Shot in the Dark, A (1964)

“I suspect everyone!”

Shot in the Dark Poster

Synopsis:
A bumbling detective (Peter Sellers) is assigned to investigate a series of murders in which a beautiful maid (Elke Sommer) is the prime suspect.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary is clearly an enormous fan of this sequel to Blake Edwards’ The Pink Panther (1963), with Peter Sellers returning as the inimitably “prideful yet stupid, bumbling, and accident-prone Inspector Clouseau”. He argues that it’s a “hilarious… farce”, and that while “the storyline” (based on a play) “is fairly conventional”, “Sellers makes it unique”. He writes that “like Don Adams’s Maxwell Smart, [Clouseau] never realizes that he’s anything but a lethal, supercool detective, although everyone else sees that he’s a fool”. I’ll agree with Peary that Sellers is masterful here; one watches his portrayal with admiration and an occasional chuckle. But the film itself — while certainly watchable — simply hasn’t held up all that well. Comedies are notoriously challenging to call out as either successful or not, given how uniquely each viewer will respond to (potentially) humorous material; for my money, the Pink Panther films are semi-decent vehicles for Clouseau’s pratfalls, but little else.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau (nominated by Peary as one of the Best Actors of the Year in his Alternate Oscars)
    Shot in the Dark Sellers
  • The clever opening credits
    Shot in the Dark Opening Credits
  • Henry Mancini’s score

Must See?
Yes, simply to see the best of the popular “Pink Panther” series. Nominated by Peary as one of the Best Films of the Year in Alternate Oscars, though I don’t believe it deserves this status.

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One Response to “Shot in the Dark, A (1964)”

  1. Not must-see. Tedious and tiresome, almost from the first frame.

    It’s almost inconceivable that, in the same year (1964), Sellers revealed a singularly unique comic brilliance in two films (‘The World of Henry Orient’ and ‘Dr. Strangelove’) which is nevertheless all-but-absent in this third film in the same year.

    Except for the fact that the first two films are genuinely terrific and well-written and the script for ‘A Shot in the Dark’ sucks. It’s not just bad, it’s amateur in just about every way. What’s worse is that no one in the film seems to be having a good time, not even Sellers (at best, he appears oblivious and tries to rise above).

    It starts off with one of the worst examples of farce imaginable. What should be an excellent way to start a film (the depiction of various couples seeking rendezvous in the same building) comes off as confusing, dull and labored – thus throwing off the film’s pace completely. The fact that the film never recovers rests with the almost-total lack of effort in the script Edwards co-wrote with William Peter Blatty (of ‘The Exorcist’ fame!). (In all fairness, however, the film does – finally! – get a spark of life in its conclusion, when almost all of those involved in the aforementioned sexual liaisons confront each other and then meet their ultimate fate; it’s the film’s *only* inspired sequence.)

    Though he does try his best – and affords an occasional giggle – there really isn’t much Sellers can do with material as sad as this. Edwards and Sellers made 5 Clouseau films together and they were big money-makers. That says more about the movie-going public at large than it does about the films.

    Side note: Comedians and writers sometimes benefit greatly from predecessors in cinema. Those involved in ‘The Naked Gun’ series took the protagonist idea from the ‘Pink Panther’ series, created a marvelous reincarnation in the character of Frank Drebin, gave him wonderful dialogue as well as inspired physical nonsense – they then cast Leslie Nielsen, who made comic genius history out of the enterprise.

    Personal note: When this film was released, the watchdog newspaper of the Catholic Church (‘The Monitor’) got in an uproar over its inclusion of a nudist colony sequence. Whats amusing about that is…not only is the sequence short but it is completely free of any sexual implication whatsoever. Such care has been taken re: this that we mostly see men from the waist up and women are photographed from the back.

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