Review of 'The Pink Panther'

pink_panther.jpg In this first “Pink Panther” film, hapless Inspector Jacques Clouseau (Peter Sellers) of the Sûreté is on the trail of the renowned jewel thief “The Phantom”. At the exclusive Italian ski resort of Cortina, Princess Dala (Claudia Cardinale), owner of the largest diamond in the world “The Pink Panther” relaxes on holiday where British playboy Sir Charles Lytton (David Niven), secretly the Phantom, hatches a scheme to get close to the princess and steal the diamond. To Charles' surprise, his nephew George (Robert Wagner) is also at Cornina in an attempt to steal the jewel himself and blame the Phantom for the theft. Clouseau is staying at the hotel with his wife Simone (Capucine) who is secretly conspiring with Charles to steal the diamond from the Princess. Will Clouseau be able to stumble his way into capturing the Phantom or will he end up in hospital?

Having seen many of the Pink Panther films, re-watching this first instalment was somewhat of a disappointment. Here the slapstick of later films is missing as is the trademark quirky mannerisms of Sellers such as his humorous misuse of English words. This is a very much subdued Clouseau who rather than driving the action is just along for the ride though the climactic scenes sees some of the zaniness we are familiar with - The best sequences in the entire film culminating in the masterful car chase through the middle of a sleepy Italian village witnessed by a somewhat bewildered and bemused local. Obviously, this was early days and the characters were not yet fully formed. The slapstick, when it is there, is quite good and very witty.

The story is a fairly slow moving affair and seems largely an excuse to let the characters run lose across the screen, for example several bedroom scenes between Clouseau and his wife that seem to go on forever and forever. It is a series of long-running character sequences strung together into a somewhat inconsistent whole. Even the plot, such as it is, is basic at best. There are a few scenes here that jar such as the pause in the middle of the film for a singer to perform for the main characters. Nice, but, well, odd. There is no mystery or suspense here other than whether Clouseau will be able to catch the Phantom.

The cast is absolutely wonderful. David Niven is at his charming, suave best while Sellers is effortless in his ineptness and physical humour. With not much to really work with, the supporting cast here do an admirable job though are ultimately unconvincing. Claudia Cardinale as the princess is hard to figure: Is she a resilient, tough character or is she a bit of eye candy? It is not entirely clear and this is not entirely satisfactory.

A promising start with several very fun bits but ultimately disappointing. Watch only for completeness and move onto the far superior sequels beginning with “A Shot in the Dark” where Clouseau finally comes to painfully funny life.

Rating: “It is OK but I have some issues”

Review Date: 2021-01-16

Directed by: Blake Edwards

Studio: Mirisch G-E Productions

Year: 1963

Length: 115 minutes

Genre: Action/Adventure