The Pink Panther

The Pink Panther (1963)
MGM Home Entertainment
Cast: Peter Sellers, Claudia Cardinale, David Niven
Extras: Commentary Track, Featurettes

Hot on the heels of the theatrical release of the new Steve Martin vehicle, "The Pink Panther 2, " MGM Home Entertainment is also presenting a little reminder that these films are actually based on a series of classic comedies that have yet to be matched, by putting Blake Edwards' original 1963 "The Pink Panther" on Blu-Ray Disc. It is the film that unwittingly started the franchise and became legendary because of thelate and unforgettable Peter Sellers. The films in the series all have a unique charm, and Sellers' physical comedy, clumsiness and the witty dialogues have helped establish them in the ranks of some of the most notable comedies of the 60s. Everything matches in these films, having you giggle and laugh constantly and even the films' animated opening credits are as hilarious as the films themselves. Clearly I couldn't wait to get my hands on this high definition version of one of my favorite comedies of old.

The Pink Panther is a giant, flawless diamond of inestimable value. Inherited through generations it is now in the possession of princess Dala (Claudia Cardinale) and accompanies her on a vacation trip to Cortina D'Ampezzo, an Italian upper class ski resort. As you would expect from such a valuable item, however, it has already caught the attention of criminals. Sir Charles (David Niven) is a professional thief, also known as "The Phantom," and in order to steal the precious gem, he befriends the princess and carefully plans his moves. Close on his heels is Inspector Jacques Clouseau (Peter Sellers), the clumsiest inspector the world has ever seen. Tripping over every piece of furniture within reach and breaking everything he touches, Clouseau is trying to uncover the identity of "The Phantom". What he doesn't know however is that his wife is actually the Phantom's accomplice and so the masterful thief is aware of Clouseau's every move. Only his dumb-luck can help the clueless inspector now to find out the truth about the Phantom he has been chasing for a long time.

"The Pink Panther" is a very well crafted atmospheric detective story that revolves around the dopey inspector Clouseau. Interestingly, the sequels to "The Pink Panther" made Clouseau even more the focus of the films, by adding a vast number of hilarious Clouseau disguise acts. Peter Sellers is perfect in the role of the incompetent inspector and truly made the part his own. The dryness, innocence and naivete with which he portrays Clouseau cannot be beat. He manages to create an antihero that never seems truly silly, stupid or dull, but always funny and incapable. Clouseau is a culprit to his environment and still always remains lovable.

David Niven as Clouseau's antagonist is also a perfect cast. His aristocratic appearance and nonchalant play create the perfect image of this Arsene Lupin-like gentleman thief, who leads a very active and open social life, while on the other hand being Damocles' sword hanging over other people's wealth – quick to cut it off.

Apart from the riotous story and the incredibly funny characters, "The Pink Panther" also features some great visuals. Carefully crafted and framed pictures, embellished by Philip H. Lathrop's detailed lighting settings and cinematography, create a very warm and cozy atmosphere throughout the picture, despite the freezing settings of the snow capped Alps. In fact they create an atmosphere that almost lets you smell the burning wood in the fireplace.

On this high definition version, we get to see "The Pink Panther" in its original 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio and I am pleased to report that the transfer looks rather splendid. It is free of blemishes and speckles, making for a clean and clear presentation throughout. The level of detail in the transfer is beautifully reproduced, although it has to be noted that by design the movie does have a glamorized soft look to it. Colors are rich and saturated, making sure the wonderful interiors and magnificent outdoor shots in the Italian Alps are perfectly rendered, making the best of the film's look.

To add to the visual quality of the presentation, the studio has also included a DTS 5.1 HD Master Lossless Audio track, to ensure a perfect presentation in your home. The film has been remixed and while not overly aggressive, surround sounds are used well and create a lively ambiance throughout the movie. Dialogues are nicely integrated and never harsh, while Henry Mancini's iconic score to the film comes across as lively and beautifully dynamic.

The release also contains a commentary track by director Blake Edwards in which he discusses many aspects of the making of the movie and his work with Peter Sellers in particular. Further you will find a series of featurettes on the disc, such as "The Pink Panther Story," "Beyond The Feline: The Cartoon Phenomenon," "The Coolest Cat In Cortina: Robert Wagner," "The Tip-Top Life Of A Cat Burglar: A Conversation With Former Jewel Thief Bill Mason," and "Diamonds: Beyond The Sparkle." Each of these featurettes offers a neat glimpse into the making of this cult comedy, as well as the talent that necessary to make it happen.

While we have seen many slapstick comedies and a large number of physical acts, none of them has the charm of the "Pink Panther" series. One could argue the romanticized feel of the films helps making the atmosphere and characters more delightful, but I truly believe these films are just so well written, acted and produced that they have quickly become institutions in the comedy genre. The series has made Peter Sellers one of the hottest comedians of his time and if it hadn't been for his untimely death, he would certainly still grace the silver screen today with his outrageously funny performances. In this new, high definition presentation, "The Pink Panther" comes with the highest regards and should not be missed out on!