Movie News

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…

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 quint@aintitcool.com



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

Readers Talkback

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  • Sept. 16, 2008, 2:47 a.m. CST

    and that brings our Pink Pantheraton to an end

    by Prossor

    until next time commissioner, until the case is sol-ved

  • Sept. 16, 2008, 2:57 a.m. CST

    Grammer and s[ellcheck?

    by killianx

    look into it

  • Sept. 16, 2008, 3:01 a.m. CST

    Moore was actually very good in Curse

    by PacmanFever

    The film isn't worth watching for it though

  • Sept. 16, 2008, 3:12 a.m. CST

    Moore as Clouseau...

    by Paul T. Ryan

    Not to be a huge spoiler but the Moore bit in Curse of the Pink Panther is indeed quite funny, as it is Clouseau having had cosmetic surgery to look like Roger Moore. Much better than it sounds, but yeah, the film is a bit of a why bother... At least its not as depressing as Trail anyway.

  • Sept. 16, 2008, 4:28 a.m. CST

    Bravo Quint!

    by Abhimanyu

    As said before - excellent job quint. The column continues to be great, fresh and eminently readable. The PP movies are a big part of my childhood, and even though I haven't seen them in years, it was fantastic to go through them through your fresh eyes. Maybe I'll try and find RETURN and STRIKES BACK (the first two I saw) for nostalgia's sake now...</p> Also, I feel so vindicated that I had always thought Dreyfus as funny as Clouseau - all his tics and sniggering and apoplexy have defined for me great physical- representations-of-internal-conflict comedy and I really appreciate all the props to Lom. </P>

  • Sept. 16, 2008, 4:29 a.m. CST

    Oh, and Killianx...

    by Abhimanyu

    ...it's grammAr. Look into it.

  • Sept. 16, 2008, 4:41 a.m. CST

    The reason Curse doesn't work is

    by JuanSanchez

    the Clouseau replacement - Clifton Sleigh. Clouseau isn't a bad guy, but he certainly has his sins - pride and lust chief among them. Sleight is a virginal nice guy who just happens to be accident prone. I've got nothing against Ted Wass, but he's just wrong for the role. Uninteresting and unfunny. For me the best scene in the whole film is Moore's cameo. He does a good job.

  • Sept. 16, 2008, 4:47 a.m. CST

    Curse

    by bluebottle

    I remembered really liking Ted Wass in that movie - Is it just me? I always thought he had the potential for a bigger acting career...

  • Sept. 16, 2008, 5:13 a.m. CST

    I think Wass

    by JuanSanchez

    is a decent actor. He was occasionally tolerable in Blossom - which is noteworthy because virtually nothing in that show was tolerable. He just wasn't right for Curse. Replacing Sellers with Wass is like replacing Picasso with a guy who paints desert landscapes. Nothing wrong with said landscapes, but they're pretty bland when compared to Guernica.

  • Sept. 16, 2008, 5:27 a.m. CST

    Sorry - Roger Moore is shit as Clouseau

    by Samson_K

    Absolutely appalling.

  • Sept. 16, 2008, 6:09 a.m. CST

    One Good Line...

    by Hokeybutt

    ...aside from the brilliant bit by Roger Moore as Clouseau (yes, it's bad... but in a good way) there is one classic bit of dialogue as the hero introduces himself to an adversary: "Clifton Sleigh" "Is that 'slay' as in 'kill'?" "No, it's 'sleigh' as in 'one-horse-open'."

  • Sept. 16, 2008, 6:35 a.m. CST

    Whoops, I thought this was the Roger Moore on

    by Mr Nicholas

    Now that one did suck.

  • Sept. 16, 2008, 6:47 a.m. CST

    I think even the Mighty Quint is too

    by Grammaton Cleric Binks

    scared to buy and review Curse of the Pink Panther. I wonder if he's seen the Steve Martin remake. Word around the campfire is it was terrible, which is a shame because Steve Martin is great, plus is had Jean Reno. However, that's what happens now that Hollywood no longer has any original ideas.

  • Sept. 16, 2008, 7:19 a.m. CST

    Well, at least it has Joanna Lumley in it

    by Shut the Fuck up Donny

  • Sept. 16, 2008, 7:20 a.m. CST

    Quint...did you see this?

    by Jonah Echo

    I know it's not topic related, but I thought of you when I saw it. <P> http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/16/nyregion/16mundus.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

  • Sept. 16, 2008, 8:30 a.m. CST

    G.O.B.S.M.A.C.K.E.D.

    by JIMBOCOP

    Quint, I must have seen a different movie! I thought "Trail..." was totally exploitative and a desperately sad in a way that annihilates any thought of laughter whilst watching it. Sellers was looking rough in the previous film, his health wrecked though and yet this wasn't enough for Edwards, who knew the Clouseau "brand" would bring marks, I mean paying punters back in for another couple of goes. There's no respect for Sellers or Clouseau (who doesn't even get a funeral) and the supporting cast (Lom in jell-o, Kwouk, a dying, DUBBED, Niven) are humiliated to a degree not seen again until Star Trek V. The final straw is when Clouseau's parents are wheeled out (with the afore-mentioned unecessary show of skin - hey, this was the 80's not the 60's); as if someone imitating Sellers style by mumbling and stumbling around like a secondary school drama student is a fitting tribute to the man or worthy substitute. 1982 was surely the greatest year in cinema history, but TRAIL nearly drags it down to the gutter. That is all.

