Trail of the Pink Panther Movie Review
Trail certainly isn't historically unique in its use of archival footage to create a role for a passed-on movie star, but it's inarguably one of the ballsiest attempts at it. Sellers isn't some bit player (like Lawrence Olivier in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow), he's the star. He's Inspector freakin' Clouseau, and he's in more than half of the running time of the film.
How'd they pull this off? Well, an increasingly desperate Blake Edwards figured he'd use footage of Sellers he shot for The Pink Panther Strikes Again in 1976 but didn't use. These are intercut with new footage of the likes of David Niven and Herbert Lom, regulars from the Panther series. A basic plot is created from the old footage, as Clouseau is recruited to find (for the third time) the stolen Pink Panther diamond, but his plane vanishes. A TV reporter (Joanna Lumley) interviews his old compatriots, who reminisce and speculate about what might have happened. (Cue speculative flashback/forward.) Think of it as the cinematic version of a sitcom clip show.
Owing to its nature, many of the scenes in Trail are uncannily familiar, and while there's a certain nostalgia to the movie, rehashing a much better film in this way simply isn't effective. Edwards goes to outrageous links to mask what must have been obvious to everyone in the audience -- that Sellers was two years in the ground -- and, with few exceptions, it simply doesn't work. (In fact, Sellers' widow sued the studio for tarnishing his image, and she won.)