Synopsis: With a nose for clues, and eye for intrigue and a mind like a steel trap that’s jammed shut, ‘The Inspector’ sets out to solve Paris’ most puzzling crime mysteries. Joined by Deux-Deux, his wily, French-yet Spanish sidekick, ‘The Inspector’ has a knack for maintaining calm in the middle of calamities – even those he occasionally causes – in the laugh-a-minute comedy classic that’s part of the hugely popular ‘Pink Panther’ TV series.
The Inspector, vol. 1 5.5
eyelights: its background art.
eyesores: its rudimentary, repetitive humour.
A few years ago, we decided to revisit ‘The Pink Panther‘ films. Being great fans of the original Peter Sellers ones, some that remain standouts to this day, it seemed like something we just had to do – even if it meant suffering through all the subsequent series offerings.
Since the films are familiar to many, we threw in a few surprises to keep it fresh. That included the full-length play version of ‘The Pink Panther Strikes Again‘ and volume 2 of the spin-off ‘The Inspector’ cartoon (we couldn’t get our hands on the first volume on time).
We were pleasantly surprised by ‘The Inspector’. After having suffered through Steven Martin’s ghastly remake and its sequel, and having seen ‘The Pink Panther’ cartoons before, my expectations were pretty low. Though it was no classic, it was actually fairly enjoyable.
But volume 1 remained on our list of things to do.
‘The Inspector’ cartoons were originally produced from the mid-to-late ’60s. While some were released as opening short presentations for feature films, most of them were included as part of the half-hour Depatie-Freleng television programme ‘The Pink Panther Show’.
Though they don’t feature the pink feline, these animated shorts star Inspector Clouseau’s likeness. He’s never referred to as Clouseau, doesn’t sound like him, and Peter Sellers wasn’t involved in this adaptation, but he looks very much like Sellers’ and Blake Edwards’ creation.
Most of the shorts find the Inspector trying to track down a notorious criminal or being sent on some mission of some sort – which he always manages to bungle somehow. The humour is redolent of kiddie cartoons of the period with nary a nod to the zany motion pictures.
In most of the shorts, he has a lame sidekick by the name of Doodoo. Online, he’s listed as Deux-Deux, which would be French for Two-Two, except that he’s Spanish and always says “si” instead of “oui”. So I think of him as “Doodoo”, because that what he comes off like.
There were 34 shorts in all, and they were separated on two DVDs of 17 shorts each. Strangely enough, there was only one volume in North America, though a second volume was released overseas (since we last visited it, the series was released in full on blu-ray).
Here are the first 17 episodes, in chronological order:
1. The Great De Gaulle Stone Operation: The Inspector is charged with protecting an invaluable jewel for the day. Naturally, he immediately gives it to a 3-headed thief instead of his assistant Doodoo. He chases the thief but he’s quickly out-maneuvered. Luckily for him, though, the villain has a hole in his pocket and the diamond drops out and is found. The Inspector is given it again, and loses it again. Of course. He surveys a hotel that the thief is in. After going in, the Inspector ends up drinking from a glass that was hiding the diamond and ends up having a “gall stone” removed. Harhar. Interesting note, the shadowy thief has three distinct personalities who argue amongst themselves. 7.0
2. Reaux, Reaux, Reaux Your Boat: Captain Clamity, a notorious smuggler (who actually looks like a clam) is in the area with his sidekick, Crab Louis (who looks like a crab). The Inspector and Doodoo go to investigate. Doodoo tosses the Inspector off the peer, crashes their rowboat (which sinks to bottom), …etc. Clamity also sinks him with an anchor, a canon, and a “water missile”. He eventually arrests the pair but gets sunk one last time. A riot. 5.75
3. Napoleon Blown-Aparte: A fuzzy red thing with a hat and black limbs explodes out of prison. It targets his boss, the Commissioner, so the latter is put in a cell for his own protection. Except that he keeps getting blown up, even on his way to his country home. They eventually leave for Switzerland, where they’re assailed by more bombs. Sheesh. This is one inefficient bomber, matched only by the Inspector. 5.5
4. Cirrhosis of the Louvre: This one’s narrated by Doodoo: the Blotch, a red paint blotch, plans to rob the Louvre itself – not its content. The Blotch can shape-change to look like a blotch on the floor or to fill frames with red and he uses that ability to steal lots of paintings. The Blotch plays tricks on the Inspector and Doodoo, like painting a blotch on back of the Inspector. Eventually, he empties the Louvre, so the Inspector and Doodoo are forced into making paintings to fill the walls. Haha. Well, at least there were nice reproductions of classic art in the gallery. 5.75
5. Plastered in Paris: The Inspector and Doodoo have to catch a man called X, who drives a yellow sedan. Then he escapes in a yellow boat and they use a “police submarine”. The X uses a camel, and then a tank. They go through the Sahara, then up the Kilimanjaro. They fall off a cliff, are attacked by a leopard. The punchline? It turns out that X is actually a police phys ed instructor. Harhar. 5.5
6. Cock-A-Doodle Deux Deux: The Inspector is charged with guarding the Marquise’s large diamond at a huge ball – but he’s distracted by a hottie and doesn’t see it get stolen. So he begins to investigate the Madame herself and discovers that she used to be in the chicken industry. All of her staff are chickens, so he disguises himself as a chicken to find the culprit. Frankly, it’s a pretty pathetic short, aside for the backgrounds. 4.5
