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Men like Clouseau never die. They’re indestructible.

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day. [For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.] Funny. When I started this movie, I was expecting something godawful and horrible, a cheap cash-in on a star who died way before his time. You know, like the 4,274 Bruce Lee movies that came out after he died. When TRAIL OF THE PINK PANTHER started, it was weird, obviously choppy, but not what I expected. You can see the obvious attempt to connect random scenes with lots of voice-over and direct explanation, but it was still Sellers doing whole gags, like they filmed for a little bit on a new movie. I’m not sure the series of events leading up to this movie, but they made the beginning at least feel like Sellers died after shooting some new material.

For instance, Clouseau’s disguise specialist, Auguste Balls, was played by Graham Stark in yesterday’s REVENGE, but here he’s played by Harvey Korman. There’s a big scene with Sellers as Clouseau getting a new disguise from Korman and his ugly wife with a giant nose that Sellers wants. Of course, it’s her real giant nose and Clouseau has to backpeddle out of the awkward situation. Then he just disappears, after a big gag involving his car’s lighter as he’s being driven to the airport. His plane supposedly just crashes (we never see him enter it or a plane in the air or anything, let alone a crash) and the rest of the movie is talking heads style as a reporter (Joanna Lumley) investigates the life of Clouseau. And that’s when we get exactly what I expected the movie to be, a collection of “greatest hits” moments as she interviews everybody he’s run into over the course of the movies. Cato is interviewed (and we get a fight scene between Cato and Lumley as he can’t shake his old habit), David Niven and Capucine sitting together poolside in the South of France for a couple of minutes, even though Niven gets top billing, Graham Stark as Hercule lazily fishing, etc. Niven's voice was obviously dubbed by Rich Little. Not to give the man undue shit, but I didn't think he did a good job at it. Granted, I was looking for it as I was told in advance, but it's wasn't even close enough to Niven's original voice that I wouldn't have noticed it if I went in cold. Meanwhile Dreyfus is happy as can be, but only kept from going totally balls-out enthusiastic by his suspicion that Clouseau will pop up somewhere like he always does. They repeat the joke from yesterday’s AMAD during his interview with Lumley, where he’s forced to speak well of Clouseau for the TV audience and has much difficulty, leading some of the more unobservant viewers to believe he’s being overcome with emotion. It was funnier the first time, but hell… it’s still Herbert Lom.

I didn’t mind the Frankensteining of new scenes, but once they started doing the “we’re tired and taking a break” animation show special way of replaying the “greatest hits” of the past movies during interviews the movie really went from an interesting curiosity to a dull retread. Although, I will say that the best thing in this movie is the replay of the Clouseau/Cato fight from THE PINK PANTHER STRIKES AGAIN, slow-motion screaming and all. That still cracked me up. There’s some tacked on subplot headed by gangster Robert Loggia, taking over for the French Godfather from yesterday’s AMAD that would have been completely boring if Loggia wasn’t so damn awesome. He kept me interested with his quiet menace and considerable charm as he enjoys the upswing of profits from Clouseau’s disappearance and finds out this reporter is trying to find the Inspector (CHIEF INSPECTOR!). He doesn’t want him found, so he threatens the reporter, blah blah blah. Keep an eye out for a young Denise “Tasha Yar” Crosby as his dumb-blonde trophy girlfriend. While most of the second half of the movie doesn’t work there is one brilliant bit of comedy that makes you perk up. One of the very last places Lumley goes is Clouseau’s father’s vineyard, to interview Papa Clouseau, played by Richard Mulligan. Like son, like Father. Mulligan plays the old man as clutzy as his kid and switches words around just like Junior.

But that’s not the funny part. The funny part is when he calls in Clouseau’s “Nana” to bring some drinks and talk to the reporter. His dog literally runs out of the room, leaving them alone, then seconds later runs back and sits. This ancient lady shuffles in with a tray and for the next minute and a half, Mulligan whistles and shouts commands at the dog whenever she goes astray and the dog jumps up, biting her dress and pulling her back to where she needs to go. First across the room, then to Papa Clouseau, then to Lumley. The whole time her expression is completely blank. It’s hilarious and then the ante is raised when, after about 3 minutes of this, she goes behind the couch and slowly puts the tray down, turns, shuffles a few steps and takes a giant ax from a suit of armor, hoists it up on her shoulder and shuffles back to the tray. The dog runs out and bites her dress again, pulling her into another direction. She raises the ax and the dog ducks under a table just as she brings it down, embedding it into the tabletop. All the while her expression is just as blank as it was before. Classic stuff. But it’s a bit of too little too late, ultimately.

