A comedy film franchise that spun off two animatedones. In its original form, it totaled nine films over 30 years. The firsts of them were directed and co-written by Blake Edwards and starred Peter Sellers. A 2006 reboot yielded two additional films.The Films:
The Pink Panther (1963): Sir Charles Lytton is a Gentleman Thief who operates under the identity of "The Phantom". Inspector Jacques Clouseau is a French detective who is trying to track him down in Switzerland before he can steal the prized treasure of the kingdom of Lugash, the Pink Panther diamond (a large gem so named because of a pink, panther-shaped flaw), from a visiting princess. Alas, Clouseau is such a fool that he is easily outsmarted by way of the combined forces of the Phantom, his nephew, the princess herself, and the Phantom's key accomplice...Clouseau's own wife. While the thieves were the focus of this film, Clouseau, as played by Peter Sellers, was the character the subsequent films were based around, starting with the Dolled-Up Installment...
A Shot in the Dark (1964): Clouseau, now single, is called to the aristocratic Ballon household to solve a murder. His judgment is immediately clouded by his infatuation with the prime suspect, Maria Gambrelli, even as more murders pile up around her. His bungling drives his boss, Chief Inspector Charles Dreyfus (Herbert Lom), to homicidal madness. In the meantime, we also meet Cato Fong (Burt Kwouk), Clouseau's Chinese manservant who - on Clouseau's orders - keeps springing surprise martial arts attacks on him.
Inspector Clouseau (1968): Sellers and Edwards opted out of this installment in which Clouseau, now played by Alan Arkin, investigates a bank robbery in England. Lacking any other recurring characters, this one is generally disregarded.
The Return of the Pink Panther (1975): The Pink Panther is stolen from a Lugash museum, and Clouseau is called upon to seek it out once more. The evidence suggests the Phantom is responsible, but in fact Sir Charles Lytton has been framed. The film follows the parallel plots of Clouseau trailing Lytton's wife to Switzerland and Lytton's journey to Lugash to try and find out who actually did it. Dreyfus' attempts to kill Clouseau lands him in an institution at the end, leading directly into...
The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976): Three years later (though the film was only made one year after), Dreyfus is seemingly cured, but having to meet up with Clouseau before he can be released, the therapy is undone. Dreyfus escapes and organizes a criminal gang that kidnaps an inventor and his daughter. Forcing the former to build a Disintegrator Ray, Dreyfus threatens to unleash it on the world unless Clouseau is killed, and many countries immediately send assassins after Clouseau as he sets out to stop Dreyfus himself.
Revenge of the Pink Panther (1978): Clouseau is now so famous that the head of the French mob, to prove his mettle to the American Mafia, puts out a hit on him - three actually, as Clouseau's luck saves him from death each time. The thing is, the third time appears to have been the charm to everyone else, leaving Clouseau to go undercover with Cato to figure out who wanted him dead. Oh, and Dreyfus is "cured" by the news of Clouseau's death, and set free again.
Revenge was unfortunately Peter Sellers' last performance as Clouseau, as he died in 1980. Edwards decided to continue the series with new lead characters.
Trail of the Pink Panther (1982): Using mostly deleted scenes from Strikes Again and new footage with other regulars, Clouseau once again is called to Lugash to seek the stolen Pink Panther. When his plane vanishes, TV reporter Marie Jouvet (Joanna Lumley) decides to investigate his disappearance by interviewing those who knew him well, turning the second half of the film into a Clip Show. The film was shot alongside...
Curse of the Pink Panther (1983): One year after Clouseau's disappearance, Dreyfus sabotages the search for a great detective to seek him out. Instead, the world's worst detective, Clifton Sleigh of New York City (Ted Wass), is put on the case. The audience learns the ultimate fate of Clouseau and the diamond, but Sleigh...not so much.
Son of the Pink Panther (1993): Ten years after the previous film's events, a Revision of what happened in A Shot in the Dark reveals Clouseau sired a son, Jacques Gambrelli (Roberto Benigni). One day on his beat in the south of France, his path accidentally crosses with those of the kidnapped Princess Yasmin of Lugash and Dreyfus all at once. Then Dreyfus realizes, given the father's track record, that it might not be such a bad idea to have this junior Clouseau track her down. This had the misfortune of being the final film of both Henry ManciniandBlake Edwards.
