The Pink Panther (1963) Review

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The Pink Panther (1963)

Directed by Blake Edwards

Starring:
David Niven
Peter Sellers
Robert Wagner
Capucine
Claudia Cardinale

Music by Henry Mancini

Running time: 113 minutes

Plot Synopsis:
A jewel thief plans to steal the Pink Panther, the world’s largest diamond, from Princess Dala of Lugash. Bumbling French police inspector Jacques Clouseau intends to catch the mysterious thief known only as The Phantom.

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My Opinion:

I’d never seen any Pink Panther movies before watching this a few months ago. I figured it best to start with the first one. I also have no experience with Peter Sellers beyond Dr Strangelove (which is awesome). So, I’m probably the worst person in the world to review this. Or… Maybe the best depending on how you look at it! I’m a virgin to Clouseau. (Huh?)

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I have to make these reviews shorter or I’ll never finish up my 2013 movies in 2013. I enjoyed The Pink Panther. It’s SO of its time, though! A young person today wouldn’t go for this swinging 60s film. The pace is VERY slow and we get this long musical number in the middle of it that I fell asleep during at least three times so I had to keep rewinding. I admit that I watched this over a couple of nights – it does get dull in places (Oh no! It’s a classic! Have I pissed anyone off??).

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This is deservedly a classic, though. It has a great 1963 look & feel plus, of course, it brought us the (some would say genius) character of Jacques Clouseau. And the Henry Mancini score MUST also be mentioned – who doesn’t know The Pink Panther Theme?! Finally, this movie also introduced us to the cartoon character of The Pink Panther in a fantastic opening credits segment (I’ll put the YouTube link to that at the end of the review). The Pink Panther diamond got its name because it’s a large pink gem that has a small flaw resembling a panther. The camera zooms into the diamond and the cartoon panther comes to life for the credits. Honestly, this was probably the best part of the whole movie to me. No, I didn’t know before seeing this JUST how the cartoon character had come to be.

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So, already, this movie is very iconic thanks to Clouseau, the score & the opening credits. But David Niven, Robert Wagner, Capucine & Claudia Cardinale are also fabulous in this so I don’t think ALL credit can go to (some would say “the comedy genius of”) Peter Sellers. I especially liked the strong female leads! How refreshing. Of course, they’re naturally extremely sexy compared to the average looking older men, one of whom is a bumbling idiot (other than Robert Wagner who is REALLY handsome. Wow – I’d never seen him so young!). This never really changes in Hollywood – the women are always more attractive but at least these two women are very clever & strong lead characters. God, they really are sexy, though. Am I going on about this too much? I’m starting to worry myself a little. Honestly, women were SO much more attractive in the old days… Here they are – one hot & sultry and one cool & classy (give me this over Megan Fox any day):

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Phwoar!

This screwball comedy won’t be for everyone but it’s a great slice of the 1960s and very much worth a look for anyone who loves film & wants to experience the best from each decade.

My Rating: 7/10

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The Great Escape (1963) Review

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The Great Escape (1963)

Directed by John Sturge

Starring:
Steve McQueen
James Garner
Richard Attenborough
James Donald
Charles Bronson
Donald Pleasence
James Coburn

Music by Elmer Bernstein

Running time: 172 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia):
The Great Escape is a 1963 American film about an escape by Allied prisoners of war from a German POW camp during World War II. The film is based on the book of the same name by Paul Brickhill, a non-fiction account of the mass escape from Stalag Luft III in Sagan, in the province of Lower Silesia, Nazi Germany. The characters are based on real men, in some cases composites of several men.

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My Opinion:

This is the 23rd (and probably final for this year) movie I watched for my IMDB Top 250 Challenge. 23 in a year – I’m slacking! Just too many new movies to watch as well.

As I’ve said before, I’m least looking forward to all the westerns & war movies in the Top 250. But then I watched The Bridge On The River Kwai and it ended up being one of my favorite films I’ve watched this year (Review HERE). So I figured I’d give The Great Escape a chance as well. I’m glad I did – it’s brilliant!

