A Shot in the Dark was the second outing for bumbling French detective Inspecteur Clouseau (released just four months after The Pink Panther) and sees Peter Sellers take the character to new heights of comical ineptitude. The accent is thicker, the pratfalls more delirious. In another’s hands the humour might smack of overkill, but Sellers was as brilliant a physical comedian as he was a character actor, and he’s flying in A Shot in the Dark. As Kenneth Tynan of The Observer remarked, the film “is slapstick carried so far beyond the bounds of farce that it becomes a highly sophisticated game.”
Clouseau is brought in to investigate the murder of an employee at the home of wealthy Benjamin Ballon (George Sanders). All the evidence points to the victim’s lover, Maria Gambrelli (Elke Sommer). But there’s something about her that makes Clouseau suspect that all is not as it appears. Never one to let the facts get in the way of his instincts, he lets Maria go, only for the beautiful chambermaid to be found at the scene of a fresh murder soon afterwards.
By now, however, Clouseau is in love with Maria, and once again she’s freed from prison by the pining detective. Six murders later, she’s still at large, to the consternation of Clouseau’s increasingly deranged boss, Chief Inspector Dreyfuss (Herbert Lom). But a madcap finale vindicates Clouseau’s wholly unscientific methods when he captures the culprits and Maria’s heart. The film’s script was adapted from plays by Marcel Achard and Harry Kurnitz by director Blake Edwards and (surprisingly) The Exorcist author William Peter Blatty.
Cast: Peter Sellers, Elke Sommer, George Sanders, Herbert Lom, Tracy Reed, Graham Stark, Andre Maranne, Douglas Wilmer, Martin Benson, Burt Kwouk
Producer and Director: Blake Edwards
Screenwriters: Blake Edwards, William Peter Blatty, from plays by Harry Kurnitz & Marcel Achard
Composer: Henry Mancini
Cinematography: Christopher Challis
USA / United Artists – Mirisch / 101 minutes / 1964