A Shot in the Dark is the second in the Pink Panther series of movies. This time up, the series well and truly has Peter Sellers in its sights as its star and principal glory. And he doesn't disappoint.
Creator/director/co-screenwriter Blake Edwards here shifts the series away from its relatively conventional plotted beginnings into the realm of pure traditional French bedroom farce. While the movie (and the entire series) continues the great silent movie slapstick tradition, with a special salute to the genius of Buster Keaton, this film owes as much to Georges Feydeau and his French farce colleagues.
The film opens with the camera tracking silently across the facade of a mighty mansion. We watch from the outside as a husband leaves one bedroom for another, while a lover steals inside the room just vacated. A lover leaves another bedroom; another arrives. The rooms and their occupants intermingle in this convoluted mating game until no-one is quite certain who is where, and with whom. And then... bloody murder.
By total accident, the clottish Inspector Clouseau is assigned to the case. And his superior, Charles Dreyfus (Herbert Lom), begins tearing out his hair...
The film then starts tumbling from one outrageous gag sequence to another in a cascade of bewildering improbabilities. It is an essential part of this series because of two main points.
1. It is very funny.
2. It introduces to us two key characters who are going to enliven every film in the series. First is Herbert Lom's Sellers-rivalling portrayal of the besieged and eventually maniacal Dreyfus, Clouseau's would-be nemesis. Poor booby; he never stands a chance.
The second key character introduced in this movie is Bert Kwouk as Clouseau's manservant Cato. Clouseau uses martial arts to hone his famous perception, balance, reflexes - all those attributes which make him great. And Cato's task is to launch attacks on his employer without warning at every opportunity,at any moment - usually the wrong moment. It becomes a great running gag.
This movie is where the Pink Panther series really begins. You should start here and then go back to movie number one, The Pink Panther. Only then can you appreciate that the first movie was a weak fledgling untimely cracked from its egg.
The anamorphic transfer is clear and strong, with fine colour and detail. There is very little wear evident in this transfer, which is a step up in quality from the first in the series.
Countryside scenes, such as in the famous nudist-camp sequence, are green and lush with a totally believable palette. Night-time scenes (and there's a lot of night-time action in this movie) are well rendered, with lots of tonal contrast and detail evident.
The quasi-Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track (developed from the original stereo) is also a step ahead in quality from the first film in the series.
There is no longer a cavernous or subterranean quality. The sound is strong and warm and direct, giving the film added punch and emphasis.