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I remember back in my high school band days when we played the Pink Panther theme at one of our many concerts. This was especially fun because it was probably the easiest (yet most complex sounding) of all tunes to play for each instrument concerned and always got a laugh from the audience. The theme was pretty much at the tail end (no pun intended) of its popularity just as our other attempt at modern music gained equal notoriety with the song When The Going Gets Tough by Billy Ocean (scary!)

This DVD Box Set holds only five of the nine movies that have anything remotely to do with the Pink Panther moniker. Since Inspector Clouseau is the only constant within this entire series I would have thought that this collection should be entitled as such, but selling such a product would hardly generate as much interest as if it had the Pink Panther character on board. I'm sure that their original cinematic promotions were created this way to increase the potential box-office revenue at the time too.

The Pink Panther (1964)
Ever since I was very young I have always enjoyed the entertaining visuals that slapstick humour delivers, although I've never really admitted to this readily since the most famous of them all is the somewhat irksome The Three Stooges. The reason that I'm not all that partial to their style of tomfoolery is because the physical comedy here is purely for the joke's benefit without much of a decent plot to drive it along. For this reason, I lean more towards the more engaging works of Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin and Jackie Chan since they relied on the storyline to keep audiences "entertained" whilst astounding everyone with their activites onscreen. If certain actions are to occur within a movie then they should at least be relevant to the situation at hand and especially go in some way to advancing the story.

So in terms of memorable comedy based on physically hurting yourself or someone else, I'm afraid that only the original The Pink Panther fits the bill for me even though the humour itself doesn't run for the entire feature as it does in the sequels. But it is here that Peter Sellers (or Blake Edwards if you want to get technical) was best able to seamlessly incorporate the visual gags into the story thereby giving us much needed counterpoint to the situations around Inspector Clouseau. The subsequent sequels generally did not have nearly the same assimilation of this humour (or enjoyable plotline for that matter) but there was still the occasional comedic gem that would crop up now and again. One of these moments was in Revenge Of The Pink Panther where Clouseau attempts to infiltrate the castle over the moat - at least in this example there was motivation behind the actions even if maybe the plot didn't exactly keep going. And the sequence where Clouseau's wife is trying to hide three or more people from each other in the same room is where every action derives multiple layers of humour within the same scene - this particular setup draws similarities to a part of Jackie Chan's movie Project A Part II.

In the end I am inclined to judge the Pink Panther stable of movies for what they are, not what they have alluded to being ... which brings me to my next point. Personally, I can't see that the Pink Panther itself has anything to do with what goes on in each of these movies, unless there is some subliminal mechanism in place that keeps the audience thinking about the Pink Panther giving Inspector Clouseau a hard time in all the credit sequences. Also, over a third of these sequels contain little or no plot referencing whatsoever towards the famous feline and the diamond he inhabits (The Pink Panther Strikes Again is the worst of these offenders). Of course, A Shot In The Dark isn't directly promoted as a Pink Panther sequel but it is still implied as being one (hence its inclusion in this DVD box set).

Therefore, this franchise seems to be based on a character that hardly rates a mention in any of the movies which almost borders on false advertising for the audience. I apologise if my comments regarding this issue ruffles some feathers out there (or sends pink fur flying everywhere) but this is my honest opinion on the situation and I'm sticking to it.

From what little I understand about the Pink Panther sequels, the distributors probably assumed that movie-goers just wanted to see more of Inspector Clouseau's idiocy based on the most likely reason for the original movie's success. Therefore the focus was blindly centered around the repetitive physical and verbal antics of this bumbling police officer without much consideration for a decent plot to keep the audience interested throughout most of the sequels. In conclusion, it seems that instant gratification was just as relevant then as it seems to be today so I guess nothing much has changed here ... I just hope that Hollywood has started to learn from the mistakes it has made over the decades in this regard. All the action, comedy and drama in the world cannot hope to win an audience over if the underlying motivations of the characters are given barely a second's thought. I'm sure that Peter Sellers might have agreed with me on this since he had no desire to continue on with the franchise except for the money.

And on a final note ... there are a lot of not-so-subtle displays of cigarette smoking within these movies, almost as if the storyline is told to take a rest whilst the characters all light up (even the Pink Panther himself takes a puff in one of the cartoons). Also, there are just as many references to Kato/Cato being a particular colour, a term which was commonly touted back then as meaning a person of Asian descent. This is just something you may want to consider if you are into self-censorship with the kiddies.

Movies
Just for the sake of completion (and my own sanity to keep track of these movies) I will briefly mention the films that have not been included in this DVD box set, this way you might know what you're missing.

