Saturday, July 31, 2010

'A Shot in the Dark' is best Pink Panther film

A Shot in the Dark (1964)
Starring: Peter Sellars, Elke Sommer, George Sanders, Herbert Lom, and Burt Kwouk
Director: Blake Edwards
Rating: Eight of Ten Stars

When a murder takes place at the home of the rich and powerful Mr. Ballon (Sanders), the worst police detective in France, Inspector Clouseau (Sellars), is accidentally assigned to the case. He immediately ignores the most obvious suspect--the beautiful, curvecious blonde maid Marie (Sommer), who was found with the murder weapon in her hand--and continues to let his hormones guide him instead of the clues even as more bodies pile up around her.

"A Shot in the Dark" is the second movie in the "Pink Panther" series, but the first film where the formula, supporting cast, and wild slapstick antics of Sellers' Clouseau character that will become the hallmark of the series are fully present. Although often overlooked by fans of the "Pink Panther" series due to the unusual title, " it is also the very best of the entries.

Sellers is amazingly hilarious as Clouseau, and the routines he performs here are among the funniest of the entire series--only the battles between Clouseau and his overzealous man-servant and martial arts sparring partner Kato will leave viewers in stitches. The film is made all the more amusing by the fact that it not only serves as an outlet for Sellers' antics, but that is also works as a spoof of the traditional murder mystery, complete with a screwball "drawing room revelation" scene).

Typically when reviewing this film, one cites the billiards scene or the nudist colony scene (both of which are top-notch examples of Sellers' comic genius), but my favorite part of the entire movie remains the opening sequence, where we view the outside of a large house, and through the windows see a host of characters sneaking from room to room (and from bed to bed), turning the lights on and off... until we hear gunfire and the screen goes black.

This opening is both funny and engaging, and it is one of the best title sequences of any movie I've seen. The Henry Mancini-penned song "Shadows of Paris" underscores its the mood perfectly, particularly in the light of what follows.

This is a film that lovers of well-made comedies and spoofs should get lots of kicks out of.

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