Moore Not Less - Curse of the Pink Panther & Bullseye!

Curse of the Pink Panther was another of Blake Edwards' pointless attempts to keep the Pink Panther series going despite the death of Peter Sellers. In Trail of the Pink Panther, Edwards had utilised unsued footage of the late star but this time Edwards essentially replaces Clouseau with an inept American detective named Clifton Sleigh and played by Ted Wass. Edwards had wanted to cast Dudley Moore or Rowan Atkinson as the new inept detective but Dudley Moore declined the part and the studio would not approve Atkinson because he was only famous in Britain. Wass later became best known as Mayim Bialik's dad on the teen sitcom Blossom.

A number of regulars from the series return for a payday despite the sad absence of Sellers. Herbert Lom as the long suffering Dreyfuss, Burt Kwouk as Clouseau's karate choppping manservent Kato, Robert Loggia as Mafia goon Langois. Roger was a friend and neighbour to Blake Edwards in Switzerland and agreed to appear in the film for a cameo although - as he points out in his book - it was rather embarrassing when Sellers' widows personally expressed their dissatisfaction to him at Edwards trying to continue the series after the death of their former husband. They thought it was in rather bad taste.

Roger was hired at a generous $100,000 a day near the end of the Octopussy shoot but, to his and his bank manager's chagrin, they shot his contribution to Curse of the Pink Panther in one afternoon. The film was not a success and the option on Wass to make more Pink Panther films was not taken up. Edwards made one more ill-fated attempt to continue the series with Roberto Benigni in 1993's Son of the Pink Panther. It was the last film Edwards made.

The premise of the film has Clouseau missing presumed dead and a detective is hired to search for him. Commissioner Charles Dreyfus (Lom) decides to sabotage the selection of the detective and hires the incompetent Sgt. Clifton Sleigh (Wass) of the New York Police. The clumsy Sleigh starts work on the case, encountering many of Clouseau's associates and foes, and predictably driving Dreyfus barmy - just as Clouseau used to do.

Curse of the Pink Panther never manages to get around the fact that Peter Sellers isn't here anymore and so consequently - and inevitably - always feels rather pointless. It's like making a Rocky film and not having Sly Stallone and Rocky Balboa in it. Wass is put through Sellers' sight gag paces but Wass is not Peter Sellers. There is an unavoidable aura of sadness hanging over the whole experience. With no Peter Sellers you really don't want to sit through one of these films anymore.

There are a few modest laughs when Lom keeps ending up falling out of his window into a pond but the film drags in the end and the endless cameos can't mask the absence of the real star of this franchise. David Niven appears as Sir Charles Litton but was sadly ailing by this stage and looks frail. His voice was dubbed. Burt Kwouk does his thing as Kato. Roger, bizarrely, is cast as a post-plastic surgery Clouseau near the end and is required to speak in a comedy French accent and go through a series of prattfalls and goofs.

Rog, to his credit, does it as well as could be expected and seems (as usual) to enjoy having the chance to be silly and clown around but it does feel all feel rather like the producers simply wanted to add another star name on the poster more than anything. Curse of the Pink Panther is further evidence that the series should have been left alone, or at least rested for a respectable period in the wake of Sellers' death, but if anyone manages to get out of the film with any credit it's probably Roger and his cameo.

Bullseye! saw Roger Moore and Michael Caine work together onscreen for the first time. Great friends in real life, it must have seemed like a good idea. The director of the film, Michael Winner, was also a friend and by all accounts a good time was had by all. All that is except for the audience.

Bullseye! was roasted by the critics and, rather like the other ill-fated early 90s British comedy Carry On Columbus, it has been so forgotten you'd be hard pressed now to find much evidence that it ever existed in the first place. I personally can't recall ever stumbling across Bullseye! on television.

The supporting cast for this old-fashioned comedy included Roger's daughter Deborah and a number of cameo guest stars - the likes of John Cleese and Patsy Kensit. Michael Winner's up and down (but mostly down) career as a film director was almost at rock bottom by now. He made a couple more films and in his last years reinvented himself as a waspish restaurant critic and comedy television personality.

The plot of Bullseye! concerns two dodgy scientists - Dr Daniel Hicklar (Michael Caine) and Sir John Bavistock (Roger) - who have invented a new form of nuclear fusion. These crooks plan to sell the technology to the highest bidder despite being funded by governments. It transpires though that they have couple of doppelgangers in the form of con artists Sidney Lipton (also played by Michael Caine) and Gerald Bradley-Scott (also played by Roger).

Sidney and Gerald team up with Willie (Sally Kirkland) to take advantage of their likeness to the scientists and soon have designs on the diamonds that Hicklar and Bavistock got as down payment from prospective bidders for the fusion formula. Are you keeping up with this? Capers ensue and before too long Sid and Gerald also find themselves dealing with the CIA and MI5 - both on the case because the American and British governments funded the fusion project in the first place.

You can tell that the cast of Bullseye! are having fun. The performances are tongue-in-cheek and everyone looks as if they are about to start laughing at any point. Unfortunately this feel good factor never transfers over to the viewer in this hopelessly dated and groan inducing comedy. At no point does Bullseye! ever really resemble a feature film either so it does tend to play like an extended episode for some lame television comedy. I believe the original plan was to have an Orient Express section in Venice but aside from a gag coda they don't go any further than Scotland.

The film begins as it means to go on. Michael Caine, with a truly terrible American accent, is not especially convincing as a scientist and neither is Roger as his accomplice. They are both playing the film for laughs but with so few laughs on offer you can't help but go into pedantic mode during the lulls. The opening narration by Caine as the cockney Sid sounds for the all the world like someone doing a bad Michael Caine impersonation! It's straight out of Stella Street. Sid is released from prison and goes to his old house. "I come from a broken home," he says as his house is demolished by bulldozers. These are the sort of jokes you get.

If you are wondering how Michael Caine and Roger Moore can have doubles who happen to look just like them, well, they do give Caine's Sid a prosthetic nose to separate them a little. It's not much but there you go. What is sort of remarkable is the way that even Michael Winner seems to lose track of Caine and Roger playing doppelgangers and who is who as the story unspurls in increasingly out of control fashion.

One can appreciate that they wanted to give the film a good sense of pace and stop it from becoming boring but with such an old hat premise and insufficient wit in the screenplay (which is credited to about nine hundred people in the end) the battle has already been lost. Roger looks permanently amused in the film and genuinely seems to enjoying the chance to clown around. His best scene is probably when he poses as a batty old piano tuner but this type of clowning is far too obviously trying to mimic the sort of thing Peter Sellers would do as Inspector Clouseau.

The supporting cast are rather non-descript despite a few famous cameos. Roger's daughter Deborah (billed as Deborah Barrymore here) is not the world's greatest thespian on this evidence but she's attractive and might have made a good Moneypenny. Bullseye!, with its flat direction and sometimes frantic mugging, grows tiresome very quickly despite the presence of the two beloved stars. It's a shame that their only film together didn't involve a better screenplay and a different director. Harry Palmer and James Bond deserved a lot more.

- Jake


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