Brilliant comedian in a pervert’s trench coat

When I was a pup, my dad told me one summer night that he was taking me to see a Pink Panther movie. I immediately thought, “Cool, I dig the cartoon, and Happy Days isn’t on tonight.” Much to my surprise, my Saturday morning cartoon hero disappeared after the opening credits, and the film, The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976), was dominated by some goofy guy with a bushy mustache, indecipherable accent and pervert’s trench coat. (Writer’s note: Strikes Again was playing in a double feature with Logan’s Run, which gave me my first big-screen sighting of naked boobies.) The brilliant Peter Sellers, as Inspector Jacques Clouseau, became one of my screen heroes. He struck me as a vital physical comedian, yet he would only live about four more years after my formal introduction to his brilliance. I was surprised to find out that, at the time, there were three other films dating back to The Pink Panther (1963) starring Sellers, and another, Inspector Clouseau (1968), starring Alan Arkin as the title character. After Strikes Again, there would be two more Panther films starring Sellers, The Revenge of the Pink Panther (1979) and The Trail of the Pink Panther (1982). Trail, a terrible film, had the dubious distinction of being released two years after Sellers died. It’s a shameful patchwork of outtakes and unseen footage from past Panther films. The Panther series, when Sellers was involved and alive, remains a delight. Watching the bumbling Clouseau’s boss, Chief Inspector Dreyfus, go progressively insane throughout the series remains a pleasure, especially when he goes completely overboard in Strikes Again. Sadly, The Film Collection doesn’t include The Return of the Pink Panther, allegedly due to MGM’s inability to secure the rights. A new film is due in 2005, with Steve Martin slated to put on the trench coat as Clouseau. Sacrilege! Movie grades: The Pink Panther (A-), A Shot in the Dark (A), The Pink Panther Strikes Again (A-), Revenge of the Pink Panther (B-), Trail of the Pink Panther (F).

Special Features: The films available in this collection, with the exception of Trail, are must haves, but the special features are not worthy of the series. Two dull documentaries cover the making of the series and the success of the Pink Panther cartoon character. Both feature a rather bored Blake Edwards revealing no new secrets about Sellers or the history behind the films. They feel slapped together. A collection of some vintage Pink Panther cartoon shorts is worth a look.

Movies: See review

Special Features: C

DVD Geek Factor: 7.5