How to Watch ‘The Pink Panther’ and What to Avoid
I love the Pink Panther. I watched the cartoon all the time growing up. Then I realized not only were there movies about him, but that we owned one. I put the VHS in the VCR and was totally confused. WHERE’S THE PINK PANTHER?!
Here’s the secret. The Pink Panther, a character as famous and iconic as Mickey or Bugs, was just created for the opening credits of a 60s comedy. You really can never tell what will hit. Do you know how many Pink Panther films there are? 11. Yes it all goes to… 11. Chances are you’ve seen at least one of them, but what about the rest of the series? I’ll do my best to guide you through them. There are a lot of films to get through so let’s not waste anymore time.
1.) A Shot in the Dark (1964).
Some may not realize that this is a Pink Panther film from the title, which is a shame since in my opinion it’s the best of the whole series.
‘A Shot in the Dark’ began as an unrelated play that Peter Sellers had gotten attached to for the film version, but he didn’t like it. So, he called up his friend and “Pink Panther” director Blake Edwards and asked him to take over. They both agreed that the only way to save this story was to change the play’s main character to Inspector Clouseau. Sellers then got writer William Peter Blatty (yes that one) to help rewrite it.
You may think that it’s weird that the author of “The Exorcist” would write a slapstick comedy, but it’s actually where he got his start.
It’s hard not to see why after watching this as almost every joke works and is so expertly told. Most of the iconic elements are introduced in this film, like Commissioner Dreyfus and Kato, though not quite as refined as they would later be. Still, the film has the best balance of Clouseau being smart enough to actually figure out the case yet dumb enough to partake in all of the silliness we came for.
Eric’s advice: See it! My personal favorite comedy ever. A classic for all the right reasons.
2.) Return of the Pink Panther (1975).
“Return of the Pink Panther” is the fourth film in the series as-well as the return of Peter Sellers to the role of Clouseau. It’s awesome that Blake Edwards and Sellers could repair their professional relationship in “The Party” and thus come back for this. It is in this film where it all comes together.
The iconic characters are all fully defined, the formula is firmly set, and it is great. It’s almost a reboot of the series; the same basic set-up from the original. Unfortunately David Niven was busy with other projects and couldn’t play Sir Charles Lipton, so we have Christopher Plummer taking on the role. He’s very good, but it’s a little distracting since he’s the only different actor.
Also, as far continuity goes, Sir Charles is dating a new woman who is the film’s “love interest” and she’s not Clouseau’s wife who was cheating on him with Sir Charles in the first film. We see later in “Trail” and “Curse” that they are still together… eh probably best not to think about it.
Still, the film is incredibly funny and often considered by many fans to be the best. I personally wouldn’t say that, however it is a film that does get better every time I watch it. If you’re confused as to why it’s not included in the box sets, it’s because this was originally going to be the pilot to a TV series. That’s one reason I think adds to why the image quality looks so different from any of the other films. That’s also what caused the rights to get messed up, and why you’ll have to buy this film separately to complete your collection.
Eric’s advice: Another Classic in the series. Highly recommended.
3.) The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976).
“The Pink Panther Strikes Again” is the first film I ever saw in the series and, oddly enough, the only one that leads directly from “Return of the Pink Panther.” That is why when it ends, you might be wondering how it fits in with the rest of the series.
The best way to look at this film is as an alternate reality. It’s Clouseau in a James Bond parody, which is interesting since I always get the sense that Blake Edwards wanted to be making Bond films. So, the continuity isn’t important. The story is just there for comedy to take center stage, and oh boy does it.
This is one of the best of the series and contains a lot of the best jokes. Jokes like “Does your dog bite?,” Clouseau’s interrogation of the members of the mansion staff, the world’s top assassins all trying to kill Clouseau only to end up killing each other, etc.
While I can see why some see this as the best, there are some slow spots. Nothing too long, but they’re there and they hold the movie back a bit. At the same time, when it is firing on all cylinders, this movie is fantastic.
Eric’s advice: Contains some of the best jokes. Recommended.
4.) Revenge of the Pink Panther (1978).
Popular opinion is that “Revenge of the Pink Panther” is the film where both Peter Sellers and the series were running out of steam. While it’s not as good as the others, it still manages to be pretty funny.
You can sum up a lot of the creative process on these films as “what if Inspector Clouseau was in ___.” This film does that a lot to great effect. It’s nice to see things like Kato getting to assist Clouseau on the case after three films with basic cameo parts.
Oddly there are a lot of “yellow skin” jokes, perhaps a product of the period. However it is in keeping with the Inspector’s character. What’s the big secret about Clouseau that you don’t hear people talk about? He’s a jerk!
Yes, he’s an idiot. He’s also got a HUGE ego that will never allow him to admit that, even to himself. He’s an elitist and he constantly looks down on all of the other characters throughout the series. So, it’s not unbelievable that he’d have that sort of narrow-minded view. While this movie is feeling more like a live action cartoon than the previous films, it’s just a lot of fun. In my opinion, the series was still going strong at this point.
