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  Shot in the Dark, A A Rit Of Fealous Jage
Year: 1964
Director: Blake Edwards
Stars: Peter Sellers, Elke Sommer, George Sanders, Herbert Lom, Tracy Reed, Graham Stark, Moira Redmond, Vanda Godsell, Maurice Kaufmann, Ann Lynn, David Lodge, André Maranne, Martin Benson, Burt Kwouk, Reginald Beckwith, Douglas Wilmer, Bryan Forbes
Genre: Comedy, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 2 votes)
Review: One night at the Ballon mansion, a manor house in the French countryside outside Paris, various nocturnal wanderings by the staff and owners are brought to an abrupt end by the shooting of the chauffeur Miguel. The police are called and Chief Inspector Dreyfus (Herbert Lom) is informed just as he is about to go on a vacation with his wife. He doesn't think he will be needed until he is told by his assistant Francois (André Maranne) the man who has been assigned to the case: one Inspector Jacques Clouseau (Peter Sellers), a notorious bungler. As Dreyfus speeds over to the mansion, Clouseau makes himself busy - after accidentally falling in the pond - by interviewing the suspects, confident that he will solve the case in mere minutes. The obvious culprit is Maria Gambrelli (Elke Sommer), the maid, but will the detective see past her good looks and arrest her?

No he won't. The second of the Clouseau films almost wasn't one at all, as it was orginally a stage play adapted by writer and director Blake Edwards, but he decided to rescript it, with the assistance of future author of The Exorcist William Peter Blatty. A Shot in the Dark was finished before The Pink Panther, the film that had gifted Clouseau to the world, had been released, but while the first instalment had Sellers as a supporting actor here he was the star of the show, and proved 1964 was very good for him with both Dr Strangelove and The World of Henry Orient released the same year. For sheer amount of laughs, however, this film was the funniest of the three, and one of Sellers crowning achievements.

The pattern that the subsequent Pink Panther movies adhered to was set out with this, with the increasingly twitchy Dreyfus finding his thoughts about Clouseau turning murderous ("Give me ten men like Clouseau and I'll destroy the world," he mutters grimly), a mystery the hero bumbles through with more luck than skill, and the presence of his loyal manservant Kato (Burt Kwouk) who has been instructed to attack him at the time he least expects it to sharpen his reflexes. And, perhaps the secret of how well the comedy works, not only is no one around Clouseau amused by his antics, remaining straight faced through every routine, but they are continually dragged down to his ridiculous level.

Despite all evidence pointing to Maria, Clouseau refuses to believe a beautiful woman could kill in cold blood and whenever she is taken into custody he releases her, much to Dreyfus' irritation. Also, this begins a running joke that sees Clouseau continually arrested after disguising himself to follow her. He may think, quite comfortably, that he has the keen mind of a great detective, but he is proved wrong at just about every turn; not that it changes his self-deluding high opinion of himself, but he is right about one thing, and that's Maria's innocence. The dead bodies start to mount up with Maria framed for each one, but Clouseau won't hear a word against her, leading him into absurd situations like trying and failing to apprehend Ballon (a sober George Sanders) in his billiard room, or skulking around a nudist colony with only a well-placed guitar to retain his dwindling dignity. The plot doesn't really make a lot of sense if you stop to think, but the laugh a minute tally is high, and the smooth sixties style is something the sequels lacked. Excellent music by Henry Mancini.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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