The More Cat In the Brains, The Merrier!

Admit it, whenever you first heard the title of Lucio Fulci's Cat In the Brain, you never would've expected this film to actually deliver you the image of a cat in a brain. Whatever criticism you may have of this film, you gotta admit, Fulci delivered. Today's film is a high concept but low shelf entry in the Fulci catalog. It's fun, got of lot of cheesy gore, plus you could say Wes Craven ganked the basic idea for his New Nightmare film years later. And it's been issued a number of times on DVD around the world. But that was capped pretty thoroughly when Grindhouse released a fairly definitive 2-disc set in 2009. But I still hang onto my old, banned Astro-Film DVD, which goes under the title Nightmare Concert. And we're going to find out why as we look back at Cat In the Brain...

Update 3/28/15 - 7/20/16 - 5/29/18: More cats in more brains!  First the Grindhouse blu-ray upgrade, and now 88 Films has just released a brand new edition of this crazy Fulci oddity over in the UK.
So one of the appeals of this film is that Fulci himself stars in it. He's often given himself little cameo roles in his film, as a cop or a coroner with a line or two of dialogue. But here he stars, as essentially himself: a horror movie director played by gruesome nightmares inspired by the scenes of his own films. And what's worse - the murders he's dreaming may actually be happening around him? Is he going insane? Or is some mysterious murderer out there somewhere, copying his films? Find out as Fulci reuses a whole bunch of old movies and stitches them together into one, semi-coherent narrative. That's right, instead of filming new murder scenes for his movie like most people do, he just uses clips of other movies' murders and cuts them into the movie. How cheap! Fortunately, Fulci is charming, and he does put in some genuine effort to match his newly shot footage of himself with the scenes from the old films. So while you'd never rank this anywhere near his best films, it does make for a bemusing watch.
From the opening credits of Bloody Psycho
Specifically, the films cut into Cat In the Brain include two directed by Fulci himself: The Ghosts of Sodom and Touch of Death, and an Andrea Bianchi film he produced called Massacre. But the other four are films he was less officially responsible for: The Broken Mirror, Hansel & Gretel a.k.a. Never Hurt Children - the only film directed by one of Cat's co-writers, Giovanni Simonelli, Escape From Death and Bloody Psycho, both of which were also written by Simonelli.  All four of those latter films were released under the heading "Lucio Fulci Presents," and in two of them, he's listed in the credits as "Supervised by."  So it's hard to say exactly how much of those films he was or wasn't responsible for behind the scenes, but I guess enough that he felt comfortable re-purposing them here.

Oh, and did I say the Astro-Film disc was "banned?" Yes, a bunch of the films they released were banned in their home country of Germany, and the head of the company was even arrested and imprisoned. That's pretty terrible, since they were just releasing old 80s horror movies - bloodier than some, but not exactly shocking snuff films or anything.
1) 2001 German Astro-Film DVD 2) 2009 US Grindhouse DVD
3) 2016 US Grindhouse blu 4) 2018 UK 88 Films blu
Okay, first the DVDs. Both discs claim to present the film in the correct aspect ratio of 1.66:1, but the Astro-disc is really closer to 1.47:1, so you can see the framing is noticeably different in the second set of shots. Almost as importantly, if not more so, the Grindhouse disc is anamorphic and pillarboxed, while Astro's disc is a smaller, non-anamorphic image floating in a windowbox. The image quality shifts around a bit as the film jumps between film clips spliced from other movies; but the Grindhouse's HD restoration is always substantially superior to the Astro disc. I mean, those comparisons speak for themselves. The colors, the lighting, everything. Even the flecks and scratches (like the white mark on the guy's cheek in the top shot) have been cleaned up on Grindhouse's disc.
Grindhouse DVD vs. Grindhouse blu
But now, seven years later, Grindhouse has upgraded their DVD to a new HD blu. It's sharper. Though the grain looks a little blocky and uneven.  And considering this isn't one of Grindhouse's new 4k or even 2k scans, yeah, I see what people have been kvetching about. Still, this is a blu-ray, and doesn't have the muddying compression of SD. So it is a definite upgrade over the DVD (it also squeezes in a pinch more vertical information), just not as big of one as we might've hoped for from Grindhouse. But given that this film is a hodgepodge of old, lesser quality filmstock, I can also understand why they might not've seen much value in paying for a high-end scan. Even with a new 4k pass, I doubt we'd be seeing much new detail or anything. It's not like there's a button you could push to make this film look like Lawrence Of Arabia that they're neglecting to push.

