Trail of the Pink Panther

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Trail of the Pink Panther
Trail of the Pink Panther poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Blake Edwards
Produced by Blake Edwards
Tony Adams
Screenplay by Frank Waldman
Tom Waldman
Blake Edwards
Geoffrey Edwards
Story by Blake Edwards
Starring
Music by Henry Mancini
Cinematography Dick Bush
Edited by Alan Jones
Production
company
Distributed by MGM/UA Entertainment Company
Release dates
  • 17 December 1982 (1982-12-17)
Running time
96 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget $6 million[1]
Box office $9.1 million[2]

Trail of the Pink Panther is a 1982 comedy film starring Peter Sellers. It was the seventh film in The Pink Panther series, the first film in the series following Sellers' death and also the last in which he appeared as Inspector Clouseau. Sellers died before production began. His performance consists only of deleted scenes from previous films.

Plot[edit]

When the famous Pink Panther diamond is stolen again from Lugash, Chief Inspector Clouseau (Peter Sellers) is called on the case despite protests by Chief Inspector Dreyfus (Herbert Lom). While on the case, Clouseau is pursued by the Mafia. Clouseau first goes to London to interrogate Sir Charles Lytton (having forgotten that he lives in the South of France). Traveling to the airport, he accidentally blows up his car, but mistakenly believes it an assassination attempt, and disguises himself in a heavy cast on the flight, which causes complications in the air and on land. He then is led to an awkward introduction to the Scotland Yard detectives at Heathrow. Meanwhile, Dreyfus learns from Scotland Yard that Libyan terrorists have marked Clouseau for assassination; but permits him to continue. Heretofore at the hotel, Clouseau has a miscommunication with the hotel clerk (Harold Berens) and even finds gets knocked out a window several times (even pulling the clerk right through the wall a la switchboard), trying to get his "message" from Dreyfus.

Clouseau's plane disappears en route to Lugash, and Marie Jouvet (Joanna Lumley), a television reporter covering the story, sets out to interview those who knew him best. This provides flashbacks to scenes of earlier films; but Jouvet also interviews Clouseau's father (Richard Mulligan), at his winery, providing glimpses of Clouseau's childhood (wherein he is played by Lucca Mezzofanti), and his early career in the French Resistance (in which he is played by Daniel Peacock) involving him failing to detonate a bridge full of crossing Nazis. Jouvet also questions Mafia don Bruno Langlois (Robert Loggia), an antagonist of the next film, and tries to file a complaint against Langlois with Chief Inspector Dreyfus; but Dreyfus refuses to press charges.

The film ends with Marie hoping that Clouseau might be alive, and Clouseau (played by John Taylor, only seen from behind[3]) is seen looking over a seaside cliff, when a seagull flies over and messes the sleeve of his coat. The words "Swine seagull!" are heard in the distinctive 'over French' accent of Clouseau. The animated Pink Panther in trench coat and trilby hat is then revealed in place of Clouseau watching the sunset; he turns around to face the camera and flashes his coat open, but his trenchcoat reveals a montage of funny clips of Peter Sellers from his five Pink Panther films as a tribute to him, while the end credits roll.

Cast[edit]

Archive footage only[edit]

Previously seen footage only[edit]

Previously unseen footage only[edit]

Background[edit]

Sellers died over 18 months before production began, and his performance was constructed from deleted scenes from The Pink Panther Strikes Again. David Niven appears in the film, reprising a role he first played in the original The Pink Panther of 1963. Niven was in the early stages of ALS, and his voice subsequently proved too weak to loop his own dialogue during post-production. He was dubbed by impressionist Rich Little during post-production.

Returning series regulars include Herbert Lom as Chief Inspector Dreyfus, Graham Stark as Hercule LaJoy (last seen in the 1964 Pink Panther film A Shot in the Dark), and Burt Kwouk as Clouseau's faithful manservant Cato. The film also featured Joanna Lumley as an investigative reporter on the trail of the missing Clouseau. Trail featured animated opening and closing credits, animated by Marvel Productions and written and directed by Art Leonardi. Director Blake Edwards dedicated the film to Sellers, "the one and only Inspector Clouseau."

