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Peter Sellers died in late 1980, just as he was on the verge of getting
another Clouseau flick off the ground. The film was to be titled
Romance of the Pink Panther, and this time Sellers was writing the
film, with Blake Edwards nowhere in sight. Upon Sellers' death, UA
offered the film (which was originally to be helmed by Sidney Poitier,
then later Clive Donner) back to Edwards. Rumor has it that the studio
wanted Dudley Moore to replace Sellers. Moore and Edwards passed on the
same grounds: that no actor could possibly replace could Sellers. A
sensible move. Unfortunately, Edwards had other ideas....
This is the result.
There's seldom been a film that's felt as simply, utterly wrong as Trail of the Pink Panther. With this film, Edwards attempted to make an "all new" Panther escapade using deleted footage of Sellers from the previous three Panthers, with brand new scenes filmed around him to make it appear as if Sellers was really involved. For a little while, it almost works (the joins are at times seamless) despite itself. But then you see a sequence lifted wholesale from "Strikes Again" (Clouseau's mishap with a bag of groceries) and things go rapidly downhill. The Sellers footage is of course very amusing, but it's painfully obvious which Panther films the scenes were cut from (especially the "Strikes Again" footage, where a number of that film's supporting characters suddenly appear for no good plot reason) and the flimsy plot does all manner of convulsions to fit the scenes in.
Then, 40 minutes in, Clouseau vanishes, his plane having "disappeared". Suddenly, what plot there was (which was nothing hot anyway) evaporates and the film wanders into would-be Citizen Kane territory. From here on Joanna Lumley (quite lovely with a French accent) wanders in as a TV reporter determined to track down Clouseau. With her arrival, the pace grinds to a halt and so do the laughs. It's certainly nice to see some of the early Panther notables again (David Niven, Graham Stark, Capucine) along with an amusing contribution from Richard Mulligan as Clouseau's even battier father, but even this doesn't really work, outside of padding the film to a releasable running time.
Even worse is that Niven, who was gravely ill at the time, is dubbed by C-Grade impressionist Rich Little. Little can be hilarious impersonating celebrities (his Howard Cosell on Futurama is a blast) but his attempt to seriously imitate Niven is just painful, with his own accent frequently creeping in. It only gives Niven's scenes a bizarre, otherworldly quality, in a film that already feels mighty creepy. Little is also roped in to imitate the voice of Harvey Korman (more successfully) and Sellers (excruciating), which only makes things stranger.
This second half of the film mixes Lumley's interviews with Clouseau's contemporaries with heavy doses of flashback footage (from earlier Panthers), all of it so much better that the new stuff. Even when it attempts to be funny on its own, Edwards resorts to stealing these gags (as opposed to the footage) from earlier triumphs. Witness Dreyfus's barely concealed laughter during his attempt to eulogise his former nemesis...And then remember that he did the exact same thing in "Revenge"...
If there is one shining light in this misbegotten dud, its the peerless Herbert Lom. He's a truly underrated comic presence who manages to rise above the material with all his facial ticks, pratfalls and explosions of rage.
The final shot of the film, with Clouseau standing on a cliff face, looking out to sea (only to get pooped on by a seagull) manages to sum up the whole enterprise. It's a blatant stand-in (how could it be anything but?) and when he does speak (cursing the "swine seagull") it's clearly Little's voice doing a bad Sellers impression. Having passed on "Romance" because he believed no one could replace Peter Sellers, Blake Edwards only went on to prove his point.... In an even less dignified way!
Maybe the final comment should go to Edwards and his dedication at the beginning of this misguided, shambolic but possibly well-intentioned fiasco..."To Peter. The One and Only Inspector Clouseau"
Blake Edwards was not interested in doing a "tribute" to the late Peter
Sellers with this movie. What he wanted to do was find a way to milk more
money out of the property by first setting us up with a "Clouseau
disappears" movie to squeeze the last nickel out of Sellers posthumously and
then hope audiences would come back for the dreadful follow-up with Ted Wass
and he could then get some more movies out of it. For the first half, we
have half a plot by using old Sellers outtakes and then when he runs out it
turns into a "tribute" by spotlighting old clips. What I remember so
vividly when I saw this movie in the theaters was how after the outtakes
ended, absolutely no one in the theater laughed for the last half of the
If Edwards wanted to do a proper "tribute" he would have taken these Sellers outtakes (which are funny) and put them back into longer directors cut versions of the Panther films they were originally intended for (one outtake finally clears up why Clouseau keeps referring to Colin Blakely as "Sergeant Yard" in "Pink Panther Strikes Again"). The end result would have pleased everyone as a proper tribute to Sellers' genius and when Edwards used to know how to make a funny movie. Unfortunately Edwards wasn't bright enough to think of a sensible idea like that.
