Trail of the Pink Panther Reviews
*1/2 out of 4 stars
We start first with bits and pieces of previous films we've never seen--Clouseau lighting his pipe in his office, first acquiring his Quasimodo disguise and so on, as well as an alternate take of his return home with groceries that goes awry, as witnessed by his neighbor. He's assigned to track down the latest theft of the Pink Panther diamond, with Dreyfus (Herbert Lom, of course) naturally protesting it. He is sent to Lugash, and after an assassination attempt (while he has had a few on him, there juuuuust might be a different explanation this time...) and his plane disappears en route. Reporter Marie Jouvet (Joanna Lumley) begins interviewing people like his former assistant Hercule LaJoy (Graham Stark, reprising his role from A Shot in the Dark), Cato (Burt Kwouk, as usual) discussing his strange employment, and The Phantom (David Niven, returning with an impressionist substituting for his heavily weakened voice). Robert Loggia also makes a second appearance in the series, but as a different mobster than he was in Revenge of the Pink Panther.
What sort of completes the "Oops, too late!" feeling of the film is a strange, more psychedelic title sequence than I recall previously appearing in the series, this time made "in the style of" DePatie-Freleng by Art Leonardi (responsible for some of the late 60's Panther cartoons, actually). Nothing wrong with it--or with the performances of the supporting cast, or really with the writing. However, it brings to mind--this might bend a few minds, for which I apologize--episodes of one of the two anime series I've ever watched, Hokuto No Ken (aka Fist of the North Star) where periodically a character would be remembered after death by an episode consisting entirely of flashbacks with a small wrap-around. In that case it was a budget issue, pumping up the number of episodes to allow for a longer series and to keep things moving week to week without having to create new animation, but it always felt like a bit of a rip-off, whatever good there might have been done in recalling the acts of that character--much like there is some good in reviewing the work of the brilliant Sellers, but done only in bare portions here, with an even greater portion of the film than the last one devoted to the rest of the cast.
It's not a bad way to remember Clouseau, though, and I do think that his widow went a bit far, and it's not a bad way to close out the set I bought it in, though certainly it would have been better to include Return of the Pink Panther. I would not recommend it outside of this though--a completist watch alone, I think.
Seller's death lead Edwards to take a page from Ed Wood's book of Shitty filmmaking. Just like in Plan 9 from Outer Space recycled outtakes from previous panther movies are glued together to create a storyline, which makes very little sense. Scenes featuring Sellers are mostly set in the office or in a car. The other characters just sit around explaining what's going on. When Edwards runs out of material, we are told Clouseau disappeared. The whole thing just blows my mind. How on earth do you make a movie using deleted scenes from previous movies. Those scenes did not make it to the final cuts because they did not move the story forward, so how do you use them to do the job in a whole new movie?
As soon as Clouseau is reported missing the movie suddenly into a documentary the audience is treated with clips from previous movies in 'flashback' style, making you wish you were watching a different 'panther' instead.
Verdict: Skip it