Bang! Welcome back, my friends, to the Lighttrain; I’m your conductor today. Whodunits are a fun genre to tackle, and even I’ve written some of it myself. There’s even one that took place on a train, the Orient Express. Maybe I’ll tackle that one another time, but now we’re covering the Blake Edwards comedy classic A Shot in the Dark, which has whodunit elements throughout the runtime. It is the close sequel to the 1963 The Pink Panther; although Shot in the Dark is a murder mystery, Pink Panther was more resembling to a heist film. Both movies were tied together by the bumbling main lead, Inspector Clouseau, played by Peter Sellers. Can Shot in the Dark be as much of a comedy classic as, say, Monty Python and The Holy Grail? Let’s get this show on the road and see!
In the estate home of billionaire Benjamin Ballon, the chauffeur is mysteriously shot and killed. All the evidence points to one of the maids, Maria, whom had just broke off an affair with him. However because of his burning attraction to her, the detective, Inspector Clouseu, believes the murderer is a member of the Ballon family. Clouseau’s boss Dreyfus realizes that he has assigned the buffoonish Clouseau to a serious case and goes mad trying to retain him from the investigation. Did Maria actually kill the chauffeur? And is Clouseau too foolish for his own good?
The plot does sound a little all over the place, which is somewhat true, but thanks to Edwards’ brilliant direction it feels all glued together so seamlessly. The threads that are sewn in and out of the feature are all interesting, and full with comedic potential. We’ll return to the comedy aspect in a minute because, let me tell you, that’s worth a paragraph of its own. But anyways, this is an issue I had with The Holy Grail, that the overlapping stories felt disjointed. The film is without a doubt hilarious but many of you I’m sure can agree the plot itself is the weakest component. Shot in the Dark thankfully avoids that problem, while also providing the slapstick supplement we came for.
About such, the comedy is divine. You do have to have quite the sharp sense of humor to get all the jokes; I’m pretty definite that I didn’t even catch every single gag they threw. Speaking about the comedic potential, everything in the first two thirds feels like independent jokes until the glorious finale, where all the plot threads, running jokes and clues lead up to what I might call one of cinema’s most satisfying slapstick climaxes.
Would I call any of it bad in any way? For me, the beginning drags a bit, and it takes rather some time to really get into the humour. I also kinda wish we got to see more of the Ballon family and their personalities, since in the end they weren’t very well-realised. Then again I do kinda understand that’s not what the movie’s centered around exactly, but it’s still a nitpick. A missed opportunity for more great comedy, even.
All in all, Shot in the Dark is rather the hilarious film. The immense talent of Edwards and Sellers performance as Clouseau is greatly highlighted here. It’s a shame that more people don’t talk about this masterwork or put it on lists of the best comedies. If you haven’t seen Shot in the Dark, go watch it on Amazon Prime; it’s quite worth the price tag and I can honestly suggest this movie to anyone. What can I say except, Magnifique!
RATING: 8.5/10 “Highly Recommended”
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