- Movie Rating -

The Curse of the Pink Panther (1983)

| August 12, 1983

I sort of entered into The Curse of the Pink Panther knowing what I was in for.  This is a lucrative series whose star left us too soon but never-the-less whose director, Blake Edwards, makes every single attempt to try and resuscitate somehow, someway, with some hope.  You know it’s not going to work but you still have hope.  Edwards is a good director, so you hang this on the notion that perhaps he can pull a rabbit out of his hat.

BUT the rabbit has run away and the hat has blown away in the wind.  Edwards’ previous attempt Trail of the Pink Panther at least had a noble intent – employ unused footage of Peter Sellers’ work as Inspector Clouseau as a series of flashbacks while a group of people are currently looking for him.  It didn’t work exactly but you admire the attempt.

Here there is no hope.  The Curse of the Pink Panther is completely absent of Peter Sellers and Edwards tries to recast the role into the next great bumbling detective.  Unfortunately, five minutes after Ted Wass walks in as Sergeant Clifton Sleigh, you know that it isn’t going to work.  Wass doesn’t have the manic comic energy to make this work and his screen presence makes him feel like a place holder.

The story is pretty labored.  The Pink Panther diamond has been stolen (again) and Dreyfuss (Herbert Lom) is in charge of finding someone to recover it.  That man is Clifton Sleigh, a nebbish from New York who easily falls victim to the dangerous influx of nefarious characters surrounding the case.  You know where this is going.  The story doesn’t matter because our focus is on Ted Wass who does an admirable job playing physical comedy – admirable in that he can’t pull it off. 

The strange thing is, I didn’t hate this movie.  I found it to be a slow-moving, kind of middling comedy with moments that I liked and a lot of long dull passages at which I was watching comic set pieces rise and fall.  It isn’t the embarrassing disaster that I expected.  In fact that makes it worse because I can’t call it lazy or slapped together.  Edwards tries to make this damaged property work, and so I guess I should give him points for at least trying.

I’ll say this, I laughed twice during The Curse of the Pink Panther.  Once during a Keaton-esque scene in which Sleigh is caught outside in the rain by a windstorm and an uncontrollable umbrella.  The second was this exchange when the police chief inquiries about the Sergeant’s name:

POLICE CHIEF: Is that Slay as in ‘kill’?
SLEIGH: No, ‘Sleigh’ as in one-horse-open.

I liked that.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1983) View IMDB Filed in: Comedy