Thursday, April 19, 2012
THE PINK PANTHER
The "Pink Panther" is an enormous diamond with a flaw that resembles the title animal. There is an ongoing legal debate as to whether it belongs to the people or to Princess Dahla (the smoky-voiced Claudia Cardinale). In any case, stealing it is the next project for a master thief known as the Phantom, but -- as we learn really on -- is really the dapper Sir Charles Lytton (David Niven). Bumbling French inspector Jacques Clouseau (Peter Sellers) is assigned to protecting the jewel, completely unaware that his wife (Capucine) is not only having an affair with Sir Charles but is the Phantom's accomplice! Complicating matters is Sir Charles' American nephew, George (Robert Wagner), who makes a play for Mrs. Clouseau when she accidentally winds up in his bed. Although this film introduced Peter Sellers' Inspector Clouseau character, it is by no means an "Inspector Clouseau" movie as he's just one of several characters -- one could argue that Niven is the star [although he has equal billing with Sellers] and gets more screen time. There are amusing scenes and good performances in the movie -- Sellers is marvelous -- but for a farce the pace at times is much too leisurely. And on occasion the comedy gets pretty desperate, with not one but two men running around in that tired old standby, a gorilla suit! The film was extremely popular, however, and eventually engendered a great many sequels both with Sellers and without. One of the best was the immediate follow-up, A Shot in the Dark.
Verdict: Amusingly frenetic at times, but chiefly memorable as introducing Sellers' Clouseau. **1/2.