In 2006, the franchise was rebooted under the original title The Pink Panther, with Steve Martin as Clouseau and Jean Reno as a new sidekick, Ponton. Aside from Clouseau, Dreyfus was the only character carried over from the original films (played by Kevin Kline in the first, and John Cleese in the second). This managed to yield one sequel in 2009. Despite their almost completely negative critical reception, the reboot films are remarkably faithful to the tone and spirit of the original films. (Well, YMMV on that!)The Animated Characters:
The first film had animated credits, produced by DePatie-Freleng Enterprises, that featured a "literal" representation of the flaw in the eponymous diamond. This proved so popular with audiences that not only would all the subsequent films (including the reboot) have animated credits, the character — an anthropomorphic mute — was spun off into a series of animated shorts the following year, and warrants its own page.
Because A Shot in the Dark did not involve the diamond itself, the Panther didn't feature in the credits (from Strikes Again onwards, he does even if the diamond isn't involved) but a caricature of Clouseau did. This went over well enough that a shorter-lived series of shorts focusing on "The Inspector" (voiced by Pat Harrington) and his sidekick Deux-Deux (a gendarme) was made in the mid-1960s. The Clouseau animated character appeared in the credits of all the subsequent films through Trail, always futilely pursuing the Panther. The Replacement Scrappy characters got their own animated equivalents for Curse and Son, and a Martin-styled Clouseau figure appears in the reboot.
The Anticipator: Parodied when the late Peter Sellers plays Inspector Clouseau. Clouseau has directed his manservant Cato to attack him at random to sharpen his defensive skills. Though he knows Cato has The Determinator perseverance, only inconceivably foolish counters and stupefying luck have thwarted all of Cato's attempts.
Anti-Hero: Clouseau. Also Dreyfus in A Shot in the Dark until his Face-Heel Turn, and again in the last four original-flavor films after two movies of straightforward villainy. He's strictly this in the reboot.
Arc Words: In Revenge, Clouseau's repeated use of "the old...ploy."
Artifact Title: Strikes Again, Revenge, and Son don't involve the Pink Panther diamond at all, but they had to work in the animated character somehow...
Armed Legs: One of the killers in Strikes Again uses a shoe knife.
Aside Glance: In Shot, Clouseau gives the camera a hapless stare when his final attempt at unmasking the murderer dissolves into a verbal melee between all the suspects.
No so much a case of "wins" as "ends up better off than the good guy," but at the climax of the first film, Sir Charles Litton successfully frames Clouseau for the diamond theft, and steals his wife to boot.
Better off? Clouseau ends up in police protection, chased by a mob of women convinced he is the sexiest jewel thief in the world. When a policeman asks him how "he" pulled off all those robberies, he glances back at the women and says thoughtfully, "Well, you know, it wasn't easy."
That's the screenwriters' desperate attempt to alter viewers' normal perception that being convicted of a crime you didn't commit and serving a few years in prison for it is, you know, a bad thing. And if being convicted of stealing the pink panther is the sweet awesome deal it's being made out to be, then why the Hell wouldn't Simone and the princess just let Sir Charles and George get convicted of it?!
Then in Curse we have a case of "The Bad Girls Win," as Chandra turns Clouseau to the dark side and gets him to become her consort, and then Lady Litton (Clouseau's ex-wife) steals the Pink Panther diamond, and this time the Littons apparently hang on to it permanently.
Bad Guys Play Pool: Ballon, who is one of four murderers in the case Clouseau is trying to solve in Shot, plays the game with him. During the game, Clouseau accuses him of being the murderer — which, at the time, he wasn't.
Balloonacy: In The Pink Panther Strikes Again, Clouseau is floated out of his apartment window by the inflatable hump in his hunchback costume, thereby causing him to miss the bomb Dreyfus sets off.