The Pink Panther (1964) 110 mins - (personal movie rating 7/10)
The Pink Panther Diamond as it is known is so rare as to be the only one in existence. The King of Lugash gave this gem as a gift to her daughter Princess Dala (Claudia Cardinale) when she was young, however the new rulers of her country want it back in their possession. Sir Charles Lytton (David Niven), otherwise unknown as the jewel thief The Phantom, has his eye on this priceless stone as does his nephew George (Robert Wagner). The clumsy (yet highly resepected in certain circles) Inspector Jacques Clouseau (Peter Sellers) of the French Police Suretè has been sent to discover who The Phantom is before he can steal the Pink Panther. Everyone arrives at an exclusive ski resort including Clouseau's wife Simone (Capucine), but unbeknownst to him Simone is secretly having an affair with Charles and is in cahoots with him to steal the jewel from under Clouseau's neuse ... I mean, nose. Everything comes to a head at an elaborate costume party with mistaken identities running rampant.

A Shot In The Dark (1964)
A Shot In The Dark (1964) 98 mins - (personal movie rating 7/10)
After sorting out the mess from his previous case involving the Pink Panther, Clouseau is assigned to investigate a murder at a stately establishment. The owner Benjamin Ballon (George Sanders) is one of the likely suspects but all the evidence seems to point towards a resident maid of the house Maria Gambrelli (Elke Sommer). However, Clouseau believes these facts to be so iron-clad as they could not possibly mean that it was her who committed the crime, this hypothesis being one of many that Clouseau continues to come up with. His masterful plan of releasing the prime suspect time and time again to flush out the true killer are at ends with his reluctant superior Chief Inspector Charles Dreyfus (Herbert Lom). Along the way, manservant Kato (Burt Kwouk) has been assigned by Clouseau himself to help train him in "reactionary self-defence" inside his own home by acting as a potential assassin.

Inspector Clouseau (1968) - *not included in this set*
Peter Sellers' reluctance to reprise his role saw Alan Arkin play the part of Inspector Clouseau. Some fans deem this as sacrilege without Sellers' involvement, others argue that the new director Bud Yorkin brought a faster pace to the more plodding nature of its predecessors helmed by Blake Edwards.

The Return Of The Pink Panther (1975) - *not included in this set*
The diamond is stolen again by The Phantom which surprises Charles since he knows he is retired from the game, so he sets out to clear his name whilst Clouseau is being lead away from the scent by the very same people who thwarted him almost ten years ago.

The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976) 99 mins - (personal movie rating 4/10)
After spending the last three years at a local mental asylum, Dreyfus is deemed cured of his insanity which he claims was all caused by the ever-bumbling Jacques Clouseau. However, a well-intentioned visit from the accident-prone and newly appointed Chief Inspector Clouseau sends Dreyfus stark-raving mad yet again. He escapes to seek revenge on his now arch-nemesis, his plan is to build a machine that will destroy key sections of the world's powerbase (very reminiscent of the 1930s Sci-Fi serials) until Clouseau is handed to him dead or alive. He also has a cunning plan of recruiting the world's topmost assassins to try and kill Clouseau, however this man's complete ineptitude ends up saving him even when he is completely unaware that his life is in danger. But Clouseau's most domineering threat is from his would-be butler Cato since it is now pride that drives him to outwit Clouseau once and for all.

Revenge Of The Pink Panther (1978) 95 mins - (personal movie rating 5/10)
Big time standover boss Phillipe Douvier (Robert Webber) finds himself having to prove that he is still the top man in the underworld and it is suggested that if he can kill Clouseau then noone would ever challenge his authority again. Many unsuccessful attempts at his life with a beumb (bomb) and an apparently foolproof plan with a deadly Hong Kong martial artist fail miserably, but it takes a serious case of mistaken identity with a transvestite killer to make the world believe that Clouseau has indeed passed on. Now that Clouseau is assumed to have kicked the bucket, he can operate "under the covers" to find out who tried to kill him. He enlists the help of Cato along with Douvier's personal secretary Simone (Dyan Cannon) to get to the very bottom of this mystery. Meanwhile, the long-suffering Dreyfus has been asked to recite a pre-written eulogy for the great Clouseau at his funeral to which Dreyfus is close to tears (although not from grief) at the tributes made for him.

