The film features a cameo by Roger Moore—as Clouseau himself—at the end of the film, This was David Niven's final film appearance, and he died shortly before its release. This film marked Herbert Lom's 6th outing as Chief Inspector Dreyfus. He would reprise the role one last time in Son of the Pink Panther (1993). The prized Pink Panther jewel would not return until The Pink Panther reboot in 2006.
This film featured the sixth "Panther" appearance of Clouseau's trusty manservant Cato (Burt Kwouk). Cato and Dreyfus debuted in A Shot in the Dark (1964). The film was a box office bomb and got negative reviews.
In Lugash, the fabled Pink Panther diamond is stolen. A mysterious woman looking to procure the priceless gem has a tete-a-tete with a man regarding price. Suddenly, Clouseau (having disappeared inexplicably on a plane flight in the previous film) bursts in. The woman shoots the man, then points the gun at Clouseau. His fate is a mystery. Meanwhile, his former superior, Chief Inspector Charles Dreyfus (Herbert Lom), is pressured to oversee Operation Paragon and utilize Interpol's fictitious Huxley Huxley 600 computer Aldous to find the world's greatest detective to solve the crime.
What the world at large does not realize is that Clouseau was actually an inept fool whose cases were solved more through luck than actual detective genius, and that his accident-prone incompetence led Dreyfus to a series of nervous breakdowns. Anxious never to see or hear from his nemesis again, Dreyfus sabotages the computer to select the world's worst detective. This turns out to be Sergeant Clifton Sleigh (Ted Wass), an incompetent officer of the New York Police Department.
Sleigh, who is descended from a long line of cops, sees the case as an opportunity to prove his worth. Dreyfus and his long-suffering assistant, Sergeant François Durval (André Maranne), soon find that the sabotage has worked a bit too well: while slightly more intelligent and capable, Sleigh is just as clumsy as Clouseau. When Sleigh meets Dreyfus for the first time in his office, Sleigh trips over his own feet and knocks Dreyfus into his wheeled office chair, which rolls out onto the balcony — and sends Dreyfus falling three stories into a pond below, breaking his left leg. Sleigh visits Dreyfus in the hospital to apologize, but accidentally ends up hurting Dreyfus more by falling over the hospital equipment holding Dreyfus's leg.
As he sets out on the case, Sergeant Sleigh encounters many people who prefer Clouseau not return: these include the Inspector's former manservant, Cato (Burt Kwouk), who attacks Sleigh when he breaks into the Clouseau Museum Cato now operates; Dreyfus, who attempts to kill Sleigh numerous times like he tried to kill Clouseau; and Bruno Langlois (Robert Loggia), the mafia boss from the previous film. Langlois orders several assassination attempts on Sleigh, but the detective's bumbling nature allows him to survive. Ultimately, Langlois, along with his henchmen (including Mr. Chong from Revenge of the Pink Panther) have a final showdown with Sleigh in a dark alley in Valencia, Spain, during Carnival. Juleta Shayne (Leslie Ash), an employee of the enigmatic Countess Chandra, comes to Sleigh's rescue and manages to defeat Langlois and his thugs in street combat.
Sleigh also meets Sir Charles Lytton (David Niven), who is now married to Clouseau's former wife Simone (Capucine), and is accompanied by his nephew George (Robert Wagner). Sir Charles was the notorious jewel thief known as "the Phantom," though only Clouseau was convinced of this. The Phantom would steal items of jewelery and leave behind a monogrammed white glove.
Eventually, Sleigh's trail leads to a health spa run by Countess Chandra (Joanna Lumley). There he meets famous British film star Roger Moore, who speaks with a rather odd French accent and falls about all over the place. Seeing a photograph of the Inspector, Countess Chandra tells Sleigh that Clouseau visited her several months ago, but claimed his name was Gino Rossi (the thief who stole the diamond in the last film and was seen fencing it to Countess Chandra at the start of this film when the real Inspector arrived on the scene). She recalls he was looking for a good plastic surgeon and she recommended one.
Sleigh concludes, erroneously, that Clouseau stole the Pink Panther diamond, underwent plastic surgery, and changed his name to Gino Rossi. The real jewel thief's body was found washed up on shore after he was shot to death. It is believed that Clouseau was killed for the diamond. Anxious to be rid of Sleigh, Dreyfus announces that Sleigh has solved the mystery and officially closes the case, though it is clear that Dreyfus does not believe that this is what happened. In a final irony, as Dreyfus sets fire to Gino Rossi's photograph — happy to be rid of Clouseau once and for all — he accidentally sets fire to his office. Sleigh runs in and attempts to put out the fire with a hose, only to accidentally hit Dreyfus with the water, the force of which pushes him onto his balcony and Dreyfus again falls three stories into the pond below, sending him most likely back to the insane asylum.
Film star Roger Moore was, in fact, Clouseau after very extensive plastic surgery. Clouseau has become Countess Chandra's lover and partner in crime. When Clouseau and Chandra open her hidden wall safe to admire The Pink Panther, they discover they have been robbed, and a white monogrammed glove has been left behind. "Swine Phantom!" mutters Clouseau, knowing only too well who is responsible for the theft. In the final scene, Sir Charles, Simone, and George are sailing away on board their yacht with The Pink Panther jewel, which Simone has stolen.
In a post-credits scene, the animated Pink Panther is shown stealing the Pink Panther jewel. Realizing it's heavy, he slips out of the shot and drops the diamond offscreen, shattering it. The credits roll shortly afterwards.
