I was lucky to discover this film young in life, my Father is a big fan of Peter Sellers and one Sunday afternoon many years ago the BBC was showing The Pink Panther. My Father insisted we watch it and I’d rarely heard him laugh as much as he did during those 90 minutes.
That was over 20 years ago, I was around 7 or 8 when I first watched Inspector Jacques Clouseau bumble his way through an investigation. The story and life of Peter Sellers is worthy of a movie in itself, in fact they made a film ‘The Life and Death of Peter Sellers” and Geoffrey Rush played the troubled actor.
Director Blake Edwards comedy was set to star Peter Ustinov as Clouseau and Ava Gardener as his wife, both backed out of the project and Edwards had little time to replace the cast. David Niven was the star of the movie, and it was very much conceived as a project for the noted actor. However, when Sellers was cast his untamed improvised nature made him the breakout star of the film.
The follow up, A Shot in the Dark wasn’t originally written to feature Clouseau but after the success of the Pink Panther it was rewritten to feature the character. This also marked the first appearance of Burt Kwouk as Clouseau’s friend and trainer Kato. Released only a few months after the first film, A Shot in The Dark was another big success and a third film seemed like a sure thing.
Peter Sellers didn’t want to make any more, he’d grown tired of the character and had designs for a leading man career in big Hollywood movies. They even tried a Sellers free Inspector Clouseau film, Alan Arkin took on the role but it was a critical and commercial failure. The audience wanted Sellers.
For a time he was a bankable and in demand actor, but ill health and financial problems caused Seller to return to his most famous role.
In 1975 Blake Edwards and Peter Sellers reunited for the first time since The Party (1968), for what turned out to be the first of 3 new Pink Panther movies. The Return of The Pink Panther was a box office smash, breaking records on both sides of the Atlantic Sellers was back in the limelight. Although the comedy was becoming more and more slapstick, and the set pieces more zany audiences couldn’t get enough of Clouseau.
Christopher Plummer stepped into David Niven’s shoes to play Sir Charles, Niven would return to the role in the two Panther films they made after Peter Sellers died. The Trial of The Pink Panther and The Curse of The Pink Panther were shameless cash ins, using stand in actors, unused footage and rather oddly Roger Moore.
The worst was still to come, Son of The Pink Panther (Blake Edwards final Panther movies) and a Hollywood remake (and sequel) would prove to be the low points in the series.
I love all the films in the series up until Revenge of The Pink Panther, even though Sellers was noticeable frail and the jokes were starting to wear thin. Herbert Lom’s character Inspector Dreyfus would become more insane with each entry, and Kato’s surprise attacks becoming more elaborate.
The first film introduced me to Sellers, an actor who was as troubled as he was brilliant who struggled to ever truly be himself but relished taking on other personas. The Pink Panther is perfect for those cold Sunday afternoons, pop the fire on, pour yourself a nice cuppa and as it’s Sunday crack open the biscuits.