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The Pink Panther(1964)
The bumbling Inspector Clouseau is on the tail of a famous jewel-thief whose eyes are set on stealing the famous "Pink Panther" gem worn by an Indian Princess.
Filmed in Technirama.
For more about The Pink Panther and the The Pink Panther Blu-ray release, see the The Pink Panther Blu-ray Review published by Greg Maltz on February 5, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: David Niven, Peter Sellers, Robert Wagner, Capucine, Claudia Cardinale, Brenda de Banzie
Director: Blake Edwards
» See full cast & crew
The Pink Panther Blu-ray Review
After 45 years, a film of comedic brilliance and class dusts off remarkably well in 1080p.
Reviewed by Greg Maltz, February 5, 2009
Peter Sellers as Inspector Jacques Clouseau waves a gun at his police colleague, Mr. Tucker (Colin Gordon) who nervously attempts to point the gun away. "Careful, you fool," Clouseau warns, oblivious to Tucker's attempts to avoid an accident. "Do you realize this gun is loaded?" Before Sellers was cast as Clouseau, he had never worked as a physical comic. His ideas, timing and leadership in the genre took shape for the first time under the direction of Blake Edwards in The Pink Panther. But Edwards and others on the set learned to step aside and let the brilliance of Sellers guide the scenes. Originally, David Niven as Sir Charles Lytton was brought on as the star of the film. By the time filming was complete, the unlikely star was Sellers even though the script itself had changed little. The reason was the one-man comedy force of Clouseau. Not since Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd and Charlie Chaplin had audiences erupted in such hysterics over the antics of a single comic. Sure, there had been comedy duos, such as Laurel and Hardy and of course the Marx brothers but The Pink Panther marked the first time since the silent era when a solo physical comic carried the humor of an entire feature on his shoulders. In the clumsy inspector, Sellers invented a clown who seemed perpetually at odds with his surroundings. Nowhere can Clouseau be seen and heard more clearly than MGM's Collector's Edition Blu-ray version of The Pink Panther.
Though Sellers is the only comic in the film, he is not the only actor who makes The Pink Panther special. All of the characters, the sets, locales--and of course the animation--oozed production value and that is borne out by the Pink Panther franchise that is still going strong to this day. The entire cast of the original film is legendary in stature and their chemistry together is excellent. Watching Claudia Cardinale as Princess Dala is intoxicating, and Niven adds a touch of old school class that cannot be replicated today. The film also features a young Robert Wagner as Lytton's nephew. Wagner might seem out of place amidst the other actors, but the characters are defined solidly and it all works. A last-minute casting change brought Capucine instead of Eva Gardner to the roll of Mrs. Clouseau. In most comedies, the supporting characters seem like two-dimensional props to make the comedy work, but in The Pink Panther, the supporting actors actually play challenging roles. It is to the credit of Edwards and the entire cast that they create a narrative that is well paced in addition to characters that serve as straight-men and -women to Sellers' comedy. Beyond the cast, the sets are exceptional. Much of The Pink Panther was filmed in Cortina D'Amezzo, with smaller parts in Rome and Paris. MGM allowed Edwards an enormous budget for the project.
For those of you who haven't seen The Pink Panther, the story begins before the credits roll with a flashback to Princess Dala's childhood. Her father places around her neck a chain with the largest diamond in the world, promising that one day the priceless jewel will be hers. Within the gem resides a small, pink flaw--in the shape of a panther. Cue up the Henry Mancini theme and groovy animation that puts the film firmly in the 1960s. After the credits roll, the dots are connected between a jewel thief, called The Phantom, who steals gems in Rome, and Mrs. Clouseau in Paris, who is involved with moving the contraband. Her unsuspecting husband has been put on the case and together they travel to Cortina D'Amezzo, where Sir Charles Lytton and Princess Dala (who is all grown up) are enjoying the slopes.
Once the Clouseaus arrive, the fun really begins. Lytton carries on a romance with Mrs. Clouseau while the inspector consults with Tucker and local authorities. In one of the greatest choreographed comedy sequences of the film, both Lytton and his nephew hide in the Clouseaus' room while the inspector is trying to have a relaxing evening with his wife. In another gaffe that gets me every time, Clouseau burns himself on the vent over a fireplace and cools his hand by shoving it in Tucker's stein. "That was my beer!" says Tucker. But there are hysterical moments in many scenes. Sellers makes clutz an art form. He takes off his gloves, rests them on a rack and they fall off; puts his hat on the rack and it follows the gloves to the floor; then reacts with subdued exasperation. Suspecting that Lytton is the jewel thief who intends to steal the pink panther diamond, Clouseau arranges to attend Princess Dala's party in Rome. But are his bumbling detective antics any match for the suave Lytton or his devotees, including Mrs. Clouseau--who just happens to be in a unique position to shake up the case?
The Pink Panther Blu-ray, Video Quality
During the opening credits, solid colors in the animation reveal the woeful condition of the source material in the 2.20:1 aspect ratio. Strobing and flickering, moderate dust specs, small grain and signs of digital enhancement--it's all there. The opening minutes prepare the viewer to sit through a mediocre showing in 1080p. It made me expect picture quality like another 60s classic, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. But miraculously, once the opening credits end, the footage appears well preserved and polished in a manner not quite as good as The Godfather, but not much worse, either. Colors appear vibrant and definition is good--far better than the DVD from The Pink Panther Film Collection box set released in 2004. The flickering remains fairly constant throughout, but not overly obtrusive as during the opening credits. Overall, the brightness and color heat breathe new life into the picture. Perhaps there is some digital enhancement and cleanup to remove the larger dust specs and other anomalies. This type of noise reduction appears to have been done tastefully. Sure, there are telltale signs, including very light digital noise intermingled with the film grain. But for the most part the video felt like an enjoyable analog experience and not an excessively manipulated digital transfer. Most importantly, it allows a fresh look in 1080p at arguably the most influential comedy of the past half century.