The film was shot at the same time as linking footage for Trail of the Pink Panther. Curse of the Pink Panther had been the original working title for what became Revenge of the Pink Panther, made five years previously. In Trail of the Pink Panther, Joanna Lumley had been a TV investigative reporter. Here she is cast as the aristocratic owner of a health spa, Countess Chandra. Dudley Moore, previously briefly considered for the role of Clouseau for Romance of the Pink Panther following Sellers' death, had been Blake Edwards' original choice for the role of Det. Clifton Sleigh, but Moore turned it down, not wishing to commit to a series following the success of Arthur. Edwards suggested Rowan Atkinson for the role, but the studio rejected the choice, as he was unknown outside of Britain at the time. John Ritter was also in discussion for the role before it fell to Ted Wass.
Ted Wass was under contract for six Panthers (including this one). The plan was to retire the characters of Dreyfus, Cato, Francois, and Professor August Balls. Edwards talked to the LA Times that the series would change geographically. NYPD Lt. Palmyra would have continued as Sleigh's Dreyfus and Charlie (the hip black cop) would have been his Francois. The series would probably have resembled the Police Academy movies more than the classic Pink Panther films. MGM wanted a cheaper version of the series. Edwards wanted the series to continue as comedy's answer to James Bond. Edwards would not have directed the later Wass films (Terry Marcel was slated to helm the next one) and Edwards' son, Geoffrey Edwards and Sam Bernard would have scripted. Edwards' co-producer, Tony Adams said they would produce one Panther every three years in order to finance smaller projects, depending of course on how the movie would perform.
David Niven, Capucine and Robert Wagner had been the stars of the original Pink Panther film. This was Niven's final film and due to his failing health, his voice was dubbed by impressionist Rich Little during post-production. Roger Moore's scenes were shot during a break from shooting Octopussy. He was credited as "Turk Thrust II", a nod to actor Bryan Forbes, who was credited as "Turk Thrust" in the 1964 Clouseau film, A Shot in the Dark. Clouseau turning to a life of crime and living together with a criminal Countress was an element borrowed from Peter Sellers' unfilmed Romance of the Pink Panther script which had, in the second of the script's two drafts, Clouseau leaving the force and joining his new wife, the archcriminal "The Frog," in a life of crime.
In her autobiography, Joanna Lumley discusses how the scene with Moore and Wass in her chalet was shot in one take with no rehearsals. This was because MGM-UA were at war with Edwards over the budget and shooting schedule and the scene had to be shot last as Moore was then shooting the Bond film concurrently. "Sellers and I usually thoroughly rehearsed set pieces (although not quite as much by Revenge, I have to admit) and shot them numerous times," as evidenced in the alternate takes as seen in Strikes Again/Trail and so forth. "We didn't have that here. Curse suffered from this tremendously--particularly with the key wrap-up scenes."
A new arrangement for The Pink Panther Theme (similar to the theme from Revenge of the Pink Panther) with heavy synthesizers is present, to align the theme with '80s music trends. The cartoon opening and closing credits for the film were animated and produced by Marvel Productions and written and directed by Art Leonardi. The original tagline on posters was 'He's been bombed, blasted and plugged in the parachute... Is this any way to welcome the World's Greatest Detective?'.
Curse of the Pink Panther had gotten negative critical reviews and was a box office bomb—with the general consensus being that attempting to continue the Pink Panther series without Peter Sellers was foolhardy. Critics and fans agree, though, that one positive aspect of the film was Moore's cameo, which makes quite a contrast to his usual part of suave and sophisticated hero. Falling about, mincing his words, and wearing an ice bucket for most of his scenes...Moore displays a previously unknown talent for physical and verbal comedy.
Both this film and Trail came in $1 million over budget. The problem was the films started shooting in February and were rushed through post-production by October 1982. Trail was a disappointment at the box office. As a result, MGM/UA Entertainment Company did not release Curse in May 1983 as planned, instead putting it out for a couple of weeks at the end of August with virtually no advertising (that means no articles or TV appearances to plug the film). Curse was cursed, ironically, before it even came out. This violated Edwards' contract with the studio--so he sued them for $180 million in September 1983 for "willfully sabotaging the film." MGM sued Edwards for alleged fraudulent overspending in 1984. Shortly after this, Edwards sued MGM for defamation of character. The lawsuits combined for over $1 billion. After much legal wrangling, they were settled out of court in 1988.
Wass' option for several sequels was never taken up, though Edwards did start planning what would become Son of the Pink Panther around the time of the settlement - but MGM wasn't interested. They went ahead with a TV Movie in 1989 called The New Pink Panther. Gary Nelson directed Charlie Schlatter as a wise-guy TV reporter investigating an arsonist. Schlatter teams up with the cartoon Panther (who talks) to solve crimes. This Roger Rabbit knock-off never aired. Finally, after much effort, Edwards's Son was released in 1993, starring Roberto Benigni as Clouseau's illegitimate son. However, like this and Trail, it didn't do well at the box-office, signalling the end of Edwards' involvement with the franchise for good.
A commercially successful revival, The Pink Panther, starring Steve Martin as Clouseau, was released in 2006, though this film is a rebooting of the franchise rather than a continuation or remake. Martin once again played Clouseau in The Pink Panther 2, though that film was not as successful as the first.
More than two decades later, Ted Wass would direct co-star Robert Wagner in episodes of Two and a Half Men.