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Nearly every review I have read condemning _The Pink Panther_ to second
or third rate status in the "pantheon" of Clouseau movies comes from
someone who either didn't know it existed or who was raised on the
totally slapstick offerings that came later. If you are expecting the
hackneyed humor and over-the-top performances that came with the last
few Panther movies you are bound to be surprised by a movie that took
time to make sense out of a story. If those movies are your standard
for humor, you are bound to be disappointed.
This is one of my all-time favorite movies. I watched it when it came out. I was eleven and it was showing at a local drive-in. Since then the movie has never failed to entertain me.
Unlike most of the other reviewers, I don't share the same admiration for the later Clouseau movies. I did enjoy _A Shot in the Dark_ and even liked _Return of the Pink Panther_ and its sequel, but frankly, Herbert Lom's twitch, Kato's surprise attacks, increasingly more ludicrous plot devices, and the very fact that Clouseau was still in a position of responsibility was more disbelief than I was willing to suspend.
_The Pink Panther_ is a great Romantic Comedy. That, in itself separates it from all the other Panther clones, which are all farcical slapsticks. Different humor, different purposes, therefore a different appreciation.
_The Pink Panther_ was not a blueprint for other Clouseau movies. Only for the Clouseau character.
This movie was the inspiration for an American icon. The Pink Panther cartoons came out well before the next movie. It also featured inspired comedy performances by its four leads. Yes, FOUR leads. Just because Clouseau wasn't the only major character doesn't mean he was minor. Sellers has more scenes than anyone except David Niven.
_The Pink Panther_ deserves to be considered on its own merits and not compared to movies of another genre that strove to capitalize on the popularity of the original.
To me, the defining moment in The Pink Panther comes when Clouseau is
finally asked by his wife to get her a sleeping pill. Frustrated,
discouraged, he tramps across the room for the umpteenth time to do his
wife's bidding. We see him go into the bathroom, and then we hear - not see
- ALL the pills drop on the floor of the bathroom. Without picking them up,
or even saying anything or reacting in any way, he crunches across the
and back into our view, carrying the water and the pill for her. You know
exactly what happened; you didn't need to see it.
This is typical of this movie and this style: the jokes are so underplayed, quiet and perfectly paced that people accustomed to seeing "American Pie" and "There's Something About Mary", or even the bunch 'o sequels to this film (that grew progressively coarser and louder with each installment) may not get or even notice them. In the first sight of Inspector Clouseau, we see him pulling the old "leaning on a spinning globe and taking a pratfall" trick. But the moment is over with quickly; it's not made more than it is meant to, because the point of the pratfall is to define Clouseau's character in a moment. (Compare with later, more painful, re-occurences of this spinning-globe idea in the sequels). Most of the other moments derive from this idea: at the center of this caper film is this man who is inextricably dense and clueless, and yet retains a curious grace - not to speak of a total savoire-faire in all moments.
This film could never be made today. In fact, it's a time capsule of a certain sort of late 50's, early 60's sensibility. Examples: all the people showing up for the Princess's dinner in formal evening wear. David Niven's late-night repartee with the Princess - all about numb lips and champagne. The musical number - for no reason whatsoever. The glamorous locales - without a trace of irony, straight out of "To Catch a Thief", the inspiration for this type of "caper" flick. The curiously innocent and unsexual bedroom farce moments. And, of course, the ending car chase with guests in ape suits, a suit of armor, and not one but two cops in a zebra outfit (what a good choice for those interested in speed and efficiency!) And these are just the moments - see how effortlessly the screenplay weaves all the story lines together, and how beautifully the pace gets accelerated throughout the movie. Not to speak of the opening credits, which are like a whole cartoon sequence in themselves. Obviously, I'm crazy about this picture; it's pretty, it's captivating, it's romantic, it's funny, and it weighs about two ounces - it's just delectable cotton candy. And through it all Peter Sellers gives one of the most subtle, and funniest, comic performances put to film, walking around in a fog, totally unaware of reality, and underplaying his role to the hilt.
Rumor has it that a remake is in the works, with Mike Myers in the Clouseau role. Let's compare two moments to get a preview: Peter Sellers bringing his wife a part-full glass of milk that he has spilled most of. At her quizzical look he innocently says,"That was all they had, my dear!" .... compared with Austin Powers drinking, um, the brown substance that is not coffee. Different strokes for different folks, indeed. Looking forward to it, uh huh.
