Following Peter Sellers' death in 1980, four attempts have been made to extend and/or continue the The Pink Panther film series. The first, Trail of the Pink Panther, included in Shout! Factory's Blu-ray box set, is little more than a glorified clip show, following a reporter trying to find out more about Clouseau. More recently, Steve Martin appeared in two films featuring a modern take on the character, to underwhelming results. To go with the aforementioned Shout set, Kino Lorber Studio Classics has secured the rights to the two attempts by Edwards that occurred in between, Curse of the Pink Panther and Son of the Pink Panther (as well as the Sellers-less entry that was made while the actor was still alive, Inspector Clouseau).
Although the laziness of Trail half-heartedly paying tribute to Sellers through old footage is probably the most egregious attempt to milk a new entry out of the series, Curse is easily the weakest of the original Panther movies. The film continues the story set up in Trail, where Clouseau has gone missing while tracking the Pink Panther diamond. After several months pass, French higher-ups put pressure on Chief Dreyfus (Herbert Lom) to send someone to track down the absent inspector, instructing him to program a supercomputer that will locate the best detective on the planet for the gig. Of course, Dreyfus is about as excited about the prospect of finding Clouseau as the criminal underworld is, so he attempts to sabotage the computer by tricking it into finding the world's worst detective instead. Unfortunately for Dreyfus, that leads the computer straight to another man in the Clouseau mold: clumsy, third-generation New York detective Clifton Sleigh (Ted Wass).
Looking at the film now, it's hard to say which differences between Sleigh and Clouseau were purposeful departures and which ones were oversights, but one that stands out the most is Sleigh's lack of confidence. Clouseau may have been an idiot, but he was also a blindly confident idiot, providing a forward momentum that drove so many of the gags. Sleigh, on the other hand, is presented as the failure of his family, a man clinging to the hope that finding Clouseau will help earn him the respect he's always yearned for. In and of itself, that's perfectly workable character motivation, but it's also so sincere that it clashes with the more cartoonish aspects of the Panther comedy style. A lengthy middle stretch of the film finds Sleigh struggling to maintain the illusion provided by an inflatable "Instant Companion" provided by Professor Balls (Harvey Korman), and it's hard to reconcile Sleigh's sober understanding of his own shortcomings with his apparent belief that the rubber doll is convincing enough to fool anyone, especially as the sequence gets wackier and wackier. Alternatively, one could look at Sleigh's commitment as desperation, but that's almost worse, unintentionally making the movie feel like a mean-spirited joke directed at poor Sleigh.
The character of Sleigh and his general sincerity could be read as an attempt by Edwards to bring the series back toward something like A Shot in the Dark (the best film in the franchise), which is silly and features broad laughs, but is far more grounded than the series eventually became. However, the same tonal contradiction in Sleigh crops up in the film's style. Edwards stages some uneven but mildly impressive stuntwork in an alley fight sequence, but it's tiring to have to go from a slick backflip over a thug to Wass stumbling around with a garbage can on his butt. The character doing the slick backflip, Juleta Shane / Julie Morgan (Leslie Ash), is presented as a semi-serious love interest for Sleigh, potentially one who would've come back in future entries had the character taken off, but the sequence feels like a different movie than the one where a taxicab can flip onto its roof during a chase, slide several miles, and then flip back over (one of the few laughs in the film). A few inserts with Lom trying to stop Sleigh also anchor the film to the established Panther style and tropes, even as Edwards tries to allow his lead to forge a fresh path.
While Wass is not particularly funny in the role, he does exhibit a certain amount of charisma that illustrates how he might've done a better job with a stronger script. The screenplay may not blend comedy and sincerity well, but Wass has no trouble oscillating smoothly between the two while maintaining consistency, even if his ability to play the sad sack might actually hurt the movie by being too effective. Juleta / Julie's introductory scene, although it's centered around an awkward premise, actually generates some sparks, and he is certainly willing to commit to the physical comedy even if it's frequently disappointing. Meanwhile, Edwards struggles to let go of Sellers with a frustrating B-thread revealing Clouseau's fate, complete with an extended cameo by a different, famous MGM franchise star. Although the saying goes that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, in the case of Curse of the Pink Panther, it only serves as one of many clunky reminders that we're not being treated to the genuine article.
The Video and Audio
The disc rounds out with not just the trailer for Curse, but a collection of theatrical trailers for each of the eight original Pink Panther movies.