I thought it was a statue
Maybe the reason for all those damn EFFIGIES in TRAIL and particularly CURSE OF THE PINK PANTHER can be found in this extract from Peter Sellers by Michael Starr, which I found quoted in A Splurch in the Kisser: the Movies of Blake Edwards by Sam Wasson (good book). Blake Edwards recounts his last “meeting” with Sellers. After blanking Edwards at a night club, Sellers quarrels with his wife and leaves ~
About half an hour later my son came in-he was meeting us there-he sat down and said, “Dad, I just saw Peter Sellers.” And I said, “Yeah,” and he said, “He’s standing across the street. I thought it was a statue.”
And I said, “You’re kidding. It’s snowing out there!” He said, “Yes, he looks like a snowman, it’s the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen!”
I thought, “Well, it’s Christmas, and it’s crazy, at least for me, to play the game of not speaking or talking. In spite of the problems, there were good times too.” So I excused myself to Julie and said,” I’m going to go over and say something to him.”
I walked out, and it was spooky-he had a coat on, but he was just standing there. lme.an it was snowing heavily, and he was covered with snow, he hadn’t moved, it was like he was catatonic. So I walked across the street to him, and I walked up to him, and he acted at least like he hadn’t seen me coming or he.ard me. And I said, ” Peter,” and he was just standing there, and he kind of snapped out of it, and he looked, and he saw it was me, and he didn ‘t know quite what to do with it. I said, “Peter, go home or get inside. You’re going to catch cold.” And I kissed him on the cheeks and said, “Merry Christmas” and walked back into the place. And as I walked through the door, I looked back, and he was still standing there. That’s the last time I ever saw him.
Hence all those creepy waxworks, statues, dummies.
The other recurring image is of Clouseau, the Panther, or someone else as an empty suit of clothes, opening onto blackness (example: the Panther, dressed as Clouseau, flashes the camera at the end of TRAIL, but exposes only a yawning existential abyss, instead of the more appropriate cock and balls. The camera plunges into the velvety blackness and the credits roll.) This I associate with Sellers catchphrase, used regularly on chat shows, I used to have a personality, but I had it surgically removed.” The depressive and obsessive Edwards seems to fear this is true of him, too, and that he’s merging with Sellers. And, obviously, in the wake of Sellers’ death and in the light of Edwards’ advancing years, the blackness is also Death.
“I know that.”