  • Sept. 16, 2008, 8:31 a.m. CST

    Hokeybutt, you stole the words out of my mouth.

    by jmyoung666

    the "one horse open" comment was funny. Everything else not so much, although I agree some of the Moore stuff was OK.

  • Sept. 16, 2008, 9:38 a.m. CST

    Trail is like those cheap flashback stock footage TV episodes

    by ricarleite

    But with a dead actor in it. Didn't Sellers actually shoot some material for Romance of the Pink Panther before he died?

  • Sept. 16, 2008, 9:56 a.m. CST

    Has anyone mentioned "Son of the Pink Panther?"

    by EriamJH

    With that ridiculous Italian clown Roberto Bergnini playing Clouseau's son. Ghastly unfunny, except for Lom, of course.

  • Sept. 16, 2008, 10:32 a.m. CST

    a wermm mango?

    by ironic_name

    son of pp

  • Sept. 16, 2008, 12:55 p.m. CST

    Alan Arkin?

    by Tar Heel

    Wasn't there a movie with Alan Arkin portraying Clouseau? Guess my next stop is IMDB.

  • Sept. 16, 2008, 3:01 p.m. CST

    That was INSPECTOR CLOUSEAU

    by palimpsest

    made in about 1968 - the plot is basically Clouseau goes to England to solve the Great Train Robbery. Haven't seen it in years tho I recall it was OK, if a bit pointless without Sellars as Clouseau.

  • Sept. 16, 2008, 5:15 p.m. CST

    It's been fascinating reading your reviews.

    by earlfist

    As my love of movies partly comes from The third film I ever saw at the cinema, following Snow White and Live and let die. It was Return of the Pink Panther. It was the first comedy i'd watched with a mass audience and that magical feeling of hundreds of people laughing en masse is something you never forget your first experience of. Say what you like about Sellers the flawed human, he remains in my mind the greatest comedy actor after Chaplin. Quint check out "the party" for a different kind of sellers/edwards magic. Also try and see if you can find the movie where he plays a villian, can't recall the title, i'll post it when i recall, but it.s a little seen early sixties black and white crime drama with pop star adam faith. Film so so but sellers is terrific. He plays a total asshole. Oddly although there is a hell of a lot of crap sellers was very prolific. There are so many gems. I'm alright jack . The ladykillers. The awful truth. Only two can play. The millionairess. And thats just the early stuff. But if you want a real treat. Find the old goon show radio shows as written by spike milligan. It is that rare thing. A comedy that hasn't aged. (don't forget milligan is the genius who uncredited thought up the ending of dr. Strangelove) theres a lot of gold out there quint.

  • Sept. 16, 2008, 5:27 p.m. CST

    So, there was an old guy smashing grapes & naked chicks...

    by The Dum Guy

    I'm glad my ability to remember obscure and useless information for years at a time hasn't dimished too much... of course I could do better work on eliminating it.

  • Sept. 16, 2008, 6:03 p.m. CST

    Take THAT, Guernica!

    by Geekgasm

    Sorry, that's all I got.

  • Sept. 16, 2008, 7:55 p.m. CST

    Only got halfway through Inspector Clouseau...

    by Paul T. Ryan

    Which compared to Trail and Curse (haven't seen Son or the remake) tells you a lot! Arkin tries hard, but Bud Yorkin's direction lets the film down badly, with every gag mistimed.

  • Sept. 16, 2008, 8:48 p.m. CST

    An interesting enigma in cinema history...

    by Gungan Slayer

    is what this film is. I remember when I was little reading about this film, and I was like "how does this work?" Well, unsurprisingly, it does work, just not 100% competently. I think it's an interesting and curious piece of cinema history, that's for sure. Perhaps even more so now because this film was strung together without the use of CGI.

  • Sept. 17, 2008, 2:41 a.m. CST

    HERBERT LOM: shamefully underrated

    by thegreatwhatzit

    All over the genre, cast as Captain Nemo (on par with Mason), Phantom of the Opera (Hammer), et al. I prefer Sellers in his vintage Ealing (Studios) comedies.

  • Jan. 4, 2009, 8:22 p.m. CST

    Fuck me

    by xyzzy-xyzzy

    My girlfriend has this tripe on the TV for some reason. Dreadful & incomprehensible. Dubbing highs and lows. Did I mention the commercial breaks render it even more incomprehensible? She didn't even notice it came back on twice so far.

  • Jan. 4, 2009, 10:12 p.m. CST

    whoa xyzzy zyzzy

    by Prossor

    i was just thinking of the quote in casino when pesci has the guy's head in a vice and says "can you fuckin belive this 2 fuckin days and nights, FUCK ME??? FUCK ME MUTTER??" and i go to my user page and see this old topic and your Fuck me post.