Contrary to the sequels which focused solely on Peter Sellers character, the 1963 debut Pink Panther is a surprisingly different film than the sequels. While Inspector Clousea is critical to the plot of the film, the story belongs to David Niven as a sly jewel thief, trying to steal the precious Pink Panther diamond.
At two hours, there’s little question this one runs long. It’s at its best when the comedy can take over, although the film’s best sequence, a madcap scramble between four characters trying to hide themselves from each other in a small apartment, has little bearing on the actual plot. The romance is classic ‘60s fluff, though surprisingly risqué for the time.
For its time spent on dialogue, Panther is sloppy in its character development, even confusing. The diamond caper is no doubt a fun one, but until the halfway point, it’s not particularly clear who’s involved and how.
Despite the story issues and pacing problems, this movie undoubtedly belongs to Peter Sellers. The sequels would never have happened without his slapstick performance. It’s easy to write and direct someone falling over a rug, but it takes comedic timing to make it funny. Seller has that timing.
While an auspicious start for the Clousea franchise, Pink Panther is a fun ‘60s romp, easy on the eyes and care free fun. It’s a hard film to hate, especially with a wildly imaginative finale involving fireworks, crashing cars, and Sellers crammed inside knight armor. Still, it’s slow and somewhat clunky, much like Clousea inside that suit.
Vibrant and colorful presentations like this make you yearn for Technicolor to make a comeback. The film’s premiere hi-def presentation is gorgeous. The AVC encode handles the grain structure beautifully, with only minor mosquito noise noticeable in a few scenes. A slight artificial sharpening is applied at times, noticeable early on in the first hotel scene with Cloustea.
Aside from those nitpicks, the source is near perfection, with only a minute amount of damage. The transfer is sharp and clean, boasting a strong contrast and wonderful blacks. Detail on clothing brings out the finest of details in the wardrobe, although facial detail is somewhat flat.
Between the original mono mix and the DTS-HD Master remix, there’s little difference. The high end suffers greatly, strained and lacking clarity. When the music and dialogue combine, it can be hard to make out what’s being said. Otherwise, despite the low fidelity, you can hear much of the speaking parts. Stereo channels come into play during the finale’s fireworks display, although it’s nothing spectacular and sounds forced.
Labeled a Collector’s Edition (as opposed to a Special Edition which would also be for collectors? Anyway..,), director Blake Edwards kicks things off with a detailed commentary. The Pink Panther Story is an excellent follow-up, just shy of a half hour. Interviews with surviving members of cast and crew are included as they discuss candidly how the films(s) came to be. Behind the Feline is a featurette on the cartoon series, which occurred long before the cat was selling insulation.
The Coolest Cat in Cortina is a piece on Robert Wagner, including a discussion on how he got the role. Tip Toe Life of a Cat Burglar is a short look at a real life burglar and how he made a lifestyle of it. Diamonds Beyond the Sparkle is a brief featurette on the rare stones, and is followed by the final extra, the original trailer.