Despite the dedication, Sellers' wife Lynne Frederick filed a $3 million lawsuit against the film's producers and the studio, claiming that the film diminished Sellers' reputation, and was awarded over $1 million in damages.[4] Despite this, however, there was a practical reason behind Frederick's suing of Edwards. Her primary objection was that Sellers had actually vetoed the use of outtakes from earlier Panthers in his lifetime and that his estate should have had the right to control the use of outtakes after his death. The reason the question of outtakes being used had come up in Sellers' lifetime was that Edwards had shot a three-hour version of Strikes Again (hoping to recapture the zany spectacle of The Great Race, with Dreyfus as the melodramatic villain in the fashion of Jack Lemmon's Professor Fate). When United Artists spent three months of previews and continuous editing of Strikes Again (according to Daily Variety in 1976), Edwards decided he would try to salvage the very funny material that remained. He suggested that Revenge of the Pink Panther should primarily be made up of this footage and he would write and shoot new footage around it with Sellers and company. Sellers balked at this and insisted that Revenge boast all new footage. Sellers' contract for Revenge gave him story approval which was why that film carries a story credit for Edwards and none of the previous films had. It also explains why Edwards revamped the Harvey Korman/Professor Balls sequence from Strikes Again for Graham Stark in Revenge. This isn't surprising since Edwards tried to make S.O.B. back in 1977 for Universal by trying to buy the rights to his Darling Lili film from Paramount and shoot new footage around it (he wasn't able to and made it for Lorimar in 1981 using all-new footage which greatly resembles the earlier film at times).

The problem was once Sellers died, United Artists tried to get Dudley Moore to play Clouseau in the Sellers-penned Romance of the Pink Panther. Moore wouldn't do it without Edwards and was only willing to play Clouseau once as a tribute to Sellers (knowing Romance was to have ended the series)[this comes from an LA Times interview with Moore in 1980] . United Artists wanted the series to continue and Edwards wouldn't use another actor as Clouseau (remembering Alan Arkin no doubt). After Arthur made Moore a huge star, he was unwilling to talk about committing to a series. MGM/UA wanted a transition film if Edwards was to introduce a new character as the series' star. Using outtakes was, according to Edwards, a brilliant idea (shooting scripts for Return, Strikes Again, and Revenge showcase much great material that was left on the cutting room floor), as he'd originally hoped to construct a Citizen Kane-esque narrative, with Clouseau gone missing at the very beginning and being showcased via the supporting characters remembering the said deleted scenes. Unfortunately, MGM/UA were unwilling to pay ITC the fee they were asking for the Return outtakes and Edwards fell behind schedule on Trail/Curse (MGM/UA were also playing games by slicing the films' budgets down considerably)--the result being Trail only living up to a portion of its potential.

Edwards' wife Julie Andrews has an unbilled cameo as a cleaning lady, dressed as her friend Carol Burnett's charwoman character. Contrary to rumour, Alan Arkin (who played Clouseau in 1968's Inspector Clouseau), does not have a cameo appearance as Clouseau in the World War II flashback.

Critical and commercial reception[edit]

The film was a critical and commercial failure. Although the film was marketed as a tribute to Sellers, it was widely panned by critics. It was released for Christmas 1982 and grossed only $9 million - $21,550,635 in 2015 dollars ($1,341,695 on opening weekend in 800 theaters; $3,247,458 on opening week) against its $6 million budget.[2] In contrast, the previous film in the series, Revenge of the Pink Panther, had made over $49 million.[5] Nonetheless, it was soon followed by a further Pink Panther film, Curse of the Pink Panther, which was shot concurrently with Trail. That film did not feature Peter Sellers at all (with the exception of some archival voice work that he was not given credit for) and was instead employing the talents of Ted Wass as Clouseau replacement Clifton Sleigh. That film would also be a critical and commercial failure.

References[edit]

External links[edit]