A Shot in the Dark, Director: Blake Edwards
Cast: Peter Sellers (Inspector Clouseau), Elke Sommer (Maria), George Sanders (Benjamin Ballon), Herbert Lom (Commissioner Dreyfus) and Burt Kwouk (Cato).
How do you follow a pink panther? If you’re Blake Edwards, you immediately release a second film starring Peter Sellers as the bumbling and eccentric Inspector Jacques Clouseau.
Director Edwards scored a big box office hit with the Pink Panther in 1963. The original plan was to create a new series of films starring aging actor David Niven as an international jewel thief the ‘Phantom’, aka Sir Charles Lytton. The character of Inspector Jacques Clouseau, exquisitely played by Peter Sellers, simply stole the show and audiences fell in love with the character of Clouseau. Realizing that the public was wild about the comical Clouseau but only tepidly warm about David Niven’s character, Sir Charles Lytton, Blake Edwards quickly released A Shot in the Dark just three months following the opening of the The Pink Panther.
The initial mystery of this second movie in the series actually does begin with a shot in the dark. A lighthearted romp of sexual trysts are taking place in Benjamin Ballon’s chateau outside Paris. Various members of the Ballon household (from buxom maids to regal masters) are cavorting in and out of the bedrooms in what appears to be a carefully choreographed dance of delight.
Suddenly, a gunshot rings out and a member of the staff lies dead. The beautiful maid, Maria, is found with a smoking gun in her hand. Never fear, Inspector Clouseau is on the case!
Peter Seller’s uses every pratfall and sight gag imaginable to make Clouseau a likable bumbling idiot who turns each moment into a belly laugh. Immediately smitten with the doe-eyed Maria, Clouseau is determined that, despite all the evidence pointing to the contrary, Maria the maid is innocent of not only the first murder but of a string of murders that quickly follows.
A Shot in the Dark introduces Clouseau’s superior officer, Commissioner Dreyfus, wonderfully portrayed by Herbert Lom. Clouseau’s idiocy triumphing over Dreyfus’ every attempt to kill him becomes a long-running gag throughout the film.
We also are introduced to the loyal Cato who, as Clouseau’s crazed houseboy, gleefully participates in the Inspector’s personal training by physically attacking his employer at every opportunity. These surprise attacks are supposed to help Clouseau keep his martial arts skills razor sharp, however, the end result is more often that the sparring duo judo chop Clouseau’s apartment to bits!
Between the gags and laughs and a comical visit to a nudist colony, there is a real mystery to solve! Before the film is over, you can rest assured that Inspector Jacques Clouseau will solve the murders and you will have a fun time watching just how he does it!