The original “Pink Panther” (1963) was one of those early 1960s comedies that was supposed to be a risqué and daring farce with an all-star international cast. And it is that. And there’s Peter Sellers, playing Inspector Clouseau, but here he’s just a conceited policeman who seems a bit clumsy. He’s basically the slapstick comic relief in a plot about The Phantom (a suave jewel thief), Clouseau’s wife (who is in love with the jewel thief), The Phantom’s nephew (who is an aspiring jewel thief) and a princess with a valuable jewel.
The Inspector Clouseau that we came to know and love shows up the following year (1964) in the movie “A Shot in the Dark,” which became the true template for the movies going forward...
It didn’t violate anything in the series, but it’s here they started to touch on the James Bond parody touches that would creep into the series, peaking in “Strikes Again.” Instead of being merely inept, he’s inept with fancy gizmos like laser-cigarette lighters or belt-buckle guns. In fact, there’s a perfectly fine scene where Clouseau is at a Scottish festival while a killer stalks him and Clouseau accidently kills him. But here’s the thing; it’s during a scene where Clouseau is pulled into tossing the caber contest. Now, in any other movie, Clouseau would accidently drop the caber on the assassin. Not here, here he accidently kills him with his belt-buckle gun. Oh, and then he accidently sinks the villain’s boat with the laser lighter instead of one of his patented bimbs.
For some reason, after that less-than-successful film, Blake Edwards and Peter Sellers decided to get back into the Pink Panther business with “Return of”. As Hollywood does so often in the third sequel, they brought back characters, situations and plot from the first movie. The Phantom is back, as is the diamond. Even though Clouseau is on the case, he’s in an entirely different plotline from The Phantom, until it all comes to a head and the Chief Inspector saves the day by killing the killer while trying to kill Clouseau. Again.
“Revenge of the Pink Panther” where Chief Inspector Dreyfus just shows up like nothing happened. I have come to the conclusion that “The Pink Panther Strikes Again” is simply a fever dream of Chief Inspector Dreyfus, after he’s locked away in “Return of the Pink Panther.” No one acknowledges that, but it’s how I maintain the continuity.
Of course, many of the Pink Panther titles are parodies of other film series titles (Return of, Strikes Again, Revenge of, Trail of, Curse of, Son of) but I always thought that “Strikes Again” and “Revenge of” should have switched titles.
“Curse” has both the perfect Clouseau gag and a less perfect one. An assassin on a balcony has Sleigh in his sights. Sleigh has been dealing with a troublesome umbrella during a storm and it’s still giving him problems as he enters the airport. Now, as the assassin targets Sleigh, a door opens and a strong wind blows in. That wind opens the umbrella and drags Sleigh forward, under the balcony. The assassin, keeping his victim in his sights, follows Sleigh, bending over the railing until he goes over the side the balcony. Sleigh never realizes what happened. A moment later, another killer starts to approach Sleigh from behind. This killer had, in a previous scene, annoyed some kid with a radio-controlled car, so now the kid drives his toy car under the killer’s foot, causing him to fall and crash into stuff. That joke has nothing to do with Sleigh, so, it’s like, what’s the point?
Anyway, it was fun to revisit and rediscover the movies and maybe learn a thing or two about what to do and not to do with comedy. In the end, we ended up with a classic theme song and a pretty good cartoon character. All in all, I give the experience two thimbs up.