Trail Of The Pink Panther (1982) 93 mins - (personal movie rating 3/10)
The Pink Panther diamond is stolen yet again and it is up to Clouseau to find it, however his plane disappears over Lugash where the jewel was kept. The ever-vigilant television reporter Marie Jouvet (Joanna Lumley) is determined to find out if Clouseau is indeed dead, so she pursues his past acquaintances (both friend and foe) to see if there is any hope of finding him alive. In regards to this movie, Peter Sellers' scenes have been post-humously assembled from previous sequences never included in the original films they were shot for. The director Blake Edwards has attempted to come up with a plot that will link them all together, but to most fans this is akin to digging up Bruce Lee and making a movie in his name with him lying in the coffin onscreen. But ultimately, Trail Of becomes a tribute to the late great Peter Sellers with the surrounding characters (thereby the actors) referring to him as Clouseau. If the DVD format was around then this movie simply would not have been created, but instead these missing scenes would have slipped into the supplemental section for our enjoyment.

Curse Of The Pink Panther (1983) - *not included in this set*
This wraps up the previous installment with Ted Wass playing Clifton Sleigh (an equally inept detective) investigating Clouseau's demise or survival. Roger Moore's cameo as Inspector Clouseau was a fantastic performance, some say that Peter Sellers would probably have approved of this himself.

Son Of The Pink Panther (1993) - *not included in this set*
Clouseau's son was played by Roberto Benigni from Life Is Beautiful and this movie bombed big time.

Video
All of these films are colourfully pin-sharp image with some artefacts - how much simpler can you say it? Each movie is stored on a dual-layered DVD so these are pretty much the MGM equivalent of Sony's Superbit range where almost the entire disc has been dedicated to storing these images.

Even for a 40 year old film, the original The Pink Panther holds up extremely well with some vibrant colour schemes that would have been even more striking when it was first released. However, age has inevitably affected these film-negatives and there is an underlying pink/purple hue to the skintones on all the actors (I'm not joking either). There is absolutely no macro-blocking to be found anywhere and the grain is pretty much non-existent. The first film though has a lot of blemishes including some light/dark mismatching which is especially noticeable in the locked-down camera shots - this would usually be irritating to watch but the remastering makes it practically non-offensive whilst the feature is running.

The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976)
The black levels are very deep with no hint of low-level noise and the shadow detail is just as good, although some scenes suffer a bit when they are in a deliberately darkened room but there are just enough highlights to help discern what is going on. As we progress through each of the movies then the colours start to improve slightly, so much so that by the time we reach Trail Of The Pink Panther the skintones are finally coming to some sort of resemblance of true skin colour rather than the somewhat gaudy look of its predecessors. Again, the limited artefacting becomes even more limited as each title progresses although there are still some major spots which I feel could have been eradicated in the computer, but this would of course ruin the charm that the films hold (or so the purists would say).

The Pink Panther movies have never looked better, at least on home video.

Audio
These films span a range of nearly 20 years yet they pretty much exude the same quality of soundtrack reproduction - very clear in dialogue as well as very supportive of the musical score but somewhat modestly towards the sound effects. The soundtracks in general are perfectly suited to the visual activities with a pleasant nostalgic undertone to it all (duh!)

For the English DD 5.1 soundtrack there is virtually no hiss or background noise anywhere but it is pretty much a frontstage affair with only a few instances of stereo separation involved. There is virtually no audible presence of surround channels except for the occasional (and inexplicable) sparks of life which house a few musical or sound effect moments, otherwise very minimal ambience. The subwoofer gives a subtle depth to the explosions, gunfire and even bodyfalls and is a welcome inclusion here without it being unnecessarily enhanced just for the freaked-out home theatre enthusiasts out there.

The German, French and Italian DD 5.1 soundtracks are identical in sound quality to the English variant so most likely MGM used the same multitrack recordings to replace the dialogue with. The Spanish DD 2.0 soundtrack however has an audible hiss throughout and the Czech DD 2.0 one is even worse with a distinctive wow and flutter (a wavering of the sound like when an LP record is off-centre) throughout the entire feature; it also sounds brighter at the expense of distortion and hiss alike.

Extras
The two main sets of supplemental material are found on the first disc containing the original movie and then three hours more on the separate extras-only disc. The menu system on all six discs is simple and uncluttered as well as in the graphical style of the cartoon sequences.

On Disc 1 there is the audio commentary, trivia track and theatrical trailer along with animated menus.