And 88's blu?  Clearly they're using the same master, but that doesn't mean the transfers are strictly identical.  They're both presented in 1.65:1 and the quality of detail and all is the same, but even without clicking through to see the screenshots full-sized, the difference in color-timing should be clear.  Grindhouse leans more greenish/ yellow, whereas 88 goes to the more blue/ red end of the scale.  Actually, 88's color-timing is similar to Grindhouse's DVD rather than their blu.  And I think I might slightly prefer it.  A slim distinction to be sure, but Grindhouse's blu looks a little overly orange to me compared to 88's new edition.

At least the blus mean we've gotten an audio upgrade from Dolby 2.0, which both the Astro and Grindhouse DVD had, to the original mono in DTS-HD (Grindhouse) or LPCM (88) tracks. And both blus and the Grindhouse DVD give you the option of English or Italian audio (Astro only has English and a German dub), with English subs.
Now when Grindhouse came out with their DVD, they only stepped it up with the transfer, but they brought us a whole second disc worth of extras, mostly in the form of some very in-depth interviews. There are two 40+ minute interviews with Fulci (which are really one long interview split into two parts) and a 46 minute one with Brett Halsey, who wound up in this film only by way of his starring in Touch of Death. There are also three very brief interviews with Jeofrey Kennedy, Sacha Maria Darwin and Malisa Longo, all of which are taken from the Paura: Lucio Fulci Remembered Volume 1 DVD. Besides those and a collection of trailers (including Cat In the Brain's), there are a couple easter eggs with additional footage of Fulci at conventions and clips of Halsey commenting on some of his other films. It also comes with a substantial booklet and a very cool lenticular 3D cover.

But Astro-Film has a 35 minute unique extra of its own, which is why I hang onto it. Basically, it's a menu screen with links to a clips from the films that were cut into Cat, showing you a reminder of how it was seen in this movie and then showing you how the scenes played in their original context immediately after. Unfortunately, they only use the German audio, bu this is still a very cool feature, and I'm surprised Grindhouse didn't attempt something like this on their disc. Because the clips inserted into Cat weren't just dropped in as whole chunks that play exactly like they did in the old films. Fulci edits himself into these scenes (well, some more than others), so they're new and different. And even if Grindhouse couldn't actually show you the long portions of the other films like this disc does (understandable... something tells me Astro pulled it off only because they were operating outside copyright law), they could've at least done something to talk about which clips were edited into Cat and what those films were about. That just seems like a very essential issue for understanding and appreciating Cat In the Brain that really ought to be in a special edition.  And to be fair, Grindhouse does this in text in their booklet.  But obviously that's nowhere near the same as actually seeing all the footage.

Oh, and the Astro-Film disc has the trailer, too.
But while Grindhouse's new blu-ray may've been underwhelming in the transfer department, they did step things even further up in the special features department. First of all, everything from their DVD is back, including the Easter eggs, Paura clips, everything. It has an equivalent booklet (which does a nice job covering each of the film's Fulci inserted into Cat), but instead of a lenticular cover, in comes in a glow in the dark slipbox [right], and also includes the soundtrack CD and a bonus portrait of Lucio. But besides the superfluous, they've also added some substantial new content to the second disc of extras. Because this is such an unusually constructed film, the interview I was most looking forward to was with co-writer, Antonio Tentori, and he does not disappoint. He talks for 27 minutes, answer many of our long-held Cat In the Brain questions. Then there are all new interviews with cinematographer Sandro Grossi, Fabio Frizzi, They also uncovered another vintage Fulci interview, this time a 1987 radio one with Tentori. And there's a clip of Frizzi performing Cat's main theme live in Hollywood in 2015. And finally, there's the familiar round of Grindhouse bonus trailers. Interestingly, they again included Pigs, even though that wound up coming out from Vinegar Syndrome.

