Sunday, January 31, 2016

Revenge of the Pink Panther (1978)

Pink Panther Movie #5

Synopsis: A powerful drug syndicate wants to make a bold statement by...oh, who cares? It's another excuse for Peter Sellers to wear a bunch of silly and completely unnecessary costumes, mispronounce words such as "bump" and "room", and break stuff.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Peter Sellers races through Hong Kong in 5th Pink Panther escapade!” 

What Did I Learn?: If you want to go undercover on the Left Bank, your best course of action is to don a Toulouse-Lautrec disguise.


Really?: 1) Let me get this straight: at the end of the last movie, Chief Inspector Dreyfus was disintegrated after attempting to obliterate England, and yet now he's alive and kicking. Even stranger, the French police offer him his former job without any reduction in rank or pay, and there isn't one word of explanation. 2) So, Douvier and Simone are both supposed to be French, yet Edwards chose Robert Webber and Dyan Cannon? Gee, that's some great casting, Blake. 3) I realize the Pink Panther films are screwball comedies that shouldn't be taken too seriously, but why would an American mafia boss travel all the way to Hong Kong to take possession of a boatload of heroin? Wouldn't he have underlings to do that? 4) Take a drink every time Clouseau describes Cato as "yellow". Talk about cringe-inducing...

Rating: I've always had a place in my heart for Revenge of the Pink Panther because my mom took me to see this film near the end of 1978. That said, I have to admit that it's also the weakest of the Panther flicks. The movie has some obvious credibility flaws that reflect lazy writing (I could have greatly expanded the "Really?" section to include a whole lot of completely implausible coincidences, such as Clouseau and Simone breaking into Dreyfus' apartment), but its biggest problem is that there are long stretches without Clouseau, and it simply isn't funny when he's not on screen. Oh, watch for Herbert Lom's giggling eulogy to Clouseau - it's my favourite part. 6.5/10 stars.

The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976)

Pink Panther Movie #4

Synopsis: Inspector Clouseau wanders into campy, Roger Moore-era James Bond flick.

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Finally driven over the brink by his maddeningly incompetent underling, Inspector Dreyfus commandeers a doomsday device and threatens global destruction. His only demand? He wants Clouseau exterminated.” 

What Did I Learn?: If you're scheduled to meet with a board of psychiatrists to determine if you're sane enough to leave a mental facility, it's a very good idea to keep your cool.


Really?: 1) Hmm...strange how this movie is titled The Pink Panther Strikes Again, yet the Pink Panther diamond has absolutely nothing to do with the story. 2) Ok, given the circumstances, I'm sure the world's major countries would attempt to assassinate Clouseau as a means of appeasing Dreyfus, but wouldn't they also track down the whereabouts of the madman? Isn't it a little implausible that Clouseau - the world's worst detective - is the only guy who thinks of checking out that mysterious Bavarian castle? Come to think of it, why does Tournier (the bank robber) dress up as Clouseau, and visit his hotel when he knows the world's greatest killers are gunning for him? 3) Wow, Olga (Lesley Anne-Down) is a trained Soviet assassin who falls in love with Clouseau, and yet her part becomes negligible after she's introduced mid-way through the film.

Rating: The Pink Panther Strikes Again has a few problems in terms of pacing (it really tends to drag in places, such as when Clouseau is in England, or right after the botched Oktoberfest assassination attempts), but it features a number of genuinely funny scenes, and Herbert Lom is magnificent as the protagonist's long-suffering boss. He steals the movie. 8/10 stars.

The Return of the Pink Panther (1975)

Pink Panther Movie #3

Synopsis: A priceless gem is stolen! The French Government's response? Send in the guy who botched the investigation the last time it was pinched...

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “A Rollicking, Laugh-Packed Comedy Caper for the Whole Family!” 

What Did I Learn?: It's a really, really bad idea to keep both a pistol, and an identical-looking cigarette lighter(!!) in the same desk drawer.

You Might Like This Movie If: You know it isn't easy being pink.

