Despite its use in the titles of most of the films of the series, the "Pink Panther" is not the Clouseau character, but a large and valuable fictitious diamond of the same name which is the "MacGuffin" of the first film in the series. The phrase reappears in the title of the fourth film, The Return of the Pink Panther, in which the theft of the diamond is again the center of the plot; that film also marked the return of Sellers to the role after a gap of ten years, which may have contributed to some confusion between the character and the diamond. The phrase has been used for all the subsequent films in the series, even when the jewel does not figure into the plot (the diamond has only appeared in five of the ten films in the series).
The first film in the series had an animated opening sequence, created by DePatie-Freleng and set to the theme music by Henry Mancini, which featured a Pink Panther character. This character, designed by Hawley Pratt, was subsequently the subject of its own series of animated cartoons – as well as being featured in the opening of every movie in the Pink Panther film series except A Shot in the Dark and Inspector Clouseau.
Mancini's other themes for the first film include an Italian-language set-piece called "Meglio Stasera" whose purpose seems primarily to introduce young actress Fran Jeffries. Portions of its instrumental version also appear in the underscore of the film several times. Other segments include "Shades of Sennett", a "honky tonk" piano number introducing the film's climactic chase scene through the streets of Rome. Most of the soundtrack album's other entries are early 1960s orchestral jazz pieces, befitting the style of the era. Although variations of the main theme would be reprised for many of the Pink Panther series entries, as well as the cartoon series, Mancini composed a different theme for A Shot in the Dark.
The Pink Panther of the title is a diamond supposedly containing a flaw which forms the image of a "leaping panther", which can be seen if held up to light in a certain way. The beginning of the first film explains this, and then the camera zooms in on the diamond to reveal the blurry flaw, which focuses into the Panther (albeit not actually leaping) to start the opening credits sequence (this is also done in Return). The plot of the first film centers around the theft of this diamond, which is mentioned in only four other films in the series (The Return of the Pink Panther, Trail of the Pink Panther, Curse of the Pink Panther, and the 2006 remake of The Pink Panther. The name stuck once "the Pink Panther" became synonymous with Inspector Clouseau, in much the way that "Frankenstein" was used in film titles to refer to Dr Frankenstein's monster or The Thin Man was used in a series of detective films.
A Shot in the Dark, a film which was not originally intended to feature Inspector Clouseau, is the only film in the series (besides Inspector Closeau) that features neither the diamond nor the distinctive animated Pink Panther in the opening credits and ending. Many critics, including Leonard Maltin, regard this entry as the best in the series.
In the original Pink Panther movie, the main focus was on David Niven's role as Sir Charles Lytton, who is the infamous jewel thief "the Phantom", and his plan to steal the Pink Panther from its owner. The Inspector Clouseau character played essentially a supporting role as Lytton's incompetent antagonist, and provided slapstick comic relief to a movie that was otherwise a subtle, lighthearted crime drama, a somewhat jarring contrast in styles which is not atypical of Edwards' films. The popularity of Clouseau caused him to become the main character in subsequent Pink Panther films, which were more straightforward slapstick comedies.
Mancini's theme, with variations in arrangement, is used at the start of all but a few of the Clouseau films.
As of , ten Pink Panther films have been made, all but two having "Pink Panther" in the title:
|The Pink Panther||Although intended to begin a series for David Niven, Peter Sellers is so popular, the rest of the series is shaped to follow Clouseau rather than the Phantom/Sir Charles Lytton.|
|A Shot in the Dark||Released only three months after The Pink Panther, Clouseau returns to bumble his way through a murder investigation. This also marks the first appearance of both Herbert Lom's Dreyfus and Burt Kwouk's Cato.|
|Inspector Clouseau||This film stars Alan Arkin as Clouseau, and does not have any of the standard characters (Dreyfus, Cato, the Phantom, etc.) from the rest of the series, nor does it have music by Henry Mancini. Blake Edwards was not in any way involved in the making of the film.|
|The Return of the Pink Panther||Not only does this mark the return of the famous "Pink Panther" diamond, but also the successful return of Peter Sellers as Clouseau (along with Edwards, Mancini, Dreyfus, and Cato). Sir Charles Lytton is portrayed by Christopher Plummer.|
|The Pink Panther Strikes Again||Dreyfus' insanity reaches its pinnacle, and he tries to blackmail the rest of the world into killing Clouseau. Clearly successful critically and commercially, though this film arguably causes some major continuity issues for later films.|
|Revenge of the Pink Panther||Claimed by some as an alternate to Strikes Again as the "follow-up" to Return. Ignoring Strikes Again, this film brings back Dreyfus and pits Clouseau against the French Connection. This is the last film for which Sellers filmed scenes as Clouseau prior to his death.|
