Classic Intel: A Shot In The Dark - DVD Review

'The constant air of infidelity and lasciviousness can either be taken as a gentle poking of fun at the French or downright stereotyping, depending on which argument you prefer'

Having proclaimed that The Pink Panther was a shadow of the series of films that followed it, it was a sad day when a revisit of A Shot In The Dark proved that statement to only be partially true. Whilst the spin off of the first film (this time focusing on Inspector Clouseau with the Charles Lytton character being completely absent) might be an improvement on Blake Edwards' first effort, it features some of the same problems which made that film a near-failure.

Most prevalent of those problems is the script, which proceeds stodgily through the mystery of whether Maria (Elke Sommer) is or isn't a mass murderer. The mystery is, at least, more interesting than The Pink Panther's but ultimately it's still a distraction which is there only to enable Peter Sellers to lark around as Clouseau. Like the plot, Sellers' performance is better than in the first film but the writing lets him down with jokes that don't fire properly and scenes that aren't sketched out with enough meat. The repeated motif of Clouseau being arrested isn't funny and the best performance joke might well go to Herbert Lom and his suggestion that 'I think I may have just stabbed myself in the chest with the letter opener'.

There are other individual moments that work and some subtle moments of subversion which show Edwards and Sellers' darker senses of humour. Throughout, Clouseau is abusive and dismissive of partner Hercule (Graham Stark). With that in mind the late scene where Clouseau twice tells him sharply to 'count' (say it nasally, in a French accent, not when in polite company) can take on a whole new meaning. The constant air of infidelity and lasciviousness can either be taken as a gentle poking of fun at the French or downright stereotyping, depending on which argument you prefer. Elsewhere, small innocent scripting moments like Clouseau's 'back to town' instruction to his driver are similar to the Airplane! model of farce and misunderstanding and work just as effectively.

In the end though there's once again too much to wade through to get to the very funny parts and too many funny parts that arrive and then aren't funny enough. Kato (Burt Kwouk) is introduced but then has scant few scenes which aren't as physical as in other outings (at least, as far as I currently remember). A trip to a nudist camp should promise risque hilarity but only results in a few chortles. It's more amusing than its forebearer and the central narrative, whilst still flawed, is better developed but there's still not enough here to elevate Sellers and his fantastic Inspector past merely being OK.




Look further...

'The universe is the inspector's immovable object, he walks into a wall and gravely warns: "I suggest you have your architect investigated!"' - CinePassion.org

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