And what does 88 bring to the table?  Well, this is interesting, actually.  They don't have all of Grindhouse's stuff, but they do have an all-new, original 45-minute documentary.  It's primarily critic-driven instead of participant-driven, but you can hardly fault them there, considering some of the key players are no longer with us.  Like, getting Simonelli to talk about the merger of his own work into this new script he wrote would've been great, but sadly, he passed on in 2007.  And 88 does get the most important person they could've: Tentori.  Then the critics/ scholars on hand are Calum Waddell of course, Mikel J. Koven, the disgraced Allan Bryce and the ever endearing Kim Newman.
But what's also interesting about this doc is that it's not just about Cat, but Fulci's later-period films in general.  This means we get to hear some pretty interesting stuff, not covered in other pre-existing special editions.  We get serious discussion of films like Door To Silence and Sodoma's Ghost.  Unfortunately, no, they don't take the time to cover all the "Lucio Fulci Presents" films, which would've been perfect here since they're all featured in Cat In the Brain.  But it means we get to hear Tentori talk about his work on Demonia (for instance, he points out some interesting Lovecraft influences I'd never noticed), which again, is only covered here, since there are no Demonia discs with Tentori interviews on them.  There's some good Aenigma talk, too, which is a little odd that 88 didn't use that for their Aenigma disc; but we've got it now, so it's all good.  And yes, there's plenty of Cat In the Brain coverage, too.  This isn't one of those features like the Caroline Munro interview on 88's The Last Horror Film, where The Last Horror Film isn't even mentioned and they just slapped it on there because they happened to have it.  You'll learn plenty about Cat In the Brain here.  My only wish is it could've been longer to include Fulci's TV movies (I kept waiting for House of Clocks) and his "Presents" titles; and you know you've got something good when you're when your only complaint is that you want more.

Besides that, 88's release (#39 in their Italian Collection line, by the way) features the same video of Frizzi performing the Cat theme that was on the Grindhouse blu, plus the theatrical trailer.  It features reversible artwork, a booklet with notes by Calum Waddell, which quotes the doc and takes some serious jabs at giving a more intellectual understanding of the thinking behind this film.  Plus, the first 300 copies pressed come in a limited edition slipcover.
I think the difference in color timing is just going to come down to a judgement call of personal taste, so essentially either blu will present you with a definitive viewing of the film.  So it really comes down to the special features.  For me, Grindhouse's blu-ray extras made it more than worth double-dipping on the Grindhouse DVD for.  And 88's combines with Grindhouse's to make an even more satisfying, full special edition (since 88's doc covers so many of Fulci's other films, there's not a lot of repetition between each label's extras) if you're a big enough fan.  If you're just more casually interested in the film, either blu will probably do just as well, so you can just get whichever is more convenient in your region.  But I have to say, it's pretty damn having the ultimate Astro-Grindhouse-88 mega edition of this crazy flick.  😸

Peter Sellers' Many Pink Panthers, Part 2 (DVD/ Blu-ray Comparison)

...Continuing from Part 1, we come to the the sequels, all of which are making their HD debuts in Shout's set.  The first of these, is 1964's A Shot In the Dark.  I already told the story of how A Shot was never originally intended to be a Pink Panther film; but never the less, this is where it really all clicks into place.  Clouseau is now the protagonist and he speaks in more than just the generic French accent of the original, but the unique, eccentric manner he's famous for.  And while he did briefly wear a similar rain coat and hat in the first film; he spent the majority of his time lounging around in sweaters; where here he's truly become the signature Clouseau character.  This is also the film where we meet series regulars Inspector Dreyfus, Cato and Andre Maranne's Sgt. Francis.  Really, the only missing element is the panther diamond and its name in the title.
Many call this the best of the Panthers, and it's hard to argue against that.  Lots of great gags, contrasted against an elegant and classical mystery.  There's a touch of restraint.  George Sanders lends the film some dramatic credibility to play the humor against, Graham Stark proves a fun, contrarian assistant and Elke Sommers... well, at least they didn't have to dub over her entire performance.  Fun fact, by the way, this one was co-written by The Exorcist's William Peter Blatty.