Bathroom Break-Out: In The Pink Panther Strikes Again, Dreyfus orchestrates the escape of a prisoner being transported by train. He goes to the bathroom, then climbs out through the ventilator on to the roof of the train and into a waiting helicopter.
Sir Charles and Simone in the first film, with George as more of a secondary villain than a dragon. Kind of a subversion — they are both so affably evil and both seem to genuinely like Clouseau in later films.
Sir Charles and Lady Claudine would be this in Return Of The Pink Panther, if it wasn't for the fact that Sir Charles is innocent and Claudine stole the jewel by herself, not to frame him but for a bit of harmless fun.
Bilingual Bonus: In the 2006 film, anyone who understands Cantonese will find out that the old Chinese lady is basically asking Clouseau why she's being interrogated and that she's busy and has other things to do. Clouseau somehow believes she tells him to look for soccer trainers for their knowledge of poisons.
Black Comedy: Most of A Shot in the Dark and The Pink Panther Strikes Again, owing to unusually high body counts. (Son of has that too, owing to the nature of the villains and the climactic siege, but that's typical action movie background fodder.)
Brick Joke: In the opening title sequence for the original 1963 movie, the Pink Panther cartoon character walks up and prepares to conduct an invisible orchestra, only to be pulled off stage by a Vaudeville Hook. In the 2006 reboot he returns and manages to conduct the actual paper notes.
Butt Monkey: Several characters, but Dreyfus is the poster boy of the franchise, even when he becomes a Big Bad in Strikes Again.
California Doubling: While the other films were shot on location, A Shot in the Dark was done at MGM's British studio in Boreham Wood. The scene where Clouseau enters a room only to land in the Seine is hardly convincing, but it's actually a large tank filled with more than 100,000 gallons of water.
The Cameo: Several over the original series, either unbilled or under a pseudonym.
Bryan Forbes (British director/producer/writer/actor), billed as "Turk Thrust", as the nudist camp attendant in Shot. The pseudonym was inspired by a joke he and friend Peter Sellers had conceived.
In Strikes AgainOmar Sharif is the Egyptian assassin whom the Russian one mistakes for Clouseau on their initial meeting - he beds her, and she falls in love and chooses not to kill him, which is extremely confusing for the real Clouseau later.
Strikes Again also has a musical cameo - the (intentionally) awful singing voice sported by drag queen Jarvis is supplied by Julie Andrews.
Captain Obvious: In A Shot in the Dark, while Clouseau is discussing things with Ballon, a servant walks in:
Servant: Telephone, monsieur, for Inspector Clouseau.
Clouseau: Ah, that would be for me.
And in Strikes Again:
Francois: What kind of bomb was it?
Clouseau: The exploding kind.
Carnival of Killers: In Strikes Again, the world's greatest assassins descend on Munich in attempt to kill Clouseau and end up wiping each other out. (Coincidentally, given this trope's name, the sequence in question takes place at an Oktoberfest celebration.)
Catapult to Glory: In Strikes Again, Clouseau is inadvertently lofted through a castle window by a catapult.
Celebrity Paradox: It's never outright stated — but obvious to the audience — in Curse that the reason Clifton Sleigh doesn't realize that Clouseau had Magic Plastic Surgery is because he now looks, and is played by, Roger Moore, and Moore and the James Bond movies exist in this universe.
Character Outlives Actor: Trail of the Pink Panther was made after the death of Peter Sellers. Rather than having the character of Inspector Clouseau die in the film, he is instead shown to be alive and well on a deserted island after surviving a plane crash; the subsequent film Curse of... reveals he got Magic Plastic Surgery to look like Roger Moore, and did a Face-Heel Turn to settle down with a jewel thief countess.
Chase Scene: The original film features a lengthy car-chase.
Classy Cat-Burglar: Claudine in Return and Simone in Curse. The unmade Romance of the Pink Panther had one of these as the film's antagonist, and would have ended with Clouseau making a Face Heel Turn out of love for her.
