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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Satire > Return Of The Pink Panther (Focus Features DVD)

The Return Of The Pink Panther (Focus Features)


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: D     Film: B



The Pink Panther franchise is one of the most successful in comedy cinema history and it is no surprise that a fourth attempt with Steve Martin as Inspector Clouseau is pending.  As we wait to see about that one, following Alan Arkin (the Inspector Clouseau feature), Ted Wass and Roberto Benigni films that never caught on.  Of course, no one has overcome the shadow of Peter Sellers as Clouseau, so huge an imprint did his performances in the role leave.  After the original film and great sequel A Shot In The Dark (both 1964), United Artists, The Mirisch Group and ITC brought back Sellers and director Blake Edwards and launched a new era of films in the 1970s that were a huge hit.  The Return Of The Pink Panther was the first of them in 1975 and found itself immediately overtaking the James Bond franchise for a time at the studio as Man With The Golden Gun (1974) bombed the Christmas before and before 007 made another comeback.


This time, Chief Inspector Dreyfuss (Herbert Lom in his most famous role) has just fired a beat-walking Clouseau when the famous Pink panther diamond has been stolen again.  Since Clouseau (somehow) recovered it last time, he is called out of his leave without pay to go and find the precious gem.  The clever jewel thief The Phantom (Christopher Plummer) is on the prowl again and he has some new plans of his own that may include a very sexy new woman (Bond girl Catherine Schell, later Maya on Space: 1999) as part of his comeback.  Of course, Clouseau is in constant training for sudden attacks thanks to his friend and assistant Kato (Burt Kwouk) coming up with new ways to karate chop him off guard.


The film is one of the great comedies of the 1970s, as would be the two follow-ups, The Pink Panther Strikes Again and Revenge Of the Pink Panther.  They comprise one of the great comedy trilogies of the sound film era.  Rewatching the film after many years, Peter Bogdanovich’s What’s Up Doc? (1972) and it huge commercial and critical success seems to have been part of the impetus for the revival, but whatever it took, it is fortunate it happened with the sudden death of Sellers that was not that far away.  The comic timing here is often brilliant, the film politically incorrect to a fault and the gags top notch.  So many bad films announce a “return” of something, but The Return Of The Pink Panther was one of those rare occasions where the high quality met the hype.


The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image was shot by the great Geoffrey Unsworth, B.S.C., in actual anamorphic scope Panavision 35mm.  Though some shots have slight color problem, others are terrific and it is fun to view it with all its visual gags.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is not bad either, though no 5.1 remix like Sony/MGM has done for their Panther films is here, those were not always the best remixes.  Still, Henry Mancini’s score was recorded in stereo and some kind of stereo version could have been made.  There are very sadly no extras, but this is a better copy than the old Artisan DVD and it is great to have it back in print.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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