Eric’s advice: See if you’ve been enjoying the others. Pretty good.
5.) The Pink Panther (2006).
“The Pink Panther” reboot is one of those movies I followed the news on from it’s inception. I’m talking way back when they were saying it would star Mike Myers (who considered Peter Sellers to be an idol) and Jackie Chan as Kato. Eventually both left the project and Steve Martin took the role of Clouseau.
Before going to see it I remember making the decision to not think about the other films. I found that doing so made the viewing of this film… okay. “The Pink Panther” is not a great comedy by any means, but it is tolerable as a standalone film.
The set-up is pretty smart as an “origin” story for Clouseau. When you start comparing it to the original series however, it falls apart.
Steve Martin makes Clouseau far more pleasant than he’s supposed to be. There are some good moments, but the edge is missing. That lack really dilutes the flawed Clouseau character. Kevin Kline is good as Dreyfus, but I could never escape the thought that he’d be so much better suited to play Clouseau. The fact that he never once attempts to kill Steve Martin makes the movie feel like it’s naked or something.
Jean Reno is an interesting spin on Kato, although I would much preferred… Kato. Other than that there’s not much to say. It’s an alright film, but if you’re going to enjoy it as part of the series you’ve GOT to get rid of your prior knowledge. Or, just be a young person who is new to all of this.
Eric’s advice: See if you are able to ignore your memories of the original.
6.) Trail of the Pink Panther (1982).
You ever see one of those clip show episodes of a tv show? Didn’t you want see that in movie form? The correct answer is – of course not!
Peter Sellers had died by this point and the series should have ended with “Revenge,” but they had a plan to keep it going with “Curse of the Pink Panther” and needed a lead up to it so this film was devised. Using deleted scenes to create a new story, they manage to sorta pull it off for about half the film. Even though they’re just deleted scenes (mostly from “The Pink Panther Strikes Again”), they’re still really funny. They do a good job organizing the clips, so it feels like a real film. Sure there are some visual clues to tell you it’s deleted scenes, but still it works.
Then they run out of material and Clouseau’s plane disappears into the sea off-screen. A news reporter suddenly becomes the main character interviewing a bunch of the side characters and a few clips are played. A few cute flashbacks of Clouseau as a kid are added to not seem repetitive, however it highlights the problem of no one being able to do Clouseau as good as Sellers.
I’d say this is exploitation of Peter Sellers, but it doesn’t feel as uncomfortable as say Bruce Lee in “Game of Death.” Maybe I’m just less critical because I’ve seen “The Life and Death of Peter Sellers” and know that he wasn’t the nicest guy in real life.
Eric’s advice: See the first half of the film for the Peter Sellers material. Skip the second half.
7.) The Pink Panther (1963).
I know some may be dumbfounded that I’d put this particular movie this far down on the list. How to describe this movie?
Okay my dad always hated cantaloupe, but he felt it was something he SHOULD like. So, every time it was served he forced himself to eat it hoping that this would be the time he’d suddenly like it. That is how I feel about this film.
It’s the classic that started it all that I force myself to watch every couple of years. It never changes for me no matter what. I found it boring the first time I saw it and I still to this day find it unnecessarily slow. This was supposed to be Sir Charles’ series but Peter Sellers (who was a last minute replacement) stole the film from David Niven. His scenes do work, but you know what the weird thing is about this? When I think about certain scenes or see them in isolation, I laugh. Like the exchange between Sir Charles and the Princess, Sir Charles asks “Is it true what they call you, the virgin queen?” and the Princess laughs and says “I’m not a queen.” “Well that’s half an answer isn’t it.” responds Sir Charles.
When I watch the film from start to finish, it’s like all the comedy is sucked out and I find it so hard to care about anything. I’ll keep trying, but it hasn’t changed yet.
Advice: It is considered a classic. Loved by many, but not by me. Only see it if you’re curious as to where it all began.
8.) Inspector Clouseau (1968).
This was one of my first obsessions on the internet. I came across the poster on some website and was shocked that there could be a sequel that I never heard about. Not only that but a sequel not starring Peter Sellers while Peter Sellers was alive and well. Instead starring the old sidekick guy from “The Rocketeer,” Alan Arkin.
Arkin is an amazing comedic actor, but his comic sensibilities are totally at odds with this kind of film. Also, he doesn’t seem to get Clouseau. Yes, Steve Martin changed Clouseau. But that felt like a conscious decision, what with it being a reboot.
In interviews Martin demonstrates some queen knowledge about what Sellers was doing. Here we have Arkin’s Clouseau break down about how “everything I touch breaks.” Yes this is early in the series, but it’s the 3rd film and it seemed firmly established in the others that Clouseau will NEVER admit something is his fault. Everyone else is to blame in his head. I guess they wanted to try and develop his character but this is so not the kind of film to do that sort of thing with.
