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LINER NOTES

= THE PINK PANTHER STRIKES AGAIN =

There is one particular scene in Blake Edward's The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976), a United
Artists Pictures (now a subsidiary of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.) release, that stands out as a classic moment of film comedy. The bumbling Inspector Closeau (Peter Sellers) has just  checked into a hotel while tracking down former Chief Inspector Dreyfuss (Herbert Lom), who has become a maniacal villain bent on destroying Closeau and the entire world. The hotel manager, a seemingly senile old man, stands behind the counter while a small, peaceful dog sits silently nearby. Closeau asks the old man, "Does your dog bite?" The manager, paying little attention, replies with an ambivalent "no." The French detective upon hearing the answer, bends down to pat the pooch, who responds to Closeau's advance by nearly biting his hand off. The shocked detective asks, "I thought you said your dog didn't bite!" The bemused manager answers, "That is not my dog!" Hilarious asides like these are one of the elements which made The Pink Panther series so popular with audiences around the world. The Pink Panther Strikes Again was the fifth film in the series (although it was only the fourth film to star Sellers), and the second Pink Panther film to be made in the 1970s, when the series was resurrected after nearly a decade with Sellers and writer-producer-director Blake Edwards behind the camera.

The Pink Panther Strikes Again

The original film, released in 1963, was a worldwide hit and was immediately followed by the classic A Shot in the Dark (1964). Both films, directed by Edwards and starring Sellers, were major box-office successes, yet years passed before either returned for another film in the series. Inspector Clouseau (1968) featured Alan Arkin in the title role, and Bud Yorkin behind the camera; Edwards's frequent collaborators Tom and Frank Waldman wrote the screenplay, and Ken Thorne filled Henry Mancini's musical role. 

Throughout all of this, the continued popularity of the DePatie-Freleng animated cartoons  featuring The Inspector and the Pink Panther proved that audiences would certainly support another Clouseau film comedy, and in 1975 Sellers and Edwards reunited for The Return Of The Pink Panther; Inspector Clouseau returned to the big-screen and found a whole new generation of fans in the process.

For many fans, The Pink Panther Strikes Again is the funniest entry in the misadventures of Inspector Jacques Clouseau. Picking up right where its predecessor left off, The Pink Panther Strikes Again opens with Clouseau visiting his former boss, ex-Chief Inspector Dreyfus, in an insane asylum. Delirious from years of dealing with the incompetent Clouseau, Dreyfus now looks healthy and is ready for release, as well as a return to his job. But when Clouseau reappears to visit him, another series of mishaps occurs, events that this time send Dreyfus off the deep end - really, really off the deep end. With a twisted gleam in his eye, Dreyfus decides to hire a group of assassins to kill Clouseau, and takes up residence in a vacant Cerman castle, the perfect spot to test out an invisible ray-gun device that could destroy the world.

With such a scattershot, crazy plot, written by Edwards and Frank Waldman, it's no wonder that The Pink Panther Strikes Again boasts the most outlandish gags to be found in the series. Parodying the Bond movies as much as providing the familiar pratfalls of its predecessors, Strikes Again comes the closest to resembling a live-action cartoon of any Pink Panther movie, yet also contains some of the series' most inspired set-pieces, most notably Clouseau eluding the assassins at an Oktoberfest gathering and the final confrontation in Dreyfus' castle. Sellers and Lom are at the height of their respective talents, marvelously playing off each other with a supporting cast consisting of series regulars (including Burt Kwouk as Cato) and new faces (Lesley-Anne Down among them) providing
solid support.

Henry Mancini returned to score his fourth Pink Panther feature, and composed a wealth of new thematic material to enhance the proceedings. One of Mancini's greatest compositional gifts was his ability to score comedy, a genre that often poses problems for composers, and the Mancini trademark of buoyant comic cues and melodic, romantic pieces fills the soundtrack album with the composer's distinguished sound. Naturally, the original "Pink Panther Theme" opens the "Main Title" with its famous opening notes, but here - underscoring a hilarious animated credit sequence by Richard Williams - Mancini's score also delves into several musical parodies as the Pink Panther and Inspector Clouseau chase each other around in a movie theater. Listeners will recognize motifs from Charles
Gounod's "Funeral March Of A Marionette" (also known as the theme from Alfred Hitchcock Presents), Neal Hefti's Batman theme, Rodgers and Hammerstein's "The Sound Of Music." Brown and Freed's "Singin' In The Rain," and the 1950s song "Hey Big Spender" deftly interwoven into the opening title sequence music.

For this sequel, Mancini decided to finally give the series protagonist his own theme, and "The Inspector Clouseau Theme" leads off the new thematic material on the album. Used in at least one of the subsequent films, the new theme is a pokey, deliberately light staccato piece that delicately accentuates, instead of undermines, Clouseau's noble but inadvertently havoc-causing intentions. The hesitant, disarming tone of Mancini's music is carried over into the next track, "Great Quasimodo Disguise," as Clouseau inflates his Hunchback costume all too well, ultimately floating through the city of Paris.

While the Dreyfus-hired assassins are continuously bumped off by the bewildered Clouseau during an Oktoberfest celebration, Mancini underscores the sequence with the energetic "Bier Fest Polka," a track that directly contrasts with the poignant romanticism of "Come To Me," the film's love theme, which features a gentle Mancini melody performed here as an instrumental for strings and a small ensemble of piano, bass, and xylophone.

Ainsley larvis's (Michael Robbins) tongue-in-cheek cabaret song with words by Don Black,"Until You Love Me," follows the instrumental track, making it the secondary love theme in The Pink Panther Strikes Again. With elaborate orchestral flourish, "Come To Me" returns as a vehicle for singer Tom Jones, again boasting lyrics by Don Black. Black's words highlight the melody of Mancini's music. and Jones adds the appropriate vocal touch to the lush arrangement. A segue to solo violin carries the song over to Peter Sellers's comic key as Clouseau sings to Lesley-Anne Down in his apartment at the film's finale, just before Cato appears to finish the movie off with the proper Pink Panther touch. The success of "Come To Me" led to a well-deserved Best Original Song Academy Award~ nomination for Mancini and Black.

While some listeners have lamented that Mancini's soundtrack albums rarely represented his dramatic scoring ability', the tracks "Along Came Omar" (referring to an unbilled cameo by Omar Sharif as an Egyptian hitman), "The Evil Theme" (note the active, jazzy bass motif) and "Exodus From the Castle" here illustrate the other side of Mancini's legacy. Interspersed with these underscore cues are an instrumental treatment of "Until You Love Me" and a faster arrangement of "The Inspector Clouseau Theme," recorded for the soundtrack album.

The Pink Panther Strikes Again was another major box-office success for the series and ensured that more follow-ups would be produced. Sadly, only the entertaining Revenge Of The Pink Panther (1978) was made before the untimely death of Peter Sellers, who had been planning on filming Romance Of The Pink Panther just before he died." Undaunted by Sellers's passing, Blake Edwards would later revive the series in the early 1980s with the outtake-filled Trail Of The Pink Panther (1982) and Curse Of The Pink Panther (1983), which introduced Ted Wass as an American detective, heir to Sellers's Clouseau. Edwards tried it again a decade later with Italian comedian-filmmaker Roberto Benigni as Clouseau's offspring in Son Of The Pink Panther (1993), and one can of course never rule out another entry in one of the most enjoyable series of comedies in film history.

- Andy Dursin

The Pink Panther Strikes Again
 

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