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A Shot in the Dark is a 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 bumbling personality is unchanged, but it was only 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 the attractive 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.

Plot

Chief Inspector Clouseau is called to the country home of a Parismarker plutocrat, Benjamin Ballon, to investigate the murder of his Spanish chauffeur, Miguel. The chauffeur was having an affair with the maid, Maria Gambrelli, 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. In order for the real culprits to keep the truth hidden from Clouseau's boss, Commissioner Charles Dreyfus, they must commit more murders. With the murders of Georges the gardener, Dudu the maid, and Henri LaFarge 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 for public nudity, after leaving a nudist colony without his 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 cafe customers and a Cossack dancer. Clouseau gathers all the suspects together, and it comes out that Ballon, his wife Dominique, Madame LaFarge, Pierre the driver, 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 killers (who were going to be executed for murder anyway).

Characters

Inspector Jacques Clouseau(Peter Sellers)

The bumbling detective of the film (and the Pink Panther films in general), with an exaggerated French accent and an incredibly clumsy manner. He is somewhat short-sighted, comes to conclusions that would by others be thought irrational, has a lucid visual memory, and tends to be rather literally minded. Clouseau continually causes Dreyfus frustration, and this is the first of many times he drives his superior literally insane over the course of the series. He also tends to blame his blunders on others (for example, after falling into a fountain, he comments that he fell in because "...my idiot driver parked too close to the fountain").

Commissioner Charles Dreyfus(Herbert Lom)

Dreyfus is Clouseau's boss, first seen in this film. He slowly goes mad over the course of the film, and by the end he makes several attempts to kill Clouseau (the first of many examples, which result in Dreyfus being consigned to an asylum several times over the film series).

Maria Gambrelli(Elke Sommer)

Maria, the beautiful maid for the Ballon family, is framed by the killers for the murder in question. Like Clouseau, she has an unfortunate aptitude for being in the wrong place at the right time. Towards the end of the film she begins a sexual affair with him.

Kato(Burt Kwouk)

Kato is Clouseau's servant, trained in the martial arts. Clouseau, suspecting that murderers were trying to kill him, ordered a "training program" with Kato, telling him to attack "wherever and whenever I least expect it." This becomes a running gag throughout this film (and the films in general), as Kato chooses to attack his boss at the most inconvenient times, such as when there is a murderer attempting to kill Clouseau or when Clouseau is in a sexually intimate moment. The resulting fights usually destroy Clouseau's apartment, which is inexplicably rebuilt thereafter. All succeeding films would spell his name "Cato."

Benjamin Ballon(George Sanders)

Ballon is the millionaire at whose house the initial murder takes place. Due to a complex network of affairs between the various residents, the culprits continue murdering people, eventually raising the count to four. The murderers decide to pin the blame on the unsuspecting Maria Gambrelli, with whom Clouseau becomes infatuated, forcing the perpetrators to attempt to disappear. Due to a mistake, they are all wounded, but possibly after being hospitalized like Cato would be in the next two movies before always recovering, the guilty party would then go to jail.

Hercule LaJoy(Graham Stark)

Inspector Clouseau's silently suffering assistant who is repeatedly asked to look at the evidence of the case by Clouseau and then reprimanded for jumping to the logical conclusion. Hercule believes the chief suspect in the case to be guilty, although Clouseau, who is besotted with her, insists she is innocent and that the evidence points to someone else each time a murder is performed. In the end, Clouseau is serendipitously proved correct.

Cast notes:
  • Actor, writer and film director Bryan Forbes appears in a cameo role in the nudist colony scene, credited as "Turk Thrust".


Production

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.

This film and Inspector Clouseau are the only films not to feature the Pink Panther in the opening titles

Awards and honors

American Film Institute recognition

References

  1. A Shot in the Dark by Marcel Achard and adapted by Harry Kurnitz had a 1961-1962 Broadway run, directed by Harold Clurman. Its cast included Julie Harris, Walter Matthau, and William Shatner.
  2. Although A Shot in the Dark lists the character as "Kato", subsequent films in the Pink Panther series use "Cato".
  3. The character made another appearance in Revenge of the Pink Panther as the Commissioner's secretary but is not played by Graham Stark, because he played Prof. August Balls. Stark did however reprise the Hercule role in Trail of the Pink Panther.


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