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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > The Pink Panther (1964/MGM Blu-ray)

The Pink Panther (1964/MGM Blu-ray)

 

Picture: B     Sound: B-     Extras: B-     Film: B-

 

 

Though it has been one of the most inconsistent film franchises in history, The Pink Panther films (including remakes and a spin-off) number 11, and that does not even count the many animated shorts since Blake Edwards’ first Pink Panther arrived in 1964.  Unlike the later films that all centered on Inspector Clouseau, this original film was an all-star cast affair and when you think about it, is one of the more successful comedies of its type along with It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and What’s Up Doc? as sadly the last cycle of such all-out laughfests.

 

Part of the guessing game is who is the thief known as The Phantom, stealing all kinds of treasures and gems at a winter resort.  Clouseau (Peter Sellers in the way to worldwide fame, along with his work for Stanley Kubrick) is eventually brought into the case, is juggling his awkward marriage with his wife (Capucine, already an international star on her way to more Hollywood productions after this) with a case that he is sure he can crack… along with various doors, pieces of rare furniture and other people’s broken bones, et al.  While he is bumbling, more wackiness is in store and in the tradition of the early sound comedies of the 1930s, plus more than a few silent classics, Edwards and co-writer Maurice Richlin (Pillow Talk, For Pete’s Sake) succeed more than they fail.

 

When seeing the film before in lesser video copies, it did not play well, but in this much better version, you can see what the makers intended and it is classy comedy entertainment.  That is in part thanks to a great cast that includes David Niven (just passing on/missing the James Bond role and on a role as one of the top box office draws), Robert Wagner (in a comeback/career boost that fortunately held for decades) and Claudia Cardinale (right off of Visconti’s The Leopard) looking like a million bucks!

 

Besides catching the fun of the James Bond wave that was building, the film owes much to Alfred Hitchcock films like To Catch A Thief and North By Northwest, plus Jules Dassin’s heist classic Topkapi, yet is its own film because it is sending up those and so much more, proving big screen comedy was far from dead and not owned by the TV sitcom.  The Sellers sequels would pump up the wackiness, but this first Pink Panther was built to last and 45 years later, its impact and influence (including in films like What’s New Pussycat?, the 1967 Casino Royale and even the Austin Powers films) is with us.

 

 

The 1080p 2.20 X 1 AVC @ 24 MBPS digital High Definition image has an inconsistent print source, but is fortunately from the kind of big screen, large frame 70mm presentation the film is best seen in.  In those faded shots, the definition is also less impressive, but when you get the better shots, you can see the money and effort put into this production to make it a serious big screen comedy of the kind they do not know how to make anymore.  This was one of the last films shot in the large-frame Technirama format and one of the most memorable, with 35mm 2.35 X 1 scope prints issued in dye-transfer three-strip Technicolor.  Director of Photography Philip H. Lathrop, A.S.C., was Edwards’ longtime cinematographer at this point and did much TV work, yet handles the compositions throughout with ease.  He would later top himself with the 1967 classic Point Blank.

 

The DTS HD Master Audio (MA) lossless 5.1 mix shows its age in the dialogue recording, though those tracks could use some fixing like the image, but most impressive is the multi-channel presentation of the music by the late, great Henry Mancini in his glory with one of the most popular and enduring movie themes of all time and other great compositions that really shine here as the highlight of this Blu-ray’s playback.  He composed this after his classic work on Stanley Donen’s Charade the year before and rarely have any composers offers such a pair of remarkable scores form start to finish in cinema history.  For more on the best digital sound format releases of his work, try this link:

 

http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review/1648/Ultimate+Mancini+(SACD)

 

 

Extras include an audio commentary by Edwards himself and a great set of old and new featurettes including The Pink Panther Story, Beyond The Feline: The Cartoon Phenomenon, The Coolest Cat In Cortina: Robert Wagner, The Tip-Toe Life Of A Cat Burglar and Diamonds: Behind The Sparkle.  Though there are so many to choose from, I had hoped MGM would have picked a few of the Panther cartoons to include in High Definition, but they have the rest of the original series to issue, so there is hope.  A Shot In The Dark was the first sequel made soon after and should logically be the next Panther Blu-ray, or is that Pink-ray?  I can see the plastic case now…

 

 

-   Nicholas Sheffo


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