A Shot in the Dark (1964 film)

A Shot in the Dark is a 1964 British-American DeLuxe Color comedy film directed by Blake Edwards in Panavision. It is the second installment in The Pink Panther film series, with Peter Sellers reprising his role as Inspector Jacques Clouseau of the French Sûreté.

A Shot in the Dark
Theatrical release poster
Directed byBlake Edwards
Produced byBlake Edwards
Screenplay by
Based on
Music byHenry Mancini
CinematographyChristopher Challis
Edited by
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
June 23, 1964
Running time
102 minutes
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
Box office$12,368,234[1]

Clouseau's blundering personality is unchanged, but it was in this film that Sellers began to give him the idiosyncratically exaggerated French accent that was to later become a hallmark of the character. The film also marks the first appearances of Herbert Lom as his long-suffering boss, Commissioner Dreyfus, as well as Burt Kwouk as his stalwart man servant Cato and André Maranne as François, all three of whom would become series regulars. Elke Sommer portrays the murder suspect, Maria Gambrelli. The character of Gambrelli would return in Son of the Pink Panther (1993), this time played by Claudia Cardinale, who appeared as Princess Dala in The Pink Panther (1963). Graham Stark, who portrays police officer Hercule Lajoy, would reprise this role eighteen years later, in Trail of the Pink Panther (1982).

The film was not originally written to include Clouseau, but was an adaptation of a stage play by Harry Kurnitz adapted from a 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 (Peter Sellers) of the Sûreté, the French national police, is called to the country home of millionaire Benjamin Ballon (George Sanders) to investigate the murder of his chauffeur, Miguel Ostos. The chauffeur was having an affair with one of the maids, Maria Gambrelli (Elke Sommer), and attacked her in her bedroom after she broke off with him. Miguel was shot and killed in her bedroom and Maria was found with the smoking gun in her hand, but claims no knowledge of how it got there as she maintains she was knocked unconscious. All evidence points to Maria as the killer, but Clouseau is convinced of her innocence because he has developed an immediate attraction to her. Realizing Clouseau has been inadvertently assigned to a high-profile case, Commissioner Dreyfus (Herbert Lom) has him removed and personally takes charge of the investigation.

Dejected, Clouseau returns home. He is awakened in the early hours of the morning by an apparent attempt on his life by a Chinese assassin. When the phone rings, the life or death struggle ceases and it becomes apparent that his assailant is his valet, Cato (Burt Kwouk). In order to keep his senses sharp, Clouseau has instructed Cato to attack him when he least expects it. The Inspector is reinstated to the Ballon case and immediately orders Maria Gambrelli's release from prison, as he is convinced she is shielding the real killer, who Clouseau suspects is Ballon himself.

A series of additional murders of the Ballon staff follows. Each time the evidence points to Maria, who is continually arrested, only to have Clouseau release her again despite the growing number of murder charges laid at her feet. Clouseau's actions embarrass the Sûreté in the press, but Commissioner Dreyfus is unable to remove him from the case because Ballon has exerted political influence to keep the unorthodox and seemingly incompetent detective assigned to the investigation. As Clouseau continues to bungle the case, Commissioner Dreyfus becomes increasingly unhinged and suffers a nervous breakdown that reduces him to a delusional psychotic. He stalks Clouseau in order to assassinate him, but accidentally kills a series of innocent bystanders instead and adds further notoriety to the case.

When Clouseau confronts the Ballon household in an attempt to trick the murderer into unmasking himself or herself, it is revealed that everybody was involved in the murders—each of them has killed at least one of the earlier victims due to crimes of passion and/or subsequent blackmail attempts—except Maria, who is innocent of any crime. Ballon eventually reveals that his wife was attempting to shoot Maria, thinking she would catch the two having an affair, but shot Miguel by accident. Ballon had been hiding in the closet while the shooting occurred and knocked Maria unconscious with the closet door knob, subsequently placing the gun in her hand to protect his wife. As a massive row breaks out between employers and staff, the lights are cut (an arrangement Clouseau had made with his assistant), and the guilty take the opportunity to pile into Clouseau's car and escape. They are all killed when the car is destroyed by a bomb that had been planted by Commissioner Dreyfus in another attempt to kill Clouseau. Witnessing this result, Dreyfus is reduced to an animalistic fury and is taken away by Clouseau's assistant.

