A Shot in the Dark

Movie Information

The Hendersonville Film Society will show A Shot in the Dark at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 1, in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community, 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville. (From Asheville, take I-26 to U.S. 64 West, turn right at the third light onto Thompson Street. Follow to the Lake Point Landing entrance and park in the lot on the left.)
Score:

Genre: Comedy
Director: Blake Edwards
Starring: Peter Sellers, Elke Sommer, Herbert Lom, George Sanders, Tracy Reed, Graham Stark
Rated: NR

If, like me, you love Peter Sellers, but find his Pink Panther films a little much and director Blake Edwards equal parts inspired and annoying, then Edwards’ 1964 A Shot in the Dark is probably the picture for you. Designed as a follow-up to the original The Pink Panther (1963), Edwards and co-author William Peter Blatty turned to Harry Kurnitz’ play A Shot in the Dark as a basis for the sequel. Using the play as a springboard, gave the film the kind of form and structure that’s lacking in so many of Edwards’ films. The fit was a good one. Edwards’ penchant for broad slapstick and Sellers’ expert buffoonery worked well within the confines of the plot. For once, the slapstick seems inherent and essential to the film and not, as so often is the case with Edwards, plastered onto it.

Giving the film more form than usual—not to mention an unusually worthy cast of comedic foils—also brought out the best in Sellers. His completely misplaced self-confidence and his mangling of the English language as Inspector Clouseau here seems less forced than it often does in later entries. Simply to watch the billiard game he has with George Sanders (one of the suspects in a murder case) is a testament to how well the film works. Rarely had Sellers so worthy a screen opponent, and no one but Sanders could have pulled off the scene with the kind of world-weary sangfroid he manages to display despite Seller’s stumbling antics. Sanders even manages to help set up at least one gag with no apparent attempt at being funny. (Then too, admirers of Sellers’ work on the radio’s The Goon Show can’t help but revel in seeing Sellers play against Sanders, who served as the obvious model for Sellers’ villainous Hercules Grytpype-Thynne on the show.) All in all, it’s the jewel in the Pink Panther series.

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress since December 2000. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

28 thoughts on “A Shot in the Dark

  1. Dionysis

    I agree with your review of this funny movie; for me (a big Peter Sellers fan) this film, along with Dr. Strangelove, Being There and the somewhat obscure The Party were his best films.

  2. The Party is not obscure at my stores! Very popular and one of his best.

    Thank goodness someone has the sense to show a REAL Pink Panther movie this week!

  3. Ken Hanke

    Thank goodness someone has the sense to show a REAL Pink Panther movie this week!

    It provides an excellent opportunity to compare the real thing with the soon-to-be-upon-us Steve Martinized model.

  4. Don’t forget this film reunited Peter Sellers with Herbert Lom which was an awesome pairing in “The Ladykillers” (they were together in “Mr Topaze” which I haven’t seen).

    I went to a double-feature of “The Pink Panther” and “The Party” at the Astor cinema in Melbourne a few years ago, they should have dubbed it the politically incorrect double-feature.

  5. Ken Hanke

    they were together in “Mr Topaze” which I haven’t seen

    I haven’t seen that since I was in high school, but I liked it then (take that for what it’s worth). Of course, at that point I hadn’t seen Harry D’Abbadie D’Arrast’s Topaze (1933) with John Barrymore. I suspect that might harm my feelings for the Sellers version now.

    I went to a double-feature of “The Pink Panther” and “The Party” at the Astor cinema in Melbourne a few years ago, they should have dubbed it the politically incorrect double-feature.

    There’s a lot of politically incorrect comedy from the 60s.

  6. Dionysis

    “The Party is not obscure at my stores! Very popular and one of his best.”

    That’s good to know.

  7. There’s a nice looking Sellers set coming out next Tuesday. It’s got HEAVENS ABOVE!, HOFFMAN, I’M ALL RIGHT JACK, THE SMALLEST SHOW ON EARTH, CARLTON BROWNE OF THE F.O., and TWO WAY STRETCH. Looks promising.

  8. Ken Hanke

    There’s a nice looking Sellers set coming out next Tuesday. It’s got HEAVENS ABOVE!, HOFFMAN, I’M ALL RIGHT JACK, THE SMALLEST SHOW ON EARTH, CARLTON BROWNE OF THE F.O., and TWO WAY STRETCH. Looks promising.

    Hoffman seems the odd film out in that set. Everything else is pre-Pink Panther Sellers. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen all the titles listed, but I’m only clear on I’m All Right, Jack (the title comes from a British phrase, which means essentially, since I’m okay, to hell with you) and Heavens Above!. Jack is a terrific little film — Ian Carmichael is the actual lead — with Sellers as a communist-leaning shop steward (“My politics is a matter between me and the ballot box”). I’ve never warmed to Heavens Above!, but it has its admirers. Aside: Carlton Browne of the F.O. is referenced in Casino Royale (1967), though not in a scene involving Sellers.

  9. ncain

    This is by far the funniest of Edwards’ Pink Panther films, although I’ve got to admit a weakness for many of them, even the ones from the Seventies like Return of the Pink Panther and The Pink Panther Strikes Again, which I tend to get confused. (Which one had inspector Dreyfus kidnapping a professor who builds him a death ray?)

    I wonder why it took more than 10 years for there to be a proper sequel to this film? Was Edwards trying to get away from the characters?

    Also, the opening credit sequence for A Shot in the Dark is wonderful, which is not something you can say often.

