For Reel

The Pink Panther (1963)
August 12, 2016, 2:10 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Blake Edwards
2.5 Stars
The Pink PantherFor its lasting place in pop culture history, it is surprising that The Pink Panther was birthed from an essential mistake. Originally wrought as a vehicle for star David Niven, it was the film that made Peter Sellers a star—in fact, he’s so good that he is arguably the only thing that makes the supposed comedy watchable. Niven’s cat burglar brings the expected class but very little sense of levity, worsened by the stiff relationship with Claudia Cardinale. Much of the film feels similarly labored and grasping—if the surrealism and heavy doses of nostalgia in the climax bring some life (everything about the gag with the zebra costume is a masterpiece of low-brow comedy), it doesn’t account for the preceding tedium. Sellers is the only actor who really gets to be funny, and his smallness as a performer suggests lessons taken from the great reactionary comics like Buster Keaton. If Sellers’ pratfalls are funny, the fact that he ignores the absurdity of each of them makes them hysterical. He is the least grandstanding of comics—when he shrugs his shoulders to the final notes of a song, it seems like a lived-in gesture from Inspector Clouseau himself rather than a comedian using the opportunity for a small physical gag. Director Blake Edwards similarly shows an understated confidence in his directing, with the Fran Jeffries musical number being staged with a masterful precision in  composition rather than flashy camera tricks or an overuse of editing. Despite the talents involved, however, the material is just a slog.

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