The audio commentary by Blake Edwards had me wondering whether someone kept hitting the pause button on purpose because he talks just like William Shatner, only a lot more stilted. Just when you thought that Blake had finally finished a whole sentence another word would pop out unexpectedly, the end result is that you quite often forget what he was talking about in the first place. Also, his periodical breaks between each set of comments gets greater each time so that when you reach the final act you hardly realise that he's not talking anymore. He barely mentions what happened during the time of filming as he seems more interested in just singing the praises of his cast and crew as well as talking about the many different productions that everyone has been involved in. It is an admirable notion on his part, but ultimately this commentary isn't something you'd be coming back to in a hurry.

Although if it's interesting facts that you're after, then the trivia track text within the main feature is literally brimming with informative and even humorous insights to the documented recollections of the actors and their life’s histories in detail. It mainly contains an extensive foray of the early 20th century film and stage production trivia bits which might be valuable to the avid historians, but I wish more time was dedicated to what happened whilst making the movie itself. There is a lot of interesting stuff to absorb here and is probably one of the best examples of this feature to be seen anywhere, definitely worth repeated viewings. There were also a few spelling mistakes that only the keen eye would notice though.

On Discs 2-5 are the other four sequels in this set with only the original theatrical trailers included. They are A Shot In The Dark, The Return Of The Pink Panther, The Pink Panther Strikes Again and Trail Of The Pink Panther. The menu system is the same as the first disc but none of them are animated.

On Disc 6 is where all the Pink Panther meat is stored with five documentaries (so they say, read on) and other bonuses to boot. This supplemental material is seriously more entertaining and much funnier than the Pink Panther movies combined and is worth every second to see what gems that Peter Sellers has left for the entertainment world.

The first documentary is The Pink Panther Story (28 mins) which is a collection of current day interviews with Blake Edwards and other persons of similar off-screen stature. They look back on the time when the film studio system went bust and how the requirement of much smaller production houses was critical if the movie business was to survive these dark times. Along the way we learn about the differences of opinion that existed whilst making all the Pink Panther movies including Peter Sellers' reluctance to reprise his role(s) for any possible sequels. Blake Edwards is famed for having created some veritable masterpieces in his time (Breakfast At Tiffany's is one of these films), but everyone here elevates the entire Pink Panther series into this realm which I'm not in total agreement with. The very fact that The Mirisch Bros were famed not to have interfered with the "artistic integrity" of their employees shows up very much in the final products (they weren't the typical generation of Hollywood or British films then).

Revenge Of The Pink Panther (1978)
The second documentary is That's Panthertainment (47 mins) produced at the time of Peter Sellers' final pre-humous instalment of the franchise, Revenge Of The Pink Panther. It is a welcome insight into this almost ancient period of time (well, everything in the 1970s seems like another planet to me) with much more intimate footage than is typical of today's EPKs. Showing its age considerably, this featurette has been re-worked and re-edited slightly from the ancient video production source (even though the footage itself was originally shot on film) with major improvements in the soundtrack mainly. The visuals are very rough and ready but just watchable enough considering the vintage involved, there are also some nice flubs and outtakes to savour within the featurette. It also shows a few snippets of Steve Martin appearing at the premiere who ironically is currently being touted as the new Inspector Clouseau in a possible remake for the movie franchise.

The third documentary is The Unknown Peter Sellers (51 mins) which is a case of third time's the charm, the most valuable (pink) diamond in the roughage, the needle in the posterior etc etc. This is a mixture of new interviews with people like Michael Palin, David Frost and Shirley McClaine along with mainly previously unseen footage from the archives. It showcases Peter Sellers' work from stage to radio to film star and beyond. In a way, all of the ups and downs throughout his career embody the spirit of the 11th Commandment as made famous in the Pink Panther movies: "Thou shalt never give up". Amongst his other failures and successes, one of the latter was from his involvement in The Goon Show on 1950s radio with friend Harry Secombe, their masterful performances of vocal impersonation winning audiences worldwide. This anarchic style of comedy epitomised the role that entertainment would generate for the world of show business. The parallels of this achievement in chaotic humour within the television industry are best exampled by the works of Monty Python's Flying Circus in the 60s and 70s, The Young Ones in the 80s and to a lesser extent Red Dwarf in the 90s. The most saddening thing about Peter Sellers' life was how he was virtually penniless near the end regardless of the millions he raked in for the film studios, it simply does not do justice to his incredible talent throughout the years - proof positive that great art and money are not directly related to each other. This featurette is a truly respectful production to the man who sadly did not receive the proper attention he deserved or desired.

