Jet Pink: The Pink Panther Cartoon Collection

This ubiquitous collection of eight Pink Panther shorts has resurfaced on DVD after a long life on video. The Panther first appeared in the lengthy animated title sequence of Blake Edwards' 1963 film The Pink Panther, the first of the wonderful Inspector Clouseau series starring Peter Sellers. A few theatrically released shorts followed, then a late '60s TV show, with comebacks in the '70s and '90s. The Panther was unwisely given a voice in his final stage, reducing the cool cat to the level of the Cheetos cheetah. However, despite its absolutely no-frills packaging and an unnerving laugh track on two cartoons, this set captures the Panther at his peak — savvy, sleek, silent and, um, cigarette-smoking, with that classic soundtrack by Henry Mancini. From "Pink Phink" (1964) to "Toro Pink" (1979), the feline hi-jinx range from battling alarm clocks to flying experimental aircraft to taming a pet rock. In "Pink Phink," the Panther's Oscar-winning debut short, our hero rebels against a blue paint job, annoying his rival painter by relentlessly covering his work in pink. You can't make it much more basic than that, but these dead-simple scenarios tend to be most effective. The title short, by far the most damaged print of the lot, is only mildly amusing, with too much attention given to spinning planes and too many recycled images to be truly engaging. The two '70s cartoons don't noticeably diverge from the '60s aesthetic, but some of the situations — like running from a boulder, wearing drag to avert antagonists and accidentally landing a bullfighting gig — are blatantly Warner Bros., as if the Panther's persona wasn't essentially a silent Bugs Bunny to begin with. However, if you love Bugs and friends, the similarities will only up the nostalgia appeal of these 'toons, which so many of us saw in syndication as kids. (MGM)