Director Blake Edwards ignites a powder keg of laughter in this "delightful" (Boxoffice) caper involving a most inefficient search for France's most inept detective - using the bluntest instruments possible! Featuring David Niven (in his final screen performance), Robert Wagner, Herbert Lom, Ted Wass, and a hilarious cameo by Roger Moore, Curse of the Pink Panther overflows with "unadulterated fun" and "naughtiness" (Los Angeles Times)!
With Clouseau still missing, the French president orders Clouseau's archrival - the dangerously deranged Dreyfus (Lom) - to find him. Having no such intentions, Dreyfus ingeniously hires the world's worst detective, New York Police Department's not-so-finest Clifton Sleigh (Wass), to ensure that Clouseau is never located. But it's beginning to look like his foolproof plan could end up making him look like the fool!
Some franchises have a specific cook time. End things too soon and the series feels incomplete leaving the audience hanging. Leave it in too long and the material becomes dry and stale. 1983's Curse of the Pink Panther is part of a franchise that dried up long ago. Part of the one-two Pink Panther punch with 1982's Trail of the Pink Panther that saw writer/director Blake Edwards attempt to pay tribute to his longtime creative partner Peter Sellers by putting the comedic value of the franchise in a chokehold with Ted Wass as a dimwit American detective who has been tasked with locating the missing Inspector Clouseau.
Ever since Clouseau disappeared, the criminal underworld is allowed to act unchecked - including making off with the famed Pink Panther diamond (yet again). To avoid any further embarrassment, the French President has ordered Clouseau to be found - at any cost. The unfortunate task of locating the world's most successful detective in order to find the world's most bumbling detective has fallen upon his nemesis Chief Inspector Charles Dreyfus (Herbert Lom). Ever since Clouseau disappeared, Dreyfus has enjoyed a measure of sanity - so the idea of having the man found is less than appealing. In order for Clouseau to remain missing, Dreyfus concocts a plan to locate the world's worst detective - New York's very own Sergeant Clifton Sleigh (Ted Wass). After all, who could possibly be worse than Clouseau?
Much like Trail of the Pink Panther, Curse of the Pink Panther sees a franchise that was already on life support without its lead star Peter Sellers grasp for comedic breath. The biggest issue facing this outing under the direction of Edwards is the overwhelming sense of exhaustion. As Edwards and Sellers were working on the unfilmed "Romance of the Pink Panther" before Seller's sudden death, Curse of the Pink Panther feels like a collection of gags and scenarios thought up for a better film. Here, they just feel recycled - broken down, torn apart, and put back together again for an actor who wasn't up to the task of the material. Even with the appearance of David Niven, Robert Wagner, Capucine, Burt Kwouk, and a funny turn from Roger Moore, Curse of the Pink Panther struggles to find a comedic pace and define its purpose.
I'll tip my hat to Ted Wass for taking up the thankless role of Sgt. Clifton Sleigh. He does what he can as he is obviously filling the big shoes left by Peter Sellers' absence. Aside from a slightly rejiggered plot, it's easy to see that this film was more or less always intended for Sellers putting Wass in the position of having to fulfill the comedic hijinks intended for a master of the genre. While some of the bits are funny, many of the gags fail to land because as an audience member, you can't help but imagine how Sellers would have played things. While Alan Arkin had similar troubles during Inspector Clouseau, Arkin at least had a fresh film to work with and wasn't saddled with the extra pressure of playing up Seller's own gags. He at least got to put his own spin on the character. Wass doesn't enjoy that luxury as he appears to be going through the motions because that's what was written. Even if Wass wasn't cast in the part, any actor would have endured the same fate as much of this film's plot and gags wasn't intended for anyone but Peter Sellers.
To be fair, there are some funny moments found throughout Curse of the Pink Panther as Herbert Lom steps in to fill the comedic void. Some of the funniest moments throughout the entire Pink Panther franchise occurs whenever Lom's Dreyfus endures some sort of physical injury unintentionally caused by Clouseau. The same can be said for this film with Clifton Sleigh. Dreyfus falling out of his own office window and breaking his leg is hilarious, but again, one can easily tell it was a gag concocted for Sellers to execute and isn't quite as funny as it could have been.
