The Pink Panther Cartoon Collection: Volume 1 1964-1966

Studio: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

Feb 23, 2018 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

In 1963 Blake Edwards’ Pink Panther movie gave the world Inspector Clouseau and Henry Mancini’s magnificent theme, but it also threw in a pink cartoon panther over the opening credits. This sleek and effortlessly suave creature would go on to get his own cartoon series running off and on for decades. Collected here are the first 20 episodes released between 1964-66.

Be careful before launching into a full binge. There’s a special kind of madness that comes from over-exposure to Mancini’s Pink Panther theme. The sweet spot seems to be between 3-5 episodes. Any less and you’ll want more; any more and you’ll end up double stepping like the eponymous hero, humming yourself to distraction with the music.

He’s an eminently distractible character as well, especially since there’s no single formula governing a Pink Panther cartoon. In some he’s a silent troublemaker, mercilessly torturing a mustachioed working man. Other outings find him blithely going about his own business, or being driven into rage by adversaries ranging from a resourceful mosquito to a rude, manipulative weight machine and a willful convertible car.

In the best episodes, there’s often no dialogue. Sometimes characters speak, and other times a voiceover might be employed, but when dialogue is removed, the visual gags take center stage. Wonderfully inventive animation piles up in an episode where the Pink Panther sits inside a safe preventing a burglar from breaking in. He thwarts him with studied cool, calmly strolling from the safe to plant a stick of dynamite back into the burglar’s pants.

Explosions of some kind occur regularly. Characters are frequently blown up or blasted in the face by guns, lefts black and charred afterwards. Some of it becomes almost gruesome, especially when the Pink Panther leaves an iron on his stomach, burning a triangular hole straight through. Embarrassed by this turn of events, he fills the gap with a cuckoo clock.

Elsewhere the tone turns from elegant to slapstick in seconds. He can be lolling about smoking with a cigarette holder in one episode, before gobbling down a box of camera flash bulbs, becoming his own internalized lightening show in another.

Over the course of this collection, the Pink Panther wins some and loses some, and even loses his cool, but he never stops being cool. That 1963 movie wasn’t really about Inspector Clouseau or a cartoon panther, but it managed to create two breakout stars. While the former is a blundering buffoon, the latter, even when blundering, is just too damn stylish to lose his nonchalant charms.


Author rating: 7.5/10

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