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Film / A Shot in the Dark

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"Give me ten men like Clouseau and I could destroy the world."
Commissioner Dreyfus

A Shot in the Dark is the second film in The Pink Panther franchise, released in 1964.

Inspector Jacques Clouseau (Peter Sellers), now single, is summoned to the estate of the aristocratic Benjamin Ballon (George Sanders) to investigate the murder of Ballon's chauffeur. Clouseau's judgment is immediately clouded by his infatuation with the prime suspect, the maid Maria Gambrelli (Elke Sommer), even as more murders pile up around her, while his bungling drives his boss, Commissioner Charles Dreyfus (Herbert Lom), to homicidal madness. In the meantime, we're introduced to Clouseau's Chinese manservant, Cato Fong (Burt Kwouk), who—on his employer's orders—keeps springing surprise martial arts attacks on him.

Loosely adapted from the 1961 Broadway play of the same name, which was itself based on a French play called L'Idiote (The Idiot) and featured a cast including William Shatner, Julie Harris, and Walter Matthau (who won a Tony Award for his performance). Director Blake Edwards wrote the screenplay adaptation with William Peter Blatty, who later went on to write The Exorcist.

Despite being considered as part of The Pink Panther franchise, it's notably one of two films (the second being 1968's Inspector Clouseau) and the only film amongst the entries directed by Blake Edwards and starring Peter Sellers to not have "The Pink Panther" in the title, and to lack The Pink Panther character and theme. Not that it stops the former from appearing on covers of the film's home releases.

This film provides examples of:

