'The Pink Panther': THR's 1964 Review

Pink Panther - H - 1964
A laugh-out-loud farce that contains some of the most hilarious bits of any picture in years.

On March 20, 1964, Peter Sellers' Inspector Clouseau made his way to theaters in The Pink Panther. The Hollywood Reporter's original review, headlined "'Pink Panther' Sure-Fire Blockbuster Comedy Film," is below: 

Blake Edwards' The Pink Panther is a rousing addition to the current list of hits, a laugh-out-loud farce that contains some of the most hilarious bits of any picture in years. The Mirisch Co. presentation, directed by Edwards and produced by Martin Jurow, sags in three or four places, but these scenes are limp only in contrast to the great comedy that surrounds them. The United Artists release cannot miss being one of the box office hits of the year. 

The Maurice Richlin-Blake Edwards screenplay is based on the surefire premise of slapstick on a background of elegance, somewhat the same formula that for so many wonderful years kept Margaret Dumont a staple of the Marx Bros. revels. In The Pink Panther, the plot revolves around efforts of a gentleman jewel thief to heist a fabulous gem owned by a Muslim princess, and the efforts of inept police of several countries to frustrate the theft. Not since the Keystone Kops era have gumshoes been so heavy-handed and thick-headed. Comedy is the main ingredient of Pink Panther, But Edwards has given it acceleration with sex, suspense and sophistication.

It is fully 15 minutes after the picture begins before the audience has any idea of what's up. It doesn't matter, the laughter begins early and sustains. It is more than 30 minutes before Edwards slows down enough to allow the camera to linger more than five minutes on a single scene. The style is sharp and clipped, studded with great sight gags that play on their own. As noted above, a couple scenes don't play, and there is one bedroom scene (there are many) that pushes too far for its humor. (An exploding bottle of champagne has very obvious double meaning.) But for the great majority of the picture's sequences, the touch is sure and subtle. 

In a picture about thievery, it is Peter Sellers who proves the most outrageous larcenist. He plays one of the oldest characters in the world, the fellow with two left feet, the would-be gentleman of the world who nonchalantly moves to light a cigarette in a moment of crisis, and ignites his nose. The character is set in Sellers' first scene and the audience never relaxes thereafter waiting for the next doorknob to come off in his hand. Invention is rich and varied, and Sellers plays each variation with the unassailable innocence of the eternal hot-foot victim. The audience is never disappointed. 

David Niven, as the gentleman Johnny who burgles hearts and diamonds with equal skill, plays his own brand of comedy with immense success. Robert Wagner, Niven's young nephew who wishes to continue the family profession, displays a very nice light touch and very much holds his own with this fast company. Capucine, who has been criticized in the past for a certain rigidity, opens up with great appeal. Claudia Cardinale, as the princess, is sexy and funny and a complete delight. Brenda De Banzie stands out in the supporting cast. 

Philip Lathrop's Technirama-Technicolor photography skips over a variety of interiors and exteriors getting value out of all, and a pace in his interiors that is a great help to the comedy. Henry Mancini's score is perhaps his best to date, a cool counterpoint to the action that slips gracefully through many moods while maintaining a dominant point of view. Ralph Winters' editing is sharp throughout and makes of one sequence, where a crazy car chase is seen through the viewpoint of one wordless observer, a minor classic. Alexander Fisher's sound is good. Fernando Carrere's art direction and set decoration by Reginald Allen, Jack Stevens and Arrigo Breschi provide visual elegance to enhance the gags. Imaginative main titles, by DePatie-Freleng Enterprises set the mood perfectly. — James Powers, originally published on Jan. 28, 1964.