Trail Of the Pink Panther is one of the strangest motion pictures ever
Few movies (Game Of Death II and Plan 9 From Outer Space are perhaps the
only other examples) have the dubious honour of featuring a star who died
before shooting even BEGAN. As a tribute to the
late great Peter Sellers, Trail is something of a failure...as an
exercise in creative editing, it is however a masterwork. Trail is a game of two halves...the Sellers half and the awful half. As is well-known, deleted scenes from the three previous Pink Panther movies (Return, Strikes Back, Revenge) were cobbled together to fake a new appearance by Sellers in this flick. To be honest, this snow job is executed with considerable skill...one could almost believe that Sellers had died midway through production. [In fact, this was almost the case; Sellers died mere weeks before shooting was due to begin on Romance Of The Pink Panther. To be made without the involvement of Blake Edwards in any manner, Romance would almost certainly have turned out to be an even bigger disaster than Trail eventually became.] I said you could almost believe it; because when the outtakes run dry, the movie loses any point or direction and wanders aimlessly for 40-odd minutes. Joanna Lumley, sporting a French accent even more hideous than Sellers', travels from place to place interviewing those who knew Clouseau. All pretence at the ostensible plot (the latest theft of the Pink Panther Diamond) goes out the window, in place of flashback clips and extremely dull comedy sequences. While Herbert Lom gives it his usual best (his attempts to conceal his joy at Clouseau's demise are as always sublimely hilarious) and the odd new scene raises a slight smile at best, the words SELLERS IS GONE, YOU MAY AS WELL SWITCH THE DVD OFF seem to flash before our eyes and cannot be ignored. Richard Mulligan's cameo as Clouseau's father is either amusing or painful, depending on your tolerance level for blatant and witless Sellers aping. But, while Peter IS there, there's plenty to enjoy. Highlights include a disastrous series of errors at an English hotel, Clouseau's fiery car lighter blunder, a painful visit to an aircraft toilet (all excised from Strikes Back) and an alternate take of the famous August Balls Costume Shop scene. Harvey Korman, who was replaced by Graham Stark as Balls in the take used, reprises his role here in new footage. David Niven, who played 'The Phantom' in the very first Panther movie, appears again alongside screen wife Capucine. Niven was dying at the time his scenes were shot, and over the violent protests of his family his lines were dubbed by impressionist Rich Little. Niven has very little to do here; he has a slightly larger part (his very last) in the follow-up, Curse Of The Pink Panther. Trail and Curse were filmed back-to-back, and in the main feature the same cast. Curse, while having a complete plot, lacks even Seller's posthumous presence to elevate the tired sight gags and double entendres Blake Edwards puts Sellers replacement Ted Wass
through. If United Artists hoped that this 'new' Sellers Panther movie would recoup some of the gigantic losses suffered as a result of Heaven's Gate, they were to be sorely disappointed. Both Trail and Curse bombed, and only Trail's curiosity value has saved it from complete oblivion. As it is, this is a weird and curiously compelling last bow from a true master of comedy. Goodbye, Peter, you crazy diamond.
Cut 45 minutes of filler material and this would make a nice little
hour-long network retrospective and a decent tribute to Peter Sellers. It
mostly plays that way anyway, with a "plot" which is simply dropped halfway
through, serving only as one of the framing devices to introduce the Sellers
clips. The other framing device, a reporter's series of interviews with
Clouseau's associates, is so inanely written and obviously "tribute-y" that
it's shocking to remember that this was a theatrical feature
And that was Blake Edwards' major mistake. Some of the unused footage is amusing, but if it had been up to Sellers' usual hilarious standard, it wouldn't have gone unused. And the flashback sequences are made up of, well, flashbacks--scenes which we already saw in the previous movies. On a TV special, that would have been fine. Here, it just makes you wonder what Edwards could have been thinking.
Some might call this movie a felonious grave robbery but I think this is a
fine tribute to a late comedian master. I don't think it was such a bad idea
to take some unused scenes and older highlights and put together a
completely new film after decease of masterful Peter Sellers.