  • 30-Second Blackout: The blackout lasts only five seconds and leaves the whole Ballon mansion in pitch darkness.
  • And Another Thing...: The basis of a particularly funny gag, using it to spoof Door Focus.
  • Animated Credits Opening: By George Dunning & Associates, who are more famous for Yellow Submarine (though DePatie-Freleng Enterprises still produced the titles).
  • Bad Guys Play Pool: Ballon, who is one of four murderers in the case Clouseau is trying to solve, plays the game with him. During the game, Clouseau accuses him of being the murderer — which, at the time, he wasn't.
  • Bait-and-Switch: When we first see Dreyfus, he's on the phone talking sweetly to his "darling", telling her he's on his way with cheese and wine and to "kiss the children for me". Then his assistant François buzzes to tell him his wife is on the other line.
    • Another example appears later when Clouseau gets ambushed by what appears to be a Chinese assassin. As it turns out this is his manservant Cato. These fights quickly became a mainstay of the series.
  • Beleaguered Assistant: Hercule Lajoy is this to Clouseau. The character didn't appear in subsequent films outside of a brief cameo in Trail, although his actor (Graham Stark) did return in other roles.
  • Better Manhandle the Murder Weapon: When Miguel the chauffeur is killed, Maria is found holding the gun. When Georges the gardener is stabbed, Maria is found holding the bloody garden shears.
  • Black Comedy Animal Cruelty: Inspector Clouseau, while going undercover as a hunter, angrily shoots the crow that's splattered on him... and is immediately arrested for hunting without a license.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Clouseau gives the camera a hapless stare when his final attempt at unmasking the murderer dissolves into a verbal melee between all the suspects.
  • The Cameo: British director/producer/writer/actor Bryan Forbes, billed as "Turk Thrust", as the nudist camp attendant. The pseudonym was inspired by a joke he and friend Peter Sellers had conceived.
  • Captain Obvious: While Clouseau is discussing things with Ballon, a servant walks in:
    Servant: Telephone, monsieur, for Inspector Clouseau.
    Clouseau: Ah, that would be for me.
  • Cassandra Truth: Clouseau is the only person on the force convinced that Maria Gambrelli is not the murderer, and spends the entire film trying to prove it.
  • Darker and Edgier: It is definitely the darkest film of the entire franchise. Strikes Again could be second, though it's more of a Black Comedy.
  • Door Judo: Clouseau goes to a building where Mme Ballon was reported at, goes up a few levels and starts poking around. He hears what he thinks is a woman screaming and charges the door... at which point the doorman for the opera showcase Mme Ballon is performing at opens the door for Clouseau, causing him to charge past the stage and out a window into a pool.
  • Dumbass Has a Point: Dreyfus is forced to agree with Clouseau that Maria can't be the murderer of the four bystanders because she was with Clouseau the entire time. Of course, he already knew that, since he was the killer.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Francois regretfully informs Dreyfus that the investigation has been assigned to Clouseau, Dreyfus is absolutely appalled at that happening, and Clouseau arrives at the Ballon estate and immediately tumbles into a pond the moment he steps out of his car.
  • Everybody Did It: The summation gathering at the end results in all the suspects accusing each other of murder. Turns out almost everyone was a murderer... or a blackmailer. This is foreshadowed by Clouseau's declaration of "I suspect everyone... and I suspect no one", with Hercule agreeing that the former is possible.
  • Follow That Car: A variation appears when he instructs the police car driver who brought him to the estate to go "back to town", so he drives off before Clouseau can get in.
  • Funny Background Event: When Clouseau and Maria are both arrested while naked, the same scene of the police truck driving down the street that's happened every time Clouseau's been arrested happens again... except this time, you can see several police officers hanging off the back of the truck, probably trying to get a look at the free-breezing detainees.
  • George Jetson Job Security: Dreyfus keeps trying to get Clouseau kicked off the case so they can formally charge the maid and get it over with, but Ballon (who wants an idiot on the case to botch the investigation) keeps using his wealth and connections to force Dreyfus to put him back on it.
  • Hand of Death: Several botched attempts to kill Clouseau are heralded by a sinister black-gloved hand aiming a murder weapon at him and missing. It's Dreyfus.
  • Hand-or-Object Underwear: Invoked. Clouseau borrows a guitar to hold in front of his groin when he's at a nudist colony.
  • Iconic Sequel Character: With this film promoting Clouseau from a supporting character to star of the series, Cato and Dreyfus were introduced as his manservant and his eternally frustrated boss, respectively.
  • Insane Troll Logic: Maria keeps turning up at the scene of a murder, holding the murder weapon. Clouseau takes this as evidence that she's innocent.
  • Instrumental Theme Tune: Once again composed by Henry Mancini. It was later used as the theme for The Inspector cartoon series and "Dial 'P' for Pink", where a burglar tries to crack into a safe which The Pink Panther is using as an apartment.
  • Karma Houdini: Dreyfus (accidentally) kills four innocent bystanders in an attempt to kill Clouseau, yet no one calls him on it. He is taken away at the end, presumably to face punishment, but this is completely forgotten about in the sequels.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: About the only ways you can watch the film for the first time and not already know that the Asian man attacking Clouseau is Cato and that the shadowy figure trying to kill Clouseau is Dreyfus is by knowing nothing at all about the film series or by knowing nothing except the order in which the films came out and watching them in order. As it is, since it doesn't have "Pink Panther" in the title, Shot is likely to be one of the last films of the series you're going to see.
  • Left the Background Music On: Clouseau enters the nudist camp to the strains of Henry Mancini's theme... only to walk past an actual orchestra playing the theme (nude, of course).
  • Major Injury Underreaction: Dreyfus, several times over, while in Tranquil Fury mode.
    Dreyfus: Francois, will you please call a doctor? It appears I've stabbed myself with a letter opener.
  • Master of Disguise: Clouseau tries to be this, anyway.
  • Murder by Mistake: Driven mad by Clouseau's antics, Dreyfus decides to murder him to stop the dimwitted detective from causing further embarrassment to the police. He makes four attempts in one night, all of which not only fail but end up killing four innocent bystanders. In the film's climax, he tries to kill Clouseau by planting a bomb in his car only for the six culprits to die instead when they try to use the car to escape.
