Approved. It's so odd that I have to keep writing these MPAA Parents' Guides for movies that existed before the MPAA. The Pink Panther is often kind of cheeky and childish, relying a lot on innuendo for its sexual content. One of the running gags that is inappropriate for children is the sheer amount of affairs that Mrs. Clouseau's wife has. It's all very tongue-in-cheek, but it still is in the film. Also, the notion of the sexual conquest is still very present in the film. It's also uncomfortable that Claudia Cardinale is meant to play an Indian princess.
DIRECTOR: Blake Edwards
Guess what the next box set is? (If you haven't, I'm just going to spell it out because I never want to shame anyone.) I got The Pink Panther box set. Okay, I got The Pink Panther box set minus disc three. So if you know where I can buy only disc three, I would be very grateful. I know, the first one is the only truly great one in the series. Do you know how I know that? Because people tell me that far too often. They told me this so often that I haven't even bothered to see the other entries. So I'll come back with my own opinion, once I'm able to get a copy of the third movie.
I remember loving this first movie. I remember thinking that it was a work of genius. It was such a work of genius that I only watched it once. For all intents and purposes, this was a new movie for me, with the caveat that I had pretty high expectations for it. And I'll go as far as to say that there's nothing really wrong with the movie on the whole. It's just something very different from what I remember it being. Like many franchises, some of it can be chalked up to being representative of a series of films that didn't know that they were going to be a series of films. If this was one movie alone, it would be a very different beast. And I don't know the history of Blake Edwards nor of the Pink Panther franchise. I am speculating with everything that I'm about to say. But it really does feel like The Pink Panther was meant to be a one-off movie, a parody of the Inspector Poirot stories.
I say this because Clouseau is not the main character of the movie. If anything, he's the comic relief in a silly caper film. I watched The Pink Panther in two sittings. Those two sittings were drastically different from one another. The first half of the movie is this exposition dump, setting up an oddly complicated plot about this Pink Panther diamond, the Phantom, and how all of the characters were going to converge at this hotel for the caper of the century. Yes, there are jokes, but not a ton of stuff that makes the movie feel like a screwball comedy. The second half of the movie, that's where my emotional memory comes back to me. After a long time of setting up the individual pieces, that's when the film becomes unapologetically a comedy. But the story is about Sir Charles Lytton and how his reputation as the Phantom is at stake over the success of this jewel heist. The Phantom is the one with the jokes. But these jokes are restrained compared to Clouseau's very over-the-top hilarity. It's like someone just let Peter Sellers do whatever he wanted and that he was in a different film.
But Clouseau is the side character in this story. It's only the sequels that would put Clouseau in the protagonist's seat. Edwards pushes and bullies Clouseau around. We're supposed to revel in Clouseau getting stymied left and right in the first film. That's the only way that the end of the movie even makes a remote amount of sense. Simone Clouseau sells her husband down the river to free Sir Charles and George and we're supposed to laugh at that. Do you realize how torn I am about that ending to the movie? The cultural zeitgeist has bred me to believe that Clouseau was like Inspector Gadget. He bumbles and gets everything wrong, only to have his just desserts through the intervention of fate and the calamity of everyone else. When Clouseau actually solves the mystery and has this moment where he's vindicated in this lifelong pursuit of The Phantom, he's put in prison. The insane thing is that I can't even fault Blake Edwards for his lack of foresight with this decision because it's the answer I kind of like...
...if this was a solitary film.
There are many movies where the comic relief becomes the butt of the joke. Often, the protagonists defy the odds and get their happy endings while the comic relief would be the only one with mud on their faces. But we know what this franchise would be. We know that Clouseau would eventually be the mold for the bumbling inspector like Frank Drebin from The Naked Gun / Police Squad. To add to all of this, Inspector Clouseau is so kind-hearted and morally righteous, that his imprisonment at the end is both hilarious and downright depressing. Yeah, Clouseau fills the role of Job, who never really loses his faith in the law. But it also becomes this weird beating up of the moral character of the piece. Yeah, I'm not wrong to say that he might be the only moral character of the story. George is a fink. Sir Charles is the thief whose moral salvation lies in the equivalent of "good intentions". Simone completely betrays her husband and is kind of the mastermind behind the Phantom. The Princess hoards the Pink Panther against the request of her people. It's just a lot.
While I'm less than inclined to stress that this is the work of genius that I remember it being, the second half of the movie is really spectacular. It's when The Pink Panther embraces its overtly silly nature that it shines. Don't get me wrong. I can see that the sequels will probably do this in spades to the detriment of the films. But this one works so well because the jokes feel like the payoff to investment. Lots of movies successfully pull off silly all the way through. But when looking at the works of Blake Edwards coupled with Peter Sellers, I can see this working better as is. It's so funny that there are just so many Pink Panther spin-offs and sequels considering that much of the reason that The Pink Panther works so well is the specific chord that this first movie is striking. I know that it doesn't universally work, as seen with the OG Casino Royale film with David Niven, Peter Sellers, and Woody Allen. But part of me has no desire whatsoever to watch the Steve Martin entries, despite the fact that I adore Steve Martin. It's just something about 1963 big-budget comedy that really works for me.
Maybe that's why people really like the film. I also might explain the love of James Bond that comes out of movies like The Pink Panther. I can't help but watch the first Pink Panther and see a lot of the foundations that would make Bond so successful. International misogyny in the beatnik era is something to look for. It's kind of why I loved the BBS stuff as well. There's just this class to dumb comedy that works beyond the actual content of the movie. It gets me excited to see A Shot in the Dark, which is something considering what I've heard about the other films. I'm slightly glad that I don't idolize The Pink Panther. As much as I thought it was brilliant the first time I watched it, I haven't been invested in this movie enough to feel like I was let down by a less than stellar viewing of the film. It's a good movie, but it'll never hit a favorites list.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.