Shot in the Dark, A (1964): Blake Edwards’ Second Cgapter in Pink Panther Series, Starring Peter Sellers

Blake Edwards helmed A Shot in the Dark, the second segment in The Pink Panther film series, with Peter Sellers reprising his role as blundering Inspector Jacques Clouseau.

It was in this film that Sellers began to give Clouseau the exaggerated French accent, which became a hallmark of the character.

The film also marks the first appearances of Herbert Lom as his nemesis, long-suffering boss, Commissioner Dreyfus, as well as Burt Kwouk as his stalwart man servant Cato and André Maranne as François.  Alll three would become regulars of the long-enduring franchise.

Interestingly, the film was not originally written to include Clouseau, but was an adaptation of a stage play by Harry Kurnitz adapted from Marcel Achard’s French play L’Idiote.

Inspector Clouseau (Peter Sellers) of the Sûreté, the French national police, is summoned to the country home of millionaire Benjamin Ballon (George Sanders) to investigate the murder of his chauffeur, Miguel Ostos. The chauffeur was having an affair with the maid Maria Gambrelli (Elke Sommer), and attacked her after she broke off with him. Maria was found with the smoking gun, but she claims she was unconscious and has no knowledge of how it got there.

Clouseau, who’s attracted to her, is convinced of her innocence. However, due to the high-profile case, Commissioner Dreyfus (Herbert Lom) removes Clouseau and takes charge of the investigation.

Baxk home, the dejected Clouseau is awakened in the morning by apparent attempt on his life by a Chinese assassin. When the phone rings, it becomes apparent that his assailant is his valet, Cato (Burt Kwouk).  In order to keep him sharp, Clouseau has instructed Cato to attack him when least expected.

Upon being reinstated, he orders Maria Gambrelli’s release from prison. He suspects she is shielding the real killer, who Clouseau believes is Ballon himself.

A series of additional murders occurs, with each pointing to Maria, who is continually arrested, only to have Clouseau release her again.

Clouseau’s actions embarrass the Sûreté, but Commissioner Dreyfus is unable to remove him from the case because Ballon has exerted political influence to keep the unorthodox detective assigned to the investigation.

As Clouseau continues to bungle the case, Commissioner Dreyfus suffers a nervous breakdown that reduces him to a delusional psychotic. He stalks Clouseau in order to assassinate him, but accidentally kills a series of innocent bystanders instead.

When Clouseau confronts the Ballon household, it is revealed that everybody was involved–each of them has killed at least one of the earlier victims due to crimes of passion or blackmail attempts—except Maria, who is innocent of any crime.

Ballon eventually reveals that his wife was attempting to shoot Maria, but shot Miguel by accident. Ballon was hiding in the closet during the shooting, and knocked Maria unconscious with the door knob.

A massive row breaks out between employers and staff, the lights are cut (an arrangement Clouseau had made with his assistant), and the guilty take the opportunity to pile into Clouseau’s car and escape. They are all killed when the car is destroyed by a bomb that had been planted by Commissioner Dreyfus in attempt to kill Clouseau.  Reduced to animalistic fury, Dreyfus is taken away by Clouseau’s assistant.

Finally, Clouseau and Maria celebrate their triumph with a long, passionate kiss, only to be interrupted by another attack from Cato.

Peter Sellers as Jacques Clouseau
Elke Sommer as Maria Gambrelli
George Sanders as Benjamin Ballon
Herbert Lom as Charles Dreyfus
Tracy Reed as Dominique Ballon
Graham Stark as Hercule Lajoy
Moira Redmond as Simone
Vanda Godsell as Madame LaFarge
Maurice Kaufmann as Pierre
Ann Lynn as Dudu