|Trail of the Pink Panther||Features Peter Sellers as Clouseau by way of deleted and alternate scenes from Strikes Again, this is intended mostly as a tribute to Sellers, but after its release, Sellers' widow (who lost her Executive Producer credit on the unproduced "Romance of the Pink Panther") successfully sued Edwards and the studio for tarnishing her late husband's memory. David Niven and Capucine reappear, reprising their original roles.|
|Curse of the Pink Panther||Inspector Clouseau and The Pink Panther diamond, both of which had gone missing in Trail, are hunted down by the bumbling American detective, Clifton Sleigh (Ted Wass). Clouseau returns in a cameo by an uncredited Roger Moore after having plastic surgery to change his identity. Although intended to spawn a new series of misadventures for Sergeant Sleigh, the film's dismal box office performance and critical drubbing sees the Panther hibernate for the next decade.|
|Son of the Pink Panther||Roberto Benigni tries to revive the series by portraying Gendarme Jacques Gambrelli, Inspector Clouseau's illegitimate son by Maria Gambrelli (the murder suspect from A Shot in the Dark). Once again, many former Panther co-stars return. Although intended to again relaunch the series with a new lovable bumbling hero, "Son" brings Blake Edwards' original Panther series to a conclusion.|
|The Pink Panther||This relaunches a new Pink Panther series starring Steve Martin as Inspector Clouseau and Kevin Kline as Chief Inspector Dreyfus. Not a remake of the original Pink Panther, this sees a new starting point for a contemporary series introducing the Clouseau and Dreyfus characters along with the famous diamond to a new generation.|
|The Pink Panther 2||The sequel to Steve Martin's Pink Panther film is in development. Shooting began in August for a planned February 6th 2009 premiere.|
The first five Peter Sellers–Blake Edwards films were released theatrically by United Artists until the company was sold to MGM. Then Trail and Curse were released by MGM/UA Entertainment. Son of the Pink Panther, although produced by UA, was released by MGM. The Return of the Pink Panther is the only film that is not fully owned by MGM/UA, as some ancillary rights (including television broadcast rights) are controlled by British production company ITC Entertainment through successor-in-interest Granada International, while others (including home video) are now owned by Universal Pictures' Focus Features division--Focus recently re-issued this film on DVD for Region 1. Original distributor UA does own the film's copyright as well as the theatrical distribution rights via MGM as the latter studio handles theatrical distribution for the ITC/Granada theatrical library.
ITC originally intended to make an Inspector Clouseau television series, but Blake Edwards convinced the production company to back a feature film first and then a series if the film proved successful. The film exceeded expectations by becoming the most profitable film of . United Artists quickly bought out ITC's investment and work immediately proceeded on the next feature film.
Although official, the film Inspector Clouseau is generally not considered by fandom to be part of the Pink Panther "canon" since it did not involve Sellers or Edwards. Some elements of Arkin's performance and costuming, however, were retained when Peter Sellers took back the role for Return in . Despite a common misconception, Alan Arkin does not appear in Trail of the Pink Panther.
A remake of The Pink Panther, starring Steve Martin as Inspector Clouseau, directed by Shawn Levy, and produced by Robert Simonds, was released in February 2006. This is the first Panther film to be released by Columbia Pictures, which along with UA sister studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer is part of the Sony/Comcast consortium. It is set in the present day and introduces different main characters, therefore belonging to a different continuity. Martin also stars in a sequel, The Pink Panther 2, scheduled for release in and has also revealed that he is in talks to do The Pink Panther 3.
Peter Sellers, the actor portraying Clouseau, remarked that in his opinion, deep down inside, Clouseau knew he was a buffoon; but Clouseau has an incredible knack for survival. Sheer luck or clumsiness usually saves him. In the first film, a farcical car chase around one of Rome's fountains results in the loud collision of all the vehicles (off-camera, witnessed only by a bemused pedestrian), resulting in the capture of the thieves (all of whom were wearing gorilla costumes). This approach accelerates, with Clouseau falling down stairs; falling into pools and fountains; causing fires and disasters; and even being blown up with bombs repeatedly throughout the series. In The Pink Panther Strikes Again, assassins from all over the world are sent to kill Clouseau; he bends down to tie his shoelace, falls over, etc., at just the right moment to ensure that the killers eliminate one another. In Trail of the Pink Panther, we see in one of the flashback that during World War II, Clouseau even fought in the French Resistance movement against the German occupation, but the flashbacks again only serve to reiterate the fact that Clouseau can survive anything despite his incompetence.
Inspector Clouseau is a patriotic Frenchman; his country is professedly his highest priority. He has been prone to infatuation (which is often reciprocated) ever since being cuckolded by Sir Charles Lytton. He is repeatedly perplexed by transvestites, to the extent that he addresses them as "Sir or Madam".