Crazy-Prepared: In the 2006 film, Clouseau figures out that the killer will strike again at the Presidential Palace, and just so happens to have a bag in his deserted office marked "Presidential Palace" with everything he could possibly need to break in undetected. This includes a body suit for both him, and his assistant, with different camouflage on the front and back identical to the wallpaper and drapes (respectively) found in the palace.
Da Chief: Chief Inspector Charles Dreyfus is a comedic example. From Strikes Again onward, Clouseau himself takes over this position (though being Da Chief, he is more gentle to his fellow policemen) and Dreyfus resents this when he finds out.
Darker and Edgier: A Shot in the Dark is definitely the darkest film of the entire franchise. Strikes Again could be second, though it's more of a Black Comedy.
Dating Catwoman: Provides the premise of the unmade Romance of the Pink Panther.
Depth Deception: A faked alien invasion in an episode of the animated series.
Disintegrator Ray: The device created by Professor Fassbender (and used by former Chief inspector Dreyfus as a weapon of mass destruction) in Strikes Again.
Disproportionate Retribution: In Strikes Again, Dreyfus attempts to destroy an entire country because he was lied to about Clouseau's assassination. The country that falsely claimed to kill Clouseau is Egypt. The country Dreyfus decides to punish is England.
Early-Installment Weirdness: About 3/4th of The Pink Panther is everyone trying to sleep with everyone with a somewhat goofy Frenchman mentioning a jewel thief.
The Brute(s) — Bruce the Knife (the long-haired henchman who threatened Fassbender with a knife) and Marty the Mugger (the henchman played by the same actor/stuntmen who played Scallini's bodyguard in Revenge of the Pink Panther).
Sixth Ranger(s) — The two kidnappers of Prof. Fassbender and his daughter.
Follow That Car: Spoofed in Return (see trope entry). A variation appears in Shot when he instructs the police car driver who brought him to the estate to go "back to town", so he drives off before Clouseau can get in.
Franchise Zombie: Revenge was commissioned by United Artists when they didn't have a big film planned for summer 1978.
From Bad to Worse: The opinions of critics and viewers alike on the films after Peter Sellers died.
The Fun in Funeral: Clouseau's apparent death in Revenge leads to a long sequence involving this (see trope entry).
Funny Foreigner: Clouseau; his disguises incorporate other nationalities in the same manner.
Gay Paree: With occasional detours to Italy, Germany, Hong Kong, etc.
Genre Savvy: The guy at the climax of the original film trying to cross the street who keeps getting cut off by the criss-crossing Chase Scene participants; he finally gets a chair, sits down and waits for the inevitable multi-car pileup.
Gentleman Thief: Sir Charles Lytton and his associates. The boredom motivation is key to the plot of Return.
Halfway Plot Switch: Trail, which starts as a typical Clouseau misadventure and makes the switch when he goes missing, turning the protagonist role over to Marie as she investigates the disappearance.
Hand of Death: Several botched attempts to kill Clouseau in A Shot in the Dark.
Heel-Face Revolving Door: Dreyfus goes from antihero to villain in ''A Shot in the Dark", remains a villain in "Return of the Pink Panther", appears to have recovered his sanity at the beginning of "The Pink Panther Strikes Again" but ends up becoming the film's main villain, and seems to have, for the most part, reformed in the subsequent films.
Hoist by His Own Petard: Dreyfus' fate in Strikes Again. As he tries to destroy England with his laser, Clouseau accidentally knocks it around at the crucial moment - it malfunctions and zaps Dreyfus instead. Somehow, he got better by Revenge. In that film's climax, he starts a chain-reaction explosion in a fireworks warehouse when he lights a match to aim his gun at Clouseau. Near the end of Curse, he tries to shoot down a parasailing Sleigh with a rocket launcher, but the recoil sends him over a cliff (he's in a wheelchair at the time).
Insistent Terminology: CHIEF Inspector Clouseau (from Strikes Again onwards) frequently reminds us of his full title.
Inspector Oblivious: Clouseau's opening scene in Return hinges on him getting distracted from a bank robbery. Moreover he's dim enough to accept bombs - the Incredibly Obvious kind, mind you - from suspicious persons without a thought, only realizing what they are just before it's too late. (Revenge: "Special delivery, a bomb! Were you expecting one?")
