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A Shot In The Dark (1964)

In his second film as the character, Peter Sellers’s Inspector Clouseau moved to center stage. It wasn’t supposed to be that way; Clouseau wasn’t even in the play on which the film was based. But when the change was made, it produced a critical and box-office hit that officially established the Pink Panther franchise that would include six more films in the official series, along with an unofficial sequel starring Alan Arkin and two remakes with Steve Martin.

Clouseau is brought in when Maria Gambrelli (Elke Sommer), a maid for a prominent French family, is found in her room with a murdered man. Convinced of her innocence, Clouseau bumbles through the case, even as more household members turn up dead, with all evidence pointing to Maria. He’s taken off the case repeatedly and then put back on at the insistence of Maria’s boss (George Sanders), who has his own agenda. It’s enough to drive Clouseau’s boss (Herbert Lom) to a nervous breakdown.

Before he made The Pink Panther (1963), Sellers had signed to star in the film version of the Broadway hit A Shot in the Dark, adapted by Harry Kurnitz from Marcel Achard’s French play L’Idiote. He didn’t approve of the script, however, so United Artists asked Pink Panther writer-director Blake Edwards to take over the production. He agreed only on condition that he do a complete re-write, during which he turned the bumbling magistrate played on Broadway by William Shatner into Clouseau. He also introduced Clouseau’s boss, Commissioner Dreyfus (Lom), Dreyfus’s assistant (Andre Maranne), and Clouseau’s manservant and martial arts trainer (Burt Kwouk), who would all return in later films.

d. Blake Edwards, 102 minutes, DCP

Courtesy of MGM and Park Circus LLC