I honestly thought I had seen every Pink Panther movie. (Or should I say,
every `Clouseau movie,' since I had even seen Adam Arkin's `Inspector
Clouseau'?) I discovered tonight, however, that I had never seen the
original 1963 classic, `The Pink Panther.' (Or, if I had, I was far too
young to appreciate it and had forgotten all but a couple of
For those not familiar with the film, this, of course, launched the Clouseau character and the Pink Panther series. Beyond the characters of Inspector Jacques Clouseau (Peter Sellers) and Sir Charles Litton (David Niven) and the fabulous Pink Panther diamond, though, there is little resemblance between the series-launching film and later Panther comedies. This is not necessarily bad, although fans of the fast-paced slapstick of the later entries will likely be a bit disappointed.
Of course this was the precursor, and Sellers and director Blake Edwards were just beginning to explore the character and world of Clouseau, that most incompetent and clumsy of detectives, who nevertheless gets his man.
The original Panther is a romantic comedy, with Sellers as merely part of a very good ensemble cast. We see very little of the hilarious Clouseau schtick for which Sellers is best remembered. He has no bizarre pronunciations yet and even has a gorgeous though highly devious wife. We can certainly see flashes of the Clouseau to come, though, and Sellers blends into the exotic montage quite well.
Niven is really the star of this first Panther production. As the swashbuckling, womanizing aristocrat/phantom, he turns in one of his best performances. A very young Robert Wagner also does good work as his long-lost nephew, George Litton.
Two extremely attractive and exotic actresses also heat things up. French beauty Capucine plays Simone Clouseau and is at the height of her career in 1963. Director George Cukor said that `The camera has a love affair with her face.' Edwards' camera certainly did. She handles both the romantic and slapstick scenes with equal aplomb. (Compare the `husband coming home unexpectedly' scene with Capucine, Liven, Wagner and Sellers with the same scene in `Horsefeathers' with all four Marx Brothers, Thelma Todd and her husband!) The other enchanter is Claudia Cardinale, as Princess Dala. The Italian beauty queen is perfect as the sexy, exotic princess and owner of The Pink Panther diamond. In the champagne scene with Litten and the Tiger rug, Cardinale is enticing enough to make a male viewer completely forget Sellers and his bumbling detective work!
While Edwards and Sellers changed directions a bit in later films, the original Pink Panther is worth renting for more than just its historic value. It is indeed a fine film and a wonderful work of art something, which, indeed might be said for both Capucine and Cardinale, as well! By all means, rent the original Pink Panther; just don't expect slow motion Kung Fu attacks and insane chief inspectors taking shots at Clouseau!
The one that started it all and set `Clouseau' on the path to becoming
Chief Inspector, `The Pink Panther,' directed by Blake Edwards, stars David
Niven and Peter Sellers. This film is memorable for a number of reasons,
primarily for being the first in a tremendously successful (and funny)
series which would ultimately showcase one of the world's favorite cinematic
policemen, the bumbling Jacques Clouseau (Sellers). it also introduced His
Royal Pinkness, the Panther himself, to the format of the feature length
motion picture. And can anyone remember a time before Henry Mancini's
familiar theme existed?
Being the first, of course, makes this the prototype, and though it's a good movie, it's obvious that the formula for success which the following films in the series employed had not yet been honed to perfection. Consequently, though funny, the hilarity level of this one is comparatively low, though it does have it's moments, the best of which involve Clouseau.
From the day it premiered, it was readily apparent that what really made it a go was Sellers; and Edwards and his team have to be given credit for recognizing it immediately. Often a sequel fails because the filmmaker has attempted to capitalize on an element of the original that seemingly made it good, only to discover that what the poet once said is true: You can never go home again. Merely expanding the part that worked before doesn't insure success; usually, in fact, quite the opposite is true, as without fail it becomes a matter of overkill (The Penguin was no Joker, and those participating in `The Return of the Seven' weren't so `magnificent' after all). There are the exceptions, of course, like the `Stars Wars' saga, the `Indiana Jones' movies and, it goes without saying, the `Panther' films.
Edwards was clever enough to discern that key element in the original, and not only expand upon it for the sequels, but fine tune it as he did so. In developing his formula he seemed to possess an innate sense of what was funny, even from an objective point of view-- which is amazing, given that comedy is probably the most subjective of genres. And then again, he had the inimitable Sellers as his star, which was certainly no hindrance to their combined efforts.