So, of course I've got the same 2004 DVD set and 2017 Shout Factory sets as in Part 1.  And once again, I've got a single disc release.  But instead of the more modern 2006 disc, this time I've got the original 1999 DVD.  That should be fun for these comparisons, because it has distinctly different transfers.  That's "transfers," plural, because it's a flipper disc with an anamorphic (unlike the original film's  widescreen version, plus a fullscreen on the flip.  So four clearly distinct transfers comin' up!
1) 1999 US MGM DVD widescreen side 2) 1999 US MGM DVD fullscreen side
3) 2004 US MGM Collection DVD 4) 2017 US Shout blu
So first of all, wow, look at that fullscreen transfer.  No open matte there; they've actually chopped off more picture than they left in.  And interesting that the fullscreen (1.33:1) and widescreen (2.34:1) editions on the same disc also have unique color timings.  I guess they actually used two separate masters?  Curious.  You'll also notice that this 1999 widescreen disc pans surprisingly far to the left than the other widescreen editions.  Anyway, the 2004 disc already got another new master.  It's not just another adjustment to the colors, going considerably more red, the framing's been slightly adjusted, with a new AR of 2.29:1, and they've done some clean up (note the disappearing green spot in the second set of shots).  But now comes along the HD transfer, with slightly paler colors again.  Detail is definitely the strongest yet, though still a bit on the soft side (for HD; it obviously trumps the DVDs with no difficulty).  Apparently this is a 4k scan of the interpositive, and it has a very naturally filmic feel.  They've also reframed to a more accurate 2.35:1, which includes little extra slivers on the sides.

The 1999 DVD just gives us the original mono audio and an equally mono French dub, with optional English and French subtitles.  The 2004 DVD adds a 5.1 mix, a Spanish dub and Spanish subs to that.  And Shout, as you'll see they consistently do, strips away all the foreign language options, but now gives us three English tracks, throwing in an additional stereo mix to their mono and 5.1 (all in DTS-HD) and English subs.
Special feature-wise, this film's always been barebones 'till now.  The 1999 disc had the trailer and an 8-page insert, and the 2004 boxed set only added a photo gallery.  Interestingly, Shout's packaging doesn't suggest it has anything else either, only listing the trailer and a still gallery, because they've actually come up with a bunch of great new stuff.  First off, there's an audio commentary by Jason Simos of the Peter Sellers Appreciation Society.  We're going to get commentaries from them on all the sequels in this box, and Simos is quite good, with lots of information and a pleasing, conversation style.  Then there's a cool 23-minute on-camera interview with producer Walter Mirsch.  This is all new stuff Shout made for this set, and they don't list it on the back of the case, just the trailer and gallery... bizarre.  Anyway, then there's a cool vintage clip of Blake Edwards and (his wife) Julie Andrews on The Dick Cavett Show.  It's not an amazing interview, but they show deleted scenes from the film, which are the real treat.  Then there's a series of five trailers, which are worth watching for some unique animation, and three galleries.  Great stuff!
The Return Of the Pink Panther is an interesting one.  For one, like it's title says, the pink panther diamond is back.  And this time it's being pursued by Christopher Plummer, and Clouseau must travel to Moracco to solve the crime.  It almost feels like Plummer and Sellers are in two different movies, one a fisticuffs-filled thriller, and one a screwball comedy.  Sure, Plummer gets caught up in the comedy; but he laso has some long action sequences played quite straight, with Edwards' deft direction somehow bridging the gap.  1978's Return comes almost ten years after Sellers' last Panther film, so times have changed, but the team proves they can make Clouseau's antics work just as well as ever.  Anybody who says A Shot isn't their favorite entry usually picks Return instead, because everything in this one works so well, especially since nobody could be sure Edwards and Sellers could bring back the magic all these years later.  But they surely proved themselves here.
Interestingly, this one, one of the better known and beloved entries in the film series, isn't in the 2004 boxed set.  That's because this film seems to have wound up in Universal's hands, rather than MGM's.  I do have a 2006 single disc release of it, though, from their Focus Films line.  And thankfully, Shout was able to license it for their blu-ray set, giving the film its HD debut in America (Universal had already put it out on blu in the UK in 2016).  So let's have a look at those.
1) 2006 US Universal DVD 2) 2017 US Shout blu
Looks like they're still using the same master.  Framed at 2.35:1, Universal's copy looks quite good - especially for its time in 2006 - so I guess they didn't feel the need to spend on a return to the film elements.  There's a little bit of flicker and speckles of debris, but grain is surprisingly authentic for such an old master, giving it an overall very pleasing, film-like feel.  The two discs look like concurrent releases, with the step up from SD to HD being the only obvious distinction - you'd never guess one disc was eleven years older than the other.  But that's more a compliment to the DVD than a criticism of the blu.  When I read that Shout wasn't giving this a new scan, I was prepared to be let down, but I'm actually pleasantly surprised.  Contrast/ black levels could be a smidgen deeper maybe, and the colors aren't exactly overflowing, but overall this is really nice.

