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A Shot in the Dark

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A Shot in the Dark, starring Peter Sellers, Elke Sommer, Herbert Lom, directed by Blake Edwards
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A Shot in the Dark (1964), starring Peter Sellers, Elke Sommer, Herbert Lom, directed by Blake Edwards

Review of A Shot in the Dark

In short, A Shot in the Dark is a hilariously funny movie.  It’s the second Pink Panther movie, and is likely the funniest of them all.  The basic plot has the inept Inspector Clouseau sent to investigate a murder at a millionaire’s mansion. Despite every clue points to the guilt of the beautiful maid, Clouseau is convinced of her innocence.  And he pursues “clues” and, by sheer luck, keeps arriving at the next murder.  Then, someone keeps trying to murder Clouseau … And keeps hitting the wrong targets! It’s hilariously funny, and highly recommended as a comedy murder mystery.

Cast of characters in A Shot in the Dark

  • Jacques Clouseau (Peter SellersDr. StrangeloveBeing There).  The inept, slapstick, hilariously funny detective.
  • Maria Gambrelli (Elke SommerThe Prize).  The beautiful maid, who is involved with the first murder victim.  And the millionaire.  Also with Inspector Clouseau.  And …
  • Benjamin Ballon (George SandersVillage of the DamnedLuredThe Picture of Dorian Gray).  The millionaire whose home is the scene of the first murder. And the second. The man who insists on having the inept Clouseau on the case.
  • Charles Dreyfus (Herbert LomSpartacusMysterious Island).  Clouseau’s superior, who can’t stand him. Who despises him. Whom Clouseau is gradually driving to the breaking point.

Editorial review of A Shot in the Dark

George Sanders and Peter Sellers in A Shot in the Dark

If you could choose only one Pink Panther movie, your best bet would be A Shot in the Dark–ironic, since it’s the only entry in the series that doesn’t mention the Pink Panther or even feature the cartoon cat in its opening credits. The title and basic plot are taken from the play by Harry Kurnitz, which in turn was adapted from the French stage comedy L’Idiote, but those plays were completely reconceived by director Blake Edwards, who cowrote the screenplay with William Peter Blatty (yes, the writer of The Exorcist!) and turned the film into a showcase for Peter Sellers and a nonstop parade of slapstick gags and pratfalls.

This time Inspector Clouseau is accidentally assigned to track a gorgeous, high-profile murder suspect (Elke Sommer), who is connected to several Parisian murders by circumstantial evidence. Believing her to be innocent when all clues indicate otherwise, Clouseau captures his suspect and releases her several times, to the dismay of Chief Inspector Dreyfus (Herbert Lom), but the plot here is arguably beside the point.

A Shot in the Dark, starring Peter Sellers, Elke Sommer, Herbert Lom, directed by Blake Edwards

As a bumbling variation of Hercule Poirot, Sellers steals the show, refining Clouseau’s persona–including his outrageous karate duels with his tenacious valet, Cato (Bert Kwouk)–and nonchalantly waltzing through a plot involving numerous disguises and at least a dozen murders. Some scenes are so funny that you could swear the actors are about to crack up laughing, so you laugh even harder when supporting players such as Graham Stark (as Clouseau’s tolerant assistant, Hercule) hold a perfectly deadpan expression. Of all the Pink Panther movies, this is the one that fires on all pistons, with Edwards and Sellers in peak form, servicing a traditional farce that brought out the best in their inspired collaboration. –Jeff Shannon

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