An Inspector Calls

In honour of Herbert Lom, who died in his sleep recently at the impressive age of 95, I was looking at A SHOT IN THE DARK — an experience which will prompt a future post. But it also got me thinking about the strange, morbid and attenuated way that the PINK PANTHER films evolved after the death of Peter Sellers ~


In which Peter Sellers’ embalmed corpse is suspended from piano wires and puppeteered through a succession of slapstick routines. With the voice of Rich Little.


In which Seller’s face is sliced from his corpse’s skull and work, Hannibal Lector style, by Ted Wass from the TV show Soap, in a succession of slapstick routines. Burt Kwouk guests.


Celebrity medium to the stars Derek Acorah channels Seller’s spirit in this late entry in the series, bumbling vicariously through a series of slapstick routines and annoying Herbert Lom. Guest starring the essence of David Niven.


A succession of slapstick routines are enacted by Roberto Benigni while carrying a phial of the late Peter Sellers’ semen inside his body. With Claudia Cardinale.


An elegant urn, possibly containing Sellers’ ashes, is rolled through a succession of slapstick routines. Features archive footage of Robert Wagner forgetting his lines and laughing. Surprisingly good.


In which Steve Martin soaks the ashes in tap water and applies the grey mixture to his face as a kind of comedy-imbued woad as he steps into the shoes of the bumbling Inspector Clouseau. Features a succession of slapstick routines and a bit where Graham Stark breaks wind on a dog.


Alan Arkin returns triumphantly to the role he failed to make his own in 1968. Co-starring with an animated panther, the 77-year-old actor walks carefully through a succession of slapstick routines surrounded by props that were once personally touched by Peter Sellers and which may, just possibly, give off some kind of psychometric trace of the departed comic.


Fiona: “STOP.”

21 Responses to “An Inspector Calls”

  1. I kind of had Fiona’s same reaction, while watching The Life and Death of Peter Sellers on TV (Where I confirmed that I got no fun out of too much Sellers and no Lom at all)

  2. Speaking of Sellers, there’s a very important and revealing article in The Quarterly Review of Film and Video (on whose editorial board I serve) House of Cards: Postmodernism, The Star System and Casino Royale in which Robert V. Frank explains that that truly insane 1967 Bond parody directed by John Huston, Ken Hughes, Val Guest, Robert Parrish and Joe McGrath was originally designed by producer Charles K. Feldman entirely as a Sellers vehicle, following the success of What’s New Pussycat?. But Sellers kept making increasingly ridiculous demands, writing scenes for which Feldman would build expensive sets only to change his mind the next day and call it off. In an effort to keep the project going Feldman hired an all-star cast and all those directors. He harbored the vain hope of bringing this bi-polar monster to some sort of heel. Click the link and purchase the piece. It’s a genuine eye-opener — not just about Sellers insanity but movie “packaging” in the twilight of the studio era.

  3. I’ve been a long time reader and almost never poster, but I have a slightly interesting observation regarding A Shot in the Dark. First I’ll assert that A Shot in the Dark is the best of the (over) long run of Pink Panther films and really introduces most of what we remember from the series (Herbert Lom’s character Dreyfus, Kato, and the inspector’s blasé assistant Hercule). My understanding is the script started life as a play and was reworked into a Pink Panther outing by screenwriters Blake Edwards and William Peter “Exorcist” Blatty.

    I recently watched The Prize, which is Ernest Lehman’s retread of his script for North by Northwest. I’ll assert that its an influence on A Shot in the Dark. The Prize came out in 1963, while Shot in the Dark came out in 1964. Both movies have Elke Sommer and I believe share dialogue along the lines of “It is lovely perfume. That’s not perfume. That’s bath oil.” Then there’s the reworking of the North by Northwest auction scene as a nudist gathering…


  4. Sellers certainly drove that movie into further craziness, but Feldman had already become convinced by the success of What’s New Pussycat? that chaos produced results and that indulging his star was the way forward.