Universal gives us the original mono track, plus optional English, Spanish and French subtitles.  Shout gives us the mono but upgraded to lossless DTS-HD, plus optional English subs.
Universal has nothing to offer but some random bonus trailers, however once again, Shout has cooked up some terrific new stuff and completely undersells it on the packaging.  The case lists the trailer, TV spots and a still gallery.  This is of course all there, but we also get a brand new interview with Catherine Schell, who plays Plummer's scheming wife, a nearly half-hour interview with the production designer Peter Mullins, another fact-filled audio commentary by Jason Simos, and a vintage 'making of' featurette.  Plus, there's actually three trailers, three galleries and several radio spots.  Why keep them secret?  So strange.  Even if you just want to list some of your special features, to not overcrowd the back cover, what's the logic in giving that space to minor things like stills galleries and TV spots instead of the brand new interviews, audio commentaries and all the great stuff that would really compel people to buy this set?
The Pink Panther Strikes Again brings us to 1978, and where the polish starts to rub off this series.  I know there's a contingency that likes this film best, though, and I can see why.  This is the one that really gets silly.  Instead of trying to solve a manor-house murder or catch a jewel thief, Clouseau is now on the hunt for his own police inspector Dreyfus who's becomes a literal cloak-wearing super villain hiding in a secret castle with a giant ray-cannon that can evaporate entire cities.  This is just a big tonal change, which I assume is designed to appeal more to kids, who after all, are being drawn to the films by the never-ending cartoon series.  I can remember being a small child myself when I first saw a Panther film (not sure which one) and being super bummed once the animated credits ended and that was it for the cartoons; the rest of the movie followed a live action policeman.  So that may've had something to do with it; plus they're probably swinging the pendulum too far after having drifted afield in the other direction last time, doing all those non-comic Morocco drama scenes with Christopher Plummer.  This is some serious over-compensation, though.
Clouseau's disguises go from a silly mustache as an excuse to throw him into some out-of-career comedy bits into complicated special effects make-up showcases (a la Dana Carvey's infamous Master of Disguise).  They've bridged the gap between the movies and the cartoons, entirely to the movies' detriment.  And jokes are being repeated practically verbatim by this point.  For example, the scene of Clouseau swinging through the villain's lair and flying right out the window unnoticed is a perfect duplicate of him doing the same thing in the apartment building in A Shot In the Dark.  But still, this movie isn't all bad.  Let's face it, the plot has always mostly just been an excuse to string comic Peter Sellers scenes together, almost as much of a sketch show as a narrative feature; and there are still some high quality, original bits here, including some great English drawing room mystery scenes early in the film.  By now, the Cato attacks are really starting to feel like they're just being stuck in as tradition, and the amusing novelty's worn off even as they grow longer and longer; but they do come up with some clever ways to keep this one fresh.  Omar Shariff turns up for a super cool supporting role, and Henry Mancini teams up with Tom Jones for a great, Academy Award-nominated song.  And it is nice that Herbert Lom finally got to play a bigger role.  But the list of the really great Pink Panther movies had already concluded, and this one didn't make the cut-off.
It's not even the first film he's worn this suit of armor
Besides the 2004 DVD set and the 2017 blu-ray set, I've got the 2006 MGM single disc release.  At this point, it kind of goes without saying that these 2004 MGM DVDs and the 2006's are basically the same.  But I've got 'em, so I'll keep sticking them in to be thorough.
1) 2004 US MGM Collection DVD 2) 2006 US MGM DVD 3) 2017 US Shout blu
So the DVDs are virtually identical, anamorphic 2.31:1 transfers.  They look pretty good for DVD, but the blu-ray is still a very nice step up.  Another fresh 4k scan of the interpositive, this looks unsurprisingly like Shout's presentation of A Shot In the Dark.  Fixed to 2.35:1 and including a little more picture information, particularly on the left, Strikes Back receives a nice HD boost, though still feeling a bit soft in terms of fine detail and film grain.  And again, there's a bit of flickering and dirt, though those mostly just wind up serving as gentle reminders of the movie's filmic origins.  I actually like the colors and contrast even better on this one than Shot.

