A Shot in the Dark
Release year: 1964
Director: Blake Edwards
Screenwriter: Blake Edwards, William Peter Blatty, Harry Kurnitz (based on the play by)
Starring: Peter Sellers, Elke Sommer, George Sanders, Herbert Lom, Tracy Reed, Graham Stark, Moria Redmond
Moviegeek Sunday Classic #316, week 28 2020
A murder has happened at the country estate of Mr. Benjamin Ballon (Sanders) and inspector Closeau (Sellers) is sent to investigate. The pretty maid Maria Gambrelli (Sommer) has been caught standing over the dead body with a smoking gun in her hand, but unable to believe the pretty girl could be a murderer, Closeau insist looking for another suspect. In fact, everyone except Maria is a suspect to him.
A shot in the Dark is by many considered the finest of Blake Edward’s popular comedy series of inspector Closeau and happens to be the only one, where the Pink Panther isn’t mentioned. As the series is know as the Pink Panther series, this makes it stand out from the rest. But despite the lack of pink diamonds, the movie introduces no less than three characters whom would become series regulars: Commissioner Dreyfus played unforgettably by Lom (The Dead Zone, 1983), Dreyfus’s assistant Francois played by André Maranne and off course, Kato (later spelled Cato), Closeau trusted manservant keeping his masters skills sharp by attacking him when he least expect it played by Burt Kwouk (Goldfinger, 1964). The plot plays out like a serious crime thriller but the slapstick humour and madness of Seller’s (What’s New Pussycat, 1965) comic geniality makes it a comedy classic. Where The Pink Panther (1963) saw him as innocent and unaware, here Closeau is turned up a notch to the bumbling inspector we know and love and whose appealing nature spawned several sequels after this. Sommer (The Prize, 1963) is great as the doe-eyed maid but this is Sellers through every bump.
The play “A Shot in the Dark” by Marcel Achard opened at the Booth Theater on October 18, 1961 and ran for 389 performances closing on September 22, 1962. The original cast included Walter Matthau (Winner of 1962 Tony Award Best Featured Actor in a Play), Julie Harris, William Shatner and Gene Saks.
This is the only one of the five “Pink Panther” movies directed by Blake Edwards and starring Peter Sellers to have a different main theme from 1963’s “The Pink Panther.” Henry Mancini wrote a different, but nevertheless recognizably related, jazz theme for this movie. The three other movies to feature Sellers as Inspector Clouseau, beginning with 1975’s “Return of the Pink Panther” reused the music from the 1963 original. Both themes found their way into the DePatie-Freleng animated cartoons that were spun off from the animated credits of the 1963 film (and this film’s animated credits).
The character Maria Gambrelli, here played by Elke Sommer, returns in Son of the Pink Panther. Only here, she is played by Claudia Cardinale who played Princess Dala in The Pink Panther (1963).
Picture copyrights: Warner Home Video