19 March 2001 | MotoMike
A true classic - One of the best of the Sixties
To me, the defining moment in The Pink Panther comes when Clouseau is finally asked by his wife to get her a sleeping pill. Frustrated, discouraged, he tramps across the room for the umpteenth time to do his wife's bidding. We see him go into the bathroom, and then we hear - not see - ALL the pills drop on the floor of the bathroom. Without picking them up, or even saying anything or reacting in any way, he crunches across the floor and back into our view, carrying the water and the pill for her. You know exactly what happened; you didn't need to see it.
This is typical of this movie and this style: the jokes are so underplayed, quiet and perfectly paced that people accustomed to seeing "American Pie" and "There's Something About Mary", or even the bunch 'o sequels to this film (that grew progressively coarser and louder with each installment) may not get or even notice them. In the first sight of Inspector Clouseau, we see him pulling the old "leaning on a spinning globe and taking a pratfall" trick. But the moment is over with quickly; it's not made more than it is meant to, because the point of the pratfall is to define Clouseau's character in a moment. (Compare with later, more painful, re-occurences of this spinning-globe idea in the sequels). Most of the other moments derive from this idea: at the center of this caper film is this man who is inextricably dense and clueless, and yet retains a curious grace - not to speak of a total savoire-faire in all moments.
This film could never be made today. In fact, it's a time capsule of a certain sort of late 50's, early 60's sensibility. Examples: all the people showing up for the Princess's dinner in formal evening wear. David Niven's late-night repartee with the Princess - all about numb lips and champagne. The musical number - for no reason whatsoever. The glamorous locales - without a trace of irony, straight out of "To Catch a Thief", the inspiration for this type of "caper" flick. The curiously innocent and unsexual bedroom farce moments. And, of course, the ending car chase with guests in ape suits, a suit of armor, and not one but two cops in a zebra outfit (what a good choice for those interested in speed and efficiency!) And these are just the moments - see how effortlessly the screenplay weaves all the story lines together, and how beautifully the pace gets accelerated throughout the movie. Not to speak of the opening credits, which are like a whole cartoon sequence in themselves. Obviously, I'm crazy about this picture; it's pretty, it's captivating, it's romantic, it's funny, and it weighs about two ounces - it's just delectable cotton candy. And through it all Peter Sellers gives one of the most subtle, and funniest, comic performances put to film, walking around in a fog, totally unaware of reality, and underplaying his role to the hilt.
Rumor has it that a remake is in the works, with Mike Myers in the Clouseau role. Let's compare two moments to get a preview: Peter Sellers bringing his wife a part-full glass of milk that he has spilled most of. At her quizzical look he innocently says,"That was all they had, my dear!" .... compared with Austin Powers drinking, um, the brown substance that is not coffee. Different strokes for different folks, indeed. Looking forward to it, uh huh.