  10. Kevin F.

    Oh, come on, we all know that the best Sellers role was THE MAGIC CHRISTIAN, don’t we??

  11. brebro

    The death ray was in Strikes Again, I think Return featured Captain Von Trapp as Sir Charles Phantom, the notorious Litton.

  12. I wonder why it took more than 10 years for there to be a proper sequel to this film? Was Edwards trying to get away from the characters?

    If I remember correctly, Sellers and Edwards hated each other. Of course I believe Sellers hated everybody. His career was on a downward slide when he went back to the Pink Panther movies.

    Strikes Again is the 2nd best film in the series and the first one that I remember watching.

  13. Justin Souther

    Oh, come on, we all know that the best Sellers role was THE MAGIC CHRISTIAN, don’t we??

    Well I’m certainly partial to it.

  14. Ken Hanke

    If I remember correctly, Sellers and Edwards hated each other. Of course I believe Sellers hated everybody.

    There’s some truth in that, but I suspect it had more to do with Sellers’ desires to be a serious actor — something that only sort of panned out.

  15. Ken Hanke

    Oh, come on, we all know that the best Sellers role was THE MAGIC CHRISTIAN, don’t we??

    Well I’m certainly partial to it.

    You can put me down for membership in this club. Though I’m also very partial to The Wrong Box and Casino Royale, which we all know. Kind of like What’s New, Pussycat?, too.

  16. brebro

    So… no love for “The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu?” Come on, people, it was the man’s final role!

  17. Dread P. Roberts

    Since this appears to be the appropriate environment for a Peter Sellers aficionado, I have a quick question for anyone who may know the answer. Is the DVD box/poster cover art for “Being There” in any relation to the surrealist painter René Magritte? Either through some sort of metaphor, or as a direct reference to him, or a particular painting. This may seem petty and pointless to some, but it has been puzzling me for many years. I see so much similarity, but I just don’t know exactly why this would be.

    By the way – “Being There” is (in my opinion) a great Peter Sellers movie for anyone who likes him and has not yet seen it. Plus, it was filmed here in Asheville at the Biltmore House.

  18. Arlene

    This doe seem to be the gathering place for Seller’s fans.

    A will admit I rather fancied Pink Panther more than Shot In The Dark waay back when I first saw them. But “Shot” has grown on me. The scenes with the rather manic Sellers and the totally nonchalant Saunders are a joy.

    I could only whittle down my favorites to a few. The Party, Strangelove, Casino Royale, The Mouse That Roared and Being There.

  19. irelephant

    I appreciate that Being There was filmed locally, but the very sight of the Biltmore House makes me shudder and wee myself. Inconvenient, to say the least, with images of Biltmore in so many unguarded nooks and cranies around town. Really, it can’t be helped: it all started many years ago. It took three days to coax me out of the catatonic state I’d fallen into after seeing the Richie Rich movie. Ever since then I’ve had an unnatural physical loathing accompanied by shivers of preternatural terror when confronted with anything Biltmore, or anything resembling a Macaulay Culkin movie. Granted I was just a young lad and a fresh faced youth then: in retrospect, I wonder if it perhaps had more to do with the movie than the Biltmore Estate. But we associate our traumas with whatever we associate them with–it ain’t my job to sort that out. Anyway–just wanted to say that A Shot in the Dark is a great picture–I’m looking forward to the screening. Thanks.

  20. Dread P. Roberts

    Ever since then I’ve had an unnatural physical loathing accompanied by shivers of preternatural terror when confronted with anything Biltmore

    That is quite the effect – and what superb use of verbiage I might add. This sentence makes me smile.

  21. irelephant

    Thanks, Dread P. Roberts. Appreciate the goose–so to speak. Glad my personal tragedy and verbal shenanigans could make you smile.

  22. irelephant

    let me correct that, Dread P. Roberts, for the sake of being anal retentive: instead of “verbal shenanigans” let’s make that “verbose shenanigans”. whatcha say?

  23. Dread P. Roberts

    let’s make that “verbose shenanigans”. whatcha say?

    I would say that I feel loquaciously predisposed to acknowledge the precipitously jouissance state upon which I have arrived.

  24. irelephant

    well met, Mr. Dread P.–that is, Roberts, sir. well met, indeed.

  25. Ken Hanke

    So… no love for “The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu?” Come on, people, it was the man’s final role!

    I kind of liked where he and (good God, was it?) Helen Mirren sang “Daddy Wouldn’t Buy Me a Bow Wow.”

  26. Ken Hanke

    It took three days to coax me out of the catatonic state I’d fallen into after seeing the Richie Rich movie. Ever since then I’ve had an unnatural physical loathing accompanied by shivers of preternatural terror when confronted with anything Biltmore, or anything resembling a Macaulay Culkin movie.

    Having been duped — duped, I tell you — into seeing Home Alone, I spurned any possible encounter with Richie Rich with the fervor I usually reserve for Martin and Lewis festivals, contagion wards and right-wing political meetings.

  27. irelephant

    Hey–talk about duped, I was ten years old when Home Alone was released. I had to sit through that tripe out of necessity. Luckily, I found the original Night of the Living Dead on television the following spring–just in time for easter no less–and it was the perfect antidote for the seemingly limitless crap that was foisted on me as entertainment. The only thing that was missing was to couple Home Alone and Night of the Living Dead so I could watch a little zombie Macaulay gnaw on Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern. That would have been a tolerable movie.

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