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  Trail of the Pink Panther Raising The Dead
Year: 1982
Director: Blake Edwards
Stars: Peter Sellers, David Niven, Herbert Lom, Richard Mulligan, Joanna Lumley, Capucine, Robert Loggia, Harvey Korman, Burt Kwouk, Graham Stark, Peter Arne, André Maranne, Ronald Fraser, Leonard Rossiter, Colin Blakely, Liz Smith, Denise Crosby
Genre: ComedyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  3 (from 2 votes)
Review: The Pink Panther diamond has been stolen once again, and there's only one man who can be put on the case to track it down: Inspector Jacques Clouseau (Peter Sellers). At the moment, he is visiting the shop where he gets his disguises, and trying out the latest that the proprietor (Harvey Korman) has invented for him, although they cannot settle on quite the right nose for the outfit. That is until Clouseau sees the owner's wife, and her enormous proboscis, which he proclaims to be the ugliest he has ever seen until he realises it's her actual nose - well, even the greatest detectives make mistakes...

What to do with footage of a star who has since passed away is a problem that does not afflict many moviemakers, thankfully, but there was a difference between shooting around an actor who had died mid-production and using a bit of trickery and editing to smooth over the cracks, as Ridley Scott did with Oliver Reed in Gladiator, and taking footage unused and unrelated to the film you're making and crowbarring it into new scenes to make it look as if they had been in the work all along. The most famous example of that was Bela Lugosi in Plan 9 from Outer Space, with Bruce Lee in Game of Death often mentioned in the same breath, but they were not alone.

That's because director Blake Edwards saw what a lot of footage he had of outtakes and unused scenes from his later Pink Panther movies and decided to make a tribute to his late star with this. It begins in respectful fashion with a caption telling us that there was only one Inspector Clouseau, and he was Peter Sellers, but all that respect goes swiftly out of the window once the opening titles are over and done with. Those titles, incidentally, were the usual cartoon ones except instantly dated by their insistence on basing them around Pac-Man; not only that but a hint to the quality of what you're about to watch is indicated by the Clouseau cartoon apparently pissing Edwards' writing credit onto the screen.

What did follow were bits and pieces of non-essential Pink Panther cuttings from the editing room floor, and any attempt at building a plot around them were doomed to failure. Even the fact that the diamond has been stolen is allowed to fall by the wayside within minutes, and after a while you may as well be watching a television clip show as Edwards tried to fashion something worthwhile out of stuff originally deemed not good enough to include when Sellers was alive. That material could have been the most hilarious outtakes that Sellers ever appeared in, but the suffocating atmosphere of cash-in drains all humour out of whatever situations are depicted, and if anything what was a tribute ends up an insult.

Sellers' widow Lynne Frederick certainly thought so, and successfully sued the makers for it, although there were grumbles at the time that she didn't deserve the money seeing as how she and her husband were on less than great terms at the time of his death. Whatever, most will agree she had a point, as once the cuttings run out Edwards resorts to filling out the rest of the running time with guest stars "reminiscing" about Clouseau, including a frail-looking David Niven (dubbed by Rich Little), Capucine, Sellers' pals Graham Stark and Burt Kwouk, and Richard Mulligan in the worst thing he ever did as Clouseau's father. All are being interviewed by Joanna Lumley, putting on a dodgy accent as a television reporter, and failing to bring any of this together in any satisfying way: it simply burbles along, not funny, mostly uncomfortable, and at best sadly misguided. And there was still one of these to go, with a sequel filmed back to back with it released the following year. Music by Henry Mancini.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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