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A Movie A Day: Quint on THE PINK PANTHER (1963)
Take your filthy hands off my asp!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day. [For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.] Today we come to the first of the Pink Panther films, titled appropriately enough THE PINK PANTHER and starring David Niven (getting top billing) as Sir Charles, a smooth thief, Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau, Capucine as Clouseau’s unfaithful wife, Robert Wagner as a young troublemaker and the radiant Claudia Cardinale as Princess Dala. I’m sorry Elke Sommer. There’s no comparison. You’re really, really cute, but Cardinale just makes me melt in this movie. I’ve thought she was beautiful in ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST and 8 ½, but damn, guys. There’s something in how she’s lit here, in this ‘60s pop quasi-technicolor comedy cinematography that compliments her. Going into this film, I knew a few things. I knew that The Pink Panther was the name of a diamond, I knew that David Niven was a thief and I knew that Clouseau was going to be slightly different from the one I saw yesterday in A SHOT IN THE DARK.

I will say that Clouseau isn’t radically different as a character. He’s just as bumbling, but he is a little more competent than he is in A SHOT IN THE DARK. I’d call him more accident prone than bumbling, but there’s a fair amount of that in there. He doesn’t mix up his words as much, but it’s the same character. It is true that he isn’t the lead, but the co-lead. Huge chunks of the film are seen through David Niven’s point of view as he woos Cardinale, his mark. So I didn’t mind that Sellers wasn’t the main focus. I said yesterday I love David Niven and he’s on fire here, giving his character some real depth. He’s part happy-go-lucky thief, cocksure and happy with his life. He’s a womanizer, a slight boozer, but goddamn good at his job. But he’s also part middle-aged man, realizing his life is fleeting. All these parties, friends… they’re meaningless, passing things. The only thing he really has is the game, the set-up and execution of a robbery.

There’s a wonderful scene, a straight up real drama scene, as Cardinale gets drunk for the first time, Niven feeding her champagne. It’s a remarkable scene because it’s a good chunk of the movie (probably pushing 10 minutes) and isn’t played for laughs at all. In it we see that Niven and Cardinale would actually make a great couple. She brings out his humanity and he lets her hang loose, ditching her inhibitions and the strict code her father imposed on her. I say the scene isn’t played for laughs, but there is comedy in it. It is just not the main focus. At this point in the movie, the focus is on two characters who could exists outside of the slapstick world of The Pink Panther. It’s a marvelous scene. Sellers also has a lot of stand-outs, of course. Most of these I had seen, unfortunately out of context, like the introductory scene for Clousou, where he spins his globe to make a point and then goes to lean on it absentmindedly, sending him crashing to the floor and his “candle” moment during the costume party. But there’s a fantasticly elaborate scene where both Niven and Wagner are in his hotel room with his wife and she’s trying to hide them both from her husband. It’s a spectacular juggling act and was amazing to watch.

I think the most surprising element to this movie is that A SHOT IN THE DARK is told 100% from Clouseau’s point of view and this movie almost none of it is from his point of view. We’re either following Niven or Capucine, but I think the bridge is there. The very end of the movie we shift POV into Clouseau, so there’s at least that. And speaking of the ending, the climax of the picture takes place during a costume party and it’s crazy. Sellers is dressed in a suit of armor, which means, of course, that he has a restricted range of movement and a certain amount of noise involved when moving and falling, which is used to maximum effect.

You can’t talk about this movie without bringing up Henry Mancini’s iconic score. The jazzy theme really is the heartbeat of the movie and it somehow melds perfectly with the world on the screen, even if I couldn’t classify it immediately as a comedy score. It has become comedic by association, but you know what I mean. Final Thoughts: The laughs don’t come as freely and constantly as A SHOT IN THE DARK, but it’s no less entertaining and even a bit more effecting thanks to some great character work by David Niven and Claudia Cardinale, who is easily in the top 10 of the most beautiful women ever to walk this earth. The comedy is staged to perfection and it keeps in tone with A SHOT IN THE DARK even if ASITD is probably the more fun of the two.

