More Pink Panther from Kino…

Available now, alongside Shout Factory’s Pink Panther Collection are the Blu-ray debuts of the “Seller-less” entries into the Pink Panther series: 1968’s Inspector Clouseau, as well as Blake Edwards’ own Curse of the Pink Panther (1983) and Son of the Pink Panther (1993), which have been issued on individual Blu-ray’s by Kino Lorber.

Given the box office success of The Pink Panther (1963), and A Shot in the Dark (1964), The Mirisch Company wanted a follow-up film, but Peter Sellers, director Blake Edwards, and composer Henry Mancini were all working on another movie, The Party. Deciding to move ahead without them, Walter Mirisch found Bud Yorkin (who, along with Norman Lear, produced some of the biggest television shows of the 1970’s), to direct, and Alan Arkin, hot off the success of The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming stepped into Peter Sellers role.

A box office failure, Inspector Clouseau (**, 1968, 96 mins.) is an oddity. It just doesn’t feel like a Pink Panther film. Alan Arkin is a fine actor, but he’s not quite right for the role of Clouseau (but then again, Peter Sellers is Clouseau), at times appearing to imitate Sellers, at others, appearing awkward. He also stumbles a bit with Clouseau’s French accent. While there’s no denying the fact that Alan Arkin isn’t Peter Sellers, the younger Arkin has an appealing personality that makes Inspector Clouseau a more enjoyable watch than one might have expected.

The plot, Clouseau assisting Scotland Yard in trying to solve a series of robberies, isn’t particularly original, but there are some good laughs, especially early in the film; there’s a rather funny debriefing sequence in which Clouseau keeps changing positions and seats in the office, and his silent introductory sequence would make Buster Keaton proud. If you allow Allan Arkin  to entertain you, without expecting him to be or exceed Peter Sellers, Inspector Clouseau is worth a look. It’s also worth noting that composer Ken Thorne (Help!) delivered a surprisingly effective score. Inspector Clouseau may not be among the best of The Pink Panther films, but it’s also not as terrible as some have come to believe.

Presented in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, this 1080p transfer shows a surprising level of detail, helping to emphasize the features moments of physical comedy. Colors are pleasant, and skin tones are natural. The source material is fine, showing just a few scratches throughout the presentation. The 2.0 DTS-HD MA sound mix emphasizes the slapstick nature of the film, and delivers clean, concise dialogue. English SDH subtitles are included.

As for extras, there’s a well thought out audio commentary from film historian William Patrick Maynard, as well as a trailer for the film.

Filmed at the same time as Trail of the Pink Panther, was more of a “true” sequel to the series, Curse of the Pink Panther (**1/2, 1983, 110mins., PG) was a true sequel to the series, as Blake Edwards attempted to relaunch the franchise after the death of Peter Sellers. Reviews were lukewarm, and box office returns were poor, but watching Curse recently, I realized, while it’s not a great film, it’s not the worst either. Understanding resurrecting Clouseau would be a fool’s errand, we are introduced to a new hero: Soap alumnus Ted Wass is American detective Clifton Sleigh, recruited by Dreyfus (Herbert Lom) to investigate the disappearance of Clouseau. As he searches, Sleigh pays visits to all the stars who turned up in Trail of the Pink Panther – Burt Kwouk’s Cato, Robert Loggia’s mafia boss, not to mention David Niven, Robert Wagner and Capucine, with Niven’s voice dubbed by Rich Little – The plot allows for several memorable sight gags. There’s one particularly memorable moment where Wass is almost swept away in an airport in a driving rainstorm. Curse of the Pink Panther isn’t a classic, but it has its moments.

Presented in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, this 1080p presentation is colorful, and impress fully rendered. The restoration of Blake Edwards’ wide Panavision frame to its original scope proportions. There are a couple of speckles here and there, but it’s nothing severe. The DTS MA mono soundtrack is fine, offering a lively Henry Mancini score. Dialogue is clean, and clear. English SDH subtitles are included.

As for extras, there’s a new 16-minute interview with Ted Wass, who discusses how he was cast, and Blake Edwards’ apparent distraction with other issues prior to production.

With Wass’ effort quickly rejected, Blake Edwards wasn’t quite ready to let go of the franchise. In 1993, he directed and co-wrote Son of the Pink Panther (*1/2, 94 mins., PG) which would be the final film in the original franchise. A pre-Life is Beautiful Roberto Benigni stars as Clouseau’s illegitimate son. Despite Benigni’s obvious comedic abilities, the film stands as the biggest box office failure of the franchise. The dull plot revolves around the kidnapping of a princess played by Deborah Farentino. Edwards’ usually clever pacing, is slow and plodding, though Benigni tries hard to sell the material with his over-the-top comic charm. The forever underrated Herbert Lom as Dreyfus is the best thing about Son. He is allowed to show a wider range here, than in previous films. The scenes featuring him and Claudia Cardinale (one of the stars of the original Panther here in Elle Sommers role from A Shot in the Dark) are fun.

Blake Edwards retired from movie making after completing Son of the Pink Panther, and Henry Mancini died the following year. While it would have been nice to see both men end their careers with a better film, Son of the Pink Panther offers some brief glimpses of the talent that made them legends.

Presented in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, Kino Lorber’s 1080p transfer looks a bit dull color wise, though details come through rather well. I noticed just a couple of small scratches, so those don’t really mar the proceedings. The 2.0 DTS MA stereo sound is passable, but nothing special. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout. English SDH subtitles are included.

As for extras, there’s two deleted scenes seen in Italian prints, an archival Making Of featurette, trailers, an extended, rarely-seen trailer (taken from a VHS tape), and a commentary from Jason Simos from the Peter Sellers Appreciation Society.

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