It’s hard to imagine the Pink Panther films without Peter Sellers, whose fumbling Inspector Clouseau ranks as one of the funniest film creations in memory. Other have tried to imitate Sellers, yet he was so perfect as Clouseau that any one else pales by comparison.
Alan Arkin tried in the dreadful “Inspector Clouseau,” while non other than Roberto Begnini (“Life is Beautiful“) tried to fill Seller’s shoes in the misguided “The Son of the Pink Panther.” That’s why it is such a pleasure to have four of the Sellers “Pink Panther” films available on DVD from MGM Home Entertainment. Surprisingly, the film that revived the series in 1975, “The Return of the Pink Panther,” is noticeably missing from the collection. That criticism aside, the four titles available are some of Seller’s funniest work. What better way to get into the collection than with the film that started it all: “The Pink Panther.” Released in 1963, “The Pink Panther” was an instant hit, largely thanks to Sellers hilarious antics and the sly, witty script (with Maurice Richlin) and direction by Blake Edwards. Both men made the “Pink Panther” films their signature work, an excellent combination of slapstick humor and clever plotting that always managed to get Inspector Clouseau into trouble. “The Pink Panther” has it all: engaging characters, a globe trotting plot, a diamond heist, and gorgeous women. The “Pink Panther” is actually the world’s biggest diamond, one with a flaw that when you hold it up to the light, you can see a panther. It’s owned by Princess Dala (Claudia Cardinale), who is on a skiing vacation in the Italian Alps. At the same resort is Sir Charles Litton (David Niven at his most debonair), who also happens to be the notorious “Phantom,” an international jewel thief. Enter Inspector Jacques Clouseau (Peter Sellers) and his wife Simone (Capucine), who are vacationing at the resort. It doesn’t take long before Sir Charles’ nephew George (a handsome Robert Wagner) shows up, and Princess Dala’s valuable jewel ends up missing. What follows is a wild and frantic series of mishaps, close calls, and a crazy car chase through the streets of town. It would be criminal to give away too much, as each routine is a treasure. One of my favorite bits is Clouseau trying to seduce his wife at bedtime. With each pass, he creates a bigger mess, ending with a subtle pill crunching gag that is hilarious. The cast is superb, especially Sellers, who constantly finds new ways to strangle the English language with his thick French accent, and Niven, who seems to have a ball playing the Cary Grant role for a change. The women are especially appetizing, from Capucine’s smart and sassy Simone, to Claudia Cardinale’s voluptuous Princess Dala. Composer Henry Mancini continues his successful streak with Blake Edwards with “The Pink Panther,” creating a memorable score and trademark opening theme that is still familiar to anyone who hears it. The 7 1/2 minute animated opening sequence set the standard for the series, and helped spawn a popular series of cartoons. “The Pink Panther” proved so popular that Edwards rewrote a French bedroom farce into “A Shot in the Dark,” and delivered the sequel in 1964 with Sellers returning in fine form as Clouseau. Look for that review coming soon.
VISION: [ ] 20/20 [ X ] Good [ ] Cataracts [ ] Blind
Delivered in the film’s original 2.35:1 widescreen ratio (The DVD also features the full-frame version on the flip side), the film looks as good as one can expect after all these years. The colors are bright, with excellent saturation, and the blacks are strong. However, some of the images look pasty, especially the flesh tones. There are some minute compression artifacts, but it’s the occasional lazy image that distracts from the overall experience.
HEARING: [ ] Excellent [ X ] Minor Hearing Loss [ ] Needs Hearing Aid [ ] Deaf
The Dolby Digital Mono soundtrack is clean and functional.
ORAL: [ ] Excellent [ X ] Good [ ] Poor
Closed caption in English for the hard of hearing, subtitles in French.
COORDINATION: [ ] Excellent [ X ] Good [ ] Clumsy [ ] Weak
Nifty animated menus, the original theatrical trailer and an 8-page booklet with hilarious behind-the-scenes insights from cast and crew. There’s also a hidden Easter Egg on the main menu. Click right on your remote, and it will highlight the film’s title. Click on the title, and you will see the original theatrical poster for the film.
PROGNOSIS: [ X ] Excellent [ ] Fit [ ] Will Live [ ] Resuscitate [ ] Terminal
Not owning a copy of this classic comedy would be da-dumb, da-dumb, da-dumb-da-dumb-da-dumb….
VITALS: $24.99/Not Rated/115 Minutes/Color/32 Chapter Stops/Keepcase/#907041
ATTENDING RESIDENT: John Larsen
PATIENT: THE PINK PANTHER
BIRTH DATE: 1963
HMO: MGM Home Entertainment