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Spotlight on: The Pink Panther by Max Allan Collins

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The Pink Panther by Max Allan Collins Max Allan Collins, The Pink Panther

I have to admit I had very low expectations when I picked up Max Allan Collins' novelization of Steve Martin's prequel to Peter Sellers' classic film The Pink Panther. In fact, the only reason I gave it a chance at all is because of Collins' name on the cover. Since I read Two for the Money last year, Collins has quickly topped my list of favorite authors. I will read anything he writes, and if anyone could make something out of what is sure to be a travesty (this poor attempt to reignite a dead franchise), it would be Max Allan Collins.

The Pink Panther is a very quick read. At 250 pages, it flies by; Collins' prose is smooth and easy to read, flowing quickly through the all-too-familiar plot to a surprisingly appropriate finishing one-liner. It's fun, provided you don't think about it too much.

The problem seems to be that Collins didn't have all that much to work with. The body of The Pink Panther's storyline (script by Len Blum and Steve Martin from a story by Blum and Michael Saltzman) is weak and relies on pratfalls, bad-accent humor, and completely unsubtle sexual innuendo for its laughs. Physical comedy is hard enough to perform properly, and Collins is stuck with the thankless task of trying to describe it.

It is therefore not surprising that little humor remains. While Collins may be a superb comic writer, he is not a comedy writer; mysteries are his forte. Sadly, the "mystery" as such is of little consequence in The Pink Panther; the purpose is solely to witness Inspector Jacques Clouseau's bumblings toward eventual -- if probably undeserved -- success.

After reading The Pink Panther, I am not likely to see the film -- not that I had planned to in the first place. It just seems like so much of a waste of time -- even though, given how long the film's release was delayed, there is probably a good deal that is different in the finished film from the script that Collins used as his source. But it's rarely a good sign when poor audience testing requires reshooting scenes or reediting the film.

No, if anything, I'll just get out my well-worn copy of A Shot in the Dark and try to recapture some of the magic of the legendary Blake Edwards / Peter Sellers team, while Max Allan Collins' novelization of The Pink Panther is relegated to its rightful place in my Collins collection but unlikely to be opened again.

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