Weekly Update: Pink Panther (1963), Minit, DuckTales

What I’m Watching: The Pink Panther

This is a movie that didn’t know how to make use of its most interesting character.

I imagine the movie hits differently now than it used too, because while one today naturally expects Sellers to be the hero of the film, when it first came out it was supposed to be an ensemble film like Ocean’s Eleven or some such. Sellers presumably was supposed to be an amusing side character simply accentuating the slapstick humor but also setting off David Niven’s “Phantom” master thief as impossibly cool.

You want to watch more of the master thief seducing the princess, right? NO LET’S GET BACK TO THE FUNNY DETECTIVE.

I’m not sure what it is. Maybe it’s that David Niven isn’t as charismatic as the film pretends he is, maybe it’s just bias coming back to the film series that Sellers became synonymous with, almost certainly part of it is that Sellers is far more hilarious and human than than he’s expected to be, but it clearly feels off. The beginning goes through a three location scene change that introduces the three main crooks, but it just feels disjointed and pointless. There’s a long scene where David Niven’s Sir Thomas character is seducing Princess Dala (Claudia Cardinale) and it’s boring and awkward (at least when you’re watching it with your parents.)

And then there’s the courtroom scene.


The courtroom scene almost ruined the movie for me, especially coming so quickly after one of the longest and most hilarious sections of the movie. Sellers’ Inspector Clouseau, despite being the most honest character in the film, is framed by not only his unfaithful wife (DANG do I despise Simone) but also Princess Dala, the woman he thought he was trying to protect. Why? Because Simone tells Dala that Thomas “wanted to call it off,” and that’s good enough for Dala. She’d “gladly sacrifice” the diamond to save poor Sir Thomas, the international thief who was trying to manipulate her, so long as all she has to do is frame an innocent if massively stupid policeman. And Simone, who earlier has even conceded that Clouseau is an honest, loyal, loving husband who she’s been deceiving for ten years, just goes along with it.

It’s painful. Clouseau has his life’s work undone in a matter of moments. He repeats lies his wife told him, lies he believed because he trusted her, and the court laughs at him uproariously. Dala just watches. Simone just watches. They clearly both know it’s wrong and cruel–Simone even seems on the brink of crying–but it’s worth it, somehow, to save the actually guilty man.

Again, this would certainly work better if you spent the movie rooting for Sir Thomas, like you do for Danny Ocean in Oceans Eleven, with Clouseau just a laughable distraction. It would make total sense, if you really liked Simone and thought her marriage with such a stupid man must be torturous.

The movie thinks you want to care about these people, but they’re such stereotypically bland character types that it’s really hard to take any interest in them.

But Clouseau is really so human, in the way he dotes on his wife and is crestfallen every night when again she tricks him out of actually consumating their marriage (he says they’ve been married for ten years, so presumably this man hasn’t had sex in ten years, yet somehow remained devoted to the woman). And even then, I think there’d be something painful about the comic relief character having everyone turn on him.

The movie sort of wins it back, fortunately, by showing Clouseau become enormously loved and revered by everyone for supposedly being the ultra-talented and ultra-cool Phantom. And it’s pointed out that he’ll soon be revealed as innocent once the Phantom pulls off another job. But it compelled me to vent on several websites about how much I disliked the scene. (including this one, now.)

Apart from the ending, the movie really is quite fun, though again mostly thanks to Sellers. There’s a hilarious extended sequence where Simone has to desperately rush around the apartment to keep her husband from discovering the two men concealed in different locations. And the climax of the film, the party where the Pink Panther is supposedly stolen, had both my parents and I laughing uproariously. It’s easy to see why it sparked subsequent films focusing exclusively on Sellers.

Which gave us gems like this bit

(On another note, apparently Sellers starred in a film adaptation of The Mouse that Roared, a novel I read several times as a kid, so I’ll have to see that at some time.)

What I’m Playing: Minit

The Steam Summer Sale was this past week (and the week before that), so naturally I bought a lot of video games. And while I started some of them, like Gato Roboto, and Greyhat, the only one I actually finished was a game I already had and had already completed, Minit.

See, this is why I’m never getting through my game backlog.

It’s an very simplistic game with NES-era graphics and a simple yet intriguing premise–every 60 seconds, your character will die and restart at their home (although there are different “homes” one can occupy.) If you can achieve something in those sixty seconds–getting a new item, unlocking a region, killing a specific person–than that will carry over, but otherwise you need to fight the same people and hurry through the same region. It’s surprisingly addictive and requires you to think tactically and move quickly.

I played the game because I was spending some time at my sister’s (I’d originally planned on spending a chunk of the summer there, but it turns out that’s not necessary), and it seemed the perfect game for my neice and nephew. Nothing too intense, nothing too attractive, and even a handy timing mechanism so you could say “okay, every sixty seconds the other one of you gets a turn.” As often happens with small children (or people in general, really) it didn’t exactly go according to plan, but they weren’t fighting over whose turn it was, so better than my brothers and I did when we played games.

Well. I’m moving forward on Greyhat. Should finish that sometime next week, and then I’d like to check out Prodigal, though my older brother (who I’m going to be staying with instead) is a bit worried about my introducing his girls to video games, so I might have to limit my game-playing time. Poor me.

What I’m Reading, Actually: Ducktales

I sort of knew there was a Ducktales comic book series, but like most people (I presume), I was much more familiar with the tv show and video game, even if I wasn’t a particularly devoted fan of either. My sister managed to snag a few old collections in a book sale, though, so while my neice and nephew were distracted with my video game, I distracted myself with their comic book.

I remember reading that the books had an implicit capitalistic message, where money is the only thing worth striving for and Scrooge is an inherent hero because of how he makes his nephew work for everything. That’s not really the case, though I do see where the interpretation comes from. There’s a bit where the nephews work out that Scrooge is only mean to Donald because he envies Donald’s chance to build himself up from the ground, and another portion where Teddy Roosevelt asks Scrooge why he works when he could hire people, and Scrooge answers that the best work is the work you do yourself.

Also there’s this bit, which is less historical but loads more fun.

There’s some surprisingly historical moments in the books, actually (or at least there was in the one I read). The Teddy Roosevelt one I mentioned actually goes so far as to quote portions from his books and include other real-life characters from the time period. Another arc dealt with the Templars and–refreshingly–attributed their fall not to some mysterious dark secret but simple greed on the part of the French king (the fall of the Templars is actually infuriating to read about, and the only consolation is that the man responsible died shortly after.)

The thing is, though, a lot of the adventures end with no money earned at all, or with the treasure winding up to be belong to someone else. Scrooge is something of a mentor, sure, but his penny-pinching nature is more laughable than laudatory. There’s a message, instead, of the adventure being more important than what’s actually achieved. The most positive thing in the book is not Scrooge’s wealth, but Donald’s care for his nephews.

That’s something else. With as much as Donald is the butt of jokes in Disney at large, serving as the incredibly unlucky foil to Mickey’s eternal optimism, it’s refreshing in a way to read books that treat him almost as a hero, despite his eternal bad luck. I think my favorite arc was the one where Donald reunited with the Caballeros (who made some jokes about the trippy movie they appeared in), and had a chance for once to hang out with friends who genuinely liked and respected him.

I don’t really have an urge to watch the show or play the game, but I enjoyed what I read of the comic.

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