The Pink Panther Film Collection
The crowning achievement of neither director Blake Edwards or star Peter Sellers, The Pink Panther series was nevertheless a massively popular and profitable comedic playground in which these two men could ply their considerable slapstick talents. Though there's not a consistently "great" film in the bunch (only A Shot in the Dark and Return of the Pink Panther, which is omitted from this collection due to a rights issue, come close), the films are, at their best, handsomely produced confections, the filmic equivalent of a warm and gregarious dinner guest. Unfortunately, they also became a creative crutch for both artists, enabling Sellers' worst tendencies toward unfunny excess and Edwards' willingness to phone it in for a paycheck. By the late '70s, these comedic giants rode this cash-cow to respective career nadirs, a result of either over-familiarity with the material or, more likely, each other. As has been recounted in many entertainment biographies (as well as alluded to on this collection's documentary), the relationship between the two was a tempestuous one, forever threatening to derail the productions and drive the perpetually sick Sellers to an early grave (he would eventually succumb to the heart disease that kept him in ill health for much of his life two years after completing the series' fifth installment). By Sellers last complete performance as Clouseau (the sixth film, Trail of the Pink Panther is a hastily edited together pastiche of the actor's outtakes plopped into a shaky narrative regarding the inspector's sudden disappearance), Edwards seemed to be humoring his mercurial star, allowing him to indulge in painfully lame physical shtick and poorly conceived characters hardly worthy of his particular genius. Minus the aforementioned Return, as well as Edwards' two successive attempts to resuscitate the franchise, Curse of the Pink Panther and Son of the Pink Panther, with Ted Wass (!) and Roberto Benigni respectively (had he only waited a few years, he might've had a shot with that one), The Pink Panther Film Collection at least offers a pretty clear picture of how the Edwards/Sellers teaming managed to enthrall generations of filmgoers and television viewers (the pictures were network "Movie of the Week" mainstays throughout the late '70s and early '80s). Though eventually a sad case of diminishing returns in terms of entertainment value, the series also charts the public's shifting taste for more sophisticated comedy to a preference for broader, physical-based shenanigans with an often puerile undercurrent. MGM Home Entertainment presents The Pink Panther Film Collection in pristine anamorphic transfers (2.35:1) with excellent Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. The collection boasts five films: The Pink Panther, A Shot in the Dark, The Pink Panther Strikes Again, and the execrable duo of Revenge of the Pink Panther and Trail of the Pink Panther. Also on board is a disc of supplements that includes "The Pink Panther Story" (30 min.), "Behind the Feline: The Cartoon Phenomenon" (11 min.), and six cartoons. As for extras on the feature discs, only The Pink Panther has anything substantive, but the Blake Edwards commentary is sadly useless. Better is the "Trivia Track," which offers pop-up info-bubbles that convey the gossipy stuff one might've wanted from the commentary. There also are photo galleries for each film and theatrical trailers. Folding DVD digipak in padded vinyl slip-case.