What made Peter Sellers’ Inspector Clouseau so brilliantly funny was not simply all those perfectly calibrated pratfalls, but rather the looks that followed each of the sleuth’s gaffes – with wide eyes and pursed lips, Clouseau always looked slightly embarrassed and eager to ignore his own clumsiness by pretending that nothing ridiculous had just occurred. Sellers’ self-confident but nonplussed Clouseau was the actor’s finest creation, but Blake Edwards’ The Pink Panther is, because of Clouseau’s supporting character status, perhaps the series’ least interesting entry. While we get Henry Mancini's classic theme song and some brilliantly executed slapstick moments – a perfect introduction to Clouseau’s clumsiness courtesy of a spinning globe, a bedroom fiasco in which Clouseau’s wife hides two men from her husband, and the detective’s bumbling behavior while wearing a suit of armor at a costume party – there’s far too much time spent with David Niven’s master thief Sir Charles Lytton (a.k.a. “The Phantom”) and Claudia Cardinale’s ravishing but tedious Princess Dala. The Phantom wants to snatch the princess’ famed Pink Panther diamond, but what I wanted was less romantic dilly-dallying between Niven, Cardinale, Robert Wagner (as Lytton’s sneaky nephew) and Capucine (as Clouseau’s wife), and more loopy Sellers bits. Edwards is the kind of go-for-broke comedic director who throws a barrage of silly jokes at the audience and hopes some of them hit their mark, and while The Pink Panther is hardly what one might call “hilarious,” Sellers is at the top of his game, looking goofily sure of himself while Niven and Capucine conspire to steal the world-famous pink diamond behind his back. Future installments of the series aren’t quite as polished as the original, but they’re also less uptight and more anarchic than this seminal Clouseau mystery. Still, as an initial introduction to Sellers’ infectious, straight-faced zaniness, The Pink Panther is essential viewing.