Pink Panther series 7 – Trail of the Pink Panther

I could have talked about Peter Sellers’ death either for the previous movie or this one. There are several reasons why I chose the previous movie. 1, his declining health issues clearly affected his performance in Revenge of the Pink Panther. 2, I couldn’t find too much enough behind the scenes details on Revenge for my tastes. 3, I figured there’d be a lot more to talk about with this … movie. My hunch regarding Trail of the Pink Panther was right. That said, this entire blog post could be summed up with a single-worded question. Why?

Trail of the Pink Panther is fairly well known, and a bit notorious, but in case you’re not aware of the circumstances surrounding this movie, let’s look at its background. After Revenge of the Pink Panther released, Sellers started working on a script for what he hoped to be the final Pink Panther movie. He would have been happy to go forward with the movie without director Blake Edwards. It would be called Romance of the Pink Panther. In Romance, he’d end up falling in love with a jewel thief and leaving the police force. As dedicated of an officer as Inspector Clouseau is, that does sound like an interesting, and maybe even appropriate conclusion to the series. Sadly, he died before any kind of deal to make the movie even begun.

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Pink Panther series 6 – Revenge of the Pink Panther

It’s Thanksgiving Monday in Canada, so what better things to do than to watch the final on-set performance of Peter Sellers and review it? Well … I could think of better things to do, but I’ve already had my family Thanksgiving dinner, so might as well get to it. Revenge of the Pink Panther, released in 1978, is the last film in the series by Sellers before he died at 54.

With the original cut of The Pink Panther Strikes Again being over 3 hours, United Artists spent over three months trying to edit the film down to a more traditional length. For a time, Director Blake Edwards tried to salvage any humorous material remaining. He would use a bunch of that footage, and film the next movie around that. Peter Sellers balked at the idea, and rightfully so, as those kinds of movies very rarely work. He insisted that Revenge of the Pink Panther would exclusively feature new footage. Sellers’ contract on Revenge gave him story approval, which also gave him a story credit, something he didn’t receive on any previous Pink Panther films.

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Pink Panther series 5 – The Pink Panther Strikes Again

The Pink Panther Strikes Again is a rather interesting entry into the Pink Panther series. This is the point where the continuity of the series starts to go all over the place. Sure, Return of the Pink Panther completely ignored Inspector Clouseau (1968). But then again, it involved none of the main people from the previous movies. Bur if Return of the Pink Panther bringing in a different actor for The Phantom wasn’t weird enough, this movie completely removes all elements of the mystery plot that all previous entries used, in favour of a more James Bond-ish plot with a villain threatening the entire world with a superweapon. On that note, it’s also the only Pink Panther film to follow a previous film’s story closely.

To make this blog post less tedious, I’ll just be referring to this movie and the previous movie as Returns and Strikes Again.

As with A Shot in the Dark, Strikes Again was rushed into production after the success of the previous film. Director Blake Edwards picked from one of two scripts that he planned for a proposed Pink Panther TV series, the first was actually used for Returns. Production began in December of 1975, just over 6 months after Return released, and filming commenced the following February. Although Edwards and star Peter Sellers had restored their relationship on a professional level, their strained relationship worsened by the time filming began.

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Pink Panther movies 4 – The Return of the Pink Panther

Return of the Pink Panther represents a major change for the Pink Panther series, in more ways than one. For one, it revived the Pink Panther franchise, after the series went dormant in the aftermath of Inspector Clouseau bombing. It marks the return to the franchise for Peter Sellers (the actor who plays Inspector Clouseau), director Blake Edwards, and composer Henry Mancini. None of which were involved with Inspector Clouseau. It’s also the second movie in the series to involve the Pink Panther diamond. It would also be the last to feature the diamond during Sellers’ lifetime, despite how every movie in the franchise since kept the diamond’s name in the title. This is also the point where the franchise turns into a full-blown comedy, and where Clouseau becomes the bumbling buffoon who stumbles his way into solving each case, instead of a clumsy yet at least somewhat competent detective.

In the early 70’s, Edwards wrote a 15-20 page outline for another Pink Panther movie, which he presented to series producer Walter Mirisch. Mirisch loved the idea, but the franchise’s distributor, United Artists, rejected the film. Both Edwards and Sellers had seen their careers decline by this point. British Producer Lew Grade agreed to finance two films for Edwards, as part of a deal to get his wife, Julia Andrews (yes, Sound of Music Julia Andrews) to appear in a TV special for him. On that note, Edwards and Andrews remained married for 41 years, until his death. That’s a rarity in Hollywood relationships.

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Pink Panther series 3 – Inspector Clouseau

This blog post was delayed by a couple of days for three reasons. 1, I had an interview for a permanent office position at work that I wanted to be prepared for. 2, this is my first week on the evening shift in a couple of months. 3, over the weekend, I adopted a pair of kittens. That third one has been taking up a fair amount of my attention this week.

In the original Pink Panther series, Inspector Clouseau is a major outlier. It’s the only Pink Panther movie during Peter Sellers’ lifetime in which he doesn’t appear. It’s the only movie in the original series that Blake Edwards doesn’t direct. It’s also the only movie in the original series not scored by Henry Mancini. All three of them were involved with The Party at the time. Despite this, the Mirisch Company (they owned the rights to Pink Panther at the time) decided to move forward with a third movie in the franchise anyway.  The result was a critical and commercial failure, and for the most part, this movie has faded into obscurity since.

