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THE PINK PANTHER

The Pink Panher

Reviewed by Bob Banka
March 30, 1999

THE PINK PANTHER

MGM
Widescreen 2.35 : 1, or Pan & Scan
Dolby Digital, 2 Speaker Mono
Color
115 Minutes
Not Rated 1963

COMMENTS
I popped MGM's recent release of Blake Edwards' THE PINK PANTHER into my player, and as soon as Henry Mancini's score began,... Da dum, Da dum....Da dum, Da dum... I was taken back to my reasonably innocent youth - sitting in the theater with my brothers and my father, giggling and cracking up, as we watched the opening credits to another Pink Panther film - loaded with the exploits of that clumsy, bumbling Inspector Clouseau. As I recall, the theater we frequented, on a military base, often ran a genuine Pink Panther cartoon before the main feature. I'll never forget the sound of three hundred delighted GIs - breaking into applause, and then laughter, as the screen went pink following the last strains of the National Anthem.

Like many Pink Panther fans, I was pleased - tickled pink even (sorry), when I heard that MGM was prepping the Clouseau flics for the little silver disc. There were four films in the series which included Peter Sellers in the role of the Inspector. There were other sequels as well, released after the actor passed away. However, these were dismal failures. Someone at MGM should've said WHEN! Yes, I was pleased to hear of the releases, but unfortunately MGM didn't see fit to enhance the titles for 16x9 viewing. Bummer, though to be honest, I wasn't surprised. If a flic is more than a few years old, it's unlikely that MGM will release it in an anamorphic transfer. Obviously, this is a policy many of us want to see changed - certainly BEFORE the company releases films like BEN-HUR, or any of the other classic titles in their vault.

It was inevitable, given the success of the Panther films, that MGM would try to continue with the series after Sellers died. But Sellers WAS the series. The films were a hit due to his brilliant comedic talents and his collaboration with director Edwards. Some series can continue even after a major star departs. Consider Sean Connery's taking flight from the 007 role, and Keaton's hanging up of the Batman cowl. But a Pink Panther film without Sellers is like soda without the fizz. It's like a banana split without the banana.

Sellers was a comic genius with impeccable timing. He was a master of disguises as well, often playing multiple roles is a single film. Consider his turns in DR. STRANGELOVE and THE MOUSE THAT ROARED. He was an excellent dramatic actor too. Recall his performances in BEING THERE and LOLITA. His ability to do physical comedy was unsurpassed by actors of his generation, and perhaps this is why he was superb as Inspector Clouseau. Sellers found more ways to be tripped-up while performing the simplest of tasks - like walking through a door, hanging up a hat, or answering a phone. His hilarious mangling of the French language was a tickle. Most amazing perhaps, was Sellers' ability to play the part straight-faced, with all the seriousness of a heart surgeon. He was truly a gifted actor.

If you grew up on the Pink Panther films, you're rejoicing over MGM's new releases. The first film in the series has reached its thirty-fifth birthday, so you may be a bit concerned about the image transfer. Well, read on... Da dum, Da dum......Da dum, Da dum...

PLOT SYNOPSIS
Sir Charles Litton (David Niven) is the suave, gentleman thief, long pursued by Interpol, and by the bumbling French Inspector, Jacques Clouseau (Peter Sellers). Litton is vacationing in the Alpine resort of Cortina D'Amprezzo, where the beautiful princess, Dala (Claudia Cardinale), holder of the world's largest diamond - the Pink Panther, is also relaxing and cruising the slopes. The old Brit has his eyes on the princess as well as the gem.

It's now known that the famous thief has a female accomplice. The police are convinced she could lead them to him - if they could track her down. Litton is always one step ahead of the police because Clouseau's wife (Capucine) is the accomplice, and she's always alerting him to her husband's next move. Litton's nephew, George (Robert Wagner), has also arrived at the resort and apparently he's determined to get his hands on the diamond as well.

Princess Dala throws a huge costume ball at her villa in Rome, and invites many friends staying at the ski resort. Clouseau is convinced that Litton is the thief, but he has no proof. He alerts the princess, and tells her that he and his men will patrol the area during the party, and hopefully catch the thief red-handed. George and Charles Litton are both arrested, but things don't go so well for the Inspector when the case comes to trial.

IMAGE
Considering the it's age, MGM has done a good job transferring THE PINK PANTHER to DVD. The image is not without its flaws - some no doubt related to the condition of the existing elements, and some not - but on the whole, it allows for a pleasurable viewing experience with only a handful of distractions. Without question, this is the best looking version of this Technicolor, Technirama film, ever made available for home viewing.

The colors on the disc are very nicely rendered, and fully saturated.....yes, even the pink. The bright and varied palette seen at the ski resort and the outrageous costume ball, looks stunning. Occasionally, we did notice a slight 'halo-ing' of red and green about some characters' faces - instances are few and far between though. The opening shot in the film, after the credits sequence, will catch your eye immediately. This is the short sequence within the palace in India(?) where the king shows his daughter the Pink Panther diamond for the first time. The marvelous pinks, emerald greens, and bright whites, all look solid and vivid.

The ski resort sequence, which takes up more than half of the film, also has excellent colors. However, it's here that we see some grain and image break-up problems. When the camera pans to follow a skier, we can see a thin trail of 'waviness' and grain, following behind. There is also a bit of grain in the snow in general. It was distracting enough to catch our eye during the first skiing scene, and so we looked for it in subsequent ones - and sure enough, the problem was there.

Contrast and brightness levels are good and consistent throughout the presentation. Flesh tones usually look natural. There are a handful of nics and scars on the film - substantial enough in size to distract on occasion. Blacks are deep and solid throughout. Again, considering the vintage of this pic, the first of the Pink Panther films, MGM's transfer is quite good.

AUDIO
This is an unremarkable mono soundtrack - except for the fact that MGM did go an extra mile by allowing for a two speaker mono signal, rather than only a center channel one. Those of us with large, front projection systems appreciate this since it spreads the sound out across the front of our home theaters instead of nailing it down into a narrow zone in the middle of the screen.

The audio is restricted to a rather narrow dynamic range - basically in the middle, to upper middle range. Though the sound is usually clean, there are instances, for example during a song and dance routine in a ski chalet, where the music and voice get briefly distorted.

Dialogue sounds a bit thin and hollow, and Mancini's score is sadly lacking in bottom end. Keep in mind, however, that these limitations primarily have to do with the aged existing sound elements, and have very little to do with MGM's efforts. Also, note that none of these 'negatives' will take away from the comic delight obtained from the perfectly-timed punch lines and hysterical prat falls delivered by Peter Sellers.

SPECIAL FEATURES
Theatrical trailer
Scene access menu with links to 32 chapters in the film
English closed captions

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