Beyond all of that, it’s another very dull film. It’s not really made any better by such a whiny protagonist. On the film’s IMDb trivia page it mentions that when Peter Sellers returned to the series in the next film he took some of Arkin’s wardrobe and mannerisms. I don’t see any of it. Yes Sellers is a little different from the 60’s films to the 70’s ones, but no real similarities with Arkin. I think the reason this idea persists is because some people want to believe something good came from this entry. Why this particular one? I don’t know.
Eric’s Advice: It may sound interesting but it’s not. Don’t waste your time.
9.) The Pink Panther 2 (2009).
As stated before, I enjoyed the first reboot. Even with all of the problems with the first Martin installment, it still seemed like the series had potential to move forward. Then the trailers started coming out and it seemed to be amping up all of the problems with the last film.
Once again they recast Kevin Kline and John Cleese as Dreyfus. Once again all I could think about was how I always thought he’d be better as Sir Charles. This film only has about two or three jokes that work in the entire film, but I kinda don’t think any of them actually count. I can’t really remember the third one. It was Dreyfus’ line “I wish I had killed him” that made me laugh, but what makes it funny is THAT’S WHAT DREYFUS SHOULD BE DOING!!!!
And then finally Clouseau calls an asian detective his “little yellow friend” and since this is set in modern day everyone is shocked by this behavior. Unfortunately, the nod is a bit undone by the fact that this doesn’t match up with Martin’s version of the character.
Other than that the film is just one failed, poorly done cartoonish joke after another. It’s no wonder why this killed the franchise. Yet, it’s not the worst film. Not even the second worst film.
Eric’s advice: Skip it.
10.) Son of the Pink Panther (1993).
I can only remember laughing ONCE in this entire film. One joke worked out of them all.
There’s a scene where Clouseau’s son finds the bad guys in the process of kidnapping the princess or whatever she is. He’s, of course, pulling them over for a really minor infraction. He opens the back door of their van and a bunch of machine guns and automatic weapons come pouring out. His response to the kidnappers? “You’ve been hunting?”
Ok now that we got that one good moment out of the way, boy did I hate this movie. It was torturous to get through and very hard to remember. Some terrorists kidnap this princess and Dreyfus just happens to run into this guy who acts very similarly to Clouseau and agrees to take him home. There he meets his mother, Maria Gambrelli (yes the love interest from “A Shot in the Dark”) but strangely played this time by Claudia Cardinale (who played the Princess in the original film).
I get that they needed to cast a new actress since Elke Sommer had the good sense not to return. Why cast an actress who already played a pretty important character in one of the earlier films? It makes the film feel really confusing.
Son of Clouseau is played by Roberto Benigni. Now at the time I first saw this I only knew this guy from the trailers of “Pinocchio” (2002), which looked terrible and got terrible reviews. After I watched him in this movie, for years I thought Benigni was one of the worst, most un-talented artists I had ever seen. Thankfully I later saw “Life is Beautiful” which completely changed my whole opinion of him. I’d whole heartily advise you watch that over this movie any day of the week, and twice on Sundays.
Eric’s Advice: Watch “Life is Beautiful” instead.
11.) Curse of the Pink Panther (1983).
This is somewhere in my top 3 most hated movies. What I would consider the worst. I mean sure it’s kind of funny. I can at least remember a few moments that made me laugh versus “Son of the Pink Panther,” which only made me laugh a grand total of once. But this film is worse! It commits the ultimate sin. It ruins Clouseau as a character and for that I hate it.
Ok. The plot picks up after “Trail of the Pink Panther.” The world’s leaders decide that they need another great detective to find Clouseau and the Pink Panther diamond. So, they develop this super computer that will determine which detective adheres to the qualities of the greatest detective, that the world believes Clouseau to have been. Chief Inspector Dreyfus, fearing that the actual greatest detective could solve the case and bring back Clouseau, reprograms the computer to search for someone with the similar qualities under the assumption that there is no one else as dumb as him. If they are then they’d be too stupid to solve the case. It finds our new main character Clifton Sleigh, who looks and feels like Christopher Reeve as Clark Kent. He’s as dumb as Clouseau, and as accident prone. But he’s oddly humble, nice and non-elitist, which is unlike Clouseau. Sadly he just isn’t funny and we don’t care about him.
The middle of the film is a big blur of unfunny routines until he gets to the villainess’ hideout where he finds Roger Moore playing Clouseau. Yes. In the film, the story goes that after Clouseau’s plane went down in “Trail of the Pink Panther” he somehow found this hideout. Instead of bringing her to justice, fell in love and has become a criminal too. He also got plastic surgery to look like Roger Moore. This is so amazingly out of character it brings my blood to a boil.
As I’ve stated before, when you get down to it Clouseau is not that nice of a character. But for all of his faults, he is 100% committed to the law. So, I can’t see him ever doing this. It truly is a slap to the face with Blake Edwards sticking his middle finger down my throat. I hate it!
It’s a shame that Roger Moore… actually kinda does okay. I don’t know maybe it’s the novelty of seeing a Bond play Clouseau, but Moore handles himself nicely. It’s just a shame what this all means for the characters and that ruins it for me.
Eric’s Advice: Avoid like the plague!