The Pink Panther
Synopsis of Movie
The Pink Panther and Sons
The Pink Panther Show
Throughout his career, Peter Sellers won worldwide acclaim for his amazing comedic performances in films like Dr. Strangelove and Being There. However, none of his other comic creations were as beloved by audiences as Inspector Clouseau. Sellers starred as this bumbling French detective in a series of comedies that became big hits in the 1960’s and 1970’s, redefining slapstick comedy in the process.
The Inspector Clouseau character was introduced in 1963’s The Pink Panther. However, he was not the focus of this film. Instead, the story was built around Sir Charles, a dashing playboy who also happens to be a professional thief. Sir Charles travels to an Italian ski resort to get access to ‘The Pink Panther,’ a giant diamond of astronomical value. Since it is in the possession of Princess Dala, Sir Charles begins romancing her to get to the diamond. However, there is one thing in Sir Charles’ way: Inspector Clouseau, a French detective who is hot on the trail of “The Phantom.”
At first, this doesn’t seem to be a problem. For one thing, Sir Charles happens to be having an affair with Clouseau’s unfaithful wife, Simone. Thus, he is able to keep tabs on Clouseau at all times and stay one step ahead. Inspector Clouseau also happens to be the world’s worst detective. He is clumsy and inept, with a nasty habit of tripping over anything within an arm’s or leg’s reach and possessing the ability to unintentionally destroy almost any precious object he touches. As the story progresses, this very clumsiness helps Clouseau throw a monkey wrench into Sir Charles’ plans and he manages to get his man in a memorable and funny way.
Although The Pink Panther was an ensemble piece, it was clear to everyone that Peter Sellers stole the show as the good-hearted but bumbling Inspector Clouseau. His comic timing and unique gift for physical comedy made the Closeau character a favorite with all ages. The film also benefited from a memorable music score by Henry Mancini, featuring a distinctive saxophone-led main theme that became an instant standard. There was also a funny animated title sequence featuring a Pink Panther and an animated Clouseau that perfectly set the tone for the film’s lightly comedic mood.
Sellers’ wild antics as Clouseau helped make The Pink Panther a multi-million-dollar success all over the world. The ‘Pink Panther’ cartoon character also became a big hit with audiences, which led to a series of animated shorts and a Saturday-morning show all the Panther's own. With all this success, it was inevitable there would be a Pink Panther sequel. Audiences quickly received their next helping of Clouseau’s antics in 1964’s A Shot In The Dark.
This time, the film was built around the Inspector Clouseau character. It begins with Clouseau traveling to the villa of the wealthy Benjamin Ballon to investigate the shooting death of his driver. All the evidence seems to point to the maid, Maria, as the guilty party, but Clouseau is convinced that the girl is innocent and sets out to prove it. This leads to a hysterically funny series of comic setpieces, including an unforgettable moment where Clouseau has to visit a nudist colony incognito to gather clues. In another wickedly funny moment, Clouseau questions a lookout while his accomplices rob a bank a few feet away.
A Shot In The Dark was also notable for introducing the characters that would become regulars in the Pink Panther series. First, there was Kato, the servant who helped Clouseau maintain his fighting skills by attacking him at surprise moments. These fights always involved Kato emerging from an unlikely place (like the refrigerator) and ended with Kato getting injured in a terrible, yet comedic way. Even more important was Dreyfus, the superior officer who was consistently driven into apoplectic fits by Clouseau’s unintentional incompetence.
It wasn’t a big surprise when A Shot In The Dark became another international hit. After all, its combination of many different styles of humor, from verbal to visual, set a new standard for screen comedy. It was, however, a big surprise when the series temporarily ended. Both Sellers and director Blake Edwards moved on to other projects. The two sometimes worked together (1968’s The Party, for example) but would not make another Pink Panther film for several years. In the interim, Alan Arkin played the Clouseau character for a film simply called Inspector Clouseau.
