Music Webmaster Len Mullenger


Henry MANCINI The Pink Panther Strikes Again OST RYKO RCD 10739 [47:31]


Crotchet (UK)

This particular reviewer has always considered the fifth entry in the Pink Panther series to be the very finest. Sellers was neither too assured as Clouseau nor bored (as he almost seemed in the next and final of his performances [Revenge of]). It has the most carefully choreographed fight sequence with Cato. Herbert Lom gets to ham up his role of Dreyfuss gloriously. Plus it features one of the most successful comedy scores from Mancini.

We already knew these movies to be tongue-in-cheek, but with the fabulous animated opening credits a wonderful montage of images and sounds comes purloined from very recognisable sources. Led by the infamous "Pink Panther Theme" the on-screen cinema plays: "Funeral March Of A Marionette" (the Hitchcock 'Theme'), "Batman" (Neil Hefti's '60s classic), "The Sound of Music", "Singin' In The Rain", and "Big Spender". It sets the tone superbly.

Immediately after comes the exquisite "Inspector Clouseau Theme" opening with what sounds like mandolin, keyboard, and glockenspiel. Gentle flute notes take up the lackadaisical tempo - a pace in perfect synch with the thought processes on display. Reprised later on the album, either cue could be from a hilarious sequence of Clouseau attempting entry into the castle across the surrounding moat. Each successive method is more ridiculous than the last, and the music's suggested dimwittedness is pure genius.

When not beating up poor Cato, the Inspector loves to show off new disguises. In "The Great Quasimodo Disguise" Mancini carries us off with the inflating "hermp" until he is floating obliviously over the Seine. Some beautiful harp glissandos float him ever higher, before the inevitable drop into the drink.

The exuberance of "Bier Fest Polka" is as much at odds with the surrounding cues as the events on screen. A collection of the world's most highly skilled assassins are sent Clouseau's way. The increasingly ridiculous 'hit' attempts are all underscored by this bouncing number. It works for the scene by being as contrapuntal as the moat sequence's use of 'Clouseau's Theme'. We are carried by the ludicrous melodies which make the bumbling even funnier. These really are showcases for Mancini's gift for comedy timing and underscoring. Yet this should not ignore such subtleties as "Along Came Omar" (for Mr Sharif's uncredited cameo), which tiptoes the hitman along on Egyptian harmonies and guitar.

The album generously presents 6 bonus cues of material, which are welcome despite messing with the chronological order. Here we get the brief Asylum flute happiness that opened the film. Then a terrific example of Mancini at his most dramatic with "The Plan / The Snatch", which is initially urgent on its strings. This leads in to some sustained high pitched effects that are fortunately not as grating on the teeth as when Dreyfuss runs a clawed gauntlet down a chalkboard ! The urgency returns for "The Doomsday Machine", and moves in and out as we see Clouseau attempting to thwart the mad ex-Chief Inspector's plans. The brass-built crescendo is sadly spoiled by an obvious edit (at about 2:44) - perhaps this is just my copy.

There is also an "Alternate Instrumental Version" of "Until You Love Me". The original 'Instrumental' precedes it, as does one of the film's comic highlights with a showstopping drag turn from Michael Robbins as "The Incomparable Ainsley Jarvis". His voice really isn't all that bad either (!). "Come To Me" also features saucy lyrics by Don Black, but was the Oscar® nominated of the two. Possibly Tom Jones' vocals decided that. We are 'treated' here to a segue from the Welsh Wonder's warbling straight into Clouseau's own. A moment for the tone deaf to sympathise with.

Still in Bonus territory is the thankfully brief "Organ Interlude" which is as cheesy as possible for Dreyfuss suited in black cape playing chateau phantom. The all-too short "End Titles" are a reminder that we didn't always have to sit through 7 minutes of credited assistants and trainees. With a succession of 'Panther Theme' variations interrupted by what sounds suspiciously like the Jaws theme, the album ends with the traditional musical breakdown signalled by a dying horn wail.

Saving the best for last I now turn to "The Evil Theme". An almost subterranean chime reverberates an echo beneath the lightly treading guitar of Dick Abell. The classic exaggerated cartoon steps of the Inspector's creeping around is perfectly encapsulated by the first half of the cue. It is then stepped up by flute, percussion, and the most innovative use of put of tune pizzicato violin. It is as important an invention as either the Pink Panther or Clouseau themes, or indeed the original A Shot In The Dark theme (which is sadly absent).

Rykodisc spoil us as ever with a CD-ROM trailer and a fold out booklet with great notes and photographs. Out with the bad music - in with the good!


Paul Tonks


Paul Tonks

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