The role was originated by Peter Sellers, but has also been played by Alan Arkin (in Inspector Clouseau), Daniel Peacock and Lucca Mezzofonti as younger versions in Trail of the Pink Panther, Roger Moore (a cameo as a surgically altered Clouseau in Curse of the Pink Panther), and Steve Martin (in the Pink Panther film and its sequel). Additionally, Rich Little supplied the voice of Clouseau, impersonating Sellers, for additional scenes in Trail of the Pink Panther.
In Son of the Pink Panther, Dreyfus (as Chief Inspector) deals with Clouseau's equally buffoonish son Jacques Gambrelli. Compared to his treatment of Clouseau, Dreyfus is more accepting of Gambrelli. At the end of the film, Dreyfus falls in love with Clouseau's former lover, Maria Gambrelli (Jacques Gambrelli's mother), and they get married. At the subsequent wedding, Dreyfus is shocked to learn that Clouseau and Maria actually conceived twins: Jacques and Jacqueline Gambrelli.
In the reboot, The Pink Panther, Dreyfus (again as Chief Inspector) uses Clouseau as a decoy while he himself attempts to solve the crimes. Dreyfus merely views Clouseau as an idiot, and never attempts to have him killed; whereas Clouseau attacks his employer at one point, mistaking his identity. Later in the film, Dreyfus is dragged accidentally behind Clouseau's Smart Car. Dreyfus ends up in the hospital, where Clouseau's bumbling causes him further physical pain.
In later films, Cato helps Clouseau on some cases, including one in Hong Kong. Here, Cato wears glasses to be inconspicuous, but ends up running into various objects because of his now-impaired vision.
At first, Cato appears to conform to the Chinese racial stereotype of speaking in "broken English" and grinning; however, Revenge of the Pink Panther reveals him to actually be fluent in English, including nonstandard English. It is suggested that a love-hate relationship exists between the two men, sometimes bordering more on the "hate" side for Cato.
In Revenge, Cato, believing his master to be dead, ran a covert brothel in Clouseau's apartment. The password used to get into the brothel was to claim to be Inspector Clouseau, which caused a humorous scene when the true Inspector Clouseau showed up. Cato opened another brothel in Curse of the Pink Panther, and converted Clouseau's apartment into a museum featuring all the disguises the inspector had worn over the years. The choice of a brothel as his interim business may variously suggest that Cato is less than entirely honest, somewhat lecherous, aware of other people's lechery, or eager to earn money. He is otherwise loyal to Clouseau.
Cato was based on Kato, the sidekick of the Green Hornet played by Bruce Lee. The credits of A Shot in the Dark even list his name spelled with a "K", though it was changed to a "C" for all subsequent appearances.
Cato was played by Burt Kwouk. Kwouk was also considered for a part in the 2006 revival, but was passed over, and the role of Cato was offered to Jackie Chan. Ultimately, however, the character was scrapped completely, for fear that the Chinese stereotype was too politically incorrect for modern audiences. Cato was replaced by a new character, Gendarme Gilbert Ponton, played by Jean Reno, assigned by Chief Inspector Dreyfus to watch over Clouseau. In a reversal of the setup with Cato, Clouseau would often attack Ponton unexpectedly; Ponton always won the fight, as opposed to Cato, who often lost. The fights featuring Cato were always more destructive and longer than those featuring Ponton.
|Film||Release date||Box office revenue||Box office ranking||Reference|
|The Pink Panther||19 December||$10,878,107||#3,054|
|A Shot in the Dark||23 June||$12,368,234||#2,888|
|Inspector Clouseau||19 July||?||?|
|The Return of the Pink Panther||21 May||$41,833,347||#1,164|
|The Pink Panther Strikes Again||15 December||$33,833,201||#1,465|
|Revenge of the Pink Panther||19 July||$49,579,269||#987|
|Trail of the Pink Panther||17 December||$9,056,073||#3,266|
|Curse of the Pink Panther||21 August||$4,491,986||#4,017|
|Son of the Pink Panther||27 August||$2,438,031||#4,535|
|The Pink Panther (2006)||10 February||$82,226,474||#484|
|The Pink Panther 2||13 February|
The opening title sequence of the original Pink Panther film was such a success with the United Artists executives that they decided to adapt the title sequence into a series of theatrical animated shorts. DePatie-Freleng Enterprises, run by former Warner Bros. Cartoons creators David H. DePatie and Friz Freleng, produced the opening sequences, with Freleng as director. UA commissioned a long series of Pink Panther shorts, the first of which, 's The Pink Phink won the Academy Award for Animated Short Film. By the late-1960s, the shorts were being broadcast as Saturday morning cartoons, and new shorts were being produced for both television broadcast and theatrical release. The animated Pink Panther character has also appeared in computer and console video games, as well as advertising campaigns for several companies.