A Shot in the Dark (1964) R1 Custom Label


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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. 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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