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Son of the Pink Panther

(Blake Edwards, USA, 1993)


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Blake Edwards often seems like a filmmaker caught in a particularly vicious time warp.

 

Long after such indelible creations as Peter Gunn for TV and The Party (1968) with Peter Sellers, Edwards' movies (such as 10 [1979] and Switch [1991]) still have the stamp of the Swinging '60s, with their Playboy magazine ambience, shameless worship of chintzy materialism, crass attitudes towards sexual politics, and a ceaseless parade of gross racial stereotypes.

 

Yet, as one of the more devoted Edwardians on the face of the planet, I am perfectly willing to forgive almost all of these sins almost all of the time.

 

Edwards is a special director; his dramatic and semi-comic films have a poignant wistfulness which speaks depths, while his outright burlesque comedies bring what Leonard Maltin once disparagingly referred to as "pain and destruction gags" to new heights of madness.

 

The ongoing attempts to keep the extremely successful Pink Panther series alive after the death of star Peter Sellers show off Edwards' inventiveness at its most desperate.  First there was Trail of the Pink Panther (1982) built around Sellers off-cuts, and then Curse of the Pink Panther (1983), showcasing Ted Wass in an Inspector Clouseau-like role.

 

Ten years later, Edwards hit upon a much better idea: casting the Italian comic genius Roberto Benigni (Johnny Stecchino, 1991) as Clouseau's long-hidden son.

 

It is a fairly flat film, far from the director's best. The straight scenes of glamorous gangsters undertaking magnificent heists and kidnappings, which take up much of the movie, are pure '60s nostalgia. Most of the actors familiar from previous films in the series (Claudia Cardinale, Herbert Lom, Bert Kwouk) mug and flail about without any decent gag-lines to utter.

 

But whenever Benigni steps in stabbing himself inadvertently with surgical instruments or dodging cars and trucks on his police bicycle the screen lights up with the sheer joy of pain and destruction.

 

Postscript 2007: Although the Pink Panther franchise was (unwisely) revived with Steve Martin as Clouseau, Son of the Pink Panther it seems will be Edwards’ final film.

MORE Edwards: The Man Who Loved Women, The Return of the Pink Panther

© Adrian Martin November 1994


Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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