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I didn’t know quite what to expect and I have to admit that I’ve never seen Steve McQueen in anything before this. I was surprised that he’s not exactly the main star of this – this is filled with lots of great actors who all share some equally big roles. I know he’s considered super cool and all that but I’ll stick with sexy Paul Newman as my favorite cool guy in old films for now. McQueen’s character is great in this, though – I should give more of his films a watch. ALL the characters are great in this film, which I think is what makes The Great Escape such a widely loved classic.

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I loved how they all had such different personalities in this film and they were all so well developed & the acting was superb. It’s one of those movies where you really feel like you know the characters by the end and this is probably the most important thing to me in a film. If you can’t connect with the characters, what’s the point? And they each have their own “specialty” when it comes to preparing their big escape. Brilliant! It’s hard to pick a favorite character in this as they’re all so good in different ways. Richard Attenborough has one of the most important roles as the brains behind organizing the whole escape and he’s very serious and it was weird watching him as I’ve only ever known him looking like he does in Jurassic Park (I know I know – I have no culture).

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Back to Steve McQueen: His character is cool & cheeky and maintains this great optimistic attitude in terrible conditions. He’s the guy who annoys his captors with his constant escape attempts. He’s called “the cooler king” as he spends most of his time locked away from the other prisoners after he keeps getting re-captured. He does his own thing & the only negative was that we don’t get to see him interact with the other characters much as he’s so often locked away. He develops a great friendship with another prisoner, though, who is also locked up next to him and this was my second favorite relationship in the film. There are several different relationships going on and, again, I’m sure everyone has their own personal favorite.

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I’m sure some guys go for the “tunnel kings”, the two guys in charge of digging the escape tunnels. Charles Bronson plays one of the tunnel kings. I have a little crush on Senior British Officer, Group Captain Ramsey (James Donald). I was excited to see him in this as I loved him in The Bridge On The River Kwai and he gets an even bigger role in this one. I loved how he supports & looks after his men and stands up for them by saying “it is their duty to try to escape” when he’s told by the German commandant of the camp that “there will be no escapes from this camp”.

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I’m leaving so many characters out but I’ll be here all day if I go into each of them in detail. The final ones I’ll mention form my favorite relationship in the movie: James Garner as “the scrounger” who finds ways of getting people the tools & other things they need and Donald Pleasence as “the forger” in charge of getting the forged documents ready for when the prisoners have escaped. Donald Pleasence was my favorite character in this film full of SO many likeable characters (even though I kept thinking he looked a bit like Phil Collins).

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This review is getting too long and all I’ve done is talked about some of the main characters but this film really does have one of the greatest casts and most memorable & likeable characters I’ve seen in a very long time. The story itself? Brilliant, of course. It’s about a massive escape attempt from a POW camp so it’s very tense & exciting and even though it’s a very famous movie I honestly had no clue how it was going to end as I’ve managed to avoid all spoilers for this. What I was surprised at was the “light” mood it managed to maintain throughout most of the movie. The prisoners have such positive attitudes and some have a great sense of humor and, of course, there’s the uplifting score with one of the all-time catchiest theme tunes EVER that I couldn’t help but whistle for days afterward. Considering the subject matter, it doesn’t go all “gritty” like modern war movies. Films were so different in the old days and feel so much more “epic” than what we get nowadays. Why is that??

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Summary:

I’ve been rambling on for ages & everyone has probably stopped reading by now so I’ll wrap this up. The Bridge On The River Kwai remains slightly ahead in my opinion – I think it’s a better film overall with some of the best acting I’ve ever seen thanks to Alec Guinness but The Great Escape, with its overall lighter tone and immensely enjoyable characters, is a very close second favorite war movie for me. Both films had the ability to leave me dumbfounded and just sitting there staring at a blank screen in silence for several minutes after they ended while I let what I’d just witnessed sink in. Such powerful films & mind-blowing endings – I find that very few movies in this day & age leave me feeling quite the same way. Brilliant stuff. I highly recommend The Great Escape (and The Bridge On The River Kwai) to anyone, like me, who is unsure of watching “war movies”.

My Rating: 8.5/10

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Why are there so few great theme songs for movies these days?