Blu-ray Review: The Pink Panther Collection

After years of speculation and rumor, Shout Factory has finally released The Pink Panther Collection. A box set that brings together all six of the seminal Pink Panther films that starred the legendary Peter Sellers (Being There), together, on Blu-ray, for the first time ever. For fans of Sellers hilarious take on Inspector Clouseau, this set is a cause for celebration. It seems hard to believe now, but initially United Artists had so little faith in The Pink Panther that they let Lee Grade produce it in exchange for distribution rights. You can bet UA was regretting that decision after the film became a hit.

Setting the tone for the series, The Pink Panther (***1/2, 115 min, 1963) might best be described as an easy-going caper. Directed and co-written by Blake Edwards (Breakfast at Tiffany’s) with Maurice Richlin, The Pink Panther serves as an introduction to Peter Sellers bumbling Clouseau. However, as originally conceived, Panther was to center around a sophisticated jewel thief Sir Charles Litton, played by David Niven. Hence, Niven’s name above Sellers in the credits. However, as filming commenced, it was clear that Sellers bumbling detective was driving the plot, and getting a majority of the laughs. Sellers was the breakout star of The Pink Panther despite the presence of a star-studded ensemble cast of Robert Wagner, Claudia Cardinale, and Capucine.

While not quite as laugh-out-loud funny as future films, Edwards keeps things well paced throughout, and gives both Peter Sellers and David Niven the opportunity to shine. Now, more than fifty years after its initial theatrical run, The Pink Panther remains a fun movie to watch.

Presented in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, this 1080p transfer looks similar to the previous Fox/MGM Blu-ray, now out of print. Final detail is very good, and colors are warm, and pleasing. I noticed just one or two instances of dirt or grime, but it didn’t interfere with the overall viewing experience.   The audio is presented in a number of ways: 2.0 stereo and mono, plus a 5.1 track, which provides a more engaging forum for Henry Mancini’s classic score, though is somewhat limited in its fullness. English subtitles are included.

All of the prior Blu-rays extras – commentary from Edwards, documentaries on the film and the cartoon Pink Panther, an interview with Wagner among them – have been ported over with the addition of a new 12-minute interview with Claudia Cardinale. Speaking in French, Cardinale discusses her work on the film, with Edwards, and more.

Originally a stage play by Harry Kurnitz, and envisioned as a vehicle for Sophia Loren, the original script for A Shot in the Dark (****1/2) didn’t include Clouseau, and Anatole Litvak was to direct. When those plans fell through, Blake Edwards significantly rewrote the script with William Peter Blatty (The Exorcist), making Inspector Clouseau the lead character, and producing what many believe is the best Pink Panther film of the series.

Clouseau has the same bungling personality as the in the first film, but it was A Shot in the Dark that introduced a hallmark of his character – the exaggerated French accent – and established the basic framework for future Pink Panther films by the Sellers/Edwards team: The plot offers the the ‘fearless’ Inspector a whodunit to sink his teeth into. In the case of A Shot in the Dark, Clouseau is called in when the Spanish driver of a very wealthy man (George Sanders), is found dead, the victim of an assassin’s bullet. Evidence initially points to the wealthy man’s gorgeous maid Maria Gambrelli (Elke Sommer) …

The film also serves as an introduction to the great Herbert Loman as Inspector Dreyfus, Burt Kwouk as Clouseau’s faithful servant Cato, and several classic gags that would be reworked in subsequent sequels – follow-ups that would not be produced for over a decade due to the rocky relationship between Edwards and Sellers.

Presented in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, this 1080p transfer licensed from MGM is fairly solid, but does show its age a bit more often than The Pink Panther Blu-ray. There’s a nice amount of natural detail throughout, and while the colors don’t pop off the screen, they are far more vivid than any previous DVD release. Contrast has been well handled, and a slight grain gives the proceedings a filmic appearance. The audio is available via 5.1 Dolby Digital and 2.0 mono DTS MA soundtracks. As with the first film, the 5.1 track is slightly more engaging, but isn’t as full as you might expect. Both provide clean, clear, dialogue. English subtitles are included.

As for the extras, there’s a new 23-minute interview with Walter Mirsch that provides lots of interesting information. He details the projects decidedly odd genesis, Sellers’ negative reaction to the film, how Return of the Pink Panther came about, and how his involvement in the series ended. Along with some Stills Galleries, the extras also include a seven-minute clip of Blake Edwards being interviewed on The Dick Cavett Show. The interview includes several clips of A Shot in the Dark. The final extra is a new audio commentary with Jason Simos of the Peter Sellers Appreciation Society.

 With their careers in a decline, Sellers and Edwards put their differences aside, joining forces for Return of the Pink Panther (***1/2, 1975, 119 mins., PG). More than a decade away from the franchise did nothing to dull the humor of Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau. Eager for a hit both Sellers and Edwards (which he co-wrote with Frank Walkman) were at the top of their game. Some regard this film as the funniest, if somewhat disjointed, entry in the Pink Panther series.

