As I’ve stated in the previous entry, my sense of humor was slain while I watched the latest “The Pink Panther” film. Those all-knowing critics rightly warned me about Steve Martin and the movie. Let’s see if they are right too about the Blake Edwards films they’ve been raving about. The film I’m about to investigate is “A Shot in the Dark,” the second entry to the Pink Panther series and is considered to be the best. So cue the Henry Mancini theme and beckon the cool cat to amble. I’m going to trail Jacques Clouseau once more. Hopefully, he’d lead me to something profoundly claimed as “the best medicine.” You may know its generic name: laughter.
“A Shot in the Dark” starts rather impressively, as the film positions us to be nocturnal voyeurs in a French mansion estate. We’re not given any explanation as to what’s happening. We only (curiously) observe a series of choreographed movements as one figure sneaks into the movie screen while another furtively exits. Then bang! We see the murder occur, although we don’t know who’s who. In comes the incompetent Inspector Clouseau (Peter Sellers). He finds out the victim is a dead Spaniard driver and the prime suspect is an attractive chambermaid (Elke Sommer).
“A Shot in the Dark” is virtually a playground for Sellers’ comic talents. His portrayal of Clouseau is more believable than that of Steve Martin’s. The latter actor played the inspector broadly, making the guy a village (no, make that a metropolitan) idiot. Sellers sells it more subtly and personifies Clouseau as clumsy, rather than an accident prone. But for both films, I still found Clouseau to be problematic. He’s the film’s central character and yet there’s no real depth or anything surprising about him. He does what we expect of him: he enters a scene clueless or clumsy and doesn’t leave until something goes wrong. Mishap after mishap, it goes on and on. It would’ve been a clever change of pace had Clouseau walked into a situation ripe for disaster and then miraculously leave the premises unharmed.
So the movie didn’t really made me laugh, although it had smiling. Some of the running gags are actually funny, including the numerous times Clouseau is caught by the police. But what ultimately makes this a recommendable film is the witty way the mystery unfolds. Sure, the mystery only exists so Clouseau can run amuck, but at least, it manages to be both credible and outrageous at the same time. Will you be able to solve it or will Clouseau outsmart you on this one? You may find the answer surprising. Nevertheless, I’m resolved to make this the last case I’d solve with Clouseau. Let me tiptoe outta here and resume my search for that elusive elixir. (Maybe a remedy of “Arrested Development” or “Seinfeld” will make me cough a laugh). It’s true what they say you know. Life’s a never-ending mystery. We’re all detectives for life. Try not to be clueless and clumsy.
Peter Sellers, Elke Sommer, George Sanders, Herbert Lom, Tracy Reed, Graham Stark, and Burt Kwouk
William Peter Blatty and Blake Edwards