Pity the younger generations that will forever associate the character of Inspector Clouseau with Steve Martin. Peter Sellers might not have been a “wild and crazy guy,” but he was nothing short of brilliant as a comedic actor. Sellers never relied on over the top grandstanding to make a point. You never needed to be hit over the head with the jokes. He displayed an altogether different, more subdued, flamboyance than the modern comic. You didn’t need to be told when to laugh. The problem was more often being able to stop. Teamed with Blake Edwards in the Pink Panther series, the comedy becomes iconic. While it is true that Return of the Pink Panther might not be the best of the series, it is superior to later entries that eventually ran out of steam. The series without Sellers finally resorted to the pushy humor so prevalent today. In case it isn’t obvious by now, the success of this franchise rested squarely on Sellers’ shoulders. Attempts were made to continue the series immediately after his untimely death. All of these films were resounding failures. I suspect the current film will find itself stuck in the same fate.
The largest and most valuable diamond in the world, The Pink Panther, has been stolen for a second time. All clues point to The Phantom (Plummer). His only hope of clearing his name is the man who recovered the jewel the first time it was taken: Inspector Clouseau (Sellers). Clouseau has troubles of his own. Someone wants him dead… his boss.
From the complicated sight gags to the imaginative word play, this stuff is all about timing. True, the routines require your full attention, or they simply do not work. The effort, however, is handsomely rewarded in this film. Anyone who has ever had the phone ring at the most inopportune time will die laughing during the classic tub scene
The Return of the Pink Panther is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Color is relatively subdued throughout most of the film. There is a considerable amount of grain, perhaps more indicative of the film’s age. Contrast is below average. Darker tones tend to blend together. Black levels are deep but lack substantial detail. Flesh tones are too white most of the time. Occasionally a flash of bright, well defined color does manage to sneak into the print. Clouseau’s red leisure suit, seen briefly at an hour and ten minutes, is wonderfully rendered. A solid average 8mbps bit rate is wasted on a less than stellar transfer. If you own the 1999 release, this is still a slight improvement.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack is pretty much two channel mono. Henry Mancini’s trademark theme is a highlight of a rather simple soundtrack. There is very little other musical scoring to be found. Dialogue is what the film is mostly about, and it is reproduced adequately here. The word “shit” is clearly edited out at 1:03. It is entirely possible this edit occurs in the original print. There are several examples of poor looping. There is no distortion.
Sadly there is nothing to report.
Return of the Pink Panther will not be part of the MGM box set of the film series. This and the horrid Curse of the Pink Panther are owned by other studios. Sellers truly enjoys a triumphant return to the role here. Alan Arkin assumed the part in the previous film: “Inspector Clouseau”. Bottom line is you’re going to need this one to complete your set. If you are new to the franchise or plan to see the upcoming version, you owe it to yourself to experience the original in all of its glory. Give it half a chance and I guarantee you’ll be taken in. How do I know this? “It is my business to know.”