So the DVDs gave us the option of a 5.1 mix or the original mono, plus Spanish and French dubs, and English, French and Spanish subtitles.  Shout has once again dropped the foreign options, but in addition to bumping the English tracks to DTS-HD (and yes, it has English subs, too); they've added another stereo mix option.  However, Update 6/2/18 - see the comments: in this case, you'll probably want to play the 5.1 mix, even if you're usually a mono purist.  Why?  Because the mono and stereo mixes on the Shout disc are incorrectly pitched down.  In other words, everything sounds deeper, as if it were playing in slightly slow motion.  The disc defaults to the 5.1, so people who don't play with their audio settings probably won't even encounter it, but toggling between the audio tracks during, play, it's disappointingly noticeable.
You're probably picking up on the pattern by now, but just in case: the DVDs are barebones except for the trailer and a gallery.  And Shout's packaging suggests the same, but once again, it's got great, uncredited stuff.  There's another Jason Simos commentary, plus two substantial on-camera interviews, with Upstairs Downstairs' Lesley-Anne Down and editor Alan Jones.  Plus, there's another vintage featurette, four trailers, four TV spots, four radio ads and four galleries.  But, uh, keep that under your hat, I guess?

What's the next one?  Revenge Of the Pink Panther, the least memorable one, that's for sure.  It's the last legit Peter Sellers Pink Panther, really.  What stands out about this one?  Well, this is the one where Robert Loggia does The Godfather schtick, and where they wind up going to Tokyo.  Tokyo at least works to lend the film another exotic locale, giving Edwards something interesting to shoot and Burt Kwouk more to do.  But, man oh man, the bigger productions Sellers' costumes become, the less funny they are, like they're just trying to throw money at script problems.  Graham Stark really hams it up in a bad way here, especially compared to his much more enjoyable roles in previous films.  Edwards and his cast are still able to bring a certain charm to the proceedings, and big Clouseau fans will still say this movie's okay; but it's really just starting to feel like we're panning for tiny laughs in a long, dry movie at this point.

So I've got the 2004 set, the 2006 single disc, and the 2017 set.  Let's go.
1) 2004 US MGM Collection DVD 2) 2006 US MGM DVD 3) 2017 US Shout blu
Shout's blu-ray is not a fresh scan this time, but it's still a distinct improvement on the DVDs.  The 2.30:1 framing has been corrected to 2.35:1, revealing a tiny bit more on each side.  The colors are gently improved, and the HD really brings out the detail.  The jump to HD all the more satisfying because the DVDs seem a little over and unpleasantly compressed.  Nothing scandalous, but even compared to their sister Panther DVDs, they could've looked better.  And that's cheerfully cleared up on the blu-ray.  There are moments where it seems like they might've tried to sharpen or boost the image a little bit, grain looks like it's been tampered with in places - possibly because this is an older HD master, maybe just intended for DVD - but nothing egregious.  I mean, look at this.  It may not be perfect, but it's a very satisfying upgrade:
2006 US MGM DVD left, 2017 US Shout blu right.
As far as the audio, at this point, you guys can probably sing it with me.  The DVDs have a 5.1 mix and the original mono, plus Spanish and French mono dubs and English, French and Spanish subtitles.  The blu has the DTS-HD English tracks in mono, stereo and 5.1, plus English subs.