Of all the Pink Panther films without Peter Sellers Curse of the Pink Panther is probably the lowest point of the franchise (excluding the needless remakes). Trail of the Pink Panther benefitted by having an abundance of deleted material featuring Sellers in some truly hilarious moments. Son of the Pink Panther may have been unnecessary but Benigni's manic energy manages to salvage that film. I get what Edwards was trying to do here by keeping Seller's beloved character alive - at least in spirit - but the results feel more like an unfortunate attempt to cash-in on a deceased man's legacy.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Curse of the Pink Panther arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber and their Studio Classics label. Pressed onto a Region A BD-25 disc, the disc is housed in a standard sturdy Blu-ray case and comes with a booklet containing cover artwork for Kino Lorber Studio Classics releases. The disc loads directly to a static image main menu featuring traditional navigation options.
Say what you will about Curse of the Pink Panther but the film certainly looks great. This 2.35:1 1080p transfer shows that a lot of effort went into making this film - for better or worse. Details are robust allowing audiences to digest every aspect of the film. Grain is intact allowing fine details to come to life while background materials, clothing, and fine facial features come through perfectly. Harvey Korman as Professor Balls and his costume shop is a notable moment featuring a number of eccentric oddities to look over - in addition to Korman's own wild appearance. Colors are bright and cheerful with a rich primary presence leaving flesh tones looking healthy. Black levels feature a nice inky quality giving the image an appreciable sense of depth. Aside from some very slight speckling, this is a pretty terrific looking image.
Curse of the Pink Panther does what it can with its English DTS-HD MA 2.0 mix. This isn't to say that the track is bad, it just has a number of baked in issues. The primary issue is dubbing. Whether the film is using archival audio of Peter Sellers or the voice actor that was chosen to dub for David Niven as his heath was failing during production, the film's dialogue can have a bit of a canned inorganic quality to it. Thankfully you can hear everything perfectly. Sound effects are on point, heightened during the right moments for comedic value without overpowering the rest of the mix. Henry Mancini's terrific score is also spot on and takes over when necessary. Free of any hiss or pops, this is a near-perfect mix.
Bonus features for Curse of the Pink Panther are relatively light, but the interview with star Ted Wass is a welcome piece. The rest of the bonus features is made up of Kino Lorber Studio Classics' usual collection of related trailers.
Ted Wass Interview (HD 16:50) One can't help but feel sorry for Wass after hearing this interview. While he has good things to say about his experience and he appreciates the opportunity he was given with this film, he's very open about the fact that Edwards put him on the spot by telling him outright he wasn't the first choice for the part. Wass gives plenty of info about the production making this interview a worthwhile watch
Theatrical Trailer (HD 1:32)
Son of the Pink Panther (HD 1:09)
Trail of the Pink Panther (SD 2:10)
Revenge of the Pink Panther (SD 2:11)
The Pink Panther Strikes Again (SD 2:43)
Return of the Pink Panther (SD 2:11)
A Shot in the Dark (SD 3:44)
The Pink Panther (SD 3:51)
To be fair, The Curse of the Pink Panther isn't a completely terrible movie, it just wasn't necessary in the least bit. It's not completely unwatchable, but laughs are few and far between. By piggybacking on the conclusion of Trail of the Pink Panther, this film only stalls out the franchise when it was intended to reinvigorate the series after the death of Peter Sellers. But you can't replace Sellers and this film bears that out with every awkward gag that fails to get a laugh - that isn't, at the very least, at the expense of Herbert Lom. Even with Blake Edwards' involvement behind the camera, this is a tough one to accept as part of the original franchise. While I'm not a fan of the film, I will say that Kino Lorber Studio Classics has done a terrific job bringing this film to Blu-ray with a great A/V transfer and a great interview with star Ted Wass to round out the bonus features. Fans of the film and franchise completionists will be happy to have this disc in their collections. If you've never seen Curse of the Pink Panther, rent it first.