One impressive feature is that the black level shows few signs of weakness. Dark scenes carry the shadow detail nicely. The most intriguing and captivating shadow scene is in Lytton's room, when Princess Dala joins him for some champagne. In dim light, the color scheme shows in subdued shades of brown, yet the life is visible in Niven's and Cardinale's eyes, facial expressions and details in the room around them. While not matching reference-quality Blu-rays sourced from newer filmstock, the outdoor shots show good depth and definition. Watch the shots of Niven, Cardinale and Capucine skiing the slopes of Cortina D'Ampezzo. The trees and mountains in the background appear with near photorealism. It's an impressive showing for an older film with a source that is far from ideal.
The Pink Panther Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The audio may be spec'ed as DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 but it is essentially monaural with ambient/reverb assigned to the non-center speakers. Having hundreds of jazz CDs sourced from master tapes recorded in the 1960s, I found the "glorified monaural" presentation of Henry Mancini's mid-sized ensemble to be impressive, overall. The midrange of the Ben Webster-inspired tenor sax melody is warm and full as it progresses up the scale in the suggestive half-steps of the Pink Panther theme. It is worth closing one's eyes and listening to the Mancini medley throughout the opening credits. One gets a sense of the depth of the soundstage. While the highs sound somewhat rolled-off and the deep bass is virtually nonexistent, no one will miss it. The soundtrack is fine without these reference-quality cues. If you are not accustomed to older recordings, you may not be happy with the audio, but dialog is crisp and vocal timbres carry plenty of definition. Virtually no signs of distortion or digital anomaly is audible, marking an improvement over the DVD box set version. Listen to the audio in the ski chalet scene when Fran Jeffries sings Meglio Stasera. The vocals and backing instrumentation deliver heft and vibrancy. And Jeffries is a hot performer, even if styles have changed a lot in half a century.
The Pink Panther Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Expecting MGM to offer only ported over content from the 2004 six-disc DVD box, I was pleasantly surprised to find ample fresh content in high definition AVC video, albeit the audio was Dolby Digital throughout the featurettes. Much has been written about writer/director Blake Edwards' tremendous contributions in The Pink Panther, so I won't rehash this except to say his audio commentary is essential for fans of the film. Three of the bonus documentaries are very rewarding as well.
The Pink Panther Story--clocking in at 29 minutes, this featurette is ported over as a low resolution MPEG-2 encode, but is indispensable nonetheless. In describing how he and Sellers came up with the lead character, Blake Edwards refers to himself as a "genetic Clouseau" who injures himself as a matter of routine. He explains how he bonded with Sellers over their mutual love of Laurel and Hardy and other comedians. Ultimately, Edwards describes how the Pink Panther films brought him to the emotionally highest and lowest points in his life.
Beyond the Feline: The Cartoon Phenomenon--another low-res featurette, this animation-focused documentary is of interest for fans of the original cartoon Pink Panther, which was developed at Warner Bros.
The Coolest Cat in Cortina: Robert Wagner--surprisingly, this 11 minute interview with Wagner was the greatest featurette on the BD. Presented in 1080p, Wagner's passion for the film is evident as he describes his experiences on the set and his deep admiration and affinity for his costars. He discusses the timing of the famous cat-and-mouse sequence when he and Niven were hiding from Sellers in the Clouseaus' hotel room. Apparently, too much detergent was used in the bathtub to create sufficient bubbles, and it badly burned Capucine's skin and Wagner's eyes--enough so that he could not see for three weeks and the studio threatened to replace him. But the other actors rallied around the young star and he was able to resume work on the film.
The Tip-Toe Life of a Cat Burglar: A Conversation with Former Jewel Thief Bill Mason--clocking in at 10 minutes, this high-resolution AVC encode with DD audio seems only tangentially related to the main feature. It describes the modus operandi of a real life jewel thief, Mason, who hob nobbed with the rich and famous and eventually was caught. The featurette attempts to make Mason out to be a real-life Sir Charles Lytton, but I'm not sure it succeeds.
Diamonds: Beyond the Sparkle--This seven-minute, high-resolution documentary combines still images from the Gemological Institute of America with interviews featuring various experts. The Institute's Museum Director, Elise Misiorowski, and others discuss the fictional pink panther diamond and what it may have been worth if it was real.
A trailer is also included.
The Pink Panther Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The influence and inventiveness of Peter Sellers is on full display in The Pink Panther. His portrayal of Inspector Clouseau pointed the way for countless spoofs and inspired a generation of physical comics who came afterward. Sellers has obvious disciples among the Monty Python and Saturday Night Live crews, including--obviously--Steve Martin, who plays Clouseau in the two new cinematic additions to the Pink Panther franchise. Another obvious disciple is Michael Richards who lifted material from some of Clouseau's antics. Other comedy franchises like the Austin Powers films owe much to Sellers. But imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Few physical comics have matched Sellers' comedy invention and the roots are all there to see in the original 1964 version of The Pink Panther. The Blu-ray version from MGM may not have perfect audio and video but it's very impressive compared to previous versions. An easy recommendation and a most welcome addition to any comedy section of burgeoning Blu-ray libraries. No matter how many times I watch this film, I can't help but laugh hysterically at some the the physical gaffes--and sometimes at the mere sight of Clouseau in his Scotland Yard style trench coat. Now, thanks to this new 1080p transfer, that sight is clearer than ever before.
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