In 1980, Peter Sellers died. In 1982, Trail of the Pink Panther, with Sellers as the headliner, was released by a studio hungry to capitalize further on the popular series. Trail certainly isn’t historically unique in its use of archival footage to create a role for a passed-on movie star, but it’s inarguably one of the ballsiest attempts at it. Sellers isn’t some bit player (like Lawrence Olivier in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow), he’s the star. He’s Inspector freakin’ Clouseau, and he’s in more than half of the running time of the film.
How’d they pull this off? Well, an increasingly desperate Blake Edwards figured he’d use footage of Sellers he shot for The Pink Panther Strikes Again in 1976 but didn’t use. These are intercut with new footage of the likes of David Niven and Herbert Lom, regulars from the Panther series. A basic plot is created from the old footage, as Clouseau is recruited to find (for the third time) the stolen Pink Panther diamond, but his plane vanishes. A TV reporter (Joanna Lumley) interviews his old compatriots, who reminisce and speculate about what might have happened. (Cue speculative flashback/forward.) Think of it as the cinematic version of a sitcom clip show. —Filmcritic.com
Blake Edwards’ stepfather’s father J. Gordon Edwards was a silent screen director, and his stepfather Jack McEdwards was a stage director and movie production manager. Blake acted in a number films, beginning with Ten Gentlemen from West Point (1942) and wrote a number of others, beginning with Panhandle (1948) and including six for director Richard Quine. He created the popular TV series “Peter Gunn” (1958), “Mr. Lucky” (1959) and “Dante” (1960). He directed a diverse body of films, from comedies to dramas to war films to westerns, including such pictures as Operation Petticoat (1959), Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), Experiment in Terror (1962), Days of Wine and Roses (1962), The Pink Panther (1963) and A Shot in the Dark (1964). After The Great Race (1965) he began fighting with studios. In England he surfaced again with The Return of the Pink Panther (1975), then went back to Hollywood and a real hit, 10 (1979). Victor Victoria (1982) won him French and Italian awards for Best Foreign… read more
Three stars at least for the first half of the film which is comprised entirely out of alternate takes and cut scenes from the previous Panther sequels. The second half is a dimwitted attempt to discover both Clouseau's past and his whereabouts. This leads to old cast members and clips of previous films. Why was this movie even made? And even more, why were the scenes dropped out of the previous films?