As daffy as ever, Clouseau finds himself in pursuit of the Phantom (Christopher Plummer in the David Niven role), whom he suspects has stolen the world famous Pink Panther diamond. Naturally, Clouseau is quite excited to be taking on his old foe again. The same man who landed him in prison not too many years earlier (tying this film to the original quite nicely.) With a handful of memorable laughs, and an impressive title sequence courtesy of Richard Williams, Return of the Pink Panther is a worthy entry in the franchise.

Presented in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, this 1080p transfer is similar to A Shot in the Dark in that a nice amount of grain has given the proceedings a filmic appearance. While colors aren’t quite as vibrant as you might expect at times, and detail isn’t quite as strong as the previous titles, Return still satisfies. Our only choice for audio is the original mono soundtrack, which is clean and clear.

As for the extras, there’s a half-hour interview with production designer Peter Mullins, who worked on several Panther films, along with a 20-minute conversation with Catherine Schell, the vintage featurette “The Return of Laughter,” several trailers, still galleries, TV and radio spots, and another commentary with Jason Simos of the Peter Sellers Appreciation Society.

The Pink Panther Strikes Again (***1/2, 1976, 103 mins., PG) is inspired, zany fun. Recovering from his stint in a mental hospital, Herbert Lom’s Dreyfus seeks revenge against Clouseau. Yes, the storyline is utterly preposterous, but so be it. There’s several memorable gags, and Peter Sellers is at his over-the-top best. It’s impossible not to laugh at the interplay between Clouseau and Burt Kwouk’s Cato. If that’s not enough, there’s the perfect ending (scored to Henry Mancini’s love theme, “Come to Me,” performed by Tom Jones.) A personal favorite, I’ve seen Strikes Again countless times over the years.

Presented in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, Strikes Again appears to have the best 1080p transfer in the set. Colors are vivid throughout, and contrast is well handled. While the print has a few scratches and specks, they don’t interfere with the overall viewing experience. The included 5.1 DTS MA soundtrack makes Henry Mancini’s score sound better than ever, while providing clear ambience and dialogue. Interestingly, the included 2.0 stereo and mono tracks sound as though they were mastered at a lower pitch – though it is still in sync with the video. For that reason, the 5.1 soundtrack is the highly recommended choice. English subtitles are available.

As for the extras, in a 25-minute conversation, editor Alan Jones offers his remembrances of working with Edwards on Return (where he was brought in to recut the film several times after new footage was added), Strikes Again and Trail. A 20-minute interview with co-star Lesley Anne-Down, the vintage featurette “Clouseau: The Greatest Fumbler in the World,” and another extensive array of still galleries, trailers, TV/radio spots, a commentary from Jason Simos, and a rare behind-the-scenes photo gallery.

Continuing box office success brought Peter Sellers back for Revenge of the Pink Panther (**, 98 mins., 1978, PG) which ended up being his last outing as Clouseau, due to his death in 1980, aged 50. Sadly, this entry has only a few laughs here and there, and seems largely uninspired. It has a lot of the same trappings of the earlier films, but it feels like those involved – even Sellers – are simply going through the motions. Clouseau is trying to break up a drug ring, he just does it with a lot less panache than the earlier films. The best part is definitely the Hong Kong climax of the film, set to Henry Mancini’s wonderful “Hong Kong Fireworks” composition. If nothing else watching The Pink Panther Collection will make you realize just how important Henry Mancini’s music was to to the success of these films.

Presented in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, this 1080p transfer looks fine. Offering solid colors and we’ll tuned contrast throughout, there are just a few scratches and specks apparent. We are offered a trio of soundtracks – 5.1 DTS MA and 2.0 mono/stereo mixes – all of which reproduce the audio very well. It’s just a question of what suits you, the viewer. English subtitles are included.

As for extras, there’s an informative audio commentary from from author/historian William Patrick Maynard on the film’s production history.

Sellers untimely death in 1980 didn’t deter Blake Edwards from mining the Peter Sellers/Inspector Clouseau archives one more time. Trail of the Pink Panther (**, 1982, 96 mins., PG) a Christmas of ‘82 box office failure, combines outtakes – mostly from Pink Panther Strikes Again – with new footage of Sellers co-stars from the proceeding films. While it’s certainly watchable, and enjoyable for big fans of the franchise, beyond the first half, the novelty of what is essentially a “greatest clips” show, starts wearing pretty thin.

Presented in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, this 1080p transfer is marked by an excellent level of detail throughout, and a pleasing color palette. Once again, we are offered a trio of audio choices – 5.1 DTS MA and 2.0 mono/stereo mixes – all of which do a fine job in their own way. English subtitles are included.

As for extras, there’s another informative commentary from William Patrick Maynard, who is very open about the film’s strengths and weaknesses. Still galleries, and trailers wrap things up.

This all makes for a must-have release for all Pink Panther fans. Highly Recommended!

Movie title: The Pink Panther Collection

Director(s): Blake Edwards

Actor(s): Peter Sellers , Herbert Lom , Graham Stark , Burt Kwouk , André Maranne , David Niven

Genre: Romance , Comedy, Heist, Mystery, Crime

  • Movie
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
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