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A Movie A Day: Quint on A SHOT IN THE DARK (1964)
Give me ten men like Clouseau and I could destroy the world.

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day. [For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.] Elke Sommer bridges us from Italian Horror Master Mario Bava to the first of many Pink Panther films, A SHOT IN THE DARK. I’m doing this a tad backwards, hitting the second Pink Panther film first because of the Elke Sommer connection, but I didn’t find myself lost and I’m very curious to see how the first film plays now. I’ve heard that Clouseau as he is in A Shot In The Dark isn’t exactly what is in the first film. Now, I loved Peter Sellers growing up in DR. STRANGELOVE, that creepy as shit Alice In Wonderland movie, and perhaps one of my favorite forgotten comedies of all time MURDER BY DEATH. I later found his work in LOLITA (which is great) and had meant to dig into the Pink Panther films many times, but always seemed to put it on the backburner. No more! And I’m so glad I’m finally putting these films before my eyes. I cackled during A SHOT IN THE DARK. Not laughing, cackling. Of course, Sellers is perfectly clueless and I love him in this movie, but what surprised me was that there’s another person in the movie that I found just as funny, if not funnier.

I am totally in love with Herbert Lom’s Dreyfus. He’s so goddamned crazily annoyed with Clouseau and just watching the inner rage boil and boil and boil just under the skin had me rolling. He plays the Captain who is forced to keep Clouseau on a murder case after he was mistakenly assigned to it and it tears him up inside. The surprise was that Sellers wasn’t just surrounded by a good cast of incredibly funny people, but that some even came close to stealing his thunder. Lom in particular, but also the straightman partner, Hercule, played by Graham Stark, Elke Sommer’s ditzy blonde beauty, the main suspect in the murder mystery that anchors the plot and, of course, Clouseau’s live-in Asian man servant Kato (Burt Kwouk) who spends the movie trying to kill Sellers, attacking him at random points (all at Sellers’ request, of course) resulting in some crazy random fights all throughout the flick. The murder mystery is ridiculously complicated, especially when you get to the end, but that only leads to the charm of the movie.

Clouseau, for all his clueless deductions and failed plans, is still right. He has no evidence to found his theory that Elke Sommer isn’t the murderer. He’s thinking with his dick, driving everybody crazy, but the fucker is right. In the last scene he sets out to trick the murderer to revealing him or herself, which goes completely wrong. Of course it does, Clouseau is a fool and couldn’t pull off a simple plan, let alone a complicated one. But what’s great about the character is that he’s like Forrest Gump. He isn’t exactly smart enough to make things happen they way they should, but through sheer luck or incompetence he gets the same results he would get if he was a brilliant detective. Blake Edwards deserves a helluva lot of credit here. His character direction is brave as hell. Sellers skates dangerously towards the stupid with his slapstick comedy, but Edwards keeps him from falling in… or at least trusts him to know where the lip is and stay away from it. Because if the movie had fallen down that hole even once the whole thing would have collapsed like a house of cards in a room with a woman who likes cake farts (don’t click on that link if you’re around your grandparents, children or co-workers).

The opening sequence, done in one long, complicated take, is awesome. The exterior of a building is shown, windows open, giving us our views of a handful of characters sneaking around, avoiding each other and ultimately ending in the murder that kicks off the plot… All done to music and sound effects, physical comedy used even here to great effect. And the way Edwards uses repetition to sell his comedy is masterfully done. There’s one shot in particular that is repeated at least 4 times, as Clouseau keeps getting arrested and carted off to jail while in disguise… the camera is in the same spot, following the same police truck going the same way down the same street. The camera does the same pan, following the truck, but each time there’s something different about it, usually in direct relation to whatever ridiculous costume Sellers was trying to pull off. The nudist camp scene is also something of wonder. It’s a lot more risqué than I expected it to be, considering it’s an early ‘60s film. Lots of side-boob. Final Thoughts: A Shot In The Dark is just a beautiful movie, a fucking funny movie. It deserves its reputation, Sellers young and firing on all cylinders. Herbert Lom is my God (my favorite bit being his misuse of the cigar cutter) and Elke Sommer is hotter here than in any of the Bava flicks, even though the ditzy blonde ain’t exactly my type. I’m psyched to get into the next few Pink Panther flicks as I have a real fondness for David Niven. The appetite has been whetted.