Even though sequences with Jacques Clouseau don't fit the plot perfectly, it works. There are couple of brilliantly hilarious never-seen-before scenes with Sellers in here and to me that's a reason enough to make this film, I'm sure. I also have to admit Richard Mulligan is superb in the role of Clouseau's father. Bit strange sequel but cool stuff and great fun.
Trying to piece together a movie with a limited number of outtakes is asking
for trouble. Actually, they (barely) manage to make a plot of some kind for
about the first half of the movie. But when they run out of footage of the
late star (even desperately at one point using a longer version of a scene
that actually made the final cut in a previous Panther movie), the movie
collapses with the ridiculous device of trying to finish the movie by having
people relating their memories of the detective.
However, during this second half, there is one bright spot: Richard Mulligan, who plays the famous detective's father. He is *hilarious* in his scenes! And the scenes showing the past of the detective (played by different actors) were pretty amusing. You have to wonder why the movie didn't just focus on Mulligan or the idea of showing the detective in the past.
I still can't figure out why they made a Pink Panther movie after Peter Sellers died. This one features someone stealing the diamond and Insp. Clouseau getting sent to find it, only to disappear in the process. So, most of the movie features interviews with other cast members about how they met Clouseau (and featuring many of Clouseau's mishaps). At the beginning they say "To Peter, the one and only Inspector Clouseau", but I would agree with Peter Sellers's widow that "Trail of the Pink Panther" dishonored his memory. Maybe it is good for a few laughs - namely the airplane scene - but it otherwise just seems unnecessary. And then there was another Pink Panther movie after this.
This film would have made a triumphant documentary or T.V. Movie tribute to one of the screens geniuses, Peter Sellers. As a 100 minute comedy movie it doesn't quite work. The best scenes are the ones that feature Inspector Clouseau, other than this, and there isn't even alot of them, the film as lukewarm, being neither funny nor entertaining. However if you put to the back of your mind that this was a patchwork film made from material filmed before Sellers, and indeed Inspector Clouseau, sorry Chief Inspector Clouseau died, you may enjoy it. Edwards tries his best but the whole thing seems forced. Granted some scenes are funny and Henry Mancini's score does work, but for more fun watch another Panther movie.
The prospect of seeing deleted scenes from earlier entries in the Pink Panther series might even sound exciting to its fans (although I admit there is a morbid air about the whole enterprise). However, they are ultimately not THAT many, and some of them are actually laborious and boring (especially the scene in the plane toilet). The "new" scenes are often laborious and boring as well; there is too much footage we have seen before, and too much time wasted on a "plot" that nobody (including the director) cares about. Herbert Lom has more legitimate funny moments than anyone else in the film, proving that in the course of the years he had become as important to the series as Sellers himself. (**)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The problem with many long-running series is that after a few entries
everything seems like old material. In "Trail of the Pink Panther", it
Director Blake Edwards attempts to make one more Peter Sellers Inspector Clouseau movie, despite the fact that Peter Sellers died before the movie began filming. To accomplish his goal, Edwards weaves deleted scenes from previous Pink Panther films with newly filmed "plot" scenes to try to create a coherent story about Clouseau picking up the trail of the Pink Panther diamond one more time.
Halfway through the movie, Clouseau is conveniently declared missing, and a nosy reporter investigates Clouseau's life. She tracks down characters from the series and gets them to tell their stories about Clouseau, providing a clothesline to hang highlight clips from previous films on.
It's easy for anyone who's seen the other films to tell where the archive footage, even the deleted scenes, come from. All of this adds together to create an uneasy feeling of déjà vu for the viewer.
There are some original scenes in which the reporter interviews Clouseau's father, leading into some interesting (and funny) flashbacks to Clouseau's childhood. Even this, however, fails to take away from the feeling of watching the kind of "clip show" common in long-running TV shows. And when a TV show does a "clip show" episode, it's either a finale or the show's jumped the shark. (Think of the final episode of "Seinfeld." This entire movie is the Pink Panther equivalent.) While the movie could be a good overview or introduction to the series, it's simply not as enjoyable as watching the individual movies themselves and seeing the jokes in their proper context. Even the new or previously unreleased material pales in comparison to that of the earlier movies. And while a "Best of" disc is something of an enjoyable novelty, it's understandable that this movie flopped. I can't fathom why anyone would pay money to see it in theaters.
Not to say that this movie doesn't have its place. For Pink Panther completists, this movie is like a bonus DVD. But like most DVD bonus features, this movie isn't one that will be watched often. For anyone other than completists, this movie is definitely skippable.
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