    Welles told the story that Sellers refused to appear with him (they do appear together in just a couple of shots) and since Welles rewrote his own dialogue and Sellers improvised his, no sense could be made of the dialogue: two actors throwing punchlines with nobody to deliver the feedlines. In fact, their scenes are not QUITE so incoherent, but Sellers’ exit from the film is sheer cutting-room desperation, and Joanna Pettet’s is genius: if memory serves, she declares her intention to climb out of a window, and this avoids the slam-bang finale with Belmondo and George Raft.

    Huston seems to have dropped out voluntarily after completing his Irish/Scottish bit (the dullest stuff in the film) and handed over to Val Guest, saying something like “I don’t know how you’re going to salvage this one.”

  5. Jeff/Zabby, that’s intriguing. I wonder why The Prize would have influenced A Shot in the Dark.

    I think the original film is the best, but as a kid I obviously wanted more Clouseau and A Shot in the Dark provides the best quality stuff. I’ll be writing a little on it this week, if I get time.

  6. Well as Jackie Bissett told me Sellers refused to do his one scene with her too. But when you read the article you’ll see that that’s not the half of it.

  7. Well, “influence” is probably too strong a word. Just some pop culture connection/references to the previous movie.


  8. It may have been a lucky escape for Alexander Mackendrick that he never got to make his film of Ionesco’s Rhinoceros, which was first to star Tony Hancock and Sellers, then Peter Ustinov and Sellers.

    He’d obviously had a pretty good time with Sellers on The Ladykillers, which first teamed him with Lom.

    The Panther films are full of little recurring lines, like “It’s hell in there,” which aren’t exactly jokes but seem to amuse the star and director. Quoting The Prize may have been part of their fun.

  9. Just looked at the Pink Panther wiki page. I’d almost forgotten the Alan Arkin atrocity. And the “Trail of the Pink Panther,” assembled from out takes! And “Curse of the Pink Panther,” which the anonymous author wryly notes “was instead built around the talents of Ted Wass.” And– holy crap!– the Steve Martin movie actually spawned a “Pink Panther 2.” Has any other series spawned so many misbegotten sequels and reboots? [Well, come to think of it, yeah. But still…]

  10. Blake Edwards really thought he had something in Ted Wass.

  11. He must’ve! I never watched Soap but people swore by it.

    The weird thing about the PP series is that it’s kept going so long after the death of the only reason it had for existing. I mean, the Pink Panther was a diamond which appeared in only two of the movies. Sellers was the life’s blood, but it somehow kept going.

  12. It’s because folks can’t get that damn Mancini song out of their heads. It may be the catchiest drive-you-crazy tune in film history.

  13. I’m disappointed that the theme from A Shot in the Dark didn’t get more play — REALLY good tune.

  14. “It’s hell in there.” frequently appeared in The Goon Show, usually uttered by Sellers’ character Major Denis Bloodnock.

  15. Sorry, ‘Dennis Bloodnok’.

  16. What red-blooded man would NOT want to appear in a scene with Jacqueline Bisset? Sellers must have been a truly sad and twisted individual!

  17. “Complex” was the word Blake Edwards used, but “batshit crazy” might be more precise. I just found a quote from Bill Murray that seems apposite. “When you get famous you have about a year when you’re an asshole. After two years, you better stop or it becomes permanent.” Sellers missed his window of opportunity to rejoin the human race.

  18. Didn’t Sellers say he’d only play Bond if he could do it as Tony Hancock? Watching the Bisset clip I can’t help thinking that would have really worked, I wonder why it didn’t happen. (There was an excellent article in Neon but I can’t find it now.)

  19. There’s that bit where they have him try on lots of costumes, presumably to show off his funny voice abilities, and he just does it all straight. And he revives his Brummie accent from Heavens Above! which is an interesting choice, then drops it.

    The problem seems to have been his new vision of himself as Handsome Leading Man. Ugh.

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