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 asInspector 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 boss, Commissioner Dreyfus, and Burt Kwouk as his long-suffering servant, Cato, who would both become series regulars. Elke Sommer plays Maria Gambrelli.
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.As Blake Edwards and future The Exorcist creator William Peter Blatty began work on the script, they decided the story would be a good vehicle for the Clouseau character, and rewrote the script around the new premise. The film was released only a few months after the first Clouseau film, The Pink Panther.
Inspector Clouseau (Peter Sellers) is called to the country home of a Paris plutocrat, Benjamin Ballon (George Sanders), to investigate the murder of his Spanishchauffeur, Miguel. The chauffeur was having an affair with the maid, Maria Gambrelli (Elke Sommer), who claims that he often beat her. Although all the evidence points to Gambrelli as the killer, Clouseau stubbornly refuses to admit that she is guilty, having fallen madly in love with her. For the real culprits to keep the truth hidden from Clouseau's boss, Commissioner Charles Dreyfus (Herbert Lom), they must commit more murders. With the murders of Georges (David Lodge) the gardener, Dudu (Ann Lynn) the maid, and Henri LaFarge (Douglas Wilmer) the head butler, Maria is arrested, and each time Clouseau sets her free. Clouseau is always at the wrong place at the right time and manages to get himself arrested by uniformed police four times in quick succession (first for selling balloons without a license, then for selling paintings without a license, then for hunting without a license, and finally with Maria Gambrelli for public nudity, after they flee from a nudist community without their clothes).
As Clouseau continues to bungle the case, Commissioner Dreyfus becomes increasingly agitated, resulting in his accidentally cutting off his thumb and stabbing himself with a letter-opener. An anonymous figure begins stalking Clouseau, trying to kill him, but accidentally kills a doorman instead, as well as two café customers and aCossack dancer. Clouseau gathers all the suspects together, and it comes out that Ballon, his wife Dominique, Madame LaFarge, Pierre the driver, and Simone the maid are guilty of murder: each of them having killed one of the earlier murder victims, with Maurice the manservant as a blackmailer, and Maria, who is innocent of any crime. The guilty attempt to escape in Clouseau's car, which is blown up, and the anonymous bomber is revealed to be Commissioner Dreyfus, who has been driven mad by Clouseau's blunders, and, in trying to kill him, has accidentally killed the actual murderers. At the end of the film, Clouseau's long-suffering aide-de-camp Hercule LaJoy (Graham Stark) arrests Dreyfus, while Clouseau and Maria celebrate the clearing of her name with a long and passionate kiss—which is rudely interrupted when Kato (Burt Kwouk) emerges from the shadows without warning. He catches both of them with a ramming tackle which sends all three into the fountain. The movie fades out on Clouseau grappling with Kato as Maria is caught in the middle.
- Peter Sellers as Inspector Jacques Clouseau
- Elke Sommer as Maria Gambrelli
- George Sanders as Benjamin Ballon
- Herbert Lom as Commissioner Charles Dreyfus
- Tracy Reed as Dominique Ballon
- Graham Stark as Hercule LaJoy
- Moira Redmond as Simone
- Vanda Godsell as Madame LaFarge
- Maurice Kaufmann as Pierre
- Ann Lynn as Dudu
- David Lodge as Georges
- André Maranne as François
- Martin Benson as Maurice
- Burt Kwouk as Kato (spelled "Cato" in subsequent films of the series)
- Reginald Beckwith as Receptionist
- Douglas Wilmer as Henri LaFarge
- Bryan Forbes (credited as Turk Thrust) as Camp Attendant
Sellers had been committed to star in the film before the release and success of the The Pink Panther, but was not pleased with the script. He approached Edwards, with whom he had worked so fruitfully on that film, and asked him to take over as director of A Shot in the Dark. Edwards declined initially, but eventually relented under Sellers repeated appeals, but could see no way to rewrite the script in the very short time available except to substitute Inspector Clouseau for the lead character and choreograph comic scenes on the fly as he and Sellers had successfully done for the 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 credits sequence produced by DePatie-Freleng Enterprises. 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.
The movie was one of the 13 most popular films in the UK in 1965.
The film was well received by critics. As of September 2012, it has 93% favourable reviews on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes out of 29 reviews counted. The average rating given by critics is 8 out of 10.
American Film Institute recognition
- 2000: AFI's 100 Years... 100 Laughs - #48