7. Ape Suzette: The Inspector shows Doodoo his defense moves and beats him up. Ha ha. Then they’re called upon to find a shipload of stolen bananas. When they find it, they have to deal with a sailor and his large ape, who keeps pummeling the Inspector. 5.25
8. The Pique Poquette of Paris: The Inspector and Doodoo are sent to catch Spider Pierre, the pick-pocket. The Inspector goes to a bistro, where Pierre hangs out and has his wallet picked after getting a drink. In fact, he keeps getting his pockets picked. Eventually, he clues in and tracks down Pierre. It leads to him to crashing into the Eiffel Tower, falling from a height, getting hit by a woman on a broom, …etc. Doodoo eventually gets Pierre with DDT but the Inspector also ends up in jail. IDK. 5.0
9. Sicque! Sicque! Sicque!: The Inspector arrests a mad scientist in the Rue Morgue. Then he and Doodoo inspect the area for monsters. Doodoo drinks one of the mad scientist’s potions, turning him into a green monster – who beats up Inspector. Then he turns back. And back again, …etc. This one’s very reminiscent of the Looney Tunes’ “Jekyll and Hare”. It’s amusing anyway. 6.0
10. That’s No Lady, That’s Notre Dame: The Inspector has to find a purse-snatcher; his career is on the line over it because the Commissioner’s own spouse was a victim. The Inspector decides to dress in drag to see if he can’t lure the thief but, when the Commissioner sees him/her, he’s smitten and takes him/her out, merely thinking that he’s the Inspector’s sister. He spends the episode sneaking around with the Inspector, avoiding his spouse. This one’s rife with really bad gags and it’s too obvious and contrived. Great backgrounds though. 4.5
11. Unsafe and Seine: The Inspector must meet an agent at Skid Row about threats on his life – yet he doesn’t want to, even though his life’s on the line. Duh. He and Doodoo disguise themselves and go to a rough bar for the meeting. Unfortunately, the Inspector reveals their identity and they get attacked. Then their meeting is redirected to Switzerland. Cue the cheap skiing gags. Then their meeting is relocated to London’s Piccadilly Circus, where he’s crushed by an elephant. Then they go to Venice, and their gondola is sunk. Then they got Nairobi on a large bird. Turns out their man is an Insurance Agent, not a secret agent. Geddit? Geddit? Le sigh… 4.5
12. Toulouse La Trick: The Inspector has caught Toulouse Le Moose and returns him to Paris. But the big galoot gives him a hard time, and even escapes with the Inspector cuffed to him. He drags the Inspector through a forest, a stone wall, a small river, barbed wire, …etc. Moose then tries to unchain them, but it doesn’t work. But Inspector has plan… Oh, don’t ask. 5.5
13. Sacré Bleu Cross: The Inspector is trying to catch Hassan the Assassin on Friday the 13th. He’s unlucky, of course, and everything backfires. He and Doodoo get near Hassan’s hideout, but are always shot at or crushed – even though he has a rabbit’s foot with him. When Hassan steals their things, including the rabbit’s foot, he ends up with all the bad luck. Meh. 5.5
14. Le Quiet Squad: There’s a massive crime spree in Paris and the Commissioner is on edge. The Inspector is assigned to protect him and ensure that he gets some quiet as he recovers. So he stops the Hunchback of Notre Dame from ringing his bells, shuts up a wailing cat, stifles Bastille Day celebrations, …etc. The cat becomes the main antagonist. This one’s full of $#!t character designs and gags. Really bad. 4.5
15. Bomb Voyage: There are reports of UFOs and the Inspector must find their source. He and Doodoo encounter a green alien, who then kidnaps the Commissioner and takes him to Yurnova. So they take a rocket and track him there, where they find a collection of strange creatures in jars, including the Commissioner. Then they have to escape a different green alien. They likely will, but can they leave the planet? 5.25
16. Le Pig-Al Patrol: The Inspector has to catch a shaggy biker, Pig Al. After many setbacks, he follows the biker to his mountain hideout with his gang. Pig Al’s friends chase him away, but the Inspector eventually succeeds. Wow… this was so uninspired. Yawn. 4.5
17. Le Bowser Bagger: The Inspector trains with a police dog. This one’s filled with the usual gags: a cat distracts the dog, the pooch drags the Inspector through bad obstacles, …etc. Eventually they catch a criminal and private Bowser gets the medal, not him. Ha ha. 5.25
Though I was pleasantly surprised by ‘The Inspector’ the last time around, I found the experience far more grueling this time; though I’d watched all 17 shorts of Volume 2 in one day, for Volume 1, I broke it up into three viewings. I couldn’t muster up more courage than that.
Perhaps it was in contrast to the insufferability of the last few Pink Panther films that I enjoyed ‘The Inspector’ more back then. Perhaps my expectations were higher this time. Either way, I was unable to enjoy them; not only were they corny, but I found boring and repetitive.
Frankly, the tongue-in-cheek titles are probably the best part of the show, followed by the rudimentary, but pleasing artwork; it has a artisanal quality to it that one rarely sees. But the gags are pretty lame and the laugh track is grating; watching the show can be a chore.
Either way, I’m glad that I finally tied that loose end. But I doubt I’ll revisit the show again soon.
I’d much rather watch Peter Sellers’ Inspector.
Dates of viewings: September 5-9, 2017