Starring: Peter Sellers, Herbert Lom, David Niven
You may like these if you liked: The Pink Panther (Shawn Levy, 2006), A fish Called Wanda (Charles Crichton, 1988), Casino Royale (Val Guest et al, 1967)
The Pink Panther (1963)
Bumbling French detective Jacques Clouseau (Sellers) is sent to Switzerland to catch the infamous and mysterious jewel thief known as ‘The Phantom’ and before he steals the priceless pink panther diamond. However, despite the thief being right under his nose, the blundering Clouseau seems to constantly make things worse and a complete mess wherever he goes.
For me, the first in the series is a classic farce. The plot itself is very minimal but the brilliantly funny set pieces are what make such entertaining viewing. Of course Sellers steals the show but all the supporting cast are on excellent comic form, which makes the overall film consistently funny. There are so many memorable scenes that prove for great comedy all you need is timing. Unfortunately a build up containing so many brilliantly farcical and hilarious scenes is inevitably going to lead to an inferior climax, and this is the case, but that aside this is a classic and surely one of the most genuinely funny films of all time.
A Shot in the Dark (1964)
After a murder, Clouseau is the first policeman on the scene and despite that it appears blatantly obvious that the murder was committed by the beautiful maid Maria, for some reason Clouseau insists she is innocent and lets her go free. Several more murders are committed, again Clouseau insists she is innocent and always lets her go free insisting to prove in his own unique bumbling way that the murderer is someone else. While Clouseau keeps on releasing Maria, this slowly builds up Chief Inspector Dreyfuss’ (Lom) hatred of Clousea and slowly drives him continuously insane.
Sellers was never intended to be the star of The Pink Panther, but in this it is obvious this has now become films centred around his character of Clouseau, and it shows. The French accent is so much more emphasised and his bizarre behaviour is even more farcical. In the case of A Shot in the Dark this works perfectly producing a film that is consistently hilarious but also with a better plot than the first film. Seller’s comic genius is given free reign here and this provides some hilarious and unforgettable moments. This is also the first film featuring Herbert Lom and Burt Kwouk, and they prove to be excellent additions, especially Lom whose performance is as hilarious and memorable as Sellers. Once again such a brilliant build up is always going to end in a slight anti climax, and that happens here, but otherwise A Shot in the Dark is as good if not slightly better than its predecessor.
The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976)
After his pure hatred of Clouseau has driven him to the point of insanity, Charles Dreyfuss kidnaps a genius scientist and makes him build some doomsday machine he has invented. Dreyfus then threatens to destroy the world with one very simple demand: Someone has to kill Clouseau. Many of the powers of the world vow to do this, but this being Clouseau, this proves a lot harder than it ever should.
No matter what film franchise, number three always proves difficult to outdo or at least match its predecessors. Unfortunately this proves the case, as the story is actually better than execution. Sellers and Lom are hilarious and over the top as ever, but this is an extremely inconsistent film. There are still some hilarious moments such as when everyone is trying to assassinate Clouseau does not disappoint and is brilliantly done. However there are many scenes that feel like filler and become boring and overlong, such as when Clouseau tries to break into Dreyfuss’ castle. Overall, TPPSA is enjoyable with its best moments making up for the boring ones, but signals the start of a potential decline.
Revenge of the Pink Panther (1978)
To scare the Americans into making a deal with him, Philippe Douvier proves he is still powerful by having the now Chief Inspector Clouseau assassinated. Due to a typically farcical case of mistaken identity, they get the wrong man without realising it. Now he is assumed dead, Clouseau is determined to find out who tried to assassinate him, in his own inimitable fashion. Meanwhile Charles Dreyfuss believes he is finally free, but thinks he is going mad as he seems to keep on seeing Clouseau.
How many fourth films in a franchise are better than the rest? Well, never but here number four is nowhere near as good as one and two, but just as watchable and inconsistent as three. Once again this is basically a set of farcical set pieces set along a half decent but slightly wafer thin plot. There are once again very funny moments with Sellers and Lom as over the top and hilarious as ever despite the slightly inferior material they have to work with. The supporting cast, especially the ‘bad guys’ are however very average and forgettable, and the scenes without Sellers and Lom are extremely dull. The films climax is not amazing but perfectly entertaining and satisfying with enough laughs and action to entertain leaving number four as a watchable but quite forgettable film.
Trail of the Pink Panther (1982)
The pink panther diamond is stolen from Lugash and Chief Inspector Clouseau is called to investigate, however his plane crashes en route and he is missing presumed dead. French TV reporter Marie Jouvet (Joanna Lumley doing a terrible accent) decides to investigate into the life of Clouseau and attempt to find out if he is actually alive or dead. As part of her investigation she interviews many of Clouseau’s friends, colleagues and enemies of the past.
Anyone who has seen number five knows that it is not really a film. It is almost like a greatest hits compilation of the previous four. Sellers died before making and all footage involving him is archive footage and outtakes from the previous films. Half way through, Blake Edwards must have run out of footage and then the plot involving Lumley takes over. Whereas the other films felt like a series of set pieces set along a wafer thin plot, number five just actually is.
I would love to describe this is a sentimental tribute, but the cynic in me knows this is just a shameless cash in. I find it impossible to recommend this film as it is just a waste of time when you can just watch the other ones again as an alternative. Some of the scenes not in previous films are of course funny in their own right, but the context in which they are shown takes away any enjoyment. The second half as Joanna Lumley interviews all the actors from the previous films may have well made a good documentary but as it is passed off as a film it simply just does not work. The story involving the diamond theft basically disappears when the Sellers footage has run out. Basically, number five is an awful and quite frankly embarrassing addition to the franchise that should never have been made, well chucked together.