Really?: 1) Ok, I realize David Niven wasn't available to once again play Sir Charles Litton, and the role went to Christopher Plummer, but I had a bit of trouble believing his transformation from suave and sophisticated cat burglar to tough guy badass. Oh, and not a word about what happened to Clouseau's wife. 2) So, wait -  [NO SPOILERS!] committed the robbery? Um.... I'm pretty sure that breaking into a museum with top-notch security is a fairly difficult undertaking, and that's especially true in an authoritarian state.

Rating:The Return of the Pink Panther is an enjoyable entry in the Panther franchise, but I have a couple of complaints: the main characters - Clouseau and Litton - don't meet until the very end, so it feels like we're watching two very different movies strung together, and the ending is a little too abrupt for my taste. Otherwise, ROTPP is good for a few laughs. 7/10 stars.

Friday, January 22, 2016

A Shot in the Dark (1964)

Pink Panther Movie #2

Synopsis: World's worst detective solves big case. (Oh wait, that describes every Pink Panther movie!)

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “The French have a word for man like Clouseau: idiot!” 

What Did I Learn?: If you want to smoke out the murderer in one of those Agatha Christie-style drawing room murder-mysteries, your best course of action is to loudly announce: "I know who killed [fill in the blank]!", and arrange to have the power cut immediately afterward.


Really?: 1) Hey, didn't Clouseau have a wife in the original movie, which was released a mere three months earlier? I realize she ran off with Charles Litton, but shouldn't the script have mentioned this, at least in passing? 2) Wait - Clouseau clearly states he's a police officer on official business, and the nudist colony guy still insists he has to disrobe? That doesn't make any sense. 3) So, do the French police really send street vendors to jail if they aren't carrying their official licenses? And I could understand Clouseau getting arrested the first time he forgets his badge, but three or four times? Come on....

Rating: A Shot in the Dark is a charming little comedy and an interesting companion movie to the original Pink Panther. Fans of the later movies may find it a little more to their liking, as Cato and Chief Inspector Dreyfus make their first appearances (although this is the only film in the series that doesn't feature the Pink Panther theme music, or use "Pink Panther" in its title), and Clouseau is clearly the protagonist. Still, A Shot in the Dark sometimes feels a little stagy, in part because it was adapted from a play. Oh, and I don't think the audience needed to hear "In the Shadows of Paris" in its entirety. 7/10 stars.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Pink Panther (1963)

Pink Panther Movie #1

Synopsis: It's a Pink Panther flick, except Clouseau is just a supporting character, he never mispronounces anything, Dreyfus and Cato are nowhere to be found, and um... it sure doesn't seem like a Pink Panther movie at all!

Blurb From the DVD Jacket: “Along with co-stars David Niven, Robert Wagner and Capucine, three-time Academy Award Nominee Peter Sellers first introduced the world to the hilarious, bumbling French inspector Jacques Clouseau in this ‘delightful caper’ (Leonard Maltin)”

What Did I Learn?: If you've seen one Stradivarius you've seen them all.


Really?: 1) Funny how Dala's (Claudia Cardinale) accent sounds pretty Italian for a Middle Eastern princess. (It's especially strange considering Cardinale's dialogue was dubbed over by Gale Garnett). 2) Hmm.... I can understand George (Robert Wagner) wanting to follow in his uncle's footsteps and pinch the Pink Panther diamond himself (although that in itself is quite a coincidence), but after he discovers the Phantom's true identity? Talk about ungrateful.

Rating: If you're a fan of the later films and you really want to see Peter Sellars destroy a drawing room, the original Pink Panther might be a bit of a let-down (see: "Synopsis"). Personally, though, I think it might be the best in the franchise, as a little bit of Clouseau goes a long way. The 1963 Pink Panther is both funny and clever, and it's a pleasure to watch Niven - the lead - match wits with his co-stars. Oh, and watch for Fran Jeffries in a sexy and memorable song-and-dance number. 8/10 stars.