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The Pink Panther

The Pink Panther on DVD

Blake Edwards has a place waiting for him in whatever movie hall of fame there may be. He’s a logical addition for his body of work, which includes classics such as “Victor, Victoria,” “The Great Race,” “The Party,” and “10,” but it’s probably the Pink Panther movies for which he’s best known.

It isn’t hard to see why. These classics combine slapstick with wit, intrigue and glamour, as well as giving us terrific performances from terrific actors.

The new DVD set comes with six discs – five movies and a bonus disc – and it’s probably all the Pink Panther you could want.

But you know, when you have to include instructions in the package for how to get the discs out of their DVD holder, you know you have a packaging problem. Come on! While it’s nice to see companies trying something new (this package crams six discs into the space some others would put three), it seems like a lot of expense to reinvent the wheel and then have to train people to turn it.

But I digress.

The movies presented here are The Pink Panther (1964), A Shot in the Dark (1964), The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976), Revenge of the Pink Panther (1978) and Trail of the Pink Panther (1982). They all star Peter Sellers as the bumbling but dogged Inspector Clouseau, with a variety of other stars along for the ride.

The first film is arguably the best, though A Shot in the Dark has some hilarious scenes as well. With Sellers stars David Niven as an infamous cat burglar determined to steal the Pink Panther diamond from a rich princess (Claudia Cardinale), aided by Clouseau’s lovely wife (Capucine) and jet setting situations and locations. It’s a great helping of 1960s style, from Henry Mancini’s famous theme music to that cartoon Pink Panther who stars in the animated credits sequence and later went on to his own series.

The first follow-up, A Shot in the Dark, came close on its heels and gave shape to the rest of the series. Here we get Sellers refining (well, perhaps that isn’t the correct word!) his French accent and are introduced to key supporting players Herbert Lom (as Clouseau’s boss, Chief Inspector Dreyfus), and Burt Kwouk as the hilarious Kato.

The story sees Sellers refusing to believe that a beautiful woman (Elke Sommer) could be guilty of the murder for which she’s accused, and this leads to the knee slappingly funny segment where he goes "undercover" at a nudist colony.

The DVD set skips over The Return of the Pink Panther, but The Pink Panther Strikes Again gives us Chief Inspector Dreyfus being driven nuts by Clouseau's bumbling incompetence, and threatening global destruction unless the oaf is gotten rid of once and for all.

Naturally, Clouseau comes through the ordeal relatively unscathed and unaware of just what has been going on. This is a great showcase for Sellers’ talents, as he puts on a variety of costumes and accents to get through the plot’s plot. This one’s a feast of slapstick.

The Revenge of the Pink Panther is the weakest of these titles. It’s kind of a "French Connection-like" drug deal thingy in which Clouseau (who is thought to have been murdered a la James Bond in “You Only Live Twice” and is now working incognito) heads to Hong Kong for a slapstick extravaganza that’s funny enough that it almost makes up for the rest of the movie.

This was the last of the Panther films to star Peter Sellers.

The last film in the set, The Trail of the Pink Panther uses that old chestnut of “previously unseen footage” (before there were supplements to DVD’s, they released a whole movie of this stuff!) of Peter Sellers, wrapped into a new plot that sees Joanna Lumley interviewing characters from the earlier films. It’s no “Shot in the Dark,” but it’s here.

The six disc DVD features anamorphic widescreen versions of the films (16x9 TV compatible) and though they claim the visuals have been given a new lease on life we found the overall video quality to be spotty at best. There’s plenty of age showing on the earliest of the films; perhaps it’s time they were given the full restoration treatment that’s done such wonders for other movies from this and earlier eras.

Audio is Dolby Digital … and it’s okay.

For extras, you get that entire sixth disc and it features such stuff as "The Pink Panther Story," "Behind the Feline: The Cartoon Phenomenon" (about that cat who went on to star in his own series of rather unfunny cartoons). There’s also a collection of cartoons: "The Pink Phink," "Pink, Plunk, Plink," "Psychedelic Pink," "Pinkfinger," "The Ant and the Aardvark," "The Great De Gaulle Stone Operation."

You also get deleted footage, outtakes, commentaries, etc.

If you’re a fan of Peter Sellers, or just curious about why he was so popular, you can get an excellent idea with this boxed set of why he was the giant he was. And this is only one of his characters!


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