The fourth documentary(?) is The Commercial Peter Sellers (10 mins total) which informs us as to what out-of-work actors used to do in order to survive in a demanding if not narrow-minded entertainment industry. Included in this section are six TV advertisements for Barclay's Bank and TWA Airlines with an hilarious mini-featurette that was made for the TWA employees themselves (I assume to promote Peter Sellers as their new ambassador) - a commercial within a commercial really. Peter Sellers was always the master of vocal impersonation and resultantly his physical transformations were equally atonishing from what we see in these commercials, however he wasn't really all that adept at slapstick per sè since he had to be instructed by Blake Edwards to pull this kind of thing off. The impressions of an upper-class Englishman (I honestly thought this guy was John Cleese for a time) and a romantic Italian lover are simply classic. Today, you will find that there are many still-successful international actors being paid millions to star in company's advertisements around the world ... unlike the Australian television industry where a recognisable ex-TV star suddenly pops up in a cheap and tawdry advertisement for car tyres etc.

The fifth documentary is Behind The Feline (10 mins) which is an interesting discussion of the development of probably the most recognisable cat in history. The lead animator David De-Patie talks about how he and Friz Freleng of Warner Bros Looney Tunes fame (the similarities between the two productions being immediately obvious) were approached to create the Pink Panther character, initially just as a two-minute credits sequence for the first film. After its enormous popularity was sealed inside the cinemas, De-Patie felt that this could be the start of something big (an understatement of the century) and his gut instinct to pursue this potential gold mine paid dividends even with Freleng's original disinterest. There is also a mention of the hundred or so variations that this character went through from its creators but none of them are shown here in this featurette (maybe for copyright reasons).

Next up is a collection of six Classic Cartoons (35 mins total) produced on the basis of a contract signed to develop 156 of these shorts for television. Having had to make so many of these it's no wonder that the creators eventually ran out of ideas so these eventually just became tired journeys into frivolity. The one of the concert at the Hollywood Bowl seems to have been lifted from the Bugs Bunny version (or is it the other way around?) - it would have been nice to have a subtitle track here telling us which classical musical instruments were being played to demonstrate the use of them as characters almost. And at the end of the one involving Nora's Ark the Pink Panther actually speaks, but this was ultimately ditched as he worked better without the gift of speech methinks. Also, the tables are turned on the Pink Panther when he meets up with a drunken man who manages to outdo Mr Pink almost without trying (just as he does with Inspector Clouseau). The irony with all of this Pink Panther business is that the original cartoon was given an Academy Award, whereas Peter Sellers at best was only nominated for one from his role in Being There which is deemed his crowning achievement in his 50+ years of show business. These shorts can only be played selectively one by one and it should have come with a Play All option.

Finally, there is a Shots In The Dark photo gallery of black-and-white images taken from the various filming locations of this movie. Regrettably, the DVD producers decided to house them all in a very small banner that sits atop a cartoon-inspired Suretè which basically ruins the impact of these shots, interesting as they may be to the viewer. There are over one hundred of these to delight in though.

"The Blood Flows Pink In The Ocean"
At the time of writing I was not provided with the "highly collectable booklet" detailing the Pink Panther franchise, so my guess is that it is either filled with invaluable factoids on the birth and evolution of the Pink Panther phenomenon ... or maybe it's just full of pink fluff.

Overall
I was only a little kid when I watched any of the Pink Panther movies before and have often wondered why they aren't on TV anymore, now I know. There's two things wrong with this DVD box set - one, it has the Pink Panther sequels in it (sarcasm) and two, it is the oddest selection of five out of the possible nine instalments contained herein. The documentaries included are quite informative and entertaining but they almost taunt us at to what we are missing out on with the sequels that have not been included here.

All in all, if MGM had just made the original Pink Panther movie available with its 3-hour extras disc it would have made for a delectable two-disc special edition. Instead, people now have to endure the pain of watching almost half of the dire Pink Panther sequels (and some of them are not the good half at that) - the last one basically ending this particular saga on an extremely anti-climactic cliffhanger. Apparently, the unrelated A Shot In The Dark and the missing Return Of The Pink Panther features are probably the best of all the sequels in the franchise, but the rest can pretty much fall by the wayside.

Honestly, the Pink Panther movies are not my cup of tea even with the inclusion of Peter Sellers them, the entire series in general does little to enhance his broad reputation of entertaining people but the extras go a long way to rectifying this. This DVD box set will unfortunately alienate many casual fans who may not want to pay so much for this particular grouping of Pink Panther movies ... but until there is an economically viable way of selecting which movies you would like for your own personal collection (other than buying them separately) then I'm afraid that you're stuck with the duds as well as the buds here.

In the end, only you the buyer will know whether or not you would love to own this collection, so please raise or lower the Overall rating as you see fit because darned if I can commit to one myself.


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