How that lugubrious yet explosive Pink Panther, big-band jazz theme brings back memories of the 1960s when the bumbling, inept Inspector Clouseau first burst upon the cinema screens [The first film, The Pink Panther, appeared in 1963 and was succeeded by eight sequels culminating in Son of the Pink Panther made in 1993 that starred Roberto Benigni as the equally inept scion of the Inspector].
This album has highlights from most of the films in the sequence. Beginning with The Pink Panther and that theme, which we learn from the album notes was created by Mancini in response to projected cartoon titles for the film. (It was of course aptly used, later, for the sophisticated cartoon Pink Panther series). In addition there are several very catchy numbers from Mancini like the well-known, 'It Had Better Be Tonight' with chorus written in the popular bossa nova style of the day, and the slinky, romantic 'Royal Blue' plus 'Piano and Strings'. 'Shades of Sennett' is just that – musical slapstick!
From the Panther's second outing, A Shot in the Dark come two numbers: the well-known title track with Mancini showing off Clouseau's clumsy gait on bass guitar and shaky/edgy harmonium plus sardonic brass, while 'The Shadow of Paris' is another fondly remembered romantic song. What a pity that we do not have that very sinister Mancini music for the scene in which a killer tries to bump off the gormless detective in the night club; a very imaginative use of heavy bass ostinato.
Inspector Clouseau (1965), scored by Ken Thorne, is passed over. From The Return of the Pink Panther there is the evocative but slight 'Summer in Gstaad' – all lederhosen. 'So Smooth' returns us to the smoochy and not a little ironic Mancini. 'The Greatest Gift' is a typical Mancini romantic sweet slow-waltz ballad here with chorus. 'The Orange Float', in faster tempo is a toe-tapping, swinging jazz gem; while 'Dreamy' is a stronger accented dance tune until lazier strings try to slow the proceedings to a smoochier mood. 'The Wet Look' is a perky, happy-go-lucky jazz item.
The 'Main Title' of The Pink Panther Strikes Again reprises the theme again with clever parodies of music from Batman, The Sound of Music, Singin' In The Rain and the song 'Big Spender'. Umpah, umpah music is the 'Bier Fest Polka', before Tom Jones sings the very effulgent 'Come to Me' - Mancini lampooning the worst excesses of the 1940s Hollywood musicals (and Peter Sellers trying his shaky best to emulate Jones but only sounding as though he is gargling).. Passing over the slight 'Until You Love Me' the excerpts from this fifth Panther film finish with a gentler almost child-like version of the 'Inspector Clouseau theme'.
'After the Shower' is a pleasant strolling sentimental jazz confection from Mancini for the sixth Panther outing, Revenge of the Pink Panther. 'Hong Kong Fireworks' is the film's most evocative track: a whirlwind of notes introduces familiar oriental phrases wrapped in an upbeat jazzy package. After a bit of a 20th Century Fox fanfare we hear the ridiculous rasping voice of Clouseau (Sellers, again) delivering Gigi's 'Thank Heaven for Little Girls'; thankfully the band leaves him behind to the mercy of the Paris traffic.
More nonsense ends the album with an extraordinary excerpt from Son of the Pink Panther (the one with Roberto Benigni). This is a chaotic male vocal version of the 'Pink Panther Theme' with voices hilariously emulating the instruments.
The foldout booklet is informative but very difficult to read due to a nightmarish design that places tiny type on alternate horizontal strips of crimson and pink.
A nicely compiled album that will bring back pleasant memories of 1960s musical styles and, of course, of some of the funniest films in cinematic history.