I always loved watching the Pink Panther cartoons as a kid because they were really funny. When I first heard that there was a movie, I was confused by the little portion of it that I saw because the cartoon character wasn’t in it. A few years later, when I was more able to appreciate live action comedies, I had the chance to watch today’s movie again and absolutely loved it. So of course, even more years would go by and this movie would wind up being included in my growing collection of DVD’s and that brings us to today, where I get to laugh and while watching The Pink Panther once again.
The plot: In the country of Lugash, the Maharajah is brought a necklace containing the largest diamond in the world, the Pink Panther. The gem is named for the the unusual flaw that it has, a slight discoloration that looks like a leaping panther. When his daughter, Princess Dala, enters the room, the Maharajah shows her the necklace and fastens it on her, saying one day it will be hers. 20 years later, a thief known as the Phantom steals some gems in Rome while in Hollywood, a man named George Lytton is having his graduation photo taken and is forced to quickly escape from some mobsters that are looking for him. In Paris, a female representative of the Phantom meets with a fence to sell the jewels but the police arrive and they are forced to run, with the woman quickly removing her disguise in an elevator. When the police fail to capture either person, they report back to Inspector Jacques Clouseau, who is in charge of the Phantom investigation, and he tells them to find the woman, as she is the first lead they have to the Phantom, then dismisses them as his wife Simone arrives, who happens to be the woman they are looking for. At a ski resort in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Princess Dala has been staying there after the military coup of her country, with the new government demanding she return the Pink Panther. Also staying at the resort is Sir Charles Lytton, an English playboy who happens to be the Phantom and he has his sights set on the Pink Panther. With the help of his accomplice, Sir Charles begins a plan to get in Dala’s good graces by attempting to stop the kidnapping of her pet dog while she is skiing, though he gets slightly injured in the process. As Sir Charles is being carried into the resort, Clouseau accidentally falls onto the stretcher, as he and Simone have arrived at the resort. After checking in, Clouseau leaves to attend a meeting and Simone quickly runs to the door of the adjoining room and knocks on it to reveal Sir Charles, who happens to be her lover. Sir Charles is invited to dinner with Dala but while he believes it to be just the two of them, she has invited a local socialite and some other people over for dinner as well. Meanwhile, Clouseau and Simone are at the hotel bar when George shows up asking for his uncle, Sir Charles, causing Simone to suddenly choke on her drink. Back in there hotel room, Clouseau is in amorous mood but Simone avoids his advances and asks him to go get her a glass of milk, and once he leaves, she quickly heads into Sir Charles room to warn him about George but is surprised to find George in the bed, who kisses her but she quickly gets away. Meanwhile, Clouseau sees Sir Charles and gets suspicious of him but heads back to his room with Simone’s milk, then attempts to soothe her nerves by playing his violin but it doesn’t work so she asks for a sleeping pill and he accidentally steps on his violin as he brings her the pill. Meanwhile, Sir Charles receives a call from Dala and he invites her to his room for a drink. While there, she ends up getting drunk on champagne and the two kiss but Dala ends up falling asleep and Sir Charles, having started to grow fond of Dala, decides to lay her in his bed, where he discovers George there when George helps him lay Dala in bed. The next day, Simone goes to see Sir Charles and learns about George and they discuss the next step in their plan. The two go to see Dala, who is talking with George and Simone offers to teach George how to ski while Sir Charles talks with Dala and offers to see her off on the train. On the ski slope, George attempts to seduce Simone, having become infatuated with her but when she tries to get him to stop, George accidentally ends up starting down the slope. Meanwhile, Sir Charles is seeing off Dala at the train station when he sees the man that stole her dog and chases after him. The two meet at a secluded area and as Dala and her bodyguard approach, stage a fight where Sir Charles is the victor and retrieves the dog. However, as he goes to give Dala back her dog, he is run over by an out of control George, who ends up with the dog, which Dala grabs as he passes her. At a dinner party that night, Dala is dancing with George and thanks him for saving her dog. Later, Clouseau is discussing the