A Movie A Day: TRAIL OF THE PINK PANTHER (1982) Men like Clouseau never die. They’re indestructible.
Published at: Sept. 16, 2008, 4:16 a.m. CST by quint
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…