Juggling Loaded Guns: Chief Inspector Dreyfus keeps in his office desk both a real gun and a lighter that looks just like said gun. Hilarity Ensues with predictably violent results, such as when his assistant Francois, hearing a gunshot, bursts in the office to see the top half of Dreyfus' face looking up at him from behind his desk:
Dreyfus: Don't just stand there, idiot — call a doctor. And then help me find my nose!
Karma Houdini: Lytton and his accomplices; as the trope entry points out, they are never caught in any of their appearances. Clouseau and Chandra are almost this at the end of Curse - they aren't found out by Sleigh, but Lytton's wife steals the diamond from them!
Dreyfus in A Shot in the Dark (accidentally) killed four innocent bystanders in an attempt to kill Clouseau, yet no one called him on it.
The Pink Panther Strikes Again takes it up to eleven, Dreyfus disintegrates the UN building, attempted to destroy England, yet two movies later, Trail, he is Commissioner again and no one talks about it (this is either a Plot Hole or just Negative Continuity).
A similiar thing happened before Trail in Revenge of..., nobody remembers Dreyfus' scheme in Strikes Again, and they even ask to give a eulogy to Clouseau's (faked) funeral.
Return ends with nobody going to prison for the actual theft of the diamond. Partially justified in that a lot of people thought Colonel Sharkey was in on the conspiracy and he's too dead to defend himself. Claudine Lytton the actual culprit is not seen in the epilogue, though.
Late-Arrival Spoiler: About the only ways you can watch A Shot in the Dark for the first time and not already know that the Asian man attacking Clouseau is Cato and that the shadowy figure trying to kill Clouseau is Dreyfus is by knowing nothing at all about the film series or by knowing nothing except the order in which the films came out and watching them in order. As it is, since it doesn't have "Pink Panther" in the title, Shot is likely to be one of the last films of the series you're going to see.
Mate or Die: How Jacques Gambrelli was conceived, according to Maria's explanation in Son of...: She and Clouseau were stranded on a snowy night, and he suggested they make love to keep warm. Their affection for each other was not a romance for the ages, however (she regards it as a youthful folly), and she never revealed to him that he'd sired a son.
Murphy's Bed: In The Pink Panther Strikes Again, it's the basis for the final non-animated gag.
Naked Freak-Out: in Shot, when Clouseau and Maria Gambrelli are caught naked in public.
Naked in Mink: In The Pink Panther Strikes Again, Olga Beriosova (Lesley-Anne Down) seduces Inspector Clouseau (Peter Sellers) in a scene that is beyond words.
Never My Fault: Guilt of the murders in Shot fell, according to everybody but Clouseau, on Maria Gambrelli — until the end.
No Fourth Wall: The end credits of Return roll as we see Dreyfus in a padded cell; when Peter Sellers' credit appears, he shouts at us, "Kill him! Kill him!"
No Celebrities Were Harmed: In Strikes Again, The President and Secretary of State are obvious parodies of Gerald Ford and Henry Kissinger.
No Matter How Much I Beg: Revenge confirms that Cato follows Clouseau's instructions about surprise attacks to the letter, much to Clouseau's frustration.
Non-Fatal Explosions: They're not just for cartoons anymore! And Revenge takes the charred-and-smoking reveal to a new level when Clouseau's state is enough to set paper on fire, and his attempt to put it out sets a whole office aflame in a case of Disaster Dominoes.
No More for Me: The random drunk guy on the side of the road in the first movie, who, after seeing the Phantoms, Clouseau and the police keep going back and forth in ridiculous costumes, just gets a chair to sit down to watch.
Not Me This Time: In the reboot, The Tornado, a serial thief, was believed to have resurfaced and stolen various treasures around the world, including the Magna Carta, the Turin Shroud, the Imperial Sword, the Pink Panther Diamond (allegedly), and the Pope's ring. Turns out, he never actually committed those crimes (for one thing, he would have deduced that the Pink Panther Diamond on display was in fact a forgery had he truly stolen it), it was his scorned lover, Sonia who did the deed, eventually killing him before they located him.