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Pink Panther series 2 – A Shot in the Dark

The backstory behind this week’s review is almost as interesting as the movie itself. With the huge success of The Pink Panther, United Artists immediately approached Peter Sellers to star in an adaptation of the stage musical, L’idiote. The stage musical is a comedy mystery, first released in France. The English version released on Broadway in 1961 under the title A Shot in the Dark. That version was adapted by Harry Kurnitz. Also, William Shatner of Star Trek fame played the main character in the Broadway version – an incompetent Examining Magistrate.

Sellers didn’t like script written by Alec Coppel and Norman Krasna, so the studio approached director Blake Edwards to take over the film from Anatole Litvak. Edwards declined at first, but relented on the condition he could rewrite the script and substitute the lead character for his Pink Panther character, Inspector Clouseau. The two of them would also improvise most of the comedy scenes on the fly, as they did with The Pink Panther.

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Pink Panther series 1 – The Pink Panther (1963)

More often than not, when a comedy series stretches beyond two movies, each successive entry is worse than the last. Comedy writing is hard, and when you’ve got a series starring the same main character, and at least some of the same supporting cast, it’s hard to come up with new material while sticking with the same style of humour. Somehow, a lot of sitcoms manage to last much longer than that and work out fine, but with movies, it’s rare to see a comedy sequel better than the previous movie.  Rarer still to see the fifth better than the fourth. That is, unless the first movie is trash to begin with.

The Pink Panther, directed by Blake Edwards, is a notable exception to this general rule … for the most part. All of the Pink Panther movies featuring actor Peter Sellers during his lifetime are excellent. Yet with the sole exception of one movie, which we’ll eventually get to, all attempts at a Pink Panther movie without Sellers are failures.

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Classic Musical Month 4 – Fiddler on the Roof

The three previous movies I looked at in this month’s blog series were all movies I had at least some knowledge of. I’d seen The Wizard of Oz several times before. I’d seen significant chunks of The Sound of Music. While I hadn’t seen Singing in the Rain, it’s nearly impossible to not at least hear its title song one way or another, and you’d likely recognize a couple more in the movie. But today’s subject is a movie I had no knowledge of before fellow blogger recommended it. I was considering Saturday Night Fever, until I learned it was a dance movie, not a musical. I’m not likely to do a dance movie blog series any time soon. Not really a fan of that genre.

Each movie I looked at this month is based on a completely different type of source. The Wizard of Oz is based on a children’s book series. Singing in the Rain is a mostly original story, written around Arthur Freed’s song catalogue. The Sound of Music is actually based on a true story. Finally, with Fiddler on the Roof, I’m actually looking at a movie based on a Broadway musical. The 1964 Broadway musical was the first in history to surpass 3,000 performances, and it held the record for longest-running Broadway musical for almost 10 years. It won 9 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Book, Direction and Choreography. It’s spawned 5 Broadway revivals, enjoys an international popularity, and is often chosen for school and community productions.

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Classic Musical Month 3 – The Sound of Music

The original plan was to post this sometime between Sunday and Tuesday, but this week’s been crazy in more ways than one. My uncle died since my last blog post for one – the very uncle who was a major inspiration behind me discovering my love of writing. I may write a full length blog post about that soon. I also helped a friend prepare for moving into their new house. And there’s a new job posting at work that I’m feeling hopeful for, considering I have direct work experience there for everything they’re asking for, so I’m putting as much effort as I can into that. Anyway, onto the review.

It takes quite a bit to become the highest grossing movie of all-time. In history, only 11 movies have ever achieved that landmark. Two of those movies have taken back the title after another snatched it from them. The movie that held the record for the longest is Gone with the Wind, which held the record from 1940 to 1966, and even took it back in 1971 (to permanently lose it to The Godfather). No other movie has ever held the record for more than 26 consecutive years though. Why am I mentioning that now? Because the movie I’m looking at today is the movie that finally defeated Gone with the Wind as the highest grossing movie in history. The Sound of Music. It’s also the only musical to ever be the highest grossing movie of all-time at any point.

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Classic Musical Month 2 – Singin’ in the Rain

Singin' in the Rain (1952 poster).jpg

The Wizard of Oz, which I reviewed 5 days ago, is the only movie I’ll be looking at this month that I’ve seen in full before. I’ve seen parts of next week’s The Sound of Music, but never the whole movie. I haven’t yet fully decided on the last movie I’ll be looking at this month, but Fiddler On The Roof is in consideration. In any case, apart from being familiar with the title song for this week’s movie, I went into Singin’ in the Rain completely blind.

Singin’ in the Rain is, along with The Wizard of Oz, among the first 25 movies to be selected by the United States Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry when they started the list in 1989. It’s considered a legendary film by many, sometimes even considered the greatest musical film ever made. AFI ranked it as the fifth-greatest American film of all-time in 2007, and in 2005, the British Film Institute included it on their list of the top 50 films to be seen by the age of 14. Yet despite all the fame and recognition it gets today, Singin’ in the Rain was only a modest hit when it released.

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