The schedule for the next 7 days is: Thursday, September 11th: THE PINK PANTHER (1963) Friday, September 12th: THE RETURN OF THE PINK PANTHER (1975) Saturday, September 13th: THE PINK PANTHER STRIKES AGAIN (1976) Sunday, September 14th: REVENGE OF THE PINK PANTHER (1978) Monday, September 15th: THE TRAIL OF THE PINK PANTHER (1982) Tuesday, September 16th: THE REAL GLORY (1939) Wednesday, September 17th: THE WINNING OF BARBARA WORTH (1926) Next Wednesday’s THE WINNING OF BARBARA WORTH marks the first silent film of the column, a Gary Cooper western. Very, very curious. Most silents I’ve seen have either been comedies (Keaton and Chaplin stuff like THE GENERAL and THE GOLD RUSH) or cult shit like THE UNKNOWN, METROPOLIS, NOSFERATU, etc. I think this is my first silent western. Tomorrow we hit more Blake Edwards and Peter Sellers Clouseauing around with the first film in the series, 1963’s THE PINK PANTHER. See you then! -Quint

Previous Movies: June 2nd: Harper
June 3rd: The Drowning Pool
June 4th: Papillon
June 5th: Gun Crazy
June 6th: Never So Few
June 7th: A Hole In The Head
June 8th: Some Came Running
June 9th: Rio Bravo
June 10th: Point Blank
June 11th: Pocket Money
June 12th: Cool Hand Luke
June 13th: The Asphalt Jungle
June 14th: Clash By Night
June 15th: Scarlet Street
June 16th: Killer Bait (aka Too Late For Tears)
June 17th: Robinson Crusoe On Mars
June 18th: City For Conquest
June 19th: San Quentin
June 20th: 42nd Street
June 21st: Dames
June 22nd: Gold Diggers of 1935
June 23rd: Murder, My Sweet
June 24th: Born To Kill
June 25th: The Sound of Music
June 26th: Torn Curtain
June 27th: The Left Handed Gun
June 28th: Caligula
June 29th: The Elephant Man
June 30th: The Good Father
July 1st: Shock Treatment
July 2nd: Flashback
July 3rd: Klute
July 4th: On Golden Pond
July 5th: The Cowboys
July 6th: The Alamo
July 7th: Sands of Iwo Jima
July 8th: Wake of the Red Witch
July 9th: D.O.A.
July 10th: Shadow of A Doubt
July 11th: The Matchmaker
July 12th: The Black Hole
July 13th: Vengeance Is Mine
July 14th: Strange Invaders
July 15th: Sleuth
July 16th: Frenzy
July 17th: Kingdom of Heaven: The Director’s Cut
July 18th: Cadillac Man
July 19th: The Sure Thing
July 20th: Moving Violations
July 21st: Meatballs
July 22nd: Cast a Giant Shadow
July 23rd: Out of the Past
July 24th: The Big Steal
July 25th: Where Danger Lives
July 26th: Crossfire
July 27th: Ricco, The Mean Machine
July 28th: In Harm’s Way
July 29th: Firecreek
July 30th: The Cheyenne Social Club
July 31st: The Man Who Knew Too Much
August 1st: The Spirit of St. Louis
August 2nd: Von Ryan’s Express
August 3rd: Can-Can
August 4th: Desperate Characters
August 5th: The Possession of Joel Delaney
August 6th: Quackser Fortune Has A Cousin In The Bronx
August 7th: Start the Revolution Without Me
August 8th: Hell Is A City
August 9th: The Pied Piper
August 10th: Partners
August 11th: Barry Lyndon
August 12th: The Skull
August 13th: The Hellfire Club
August 14th: Blood of the Vampire
August 15th: Terror of the Tongs
August 16th: Pirates of Blood River
August 17th: The Devil-Ship Pirates
August 18th: Jess Franco’s Count Dracula
August 19th: Dracula A.D. 1972
August 20th: The Stranglers of Bombay
August 21st: Man, Woman & Child
August 22nd: The Little Girl Who Lives Down The Lane
August 23rd: The Young Philadelphians
August 24th: The Rack
August 25th: Until They Sail
August 26th: Somebody Up There Likes Me
August 27th: The Set-Up
August 28th: The Devil & Daniel Webster
August 29th: Cat People
August 30th: The Curse of the Cat People
August 31st: The 7th Victim
September 1st: The Ghost Ship
September 2nd: Isle of the Dead
September 3rd: Bedlam
September 4th: Black Sabbath
September 5th: Black Sunday
September 6th: Twitch of the Death Nerve
September 7th: Tragic Ceremony
September 8th: Lisa & The Devil
September 9th: Baron Blood

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