The Pink Panther Collection Blake Edwards

The Pink Panther Collection Blake Edwards
In the five films collected here, three balanced elements create some masterful and sublime film comedy: the gag writing and directing of Blake Edwards, the ridiculously genius performance of Peter Sellers and the inspirational soundtrack by Henry Mancini. If one element was removed, films like The Pink Panther (1963) and A Shot in the Dark (1964) would remain solid, if unmemorable, entries into a swinging '60s film pantheon, but by the time the franchise was revived in the 1970s, Edwards, Sellers and Mancini had become intricately linked to the world of Chief Inspector Jacques Clouseau. In the original film, the titular panther was a valuable diamond with a unique flaw; it was conceived as a simple heist movie and starring vehicle for David Niven (Sir Charles Lutton, aka the Phantom). Peter Ustinov was cast to play the police inspector who unravels his web of crime; when Ustinov backed out mere weeks before filming, Peter Sellers was hired and the film morphed from a simple heist to a comedy of slapstick incompetence. A Shot In the Dark had a similarly convoluted genesis — originally a stage play, Edwards had been hired to adapt it for the screen but couldn't find anyway around its relatively stage-y, uncinematic story arc. By injecting the character of Clouseau, it was transformed into one of the true masterpieces of film comedy. If your Panther history is dependent on this puffy packaged six-disc set, there's a mystery at this point in Clouseau's history: the third film, 1975's Return of the Pink Panther, isn't included here. (Who knows why?) Instead, it jumps to 1976's The Pink Panther Strikes Again, the last good Panther movie, even if the action has become predictable. Much like the James Bond series, it simply takes familiar gags and ups the ante; here Clouseau nemesis Inspector Dreyfus (Herbert Lom) tries to destroy the whole world. Where Revenge of the Pink Panther (1978) is a mess, the last film found here, Trail of the Pink Panther (1982), is an embarrassment. Peter Sellers died of a heart attack in 1980; Trail was cobbled together from deleted scenes from previous films into a loose "Clouseau disappears" plot intended to bridge the franchise for another lead character. Edwards attempted this twice, with Curse of the Pink Panther in 1983 and Son of the Pink Panther (starring Roberto Benigni) in 1993. A remake of the original is currently in the works, starring Steve Martin, Beyonce and Jean Reno. On the bonus sixth disc, a bit of history of the Panther series is revealed, along with hints of a tense working relationship between Edwards and Sellers. In fact, Sellers hated the broad Clouseau character and only returned to the series in the mid-'70s for the money. But this collection seems as fascinated by the rise of the Pink Panther cartoon (co-created by Looney Tunes great Friz Freleng) as with the film franchise itself. The bonus disc chronicles the animated history (originally merely a title sequence for the first film, branching off into a series of shorts and a TV series) and includes six of the dozens of Panther shorts made in the late '60s and early '70s. The Pink Panther Collection is nicely packaged and contains two great films and one quite good one, but the missing Return of the Pink Panther is a mystery worthy of Clouseau himself. (MGM)