  • Naked Freak-Out: When Clouseau and Maria Gambrelli are caught naked in public.
  • Naked People Trapped Outside: Clouseau and Maria make a hasty retreat from the nudist resort, but then realize they have another problem.
  • Never My Fault:
    • Guilt of the murders fell, according to everybody but Clouseau, on Maria Gambrelli — until the end.
    • Dreyfus puts a bomb on Clouseau's car on the final act, hoping it will kill him — and it goes off on the summation, with every single murderer inside it (who had gotten in it trying to get away from Clouseau). He has one second of showing an "Oh, Crap!" reaction before starting to yell at Clouseau about how several innocent people are dead because of him (and when Jacques points out that they were all murderous criminals, Dreyfus calls them "saints, compared to you!").
  • Never the Obvious Suspect: Exaggerated for laughs. Throughout the whole movie, Maria Gambrelli is constantly found standing over dead people, with her hand on the murder weapon, she's completely incapable of providing an explanation, and she has a few dark secrets involving the murdered people. The only thing that would make her an even more obvious suspect would be if she broke out into a Motive Rant right then and there. All other policemen believe this to be an open-and-shut case. And to their exasperation, Clouseau never believes her to be the murderer... and he ends up being right, purely by accident.
  • Non-Protagonist Resolver: Clouseau's bumbling attempt to reveal who is the killer(s) makes all of the murderers (and one blackmailer) expose each other out of spite, but he doesn't arrest them and he still has no evidence. The whole lot of them jump into Clouseau's car to skedaddle away from this annoyance, and subsequently get killed by the bomb Dreyfus placed in said car in his own completely independent attempts at taking out Clouseau.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Dreyfus, when he's told that Clouseau has been assigned to the case.
    • Every time Clouseau gets arrested for not having the appropriate licence to do whatever he's doing as a disguise, complete with guitar twang.
  • The Oner: The Teaser before the credits features one that lasts about four minutes, consisting of various members of the Ballon household sneaking into other people's bedrooms.
  • Orgy of Evidence: Parodied. Maria Gambrelli, the poor woman framed for the various murders that happen throughout the film, has all kinds of evidence against her, from motive for all of them up to actually being caught standing over every single dead body, holding the murder weapon and being unable to explain what happened. Jacques Clouseau, out of a combination of sheer stupidity and sexual attraction to Gambrelli, continuously refuses to accept that she is the murderer and continues to investigate, eventually making all of the other murderers too nervous and making them get in Clouseau's car to drive away from him — a car that has been wired to explode by a crazy Commissioner Dreyfus, which kills them all and leads to Maria's (off-screen) vindication.
  • Person of Mass Destruction: Regarding Clouseau's bumbling, Inspector Dreyfus at one point says "give me ten men like Clouseau and I could destroy the world". It is not a Badass Boast.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: After the nudist camp incident, Dreyfus tries to get Clouseau kicked out of the Inspectorate and transferred to Records. Specifically, the records department of the police department on the Caribbean island of Martinique. Oh, and he can say goodbye to his pension if he doesn't show.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons:
    • Clouseau refuses to believe that Maria did any of the killings, and is right. But he doesn't have any proof of this, just thinks the obviously (at first glance) guilty woman is innocent because she's pretty.
    • Dreyfus concludes that the mysterious party who keeps using their influence to have Clouseau reassigned to the case is Ballon himself, and that he's doing it because he knows Clouseau is a fool and is trying to protect someone. He's right on both counts, but where he's wrong is believing Ballon is protecting Maria, who is guilty. It turns out he's trying to protect both himself, who knocked Maria unconscious, and his wife, the one who actually shot Miguel.
  • Running Gag: Clouseau getting arrested while undercover and hauled off in the police van, along with something hanging out of the back related to his undercover identity.
  • Sanity Slippage: Poor, poor Commissioner Dreyfus.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: Francois, who is a minor character, assigns Clouseau to the case before knowing who lived at the address that was given in the murder report. Clouseau's incompetence gets him continuously removed from the case for bungling it by Dreyfuss, only to be put back on due to Ballon's connections. This results in Clouseau constantly letting Maria out of jail and getting more people killed which drives Dreyfuss murderously insane until he's eventually locked up in a sanitarium. In other words, Francois assigning Clouseau to the case kicked off the series as it would become known.
  • Smoking Hot Sex: Discussed Trope:
    Maria: Why do so many men smoke afterwards? No wonder why cigarette companies get rich.
  • Something Else Also Rises: An audio example. Clouseau and Maria are hiding in the nudist colony, Clouseau toting a guitar around. A naked Maria complains that she is cold, and says "Just look at those goose pimples." Clouseau's guitar twangs.
  • Summation Gathering: Subverted; Clouseau has no idea who the killer is, and is just hoping they'll expose themselves by panicking. Further parodied when he loses his train of thought during the summation and has to ask the butler what he was talking about. And then dissolves into outright chaos as everyone starts incriminating each other and revealing that they all committed one murder each, except for the blackmailer.
  • The Teaser: The Oner before the credits that lasts about four minutes.
  • That Russian Squat Dance: Clouseau rips his pants as he attempts one of these.
  • Time Bomb: Dreyfus sends Clouseau a clock that is really a bomb set to go off at three. When it goes off, however, nobody is killed or severely injured.
  • Too Dumb to Fool: Clouseau refuses to believe that Maria Gambrelli is the murderer, despite her turning up at every murder scene with the weapon and a motive for murder, out of sheer stupidity and love-struck foolishness. He is eventually proven right.
  • Twitchy Eye: Dreyfus develops this as Clouseau drives him more and more insane.
  • Wolverine Publicity: The Pink Panther is typically featured on the cover art for the film's home releases, despite not appearing in the film proper.