It's interesting to watch this movie again, especially after seeing the rest of the series, as you're seeing Clouseau in his raw stage of development; the accent is not yet as pronounced as it will be later, and his `denseness' is not quite refined yet. But funny he is, even as he experiments, searching for that perfect comedic note (which he would finally find in `The Pink Panther Strikes Again'). Seller's performance is the highlight of the movie, and it gave birth to what would become one of the defining characters of his career. From the first moment Clouseau appears on screen, you know that you're about to be treated to something special. And Sellers never disappoints-- from that first frame on, he is a joy to watch.
David Niven, meanwhile, lends an air of sophistication to the proceedings as the suave and debonair, legendary jewel thief, Sir Charles Litton. Though not a unique character, Niven plays him well, exuding the kind of charm possibly only Cary Grant could have matched at the time. As usual, he brings a smooth presence to the screen, he plays comedy well and the facility with which he brings Litton to life is impressive. Watching Niven and Sellers together calls to mind the pairing of Michael Caine and Steve Martin some years later in `Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.'
The supporting cast includes Robert Wagner (George Litton), Capucine (Simone), Brenda De Banzie (Angela), Colin Gordon (Tucker) Fran Jeffries (Greek `Cousin') and the lovely Claudia Cardinale as Princess Dala. Sellers created a number of characters during his career that will live forever, but with `The Pink Panther' he carved out a special niche for himself when he created Clouseau. There's never been anyone else quite like Clouseau (or Sellers, for that matter), and it's doubtful there ever will be again. As for the movie itself, there's no denying it's place of significance in the history of the movies as the one that kicked off a series that made the world laugh-- and thanks to the magic of DVD/video, that laughter continues on, unabated, today-- with no end in sight. That's the magic of Sellers, and it's all a part of the magic of the movies. I rate this one 7/10.
I had an absolute ball watching this. It works so well because Sellers
underplays it. He's never over-the-top, never looks like he's playing for
jokes, which makes his bumbling all the funnier.
Blake Edwards epitomises the sexy martini and bright colours world of the cinematic sixties for me. Revisiting Pink Panther since my childhood, i can see how this was a natural continuation from Breakfast at Tiffany's.
The charming David Niven and radiant belle Claudia Cardinale give added appeal. They are actually the two leads. Inspector Clouseau is a supporting player in this. His mass popularity lead to his being the centre of the sequals, including the famous second film Shot in the Dark, also by Blake Edwards.
A gem of a "man hiding in the closet" farce, perfect for late-night fun. See it if you enjoyed What's Up Doc? or Breakfast at Tiffany's.
"The Pink Panther" is a risque (for its time) romantic heist farce starring
David Niven and Robert Wager, as uncle and son jewel thieves. Also included
is a small slapstick part was Peter Sellers (originally to be Peter Ustinov)
as the French detective hot on their trail. While the romantic farce isn't
bad, the exquisite slapstick timing of Peter Sellers not only kept this
movie from being an innocuous but one-note affair, it also was the genesis
of a comic legend. Actually two, since the cartoon Pink Panther appears in
There's no Cato or twitching Inspector Dreyfus (they come in the next Clouseau film, "A Shot in the Dark", one of the funniest movies ever made). Viewers who grew up on the later Pink Panther films that revolve around Clouseau are bound to be disappointed, but they shouldn't let their disappointment mar the movie. Peter Sellers is funny enough in every scene he's in (in fact, he does some of his best Clouseau work in this movie). But "The Pink Panther" should be approached as a film in its own right, and accept its terms as the movie defines them. This is a subtle bedroom farce based on a heist, and it has its unique, languid beauty.
It is said correctly that the first two Pink Panther movies, this and
"A Shot in the Dark," are more sophisticated and for adults, compared
with the later series of films that began ten years later, which are
more blatant slapstick and somewhat juvenile. The latter are more
purely entertaining, because they cause people (even adults) to break
out and laugh, whereas the humor here is more elegant and less loud,
not to say it is not very good. Still, I rate the original "Pink
Panther" film very highly because of its own brand of entertainment and
humor, and I put it above most of its successors ("Returns" and
"Strikes Again" are at least as good, but I think most people would
agree that with the end ones things go downhill).
