12/29/11

A SHOT IN THE DARK - REVIEW


Soon after the first Pink Panther film, Blake Edwards jumped straight into a second instalment, this time focusing on the first film's scene-stealing inspector in an infinitely more cartoony outing.

This was always my favourite.

For one thing its Agatha Christie-style plot works brilliantly and is far more involving than David Niven's rather bland cat burglar story: it all builds-up to a classic ending reminiscent of Hercule Poirot's last-minute suspect reunions but far more goofy and catastrophic. The film is beautifully made and once again boasts a fantastic score from musical deity Henry Mancini, one which boldly doesn't solely rely on that famous Pink Panther theme but instead blends a new terrific theme with haunting, amazing tune The Shadows Of Paris. Edwards has done it again: another instalment which looks, sounds and feels just perfect.

Peter Sellers is given more of the same to do in the first act but he soon gets a chance to really get silly: cue countless dumb disguises, pratfalls and a unique brand of shameless arrogance. Sellers is doing what he does best and really nails his character never letting you miss Niven's Phantom for a second. He is given great support by new additions Commissioner Dreyfus, played brilliantly by unspoken legend Herbert Lom and Clouseau's man-servant/martial arts assistant Cato (Burt Kwouk). What would one day be known as the classic Pink Panther team is finally, for the first time, united into one fun, very silly movie.

I should also mention the ever-wonderful George Sanders who plays Clouseau's prime suspect Mr Ballon with effortless devilish charm: he is clearly one dodgy fellow with enough dark secrets to fill a whole stadium but don't expect Clouseau to see it straight away. In essence, A Shot In The Dark is all about Inspector Clouseau falling in love and lust with Elke Sommer's Maria Gambrelli and going out of his way to prove that she is in fact innocent no matter how many facts point to the opposite. It's a sweet story and actually gives Sellers' character a bit more dimension, his love for Gambrelli making him blind to the facts but he turns out to be right, so he's not that bad of an investigator after all.

There's a good detective in him somewhere.

If I was to nitpick I would have to admit that a couple of scenes here and there last for way too long and a lot of the jokes are quite repetitive. The goofiness never reaches the cartoonish madness of later instalments and the plot's simplicity leaves a bit too many gaps to fill in, even with the excellent twist about halfway through the film.

A Shot In The Dark really feels like the first Pink Panther movie: all the ingredients are in place, the formula is well and truly settled, all that's left to do is make the most of it. I have yet to revisit all the others but I remember them just getting sillier and sillier. This is one I'll always have a soft spot for in that it really is the bridge between two different takes on a franchise and as such it's probably the most interesting Pink Panther film out there.

On top of that, it's a genuinely good, fun movie and is altogether pretty irresistible.

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