11 February 2006 | pyrocitor
"I suspect everyone... and I suspect no one"
Although "A Shot in the Dark" is really the second film in the Pink Panther series, in many ways it is a beginning, as the first film to showcase Peter Sellers' bumbling Inspector Clouseau as the highlight of the film, overcoming the first film's occasional shortcomings due mainly to devoting too much screen time to David Niven's jewel thief, when what audiences really wanted was more Clouseau. Well here, their wish came true as there are virtually no scenes in the film without Clouseau present, and it is all the better as such. There can be no doubt that Peter Sellers is one of the greatest comedic actors of all time, and he is the primary reason the film is so enjoyable.
Director Blake Edwards is wise enough to latch onto this fact, and indeed, the entire premise of the film is essentially just a series of opportunities for Sellers to make full use of his brilliant physical comedy skills wrapped around a twisty murder mystery, as Clouseau struggles to prove that the prime suspect, the beautiful maid Maria (Elke Sommer) is not guilty, despite an increasing load of evidence proving otherwise. Introduced here are also Pink Panther regular characters Commissioner Dreyfus (Herbert Lom) and Clouseau's lethal assistant Cato (Burt Kwouk), instructed to attack him when he least expects it to keep his guard up. (said instances including when in the bath, and in bed with Maria)
The storyline is admittably simple, with only a few basic twists to conceal the murderer's identity until the end, and mainly does exist to give Peter Sellers full reign to do what he is so very skilled at doing - evoking laughs out of the most ordinary situations or what would have been deemed immature and juvenile if attempted by another actor. (the primary reason Steve Martin's latest re-hash is almost certain to flop - he can never hope to compare to Sellers in his iconic role) And of course, Henry Mancini's unforgettable jazz theme music is a welcome addition to an already great movie.
It may seem strange that the only film in the series without the words "Pink Panther" should turn out to be the best in the series, but such is the case here. The film may seem somewhat dated, and perhaps not quite as witty as it would have been back in the 1960s, but Sellers' unique comedic talents assure that the entertainment value of the movie remains classic, even 40 years on.