Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Shot in the Dark (1964)

Seen: On dvd on my tv, rented from the Tisch Library at Tufts.

Miles and I were watching Lupin III (as we do) the other day and an episode that's just one long Pink Panther reference had me asking questions since I've never actually seen any of those films. I started out with A Shot in the Dark because as far as I could tell it sort of set the precedent for the style of the many films that came after in the series. Starring Peter Sellers as the bumbling French detective Jacques Clouseau, the film does its best to concern itself with a multiple murder case surrounding wide-eyed maid Maria (Elke Sommer) but tends to focus more on the goofy exploits of its main character. Clouseau dons weird disguises, tries to date Maria (whom he is convinced is innocent despite remarkable evidence against her), kung-fus with his housekeeper Kato (Burt Kwuok), and pushes his boss (Herbert Lom) to the brink of insanity. And somehow solves the case.

To no one's surprise, goofiness abounds in this film, and that's totally ok. Everyone is pretty contented to sit back and watch Peter Sellers prance about intentionally making a fool of himself in stuffy aristocratic mansions and nudist colonies and police headquarters. He steers the film through a murder mystery whose solution is almost irrelevant when placed against Clouseau's investigating antics. Sellers is supported ably by the likes of Herbert Lom as his perpetually exasperated boss, George Sanders as a stuffy rich dude connected to the murders, and Elke Sommer as the suspicious/sexy/naive Maria. But the other star of this movie is probably Graham Stark as Hercule Lovejoy, Clouseau's put-upon assistant. Their interactions produced some of the best jokes and I'm pretty in love with all of Stark's facial expressions. The various fight scenes between Clouseau and Kato are also highlights.

A Shot in the Dark is fun and lighthearted, but to me it did feel a bit too dated and cheesy to really get into. I loved certain scenes but could have done without others. It's a pretty specific type of comedy that doesn't always work but is totally worth it when it does. There are some cool directorial choices, from the prolonged opening shot to the various ways assassinations are attempted, but some moments are dragged out or less interesting. I enjoyed the film for the most part but don't really feel the need to see it again. I could imagine loving it as a kid, though.


Pair This Movie With: Well the Lupin episode "My Birthday Pursuit" is what started all this so that's a serious suggestion. Otherwise I guess one of the sequels?

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