Clouseau is one of the five main characters in the film, but he is only the fourth most prominent. It might be said that David Niven as the many-times-over thief Sir Charles Litton is the most prominent, followed by Claudia Cardinale as Central Asian Princess Dala, owner of the Pink Panther diamond that is the bait to be stolen, but I would argue that Clouseau's wife Simone (played by Capucine) is as at least equal to Sir Charles, if not more prominent. After all, she is effectively a double agent Clouseau's wife, while aiding and abetting Sir Charles and she even has a fling with Sir Charles's nephew George Litton. Two different affairs, but all of an extremely classy and gorgeous woman, just like Claudia Cardinale, and she seems to like all three men equally. Within her romances and the intrigue of the plot there is lots of hotel bedroom-to-bedroom back and forth and hiding, etc. Simone's humor, combined with her good bearing, is great, and she is the highlight of the film to me.
Clouseau's bumbling and klutziness is there, just less-pronounced, less loud and dominant. The film flows well, with good dialogue and comedy, and elegant settings of upscale hotels and fancy parties. The wit and humor are perhaps not described as subtle, but just less loud and more intelligent and refined than that of the later films. It seems that many comedies have idiotic, goofy characters, to such an extent that they may not be funny, but in this film the five main characters are urbane and smooth. Even Sellers has that bearing, while being a klutz too. But sometimes the presence of such more refined characters does not matter if the people are not appealing and the comedy is not funny. Here, however, the characters are definitely very appealing and poised, within a well-written good script, making for a good chemistry.
There is a great scene in which Sir Charles attempts to seduce the princess, who is laying stomach down on a tiger skin. The verbal reigns over the slapstick there, as in many other parts of the movie. Still, the ending is not without the latter, and it has a good ironic twist. Yes, there will be more slapstick to come...
1) This is probably the most beautiful LOOKING slapstick comedy ever
filmed. The sets, the scenery, the costumes, the photography - everything
looks elegant and expensive.
2) For those of us who actually like the cultural atmosphere of the early sixties at least as much as that of the late sixties, this is a goldmine, ranking right up there with the early Bond films.
3) For insecure actors fixated on billing (i.e., where their names go on the credits): just remember that Peter Sellers got third billing on this film, and yet he's the one everyone thinks of when they think of "The Pink Panther." And not just because of the sequels - this was the movie that made him an American movie star. Billing can't compensate for genius.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The early and mid 1960s were an interesting period, sandwiched between
the bland 1950s and the revolutionary end of the decade, a relatively
prosperous period, people still dressed for dinner and the clothing
styles were simple yet elegant. (Audrey Hepburn in those Givenchy
outfits.) This flick is set firmly in that moment.
The plot has something to do with the theft of the pink panther, a diamond, but it's nothing more than the MacGuffin and is of no particular significance. The humor lies not so much in the overall story but in individual sequences, put finely together in pieces, like a jigsaw puzzle. Each movement seems choreographed carefully. Three times Peter Sellers tries to embrace his wife, Capucine, on a slick quilt, and three times her body slides off the bed under one of his arms. A good deal of effort went into milking each situation for its immanent comedy. Blake Edwards shares the writing credit, and he's done several other comedies that work in one way or another. It's odd because Edwards himself, in interviews, is not a witty person -- kind of somber in fact. ("That's Life" makes his ontological Angst explicit.) So it's all the more strange that this comedy doesn't try to say anything "important" -- soul clap its hands and sing. It's funny all the way through. I must have seen it a dozen times and there are some incidents that still make me laugh out loud. I'd much rather have my funnybone tickled than my thought provoked, wouldn't you?
The best sequence in the movie takes place in the bedroom of Sellers and his wife in Cortina d'Ampezzo, an upscale ski resort (aren't they all?). It's impossible to describe, really. It could have been written by Feydeau. Sellers is trying to get in bed with his wife Capucine, is called away, and she is visited by two men, Niven and Wagner, each unaware of the other. People hide in closets and under beds. Champagne bottles pop open at the wrong times. Sellers steps on his fiddle and remarks, "Once you've seen one Stradivarius you've seen them all." I will just mention two incidents. Wagner has been hiding from Sellers in a bathtub full of suds and when he comes up for air and climbs out, trying to escape, his form-fitting wool sweater is now dragging around his ankles. Niven escapes by climbing out a window but falls off the balcony. Next shot: a few people are chatting at the base of a vertical bank of snow. Niven, dressed only in a bathrobe, his eyebrows frozen, pushes his way out of the snowbank and finds himself a few feet from this group. With an excess of savoir-faire he shakes the snow from himself, salutes the group with a cheerful, "Good evening," and strolls away without explanation, leaving four gawking people in his wake. One more image from a later scene, which I won't try to explain. A zebra sneaks up to a buffet table and begins slurping out of the punch bowl. A man in a suit of full armor takes a whip and begins beating the zebra on the head, screaming, "No drinking on duty -- I'll have your stripes for this!" That's what farce IS.