The schedule for the next 7 days is: Friday, September 12th: THE RETURN OF THE PINK PANTHER (1975) Saturday, September 13th: THE PINK PANTHER STRIKES AGAIN (1976) Sunday, September 14th: REVENGE OF THE PINK PANTHER (1978) Monday, September 15th: THE TRAIL OF THE PINK PANTHER (1982) Tuesday, September 16th: THE REAL GLORY (1939) Wednesday, September 17th: THE WINNING OF BARBARA WORTH (1926) Thursday, September 18th: THE COWBOY AND THE LADY (1938) More Panthering going on this week! Got a busy two days in LA left before I head back home, so hopefully I can keep up with everything. I’ll be doing my best! -Quint

Previous Movies: June 2nd: Harper
June 3rd: The Drowning Pool
June 4th: Papillon
June 5th: Gun Crazy
June 6th: Never So Few
June 7th: A Hole In The Head
June 8th: Some Came Running
June 9th: Rio Bravo
June 10th: Point Blank
June 11th: Pocket Money
June 12th: Cool Hand Luke
June 13th: The Asphalt Jungle
June 14th: Clash By Night
June 15th: Scarlet Street
June 16th: Killer Bait (aka Too Late For Tears)
June 17th: Robinson Crusoe On Mars
June 18th: City For Conquest
June 19th: San Quentin
June 20th: 42nd Street
June 21st: Dames
June 22nd: Gold Diggers of 1935
June 23rd: Murder, My Sweet
June 24th: Born To Kill
June 25th: The Sound of Music
June 26th: Torn Curtain
June 27th: The Left Handed Gun
June 28th: Caligula
June 29th: The Elephant Man
June 30th: The Good Father
July 1st: Shock Treatment
July 2nd: Flashback
July 3rd: Klute
July 4th: On Golden Pond
July 5th: The Cowboys
July 6th: The Alamo
July 7th: Sands of Iwo Jima
July 8th: Wake of the Red Witch
July 9th: D.O.A.
July 10th: Shadow of A Doubt
July 11th: The Matchmaker
July 12th: The Black Hole
July 13th: Vengeance Is Mine
July 14th: Strange Invaders
July 15th: Sleuth
July 16th: Frenzy
July 17th: Kingdom of Heaven: The Director’s Cut
July 18th: Cadillac Man
July 19th: The Sure Thing
July 20th: Moving Violations
July 21st: Meatballs
July 22nd: Cast a Giant Shadow
July 23rd: Out of the Past
July 24th: The Big Steal
July 25th: Where Danger Lives
July 26th: Crossfire
July 27th: Ricco, The Mean Machine
July 28th: In Harm’s Way
July 29th: Firecreek
July 30th: The Cheyenne Social Club
July 31st: The Man Who Knew Too Much
August 1st: The Spirit of St. Louis
August 2nd: Von Ryan’s Express
August 3rd: Can-Can
August 4th: Desperate Characters
August 5th: The Possession of Joel Delaney
August 6th: Quackser Fortune Has A Cousin In The Bronx
August 7th: Start the Revolution Without Me
August 8th: Hell Is A City
August 9th: The Pied Piper
August 10th: Partners
August 11th: Barry Lyndon
August 12th: The Skull
August 13th: The Hellfire Club
August 14th: Blood of the Vampire
August 15th: Terror of the Tongs
August 16th: Pirates of Blood River
August 17th: The Devil-Ship Pirates
August 18th: Jess Franco’s Count Dracula
August 19th: Dracula A.D. 1972
August 20th: The Stranglers of Bombay
August 21st: Man, Woman & Child
August 22nd: The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane
August 23rd: The Young Philadelphians
August 24th: The Rack
August 25th: Until They Sail
August 26th: Somebody Up There Likes Me
August 27th: The Set-Up
August 28th: The Devil & Daniel Webster
August 29th: Cat People
August 30th: The Curse of the Cat People
August 31st: The 7th Victim
September 1st: The Ghost Ship
September 2nd: Isle of the Dead
September 3rd: Bedlam
September 4th: Black Sabbath
September 5th: Black Sunday
September 6th: Twitch of the Death Nerve
September 7th: Tragic Ceremony
September 8th: Lisa & The Devil
September 9th: Baron Blood
September 10th: A Shot In The Dark

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