Special features-wise, the DVDs are still barebones apart from a trailer and gallery and Shout is once again unlisting their best extras.  But there is less stuff this time around.  The audio commentary is now by Patrick Maynard of the Peter Sellers Appreciation Society, as opposed to Jason Simos.  And I'll say that when he's talking, Maynard is fine and every bit as good as Simos.  Unfortunately, those moments are rare, and the vast majority of the commentary is silent dead air.  It's really hard to listen to, because the stretches of silence go on longer than the actual bits of commentary.  When he has information to share, it's welcome; but he seems to have a real misunderstanding of how audio commentaries work or something, because it's mostly just death.  Making this one of the worst audio commentaries I've ever heard, second only to Umberto Lenzi's Nightmare City and maybe the one David Cronenberg did for that Japanese edition of Naked Lunch that subsequent companies scrapped and replaced.  And apart from that, there's just trailers, TV spots, radio spots and galleries.
Look familiar?
Finally, we arrive at Trail Of the Pink Panther, which I can't believe was even released as an actual movie.  It feels like a TV special.  Peter Sellers had died at this point, but they still wanted to make more Panther movies.  So the first third of this film is consists of outtakes from the previous movies intercut with new scenes and a stand-in doubling as Sellers' Clouseau.  Then the second third is a clip reel of "greatest hits" comedy moments from the older films.  Those clips, by the way, are edited in such a way that they're less funny here than they were in their original contexts.  And then the final third has Absolutely Fabulous's Joanna Lumley play a news reporter who goes around interviewing cast members from the previous films (as their characters) about their memories of Sellers.  And then it all just finishes, open-ended and baffling.
If you saw this in theaters or bought this as a single release DVD, you got conned.  I still can barely believe Blake Edwards wrote and directed this sham.  But as the last disc is a boxed set, it does work as an amusing, elaborate special feature.  We see unreleased deleted scenes from the previous films, and it's sweetly nostalgic when Lumley chats up past co-stars, from Robert Loggia to David Nivens and Capucine.  And this is a genuinely funny, all new comedy scene where Lumley interviews Clouseau's never-before-seen father, expertly played by Richard Mulligan.  It also weirdly ends on a cliff-hanger, which is picked up again in Curse Of the Pink Panther, the one starring Ted Wass.  It's a curiosity.  And it's neat that MGM and Shout included it in their sets.  But it's also an exasperating sham.  Oh boy.
1) 2004 US MGM Collection DVD 2) 2017 US Shout blu
This one's not a fresh scan by Shout either, but that's fine.  It feels like they went the extra mile bumping this non-movie up to HD in the first place.  Comparing the earlier shot of Niven, Cardinale and Sellers to the same shot in Part 1, it's immediately evident how much better that footage looked in disc 1.  This one's flatter, duller and cropped a bit more... though all of that may be how the recycled footage looked theatrically, too.  Because the footage above really does look crisp and detailed, a very strong boost from the DVD version.  Again, it corrects a 2.30:1 AR to 2.35:1, pulling in a little more picture.  Contrast is a little up and down, and there's more dirt and flecks on this one than most, but it's still a perfectly fine HD transfer.  I've seen people out this one down a little further, but I think that may partially just be because the film doesn't look as nice.  You know, I wouldn't give it an "A," but there's really nothing wrong with it, and it's a solid HD boost that substantially upgrades the DVD.

And in terms of audio and special features, it's exactly the same story as the last disc.  DVD has 5.1 and the original mono, plus Spanish and French dubs and English, French and Spanish subtitles.  Blu has DTS-HD English tracks in mono, stereo and 5.1, plus English subs.  The DVD has just the trailer and a gallery, while the blu has another blanket of dead air... er, I mean Patrick Maynard commentary, plus two trailers and three galleries.
The Academy Award winning Pink Phink
That's about it for the Shout set, but I can't leave without pointing out that the 2004 DVD set also includes the six most famous Pink Panther animated shorts.  They're exclusive to the MGM set, but A Shot In the Dark is exclusive to the Shout set, which is infinitely more critical.  It's a bit of a bummer that Shout stopped at just the Peter Sellers films, especially when Trail ends on a cliff hanger, and the resolution isn't in the same box.  Sellers are the best films, though, and probably the only ones you really need unless you're a major fan (and I'm not sure, then, if you really even need those last couple Sellers ones), so it's not too painful a loss.  And it has to be pointed out, that all the other Panther films are available on blu.  Kino has put out Inspector Clouseau, Curse Of the Pink Panther and Son Of the Pink Panther, as well as volume 1 of the animated films, with volume 2 already being released this summer, and possibly more after that.  And those Steve Martin remakes have always been available from Sony; you can probably get them used for next to nothing now.
So yeah, I do remember back a couple years ago when MGM announced a huge blu-ray boxed set that was supposed to include special editions of absolutely everything, and yes, what actually came out falls short of that.  But what's important is that now they're all available in HD; and this particular set contains all the best ones, very affordably priced in one neat little package.  It's one multi-disc amary case in an attractive slip box with a 28-page booklet, plus an insert listing all the Shout Select releases. No Clouseau fan should be without it.