Finally, Clouseau and Maria celebrate the clearing of her name with a long and passionate kiss—which is swiftly interrupted by another sneak attack by Cato.



Sellers was attached to star in the adaptation of Harry Kurnitz's Broadway hit before the release and success of The Pink Panther, but was not pleased with the script by Alec Coppel and Norman Krasna. Walter Mirisch approached Blake Edwards and asked him to take over as director of A Shot in the Dark from Anatole Litvak. Edwards declined initially, but eventually relented under pressure on the condition he could rewrite the script and substitute Inspector Clouseau for the lead character and choreograph comic scenes on the fly as he and Sellers had successfully done for their 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 titles sequence produced by DePatie-Freleng Enterprises featuring an 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 from 1965 to 1969.

The title song 'The Shadows of Paris' was written by Henry Mancini. The singer is not credited.


Bosley Crowther of The New York Times wrote, "It is mad, but the wonderful dexterity and the air of perpetually buttressed dignity with which Mr. Sellers plays his role make what could quickly be monotonous enjoyable to the end."[4] Variety wrote: "Wisdom remains to be seen of projecting a second appearance of the hilariously inept detective so soon after the still-current firstrun showing of 'Panther,' since some of the spontaneous novelty may have worn off, but the laughs are still there abundantly through imaginative bits of business and a few strike belly proportions."[5] Philip K. Scheuer of the Los Angeles Times wrote that the film "is all variations of falling down and going boom ... I won't say 'ad nauseum' because Sellers is a clever comedian and never that painful to take. But enough is enough already."[6] Richard L. Coe of The Washington Post called it "a hardworking comedy," adding "While the lines are bright and sometimes blue, the real fun comes from sight gags, an old if neglected film ingredient."[7] The Monthly Film Bulletin wrote, "Where The Pink Panther had style and a certain subtlety, its successor ... can substitute only slapstick of the crudest kind. As the bumbling inspector, Sellers is this time absolutely out of hand, his principal—and endlessly repeated—gag being to fall with a resounding splash into large quantities of water."[8] John McCarten of The New Yorker wrote, "'A Shot in the Dark' as done on Broadway was a mediocre comedy, but Blake Edwards, who directed the film and collaborated on the script with William Peter Blatty, had the good sense to toss the foundation stock out the window and let Mr. Sellers run amok ... All in all, extremely jolly."[9]

The movie was one of the 13 most popular films in the UK in 1965.[10]

The film was well received by critics. As of November 2018, it has 93% favourable reviews on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes out of 30 reviews counted. The average rating given by critics is 8 out of 10. The critical consensus reads: "A Shot in the Dark is often regarded as the best of the Pink Panther sequels, and Peter Sellers gives a top-notch performance that makes slapstick buffoonery memorable."[11]

In 2006, the film was voted the 38th greatest comedy film of all time in Channel 4's 50 Greatest Comedy Films

The film is recognized by the American Film Institute in these lists:

See also


  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. Crowther, Bosley (June 24, 1964). "Screen: Re-enter Sellers, the Sleuth". The New York Times: 28.
  5. "A Shot In The Dark". Variety: 6. June 24, 1964.
  6. Scheuer, Philip K. (July 16, 1964). "'Zulu' Carries On in 'Geste' Tradition". Los Angeles Times. Part IV, p. 13.
  7. Coe, Richard L. (July 31, 1964). "Peter Sellers Stars at Town". The Washington Post: D5.
  8. "A Shot in the Dark". The Monthly Film Bulletin. 32 (373): 27. February 1965.
  9. McCarten, John (July 4, 1964). "The Current Cinema". The New Yorker: 58-59.
  10. "Most Popular Film Star." Times [London, England] 31 Dec. 1965: 13. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 16 Sept. 2013.
  11. "A Shot in the Dark". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved November 17, 2018.
  12. "AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs" (PDF). American Film Institute. Retrieved 2016-08-06.
  13. "AFI's 10 Top 10 Nominees" (PDF). Archived from the original on 2011-07-16. Retrieved 2016-08-19.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
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