Rake Take: From Strikes Again — Dreyfus, while trying to avoid Clouseau, steps on one, causing him to fall over in the water.
Real Life Writes the Plot: One reason the Running Gag of Clouseau's costumes became more pronounced in Strikes Again and Revenge was that Peter Sellers' health had become too frail for him to perform as much slapstick. Trail and Curse, of course, were completely conceived/made after Sellers had died, and the plots work to compensate for this absence.
Reference Overdosed: Strikes Again especially, including the opening credits that mock TV and film.
"Never look a gift horse in the mouth" is a popular philosophy amongst disparite characters in Curse.
Screen-to-Stage Adaptation: A stage version of Strikes Again was created for regional/amateur theaters in 1981. It's a Pragmatic Adaptation that, among other things, gives the Girl of the Week more characterization, has its own "Pink Panthers" (stagehands who sometimes interfere with the plot), and completely rethinks the climax: the disintegrator ray has a self-destruct mechanism built in that the professor activates. Dreyfus is ready to go down with it, but Clouseau's morals and sense of honor mean he's ready to Save the Bad Guy...or go down with him. The prospect of going into eternity with Clouseau is terrifying enough for Dreyfus that he allows himself to be saved and taken into custody.
Francois: Do you know what kind of bomb it was? Clouseau (gravely): The exploding kind.
Shout-Out: Strikes Again has this in spades, eight of which are in the opening credits alone.
Sidekick: Cato's role is largely confined to Clouseau's apartment in most of the films, but he becomes this outright in the second half of Revenge and later serves the same role in Son of... for Clouseau, Jr. In the Inspector animated shorts, Deux-Deux fills this role; in the reboot, it's Ponton who does the same.
Siege Engines: In The Pink Panther Strikes Again, Inspector Clouseau is accidentally propelled up and through a castle window by a catapult.
In 1968, Peter Sellers did a film for the Mirisch Corporation (which was responsible for the first three films) that was directed by Blake Edwards and had music by Henry Mancini, but it wasn't in the series. Its title is The Party.
Inspector Clouseau, also released in 1968, counts too as it stars Alan Arkin as Clouseau instead of Peter Sellers and was directed by Bud Yorkin instead of Blake Edwards.
Spiritual Successor: The Neil Simon-penned film After The Fox (1967) features Sellers as a master criminal nicknamed "The Fox" who uses a phony movie shoot as cover for a gold heist. Much of the humor is identical to that in the Panther films, and there is even a Panther-style opening credit sequence featuring a cartoon fox.
The Tooth Hurts: In The Pink Panther Strikes Again, former Chief Inspector Dreyfus gets a bad toothache and sends for a dentist. Clouseau pretends to be the dentist and performs dental malpractice on Dreyfus.
Who Needs Enemies?: Invoked by name in Return of the Pink Panther, when Sir Charles goes to the Fat Man for help in proving he didn't steal the Pink Panther. Instead, the Fat Man, in order to protect himself, plans to kill Sir Charles and give the body to the police as the culprit.
Writers Cannot Do Math: In Curse of the Pink Panther, Dreyfus' birth year is said to be 1900. This movie was made in 1983, placing this character in his early 80s. Never mind the fact that Dreyfus obviously doesn't look that old (Herbert Lom was only in his 60s), but then comes Son of the Pink Panther which takes place 10 years later, meaning in that movie he must be in his early 90s! Even if Dreyfus was in his early 80s in Curse..., shouldn't he be retired from the police force by then?
Graham Stark, a close friend and colleague of Sellers, appears in all the films from Shot through Son (save for Inspector Clouseau) as various characters, two of which, Hercule and Auguste Balls, are recurring.
Robert Loggia plays an American gangster in Revenge and the current head of the French mob in Trail and Curse.
Joanna Lumley plays a reporter in Trail and a countess in Curse.
Claudia Cardinale plays Princess Dala in The Pink Panther and Maria Gambrelli in Son of.... The latter is also a case of The Other Darrin (Maria was played by Elke Sommer in A Shot in the Dark).