Very often, while doing something completely unrelated, I will suddenly have the germ of an idea for a short story, a film script or even a novel…..or just a passing thought about something I have recently seen or read. Sometimes the idea or the passing thought is a good one, sometimes a lousy one, and sometimes it comes out of left field. I had such an epiphany the other day and I am not sure under which of these categories it falls.
I’ll assume, which I hate to do, but nonetheless, I will assume that most all of you who are reading this know just who the Pink Panther is. For those of you who don’t, or perhaps are having a momentary brain freeze from eating ice cream on a hot summer’s day, he is a fictional character; a pink cat to be precise, created by Hawley Pratt, and brought to animated life in 1964 by the team of Friz Freleng and David DePatie. An interesting piece of trivia for you cinema buffs who perhaps are not devotees of the Pink Panther series: The first Pink Panther short, Pink Phink, won an Oscar as1964’s ‘Best Animated Short.’ But, I digress. The Pink Panther is an iconic part of a series of eleven comedic films, most of which were directed and co-written by Blake Edwards, and which feature the exploits of the eternally clueless French Police Inspector Jacques Clouseau played in many of the movies by the late, great, Peter Sellers.
My intention with this particular blog is not to give a synopsis of the films in the series, nor for that matter to discuss the behind the scenes talent and actors who have been involved with the Pink Panther franchise. In doing my fact checking for this piece, I noticed there are countless sites, both professional and fan created, devoted to the Pink Panther, and rightfully so, which have done that job for me. A plethora of visual delights that deal with the animated character can also be found by viewers who type in the cat’s name on YouTube.com. No, my goal is to explore, albeit briefly, the hypothetical question: could the Pink Panther have become a true icon of horror if he had been created with the dawning of the CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) movement in Hollywood?
Freddy, Hannibal, Jason, Leatherface, and Michael, along with a score of others are all icons in the horror universe. Could the Pink Panther have been among that elite group of killers and cannibals? I think so! The Pink Panther always appears on screen, whether in movies, television shows, or commercials, which included among others: IBM and the Virginia Lottery, accompanied by the theme music originally created by composer Henry Mancini. The music is catchy and gives off a slick sort of vibe that works well with the smooth acting cat…But what if the music were different? What if instead of a beat you’ve come to identify with a lovable fictitious pink cat who you root for, the music had ominous tones which signaled the appearance of a CGI creation the likes of which could rival any of the aforementioned horror icons? Instead of laughable scenarios and playful fun, you would be treated to a cinematic blood bath unleashed at the hands of a pink-colored predator. Stop reading, and take a moment or two to think about how different your feelings toward the Pink Panther would be. You might find yourself still rooting for him because cheering on fictional bad guys can sometimes be fun, or, on the other hand, you might wonder, why Hollywood had to turn a beloved childhood memory into a pink monstrosity.
Firstly, what if the Pink Panther that we’ve come to know and love had diametrically opposed characteristics to the ones we’re used to? What would they be? Would he even still be the color pink? After all that’s not a very scary color; but for the purpose of this blog, we will again assume that the director of the film would be able to find a way to make the color pink menacing to the movie-going audience.
Secondly, instead of a face that was in no way menacing or threatening, it became one on which evil was permanently etched. His eyes would no longer come across as inviting windows to his fun loving soul, but instead they would appear as two black pools of frigidity, turning to a terrifying fiery orange just before he was about to ‘strike’; and they would be the last horrifying image that his, no doubt, multitude of victims would see before meeting their death at his hands, or in this case his paws.
When we look at the CGI created Pink Panther, and it opens its mouth, instead of seeing pearly whites that look very normal, I can imagine viewers being treated to rows of razor sharp teeth that could easily tear the flesh from a victim’s bone. Instead of a pink tail that moves from side to side, almost in the same jovial manner as a happy, housebroken puppy, the Pink Panther would now use his tail as a whip to strike his victims with, delivering lashes that would be powerful enough to crack the skin. Imagine further an opening sequence in what could have been the first CGI film to feature the Pink Panther, where a would-be invader who dared to enter his neighborhood, house, or lair has just had the consequences of such an egregious error dished out to him. The director would perhaps cut to a close up of the Pink Panther’s face: his mouth is agape, and his teeth are dripping a red syrupy liquid right before he lifts his head skyward while releasing a cacophony of ferocious animalistic sounds as a warning to others to stay away if they know what’s best for them.
In addition, the question: ‘Should the Pink Panther have a voice?’ would undoubtedly come up. I don’t think it is crucial to how successful the character would have been in horror films. He wasn’t going to be called upon by the F.B.I to psychoanalyze people like a Hannibal Lecter. That would be utterly ridiculous. Jason, Leatherface, and the adult version of Michael don’t utter a word, and they have risen to iconic status without anyone caring that they were never given the power of speech by their respective creators. The Pink Panther, in this blogger’s opinion, most assuredly could have achieved the same level of success as the three other silent predators.
Nothing is certain in life, as they say, except for death and taxes, but I have a feeling that a Pink Panther horror movie would have produced a number of sequels just as the Nightmare on Elm Streets and Friday the 13ths of the film world. Had my vision of the Pink Panther as a horror movie icon been a reality, his likeness would most likely have been featured on posters, lunchboxes, magazine covers, and a whole assortment of action figures and bobble heads. In essence, I don’t think he would have had any problem fitting in amongst the brood of other horror icons; but alas, we will never know. The Pink Panther’s participation in the world of horror is left for me to blog about and for all of us to speculate about. It would be cool though, don’t you think? And it would most certainly be a way to reboot the franchise in an entirely different direction. So, all you Hollywood horror movie producers and script writers, would you please do us horror fans a favor and give it some thought…pretty please with a rotten cherry on top!