Ten years after A Shot In The Dark, Peter Sellers and Blake Edwards reunited for 1974’s The Return of the Pink Panther. In this film, Clouseau is called back into action when the Pink Panther diamond is stolen once again. He is convinced that his old foil, the supposedly retired Sir Charles, is the culprit and sets out to prove his point. Along the way, he takes a few interesting disguises, including that of international jet-setter ‘Guy Gadbois.’ Things get rather complicated when Dreyfus is driven over the edge by Clouseau’s antics and begins plotting to kill him.
The Return of the Pink Panther proved conclusively that the Pink Panther series had plenty of life in it, scoring big-time at the box office. It was followed in 1976 by The Pink Panther Strikes Again. This story begins with Dreyfus in a mental institution, attempting to recover from the trauma he has endured while working with Clouseau. He about to be released when an unexpected visit from Clouseau drives him over the edge once more, thus ruining his chances of ever leaving the institution. Dreyfus swears revenge and breaks out of the mental institution to hunt Clouseau down.
Once he has escaped, Dreyfus enacts an elaborate revenge plan. He forms a criminal cartel and forces a scientist to create a doomsday machine. Dreyfus then threatens to destroy the world in order to get the leaders of every nation to send out their top assassins to hunt down and kill Clouseau. Meanwhile, Clouseau is oblivious to all the danger he has unintentionally inflicted, seeming more concerned with his training rituals with Kato. Soon enough, he sets out to track down Dreyfus and return him to the mental institution, creating all sorts of comic chaos in the process. Like the other Pink Panther films, it was a hit.
In 1978, Peter Sellers filmed his last Pink Panther comedy, The Revenge of the Pink Panther. This time, a French gangster sets out to kill Clouseau by planting a bomb in his car. Clouseau escapes the blast when a robber steals the car. However, the world thinks he has died and he sets out in secret to apprehend his would-be assassin with the help of Kato. This sparks a series of comic incidents that lead to an impressively-staged slapstick finale in Hong Kong. The Revenge of the Pink Panther was another worldwide success and Sellers was soon planning to appear in a sixth one.
However, this was not meant to be. Peter Sellers died of a heart attack in 1980, but the Pink Panther series managed to continue with 1982’s The Trail Of The Pink Panther. In this film, Inspector Clouseau is out to solve yet another disappearance of the Pink Panther diamond when he mysteriously disappears. Various people in his life are interviewed, thus allowing the filmmakers to work in both classic and unused Clouseau scenes. This was followed by The Curse Of The Pink Panther, which incorporated the old supporting characters and tried to introduce a replacement for Clouseau in Clifton Sleigh.
There were no new Pink Panther films after The Curse Of The Pink Panther until 1993, when Son Of The Pink Panther was released. This film starred Roberto Benigni as the illegitimate son of Inspector Clouseau. It did only middling business at the box office and no further Pink Panther films have been made since then. However, the past Pink Panther classics live on through television and home video, ensuring that the madcap antics of Inspector Clouseau will always be a favorite with comedy fans.
Movie Release History1963 - The Pink Panther
1964 - A Shot in the Dark
1968 - Inspector Clouseau
1974 - The Return of the Pink Panther
1976 - The Pink Panther Strikes Again
1978 - Revenge of the Pink Panther
1982 - Trail of the Pink Panther
1983 - Curse of the Pink Panther
1993 - Son of the Pink Panther
Movie Sub Categorieslive-action
Movie StudioMGM, United Artists
CastInspector Clouseau Peter Sellers
Sir Charles Litton (1963) David Niven
Princess Dala Claudia Cardinale
Benjamin Ballon George Sanders
Maria Elke Sommer
Dreyfus Herbet Lom
Kato Burt Kwouk
Sir Charles Litton (1974) Christopher Plummer
Clifton Sleigh Ted Wass
Jacques Clouseau, Jr.* Roberto Benigni