A Shot in the Dark (1964 film)

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A Shot in the Dark
Shot in the dark.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Blake Edwards
Produced by Blake Edwards
Screenplay by Blake Edwards
William Peter Blatty
Based on The stage play by Harry Kurnitz
L'Idiote by Marcel Achard
Starring Peter Sellers
Elke Sommer
George Sanders
Herbert Lom
Music by Henry Mancini
Cinematography Christopher Challis
Edited by Bert Bates
Ralph E. Winters
Distributed by United Artists
Release dates
June 23, 1964
Running time
102 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $12,368,234[1]

A Shot in the Dark is a 1964 comedy film directed by Blake Edwards and is the second installment in The Pink Panther series. Peter Sellers is featured again as Inspector Jacques Clouseau of the French Sûreté.

Clouseau's bungling personality is unchanged, but it was in this film that Sellers began to give him the idiosyncratically exaggerated French accent that was to become a hallmark of the character. The film also introduces Herbert Lom as his long-suffering boss, Commissioner Dreyfus, and Burt Kwouk as his stalwart servant Cato, both of whom would become series regulars. Elke Sommer plays Maria Gambrelli. Gambrelli would return in Son of the Pink Panther, this time played by Claudia Cardinale, who played Princess Dala in The Pink Panther. Graham Stark reprised his Hercule Lajoy role in Trail of the Pink Panther. Kato was named after The Green Hornet character. For legal reasons, the spelling was later changed from "Kato" to "Cato."

The film was not originally written to include Clouseau, but was an adaptation of a stage play by Harry Kurnitz adapted from the French play L'Idiote by Marcel Achard.[2] The film was released only a few months after the first Clouseau film, The Pink Panther.


Inspector Clouseau is called to the country home of Paris plutocrat Benjamin Ballon to investigate the murder of his Spanish chauffeur Miguel. The chauffeur was having an affair with the maid, Maria Gambrelli, who claims that he often beat her. Although all the evidence points to Gambrelli as the killer, Clouseau refuses to admit her guilt after he develops an instant attraction to her.

For the real culprits to keep the truth hidden from Clouseau's boss, Commissioner Charles Dreyfus, they must commit more murders. With the murders of Georges the gardener, Dudu (Ann Lynn) the maid, and Henri LaFarge, the head butler, Maria is arrested. Clouseau sets her free each time, but is himself arrested four times in quick succession (first for selling balloons without a license, then for selling paintings without a license, then for hunting without a license, and finally with Maria Gambrelli for public nudity, after they flee a nudist community). In order to keep his mind sharp for the case, Clouseau eventually instructs his manservant Kato to attack him at every opportunity (which becomes a staple running gag for the rest of the Pink Panther films featuring Sellers).

As Clouseau continues to bungle the case, Commissioner Dreyfus becomes increasingly agitated, accidentally cutting off his thumb and stabbing himself with a letter-opener. Concealing himself, he stalks Clouseau in order to assassinate him, but accidentally kills a doorman instead, as well as two café customers and a Cossack dancer. When Clouseau confronts the Ballon household with his conclusions, it is revealed that Ballon, his wife Dominique, Madame LaFarge, Pierre the driver, and Simone the maid are all guilty of murder (each of them having killed one of the earlier murder victims, mostly due to a highly intricate web of extramarital affairs within the household), Maurice the manservant is a blackmailer, and Maria innocent of any crime. As a massive argument breaks out, Clouseau's aide-de-camp Hercule LaJoy knocks out the power as part of an earlier, now unnecessary ruse to catch the murderer. The guilty take the opportunity to escape in Clouseau's car, but it is destroyed by a bomb set by Commissioner Dreyfus, wounding them.

Having witnessed the explosion, Dreyfus angrily confronts and attacks Clouseau and indirectly confesses to his own earlier murders, but Clouseau has Hercule drag him away to cool off. Clouseau and Maria celebrate the clearing of her name with a long and passionate kiss - which is swiftly interrupted by another sneak attack by Kato.



Sellers had been committed to star in the film before the release and success of The Pink Panther, but was not pleased with the script. He approached Edwards, with whom he had worked on that film, and asked him to take over as director of A Shot in the Dark. Edwards declined initially, but eventually relented under Sellers's repeated appeals, but could see no way to rewrite the script in the very short time available except to substitute Inspector Clouseau for the lead character and choreograph comic scenes on the fly as he and Sellers had successfully done for the previous film.[3] The relationship between Edwards and Sellers deteriorated to such a point that at the conclusion of the film they vowed never to work together again. They eventually reconciled to collaborate successfully four years later on The Party, and on three more "Pink Panther" films in the 1970s.

As with most of the other Clouseau films, A Shot in the Dark featured an animated opening credits sequence produced by DePatie-Freleng Enterprises featuring the first animated version of Inspector Clouseau. This film and Inspector Clouseau are the only Clouseau films not to feature the Pink Panther character in the opening titles. Henry Mancini's theme for this film serves as opening theme and incidental music in The Inspector cartoon shorts made by DePatie-Freleng.

Fran Jeffries sang the song "Shadows of Paris" (lyrics by Robert Wells). She also sang the song called "Meglio Stasera (It Had Better Be Tonight)" in the film The Pink Panther.[4]


The movie was one of the 13 most popular films in the UK in 1965.[5]

The film was well received by critics. As of September 2012, it has 93% favourable reviews on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes out of 29 reviews counted. The average rating given by critics is 8 out of 10.[6]

Awards and honors[edit]

American Film Institute recognition

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Box Office Information for A Shot in the Dark. Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 31, 2013.
  2. ^ A Shot in the Dark by Marcel Achard and adapted by Harry Kurnitz had a 1961-1962 Broadway run, directed by Harold Clurman. Its cast included Julie Harris, Walter Matthau, and William Shatner.
  3. ^ Blake Edwards DVD director's commentary, The Pink Panther (1964), MGM Movie Legends DVD release 2007
  4. ^ Fran Jeffries - Meglio Stasera on YouTube
  5. ^ "Most Popular Film Star." Times [London, England] 31 Dec. 1965: 13. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 16 Sept. 2013.
  6. ^ "A Shot in the Dark". 23 June 1964. 

External links[edit]