Phantom with Simone, George, and Tucker, another detective, when Sir Charles and Dala join the conversation, and both Clouseau and Tucker believe that the Phantom is after the Pink Panther. Later that night, George fakes a call from the police to get Clouseau out of his room and Simone uses the opportunity to sneak Sir Charles in. When George shows up to try and seduce Simone, Sir Charles is forced to hide and then George must hide when Clouseau returns. Simone does her best to distract Clouseau to allow the two men out of the room, with Sir Charles sneaking out onto the balcony while George sneaks out the door. Making his way to the balcony for his room, Sir Charles sees George arrive in the room and answer the phone, where Sir Charles’ accomplice tells him the princess has left. George then discovers Sir Charles’ tool kit and realizes he is the Phantom, then he quickly puts the gear in his own bag and leaves. Sir Charles ends up falling off the balcony and makes his way back to Clouseau’s room, where he tells Simone what happens then borrows Clouseau’s coat so he can leave as well. Later, Clouseau and Tucker arrive at Dala’s home in Rome and warn her about Sir Charles, who he realizes is the Phantom. That night, Dala is hosting a masquerade ball and George shows up in a gorilla costume and dances with Simone briefly. Meanwhile, Dala is showing Clouseau and Tucker the Pink Panther when they hear something at the door and see a man in a gorilla costume there but it turns out to be the Ambassador. Sir Charles manages to sneak onto the property, where a drunken ambassador starts dancing with him. Tucker, who is dancing with Simone, sees him and goes to get Clouseau, just as Dala’s bodyguard suddenly cuts the power to the house. During the confusion, Simone grabs Sir Charles and takes him to the room the diamond is kept and warns him about George, then Sir Charles sees the ambassador approaching and, thinking it is George, knocks him out and steals the costume. Meanwhile, Clouseau is stumbling around in the dark when he finds a roman candle and lights it, only to have it go off and ignite the other fireworks as they are being carried out of the house. Sir Charles and George open the safe and realize that someone has already stolen the Pink Panther and is blaming the theft on the Phantom. When Clousea, Tucker, and the police enter the room, Sir Charles and George quickly escape and a car chase occurs in Rome before the two are eventually caught after a car crash. Clouseau goes to see George and Sir Charles in jail while Simone goes to see Dala to get her help in freeing Sir Charles. Dala reveals that she stole the diamond in order to keep it from being returned to her home country and comes up with an idea. During the trial, Clouseau is called up to testify and the defense attorney points out that Clouseau was at every party where a theft occurred. When Clouseau gets flustered and reaches for his handkerchief, he pulls out the Pink Panther and he ends up fainting. As Clouseau is being led away, Sir Charles and George, now free, get into a car with Simone and she feels bad about Clouseau being sent to prison but Sir Charles says when the Phantom strikes again, he will be free, then invites George to accompany them. Meanwhile, Clouseau is told that he has lots of female admirers due to the Phantom’s notoriety and is asked how he managed it but tells the cops that it wasn’t easy.
The Pink Panther met with high praise from the critics, holding a 90% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Though there isn’t a critical consensus on the site, all of the critics seemed to love the slapstick comedy and the comedic antics of Peter Sellers. The animated character used in the opening credits was so popular that it was given it’s own cartoon series, as well as several theatrical shorts. The movie was deemed culturally significant in 2010 to warrant preservation by the Library of Congress in the National Film Registry.
This is a fantastic comedy to watch. The acting was fantastic, and while Peter Sellers (Clouseau) was not the lead, he definitely stole the show. That being said, David Niven (Sir Charles), Robert Wagner (George), Capucine (Simone), and Claudia Cardinale (Dala) were all equally good. The writing was fantastic, which helped the actors give some incredibly witty banter while also telling a fantastic story. The comedy was a fantastic blend of pure slapstick foolishness, mostly at Clouseau’s expense, as well as some fantastically funny dialogue. My favorite scene was the car chase, especially the part where a man is walking through the square as the cars keep going by and Sir Charles and George stop and try to figure a way out of the square while having a conversation, with the man standing in between the two cars. A great movie to watch that is as funny now as it was the first time I saw it.
Rating: 5 out of 5