I'm creating this “Pink Panther Thread” in order not to derail @Creasy47’s
“You Favorite Films?” thread with a bunch of Pink Panther chatter. The Pink Panther film series has a lot in common with the Bond movies: it is nearly as old as the Bond series, has equally memorable musical themes, and has also survived multiple recasting efforts. There are good physical set-pieces, and also some overlapping cast members.
I’ll start off the discussion with a chronological list of each and every film in the series, along with my own biased thumbnail review.
The Original Trilogy:
The Pink Panther
(1963, Blake Edwards) ****
The original, and still the best. A sophisticated sex farce/caper comedy with an all-star cast. Director Blake Edwards was already famous for TV’s “Peter Gunn,” and the feature films Operation Petticoat
and Breakfast at Tiffany’s
. Featuring David Niven’s elegance and grace, and the timeless beauty of Claudia Cardinale and Capucine, The Pink Panther
is the kind of movie that will pause for a gratuitous musical interlude just because the song is cool and the singer is smoking hot.
A Shot in the Dark
(1964, Edwards) ****
Based on a French play (which did not feature Clouseau), re-written for the screen by William Peter Blatty (The Exorcist
), there’s no pink panther in this one: it’s a murder mystery featuring Peter Sellers’ breakout character, Inspector Jacques Cousteau. So there’s more slapstick than in the original—but just as much sex farce. The sex in this case is provided by Elke Sommer (Casino Royale
, 1967). Arguably one of the funniest movies ever made. This is the movie that introduces the supporting cast of Chief Inspector Dreyfus and Clouseau’s houseboy, Cato.
(1968, directed by Bud Yorkin, who went on to revolutionize the sitcom in America by forming Tandem Productions with Norman Lear; also directed The Thief Who Came to Dinner
(1973) with Ryan O’Neal) UNRATED
—no stars because I’ve never been able to watch the damn thing. As a kid I tried several times to watch this one on the late shows, but it’s not very good—not good enough for a kid to stay up late watching, anyway, not even a kid as crazy about Inspector Clouseau as I was in those days. I loved Alan Arkin in The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming!
but his Clouseau didn’t work for me. Also, no Blake Edwards and no Henry Mancini—but it's an official Mirisch Films production, with animated titles by DePatie-Freling, so it is
The Sequel Trilogy:
The Return of the Pink Panther
(1975, Edwards) ****
Picks up where 1968’s Inspector Clouseau
left off: with Clouseau busted down in rank from inspector to beat cop. Seller’s bizarre-o “French” accent has changed, too, becoming much harder to understand—a joke initiated by Alan Arkin (Arkin was also the first to wear the Inspector’s now-signature hat and trench coat). The Phantom has again stolen the pink panther diamond, and only Clouseau can catch him… or her, as the case turns out to be. This movie is nearly as stylish and elegant as the original, and almost as funny as the first sequel—in other words, it is practically the Platonic ideal of a pink panther movie.
The Pink Panther Strikes Again
(1976, Edwards) ***
This is the one most people are familiar with, because for a while it was all over cable TV like a rash. Continues the story from the end of The Return of the Pink Panther
, featuring the now-insane Chief Inspector Dreyfus creating a crime syndicate and constructing a doomsday weapon with the intention of using it to blackmail the world to kill Clouseau. Notable for the Oscar-nominated song “Come to Me,” sung by Tom Jones (Thunderball
). The film was a hit and it has a lot of funny stuff in it—but the Law of Diminishing Returns was already noticeably beginning to take effect.
Revenge of the Pink Panther
(1978, Edwards) **
By now Edwards and Sellers hated each other, so this movie concentrates on big physical gags and slapstick shtick where the aging actor could be replaced by a stuntman. Needless to say, it is not exactly what I would call “classy” or “elegant” or “sophisticated.” It is intermittently hilarious, however, and it was successful at the box office. Peter Sellers died in 1980, before production began on the planned “Romance of the Pink Panther.”
The After Death Trilogy:
Trail of the Pink Panther
(1982, Edwards) **
Reporter Joanna Lumley (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
) investigates the disappearance of Inspector Clouseau. This movie is bad, but it functions as a Greatest Hits compilation reel of Peter Sellers in action, so I’m giving it 2 stars anyway. Good to see David Niven and Capucine again, too.
Curse of the Pink Panther
(1983, Edwards) *
Introduces Ted Wass as inept American detective Clifton Sleigh, assigned to find the missing Inspector Clouseau. This movie is just as bad as Trail of…
but without the redeeming virtue of Peter Sellers flashbacks—so it only gets 1 star, and that star is for David Niven, who classes up even the cheesiest of cheeseburgers (I’m looking at you, Murder By Death
). This was to be Niven’s final film performance, which is a shame. Capucine and Robert Wagner also turn up. The movie was a box-office bomb and earned unanimously scathing reviews.
Son of the Pink Panther
(1993, Edwards) ZERO STARS
This movie stinks on ice. Italian clown Roberto Benigni (Life Is Beautiful
) takes on the role of Jacques Clouseau Junior. This movie was a box-office fiasco everywhere except in Italy, and earned unanimously scathing reviews. After this picture, director Blake Edwards retired from filmmaking for keeps, and composer Henry Mancini just went ahead and died.
And that should be the end of things… but wait! There’s more!!
The Modern Reboot Trilogy:
The Pink Panther
(2006, Shawn Levy; Cheaper by the Dozen
I’m giving this movie 3 stars because, well, because I really like Steve Martin—and while his take on Inspector Clouseau is not a patch on Peter Sellers, at least he does his own version of the character and not just a Peter Sellers impersonation, like Alan Arkin did. Plus, this was the first film since 1975 to actually feature the Pink Panther Diamond. It’s not a great film, but it is better than your average Pink Panther movie. It made money despite mediocre reviews.
The Pink Panther 2
(2009, Harald Zwart; Agent Cody Banks
An inferior sequel to a movie that’s not actually as bad as everyone says, it is itself surprisingly not as bad as expected. Steve Martin is funny as always, and once again good use is made of the Pink Panther Diamond as a McGuffin. Did not make much money and got generally poor reviews.
The Pink Panther 3:
Due to the underperformance of PP2
at the box office, and third part is not forthcoming.
So, how would YOU rank the Pink Panthers?