A Shot in the Dark is a 1964 comedy film directed by Blake Edwards and is the second installment in The Pink Panther series. Peter Sellers is featured again as Inspector Jacques Clouseau of the French Sûreté.
Clouseau’s bungling personality is unchanged, but it was in this film that Sellers began to give him the idiosyncratically exaggerated French accent that was to become a hallmark of the character. The film also introduces Herbert Lom as his long-suffering boss, Commissioner Dreyfus, and Burt Kwouk as his stalwart servant Cato, both of whom would become series regulars. Elke Sommer plays Maria Gambrelli. Gambrelli would return in Son of the Pink Panther, this time played by Claudia Cardinale, who played Princess Dala in The Pink Panther. Graham Stark reprised his Hercule Lajoy role in Trail of the Pink Panther.
The film was not originally written to include Clouseau, but was an adaptation of a stage play by Harry Kurnitz adapted from the French play L’Idiote by Marcel Achard.The film was released only a few months after the first Clouseau film, The Pink Panther.
Sellers was attached to star in the adaptation of Harry Kurnitz’s Broadway hit before the release and success of The Pink Panther, but was not pleased with the script by Alec Coppel and Norman Krasna. Walter Mirisch approached Blake Edwards and asked him to take over as director of A Shot in the Dark from Anatole Litvak. Edwards declined initially, but eventually relented under pressure on the condition he could rewrite the script and substitute Inspector Clouseau for the lead character and choreograph comic scenes on the fly as he and Sellers had successfully done for their previous film.
The relationship between Edwards and Sellers deteriorated to such a point that at the conclusion of the film they vowed never to work together again. They eventually reconciled to collaborate successfully four years later on The Party, and on three more “Pink Panther” films in the 1970s.
As with most of the other Clouseau films, A Shot in the Dark featured an animated opening titles sequence produced by DePatie-Freleng Enterprises featuring an animated version of Inspector Clouseau. This film and Inspector Clouseau are the only Clouseau films not to feature the Pink Panther character in the opening titles. Henry Mancini’s theme for this film serves as opening theme and incidental music in The Inspector cartoon shorts made by DePatie-Freleng from 1965 to 1969.
The funniest detective comedy.
Based on the French play ‘L’Idiote’ authored by Marcel Achard and adapted to the American stage by Harry Kurnitz, ‘A Shot in the Dark’ features Peter Sellers in the lead role of an Inspector with such gifted detective instincts that if he says he can solve a case within “2 seconds”, it requires him to experiment with his profound investigative prowess in a full-length feature film to solve it.
‘Give me 10 men like Clouseau, and I could destroy the world!’ Yes, this great one-liner, uttered by Chief Inspector Dreyfus in a great deal of dismay, indeed outlines the wacky character of ‘Inspector Jacques Clouseau’ played by Sellers.
‘A Shot in the Dark’ is the second installment of the ‘Pink Panther’ Series, and the funniest of them all. The plot is simple, and goes on like this. Inspector Clouseau is sent to the Ballon residence to investigate the murder of Mr. Ballon’s Spanish chauffeur Miguel. The Inspector instantly falls in love with the charming maid, Maria Gambrelli, towards whom all the evidences point a finger. But, Clouseau strongly believes that someone else is the murderer who framed her for murder. He thinks she might know something about it. So he releases her from jail and spies on her. Ill-fated circumstances prevent the Insp from successfully spying her moves, and eventually more murders take place. Is she really the murderer? If not, who framed her? Why would anyone kill a chauffeur? And finally, the most important question.. Will Clouseau be able to solve the case?
As the great Inspector along with his assistant, Hercule LaJoy, solemnly embark on his mission to solve the case, peril seems to find its way one way or the other and ride upon his shoulders, except for when his boss, Chief Inspector Dreyfus, is around of course. To Dreyfus just the name of Clouseau is enough to ruin his day. He can’t stand sight of Clouseau and hates “every little bit” of him for every time they meet, poor Dreyfus is thrown into the face of adversity within no time, and has to undergo tremendous agony.
All the actors performed well, but it is Sellers who stole the show as the inept detective fumbling and bumbling his way around solving murder mysteries, but mostly bumping into furnitures, snagging crucial areas of his clothes, falling out of windows, pursuing Miss Sommer to a nudist camp and what not.
There is nothing wrong with the Blake Edwards’ direction and screenplay. Editing was also upto the mark. Henry Mancini’s music, I must also add, is as sassy and frivolous as the film.
The only few minor drawbacks of this film are: Number one, Some portions are repetitive. Like for example, Inspector Clouseau got arrested more than a couple of times for not obtaining selling license in order to sell stuffs such as balloons, paintings, etc. Number two, few comic scenes were way too predictable. You could see them coming. And number three, the ambiguous ending which might leave some audiences wondering who actually murdered whom.
Sequel? Prequel? Hard to tell, but it has some laughs
Author: Poseidon-3 from Cincinnati, OH
11 January 2005
The germination of the “Pink Panther” series of comedic mystery films is a complicated one. The first film in the series, “The Pink Panther”, was actually the second one to be filmed! This film, “A Shot in the Dark”, was originally intended to be the adaptation of a stage play, but director Edwards and actor Sellers refit the main character to accommodate the persona of Inspector Clouseu, which they were developing for “The Pink Panther”. However, when the film was completed, it wasn’t released and was deemed unfunny. Then when “The Pink Panther” was a hit, the studio released “A Shot in the Dark” as a sequel and a series was born. This explains why elements from the first film are absent from the second (Mrs. Clouseu anyone?) and why the second (actually first!) set the tone for the following films more than the first (actually the second! Confused yet?) Here, Sellers is front and center as the hapless and ever-clumsy Inspector. Freed from sharing screen time with a higher billed co-star (David Niven in the previous film) and without a particularly coherent plot to follow, he is allowed to engage in pratfall after pratfall and scenario after goofy scenario.
Today’s audiences may not completely go for the subtle, meticulously timed method of comedy shown here with emphasis on set up and repetitiveness, but patient and observant audience members should still find the film funny. By now, so much of the material has been cribbed or expanded upon, some of the edge is lost, but enough of the humor and situational gags are amusing enough to make the film worthwhile. Sellers insists upon the innocence of curvy stunner Sommer, a maid who has been found in a locked room with a dead body and a smoking gun in her hand. Time after time, he lets her out of prison and the body count increases. His thorough incompetence drives his superior (Lom) to insanity. Sommer’s employer Sanders, a man of great wealth and taste, is also appalled by the bumbling Sellers, never more so than when he manages to practically trash a billiard room during a friendly game.
One famous sequence has Sellers tracking Sommer down in a nudist colony. The modest Inspector navigates the idyllic hideaway using any available object to cover himself as the campers frolic behind shrubs and other props. Reed glams it up, but gets little to do as Sanders’ bitchy wife. Another memorable sequence has Sellers and Sommer on a date with victim after victim falling prey to an assassin that’s after Sellers. It’s all a farcical enterprise that one must be in the mood for to fully enjoy. Otherwise, it becomes a little tiresome, but fans of physical comedy ought to lap it up. The remaining sequels were all sort of hybrids of “The Pink Panther” mixed with “A Shot in the Dark” and had fair success until the death of Sellers made it difficult to continue (but continue they did, using outtakes and other footage of the man! Anything to make a buck!) Henry Mancini provided some nice music, notably over the animated title sequence.