Ask any Valencian about ‘the pink panther’ and you will be directed to a statue of dubious taste in the middle of the roundabout where Avenida de Ausiàs March meets Avenida de Peris i Valero, and where all roads to the south begin.
Its real name is La Fuente Pública and it was designed by Valencian architect Miquel Navarro and assembled in 1984 to commemorate the Túria-Júcar Canal, although as far as anyone knows, the Canal neither asked to be commemorated nor has ever said ‘thankyou’.
Navarro, who is from Mislata, Valencia, has works all over Spain, and one in Brussels called Boca de luna. He has exhibited in New York, Paris, Berlin, California, Mexico, Venezuela, Germany and Florence.
Ask anyone outside of Valencia about the Pink Panther and they will of course remember the brilliant performances by Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau, although there is a not very well known Valencian connection with the series of films.
After Seller’s death in 1980, the producers tried to cash in on the name by putting together a very inferior Panther film. Ted Wass was Inspector Clouseau, more or less, and inevitably he ‘wass’ awful, confusing ‘deadpan’, at which Sellers was a genius, with ‘still life’.
Filming took place in the city of Valencia, where we see the traditional Hotel Astoria, from which heroes and villains exit together. The quaint square in front of it with its fountain and shady trees, Plaza Rodrigo Botet, is the scene of some partying during the city’s world famous Fallas festival, held every year in mid-March to celebrate the beginning of spring or Saint Joseph and the carpenters (those who make furniture, not those who want to get close to you) if you prefer.
The heart of the Fallas is the Town Hall Square (Plaza del Ayuntamiento), which also appears in the film with crowds celebrating as one of the three rockets that are launched to mark the beginning of the daily firework display, called the ‘Mascletá’, explodes.
Unfortunately the Fallas celebrations are confused with Carnaval, as far as the costumes are concerned, and the traditional dancing seems more like post-modernist Punk pogo stick jumping. Giant heads are not part of the festival either.
Fallas is a noisy festival, and as one of the villains points out, it provides an excellent opportunity to assasinate somebody, as with all the fireworks “nobody will notice a few extra shots”.
The crew was received by Valencia’s Town Council, who collaborated with the project. Among the cast was Patricia Davis, daughter of President Reagan.
Filming also took place in Ibiza, where we see a villa among the mountains and a swimming pool full of naked people taking a mud bath.
This was David Niven’s last film, and among his last words on screen were: “he took off for Valencia. It’s in Spain.” Not a classic quote but at least geographically accurate.