Final Thoughts: It’s not as crazy horrible as I was expecting and it’s interesting to see everybody from the series coming back in this one. I understand this was shot back to back with CURSE OF THE PINK PANTHER with Roger Forkin’ Moore as Clouseau. That’s gotta be bizarre. If I had known that Blake Edwards directed another non-Sellers Clouseau flick I would have added it to this run, but I didn’t so that’ll either have to wait ‘til later or I’ll just avoid it as it is rated worse than this one. Ultimately, TRAIL is something that should have been an extra feature, not a movie. If it had been made today that’s what it’d be. Although there are some swear words (Bullshit in particular) and some random tits in Papa Clouseau’s vineyard (he has hot nude women stamping grapes for him), but that’s still not enough to distract you away from what they’re trying to hide: A Peter Sellers’ Clouseau movie that was made after Sellers died. I do like the final shot of the flick, though. There’s something nice, final about it. Kind of a perfect ending if they had actually ended the series…

The schedule for the next 7 days is: Tuesday, September 16th: THE REAL GLORY (1939) Wednesday, September 17th: THE WINNING OF BARBARA WORTH (1926) Thursday, September 18th: THE COWBOY AND THE LADY (1938) Friday, September 19th: DAKOTA (1945) Saturday, September 20th: RED RIVER (1948) Sunday, September 21st: INDISCRETION OF AN AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE/TERMINAL STATION (1954) Monday, September 22nd: THE SEARCH (1948) That's the last of the Pink Panther films in this run. Maybe some of the non-Sellers ones will pop up later, but I'm done for now. I will certainly be hitting a lot more Sellers before I'm done with this column, though. Tomorrow we jump back 43 years to an early David Niven flick, where I'm willing to bet he'll be speaking with his own voice... See you folks then! -Quint

Previous Movies: June 2nd: Harper
June 3rd: The Drowning Pool
June 4th: Papillon
June 5th: Gun Crazy
June 6th: Never So Few
June 7th: A Hole In The Head
June 8th: Some Came Running
June 9th: Rio Bravo
June 10th: Point Blank
June 11th: Pocket Money
June 12th: Cool Hand Luke
June 13th: The Asphalt Jungle
June 14th: Clash By Night
June 15th: Scarlet Street
June 16th: Killer Bait (aka Too Late For Tears)
June 17th: Robinson Crusoe On Mars
June 18th: City For Conquest
June 19th: San Quentin
June 20th: 42nd Street
June 21st: Dames
June 22nd: Gold Diggers of 1935
June 23rd: Murder, My Sweet
June 24th: Born To Kill
June 25th: The Sound of Music
June 26th: Torn Curtain
June 27th: The Left Handed Gun
June 28th: Caligula
June 29th: The Elephant Man
June 30th: The Good Father
July 1st: Shock Treatment
July 2nd: Flashback
July 3rd: Klute
July 4th: On Golden Pond
July 5th: The Cowboys
July 6th: The Alamo
July 7th: Sands of Iwo Jima
July 8th: Wake of the Red Witch
July 9th: D.O.A.
July 10th: Shadow of A Doubt
July 11th: The Matchmaker
July 12th: The Black Hole
July 13th: Vengeance Is Mine
July 14th: Strange Invaders
July 15th: Sleuth
July 16th: Frenzy
July 17th: Kingdom of Heaven: The Director’s Cut
July 18th: Cadillac Man
July 19th: The Sure Thing
July 20th: Moving Violations
July 21st: Meatballs
July 22nd: Cast a Giant Shadow
July 23rd: Out of the Past
July 24th: The Big Steal
July 25th: Where Danger Lives
July 26th: Crossfire
July 27th: Ricco, The Mean Machine
July 28th: In Harm’s Way
July 29th: Firecreek
July 30th: The Cheyenne Social Club
July 31st: The Man Who Knew Too Much
August 1st: The Spirit of St. Louis
August 2nd: Von Ryan’s Express
August 3rd: Can-Can
August 4th: Desperate Characters
August 5th: The Possession of Joel Delaney
August 6th: Quackser Fortune Has A Cousin In The Bronx
August 7th: Start the Revolution Without Me
August 8th: Hell Is A City
August 9th: The Pied Piper
August 10th: Partners
August 11th: Barry Lyndon
August 12th: The Skull
August 13th: The Hellfire Club
August 14th: Blood of the Vampire
August 15th: Terror of the Tongs
August 16th: Pirates of Blood River
August 17th: The Devil-Ship Pirates
August 18th: Jess Franco’s Count Dracula
August 19th: Dracula A.D. 1972
August 20th: The Stranglers of Bombay
August 21st: Man, Woman & Child
August 22nd: The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane
August 23rd: The Young Philadelphians
August 24th: The Rack
August 25th: Until They Sail
August 26th: Somebody Up There Likes Me
August 27th: The Set-Up
August 28th: The Devil & Daniel Webster
August 29th: Cat People
August 30th: The Curse of the Cat People
August 31st: The 7th Victim
September 1st: The Ghost Ship
September 2nd: Isle of the Dead
September 3rd: Bedlam
September 4th: Black Sabbath
September 5th: Black Sunday
September 6th: Twitch of the Death Nerve
September 7th: Tragic Ceremony
September 8th: Lisa & The Devil
September 9th: Baron Blood
September 10th: A Shot In The Dark
September 11th: The Pink Panther
September 12th: The Return of the Pink Panther
September 13th: The Pink Panther Strikes Again
September 14th: Revenge of the Pink Panther

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