MGM // 1983 // 110 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // June 20th, 2006
Valencia Police Chief: Is that Slay as in to kill?
Sergeant Clifton Sleigh: No. That's Sleigh, as in "one horse open."
The lovely thing about Curse of the Pink Panther is that it picks up right where the plotless Trail of the Pink Panther left off. Inspector Clouseau (previously Peter Sellers, yet here as a surprise cameo from James Bond himself -- Roger Moore) goes missing, and the Surete wants the world's second best detective to look for the famous French hero. Clouseau's enemy who does not want him back, Chief Inspector Dreyfus (Herbert Lom, A Shot in the Dark), rigs the Surete's computer to select the world's worst detective. The lucky winner is one clumsy NYPD Sgt. Clifton Sleigh played by Ted Wass (who now directs television, but was known as "Danny Dallas" from Soap and also Blossom's dad). Sleigh obtusely bungles his way past assassins and corrupt officials as though he were Clouseau's American cousin or perhaps illegitimate son. Wait, the Son of the Pink Panther comes a decade later. Hey! At least this isn't Adam Arkin pretending to actually be Inspector Clouseau, or that smarmy Steve Martin as Clouseau remake The Pink Panther. It gets points for originality, and just about nothing else as Blake Edwards tries to spawn a whole new franchise and fails miserably. Still, fans of the series have some solid reasons to at least check this one out.
One reason to look at the movie is that this is the first time we get to see Curse of the Pink Panther in widescreen since it was released. The transfer is damn solid; it looks and sounds good. There aren't any extra features here, but at least the movie is preserved in a state that will be the best it has ever looked since it was in theatres. It does look a little soft and grainy in spots, but overall it works well. Colors look very natural, and pop in the right places.
Another reason to see the feature is the return on many Pink Panther regulars. David Niven (The Pink Panther) crops up as the top billed star, but legend has it he was so ill during filming his voice had to be dubbed by celebrity impersonator Rich Little. This is his last screen appearance. Robert Wagner (Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery) is on hand. Cato (The Return of the Pink Panther) shows up, as does master of disguise Professor Balls (Harvey Korman, Blazing Saddles). We get two femme fatales with Capucine (The Pink Panther) and Joanna Lumley (Trail of the Pink Panther and Patsy from Absolutely Fabulous). And of course, Herbert Lom steals every scene he is in as Chief Inspector Dreyfus. The supporting cast is top notch, and fans of the series will be glad to see them all again.
Now who can blame Ted Wass for Sergeant Clifton Sleigh? He shows plenty of natural talent for physical comedy, but nothing he does ever even slightly comes close to what Peter Sellers could do as Clouseau. Blake Edwards had a huge ego, and was convinced the series could carry on without Sellers. Alas, it just doesn't have the same charm. Wass gives it a good go, bumbling his way around as the idiotic New York detective. Perhaps his successful career on the small screen was a smart move, because he just doesn't quite live up to the legends he's surrounded by on the large format.
It's near the bottom of the heap, but Curse of the Pink Panther is worth at least a rental simply to see the old gang one more time. It sports a nifty new digital transfer, but little else in the way of extras. It lacks a classic feel, and without Sellers feels pointless. But you could do a lot worse too. I believe Son of the Pink Panther will prove that theory more effectively.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 110 Minutes
Release Year: 1983
MPAA Rating: Rated PG