The performers are all good, not that any particular attention from Thalia is demanded. Claudia Cardinale is pretty but a bit, I don't know, inanimate maybe. Wagner -- R.J. to his friends -- is handsome and plays a libidinous young con man. He's pretty good actually, as he plays the idealistic college graduate for Cardinale, and good physically, as he makes a foiled pass at a woman at the top of a ski slope and finds himself flailing downwards. Sellers is as good as he usually is, which is very good. Niven is in his element too, a lighthearted dandy, ever unflappable, only a step away from boredom no matter how outrageous the situation. The editor deserves plaudits for catching Niven half frozen, blowing into his cupped hands, and for cutting at the exact moment Niven looks up and his eyeballs bulge with distress. Poor Capucine. What an exquisite-looking woman. She may have begun her career as a model but she turns in a decent performance here, unlike many models before and after her. Her large eyes and feline body manage to suggest an almost childlike vulnerability beneath that womanhood. Of course death comes to all of us, but when it's self imposed, as in her case, it seems more than usually tragic.
Henry Mancini's score is part of the movie. It sounds as if he had a lot of fun writing it. It covers a wide range too. There are cartoon-like sound effects -- men swing at one another, deliberately missing, and the track goes "Wheee!" He works in some delightful variations on "Domani." He demonstrates it full blown in a very sexy samba number using Fran Jeffries who has a pelvic girdle that seems independent of the rest of her body. Wow. Then it becomes a slow dance, using the breathy Dexter Gordon-ish tenor sax that Mancini is so fond of. The physical climax of the film is backed by a rinky-tink gallop.
That physical climax, by the way, may be the weakest part of the film. All farces are faced with the same problem: how do you manage to top all the funny stuff that has come before? If you can't figure out a good answer, as Feydeau could, you must fall back on a pointless frantic chase, as this story does. (That's a minor carp, though.)
Yes, the early 60s were okay. Especially if you lived in Paris, drove a Ferarri, and went skiing at ritzy resorts and liked to drink champagne. The only thing most of us have in common with these elegant folk is that we like champagne. Pardon me while I open a Rolling Rock. Don't miss this one. It's worth repeated viewings too.
This is one of the cases in which saying a movie is very much "of its
time" is a high compliment. To see THE PINK PANTHER today is to be
transported to the stylish Blake Edwards '60s world of opulence,
Mancini, and nutty but smart slapstick. The sequel A SHOT IN THE DARK
may be funnier and more sophisticated, but PINK PANTHER is still a
peerless, graceful treat, pure entertainment.
This doesn't really fit in that well with the rest of the series (of which I'm a big fan), but it's on a higher plane in a sense. Those seeking the usual slapstick fare will find plenty of it, not to mention an engagingly worldly edge lacking in the sequels. Not only is this a fine comedy, it's beautifully photographed and full of elegance. Peter Sellers' Inspector Clouseau is wonderful as always, but is neither the central character -- the jewel thief "The Phantom," played by David Niven, is the real protagonist -- or the source of the most laughs; Robert Wagner, the Phantom's nephew who shows up unexpected on the eve of a jewel binge, provides the movie with a force of sheer subversion. That's not to say the greatest moments aren't Clouseau's; particularly during the bedroom scenes with Capucine, Sellers is in top form.
An interesting note is the similarity of THE PINK PANTHER in many ways to Alfred Hitchcock's TO CATCH A THIEF, made in 1955. The two films have more-than-similar story lines, and both are glitzy and glamorous, but the approach is different. PANTHER is a far less serious piece of work, yet in the end it has more substance, perhaps because it refuses to take jewel thievery with the stone-faced seriousness of its counterpart. Having said that, both are great fun, and what more could you want? There is simply so much to love about this movie it's hard to know where to begin. In the hopelessly romantic world Edwards and Mancini usually present, it's pleasant to see a darker and perhaps more vibrant edge shining through. BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S might be the quintessential Edwards film of the '60s, but it was released the same year as one of his best, EXPERIMENT IN TERROR, a daring, violent, noirish outing that couldn't have been more different. In the layers of irony and comic wisdom of THE PINK PANTHER Edwards finds a middle ground, and it's savory.
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