Not now, Cato!

This weekend was spent relaxing and watching 6 Pink Panther movies courtesy of Sky Cinema’s many movie collections.

I’ve seen most of them before, decades previously (dear Gods, am I that old?), but now was a good opportunity to watch them all back to back.  And my goodness, I was crying with laughter many times – to the point of almost being sick.  Peter Sellers remains one of my favourite comedians of all time – along with Spike Milligan, Harry Secombe, Michael Bentine, Kenneth Williams, Frankie Howerd, and of course, Tommy Cooper.  And not forgetting Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise.  Comedy Gods all of them.

But back to the inept (or is he a genuis?) Inspector Clouseau.  Some of the finest moments come after he instructs his manservant Cato to attack him at any time.  Cue absolute hilarity as both men go at each other like hammer and tongs.  So, so funny.

When Clouseau is being stalked by a hired assassin, and gets him mixed up with Cato:

Another favourite scene is when Clouseau is visiting the disguise shop (prop. Professor Balls) and gets a special delivery..

I could watch those movies again and again and still laugh until I cried.  Wonderful stuff.  Oh, one more clip:

But things got a bit more morose when I started watching The Trail of the Pink Panther. Made two years after Peter Sellers’ death, this was the beginning of a revamp of the Pink Panther franchise. I’ll admit to having shed a tear during Blake Edwards’ dedication to Peter Sellers popped up at the beginning of the movie’s titles.  Sellers was a brilliant comic genius, but one that had many demons.  I encourage people to watch The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, which explores some of those issues.

Starting with The Trail of the Pink Panther, the story involves the Pink Panther diamond being stolen again, and Clouseau being assigned to investigate.  Except he goes missing.  The Trial.. was essentially made up of archive footage of Sellers and deleted footage from previous Pink Panther films, along with bizarrely speeded up voice overs of an actor standing in for Sellers. The Curse of the Pink Panther introduced a new character sent to find the apparently missing Clouseau.

The Curse of the Pink Panther introduced a new character sent to find the missing Clouseau.  Had the film been a success, Clifton Sleigh would have replaced Clouseau in the title role, and would have gone on to have many more misadventures.

Both the Trail and Curse are both adequate films, and both feature wonderful performances from Herbert Lom and the supporting characters.  Even Ted Wass as Sleigh puts in a good and often funny performance.  But he is no Peter Sellers.

I’ve still to watch Son of The Pink Panther, starring the crazy Roberto “Life is Beautiful” Benigni.  It would be Blake Edwards’ last ever Pink Panther film before Steve Martin took up the reigns with 2006’s The Pink Panther reboot.

The Tex Avery Collection (DVD box set)

As a kid, I was a big cartoon fanatic.  Loved them.  I particularly loved watching them with dad.  Nothing made me happier.  Out of all the cartoons, Tex Avery was perhaps my favourite director of them all.  His Droopy and Screwball Squirrel cartoons were some of the silliest, craziest, funniest stuff ever.

So I was delighted, after a particularly stressful week, to discover that a DVD box set exists of some of Tex Avery’s best cartoons.  It’s not exhaustive by any means, but there’s enough material here (6 discs, 17 cartoons per disc) to last quite a while.  Interestingly, this has never been released in the UK.  It’s a Dutch/French release with English/French audio and Dutch subtitles.  Thankfully you can turn off the subtitles and watch the thing in English.

I tell you this – last weekend I have never laughed so hard in my life.  They’ve still got it.  They’re still super crazy, super silly and utterly surreal.  And they are as funny as hell.Sure, Avery tends to recycle a lot of the gags many times over, but overall it’s still as fun as it ever was regardless of whoever is being smashed around the head with a mallet.

WARNING: Contains nuts.
WARNING: Contains nuts.

It’s not just the silly gags either.  The animation, the character design, the sound effects are all top notch.  It’s hard to believe this quality was possible – especially when you consider that many of these cartoons were released during wartime.

I think the next thing on my sights – maybe after I’ve passed my driving test.  IF I pass my driving test, is the complete Looney Tunes collection.

You’re never too old (or young) to enjoy a good quality cartoon.