is very laid back here and there are moments of dead air throughout the track. When he's on, he's on and he clearly knows his stuff.
From there, Shout! Factory treats us to a new featurette entitled Back To The Start: The Origin Of The Pink Panther which is a twenty three minute long interview with production company chief Walter Mirisch. Here Mirisch talks quite candidly about how and why Sellers did and didn't play the character in specific films, how he wound up producing this picture but not all of the others, working alongside Edwards and quite a bit more. Also included here is a clip featuring Blake Edwards And Julie Andrews On The Dick Cavett Show. Edwards talks to Cavett about the picture and also presents some outtakes here, fun stuff. The clip runs approximately seven minutes in length.
Finishing up the extras on this second disc are a few theatrical trailers, a The Pink Panther/A Shot in the Dark 1966 reissue trailer and a selection of still galleries showing off production shots and ephemera.
The Return Of The Pink Panther:
Once again, the disc contains a new audio commentary by Jason Simos. He starts off by noting that the treatment of the material in this third film is a bit more serious than the last, a throwback to the original picture. He then notes how the diamond evolved, some interesting details about the museum sequence as well as the opening animated credits sequence, the use of sound in the film, the brilliance of the monkey scene and how Sellers drives various scenes in the picture. He notes the iconic outfits featured in the picture, Clouseau's use of disguises in the film, the interplay that exists between Stark and Plummer (who were hungover during one of the scenes they shot together), the importance of Mancini's score and more. Again, there's a fair bit of dead air where Simos goes quiet for a bit longer than he should, but otherwise there's a lot of good info here.
As to the featurettes, there are two new ones here, the first of which is A Bit Of Passion And Lots Of Laughs which is a twenty-two minute long interview with actress Catherine Schell that covers her involvement in the film, working with Sellers and Edwards, auditioning for the part and seeing the first film for the first time in Germany where it was dubbed for its theatrical run. Also included here is a twenty-eight minute long interview with production designer Peter Mullins who talks about working on six of the films in the series (though only three of them with Sellers in the lead). He shares some fun stories about having to design the sets with some of the sight gags and chaos in mind, dealing with some of the improvisation that occurred during the shoot, getting the right look of the various sets nailed down and quite a bit more. There's also an archival piece included on this disc in the form of a featurette from 1975 entitled The Return Of Laughter: The Making Of The Return Of The Pink Panther. It's a quick eight minute piece that takes viewers behind the scenes of the movie as it was being made with an emphasis on showing how the bank robbery that opens the film was staged for the cameras.
Also on hands on this disc are a couple of theatrical trailers, some TV and radio spots and a selection of still galleries showing off production shots and ephemera.
The Pink Panther Strikes Again:
Again, the disc contains a new audio commentary by Jason Simos. He talks about the importance of the early scenes with Dreyfus, how the script refers to him as Paul and not Charles, how an alternate take of the grocery/apartment scene shows up in the last Sellers film in the run with alternate audio, the fact that everything that Clouseau says by this point in the run is funny as Sellers treats the accent like ‘taffy,' the obvious dubbing in the ‘hello sailor' line, the importance of comedic timing in the performances here, how the inspector is always on the side of the law despite his many character flaws, the many details of the Oktoberfest scene, and of course, the details of the swashbuckling finale. Again, when Simos is engaged, he's a good listen but there's a lot of dead air in this track where he simply goes quiet, which is unfortunate. Again, he knows his stuff, but it almost seems like he gets caught up in watching the movie rather than commenting on it as he should be.
There are two new featurettes included on this disc, starting with Panther Musings which is an interview with actress Lesley-Anne Down that clocks in at twenty-one minutes. She's got some great stories about playing the female lead in the picture, how she got along with Sellers, her thoughts on some of the other people she worked with in front of and behind the camera as well as her thoughts on the film itself and the character she played therein. Up next is another new piece, A Cut Above: Editing The Pink Panther Films which interviews editor Alan Jones for just under twenty-five minutes. This is quite interesting as here Jones talks about how he came to edit the picture under some less than normal circumstances only to develop a really great relationship with Edwards, who would use him on future endeavors. Also included is an archival featurette from 1976 called Clouseau: The Greatest Fumbler In The World which runs about seven minutes in length. Again, this is a studio produced piece that takes us behind the scenes of the production while it was under way featuring some amusing albeit brief interview clips from Edwards and Sellers.
Rounding out the extras on this disc are ‘rare' teaser trailer, a theatrical trailer, some TV and radio spots, Colin Cadle's on-set gallery (a still gallery of behind the scenes photos), and a selection of still galleries showing off production shots and ephemera.
The Revenge Of The Pink Panther:
Extras start off with a new audio commentary by author and film historian William Patrick Maynard. He starts off talking about the relationship between Edwards and Sellers before then analyzing the opening scene and Robert Loggia's appearance (the first of six appearances in Blake Edwards' films). He notes the similarities to The Godfather, the introduction of Robert Webber in the first of three Edwards films he'd appear in, the details of the animated opening, how the film ties into A Shot In The Dark, how Edwards tended to reuse Clouseau like characters in some of his other films, the casting of a certain actress for her body rather than her acting abilities, where Sellers took the accent from for his one legged fisherman (did it really come from Britt Ekland?), and a fair bit more. Again, we have an issue where a commentator goes quiet for prolonged stretches throughout the track. Maynard also knows his stuff, he's quite well versed in the history of these films and has a lot to say about their history and effectiveness, but when he clams up for four to five minutes at a time, that's a detriment to the track.
Rounding out the extras on this disc are ‘rare' teaser trailer, a theatrical trailer, some TV and radio spots and a selection of still galleries showing off production shots and ephemera.
Trail Of The Pink Panther:
The main extra on the disc is another new audio commentary by Maynard. This track starts off with discussion about how the powers that be wanted to get a new film in the series off the ground and how Edwards wanted to replace Clouseau with Dudley Moore or Rowan Atkinson, how the opening scene is ‘cut rate' compared to the theft scenes in the earlier films, obscure references to Herbert Lom's past, the importance of the supporting players in the picture, where the various clips used to stretch this to feature length were culled from, how the novelizations of some of the features differed from the filmed versions, the tricky continuity of certain sequences and the audio that accompanies them, Julie Andrews' uncredited appearance in the picture and more. But honestly not that much more, because again, there's a LOT of dead air here and way too much quiet time where nothing is said.
Outside of that, the disc contains a ‘rare' teaser trailer, a theatrical trailer and a selection of still galleries showing off production shots and ephemera.
In addition to what is contained on the discs, this set, which comes housed in a very nice cardboard slipcover, also contains a full color twenty-four page booklet containing an essay by animation historian and film critic Jerry Beck.Final Thoughts:
Shout! Factory's Blu-ray release of The Pink Panther Film Collection presents feature laden high definition presentations for the six classic Sellers entries in the lung running film series. The transfers are solid and the audio, aside from the pitch issue, quite good. The extras are plentiful and genuinely illuminating even if the commentary tracks aren't as good as youd' hope, while the movies themselves hold up incredibly well, superb examples of comedic filmmaking and the immeasurable talent of the late Peter Sellers. Highly recommended.