Some people might hear that KCET's airing a Pink Panther movie at 9 p.m. this Sunday night and be sold. However, if the comic bumbling Inspector Clouseau isn't temptation enough to stay in and watch this 1964 Peter Sellers comedy, we've compiled a list of eight other compelling reasons.
(And boy you are picky.)
Peter Sellers. That should be the only reason you need, for Sellers delights consistently. In this and the other "Pink Panther" movies, it's remarkable how well Sellers treads the line between broad and subtle comedy. If you like slapstick, Sellers delivers. However, if you're more one for "smaller" jokes -- nervous humor, a play on words that takes a few beats to land, a blink-and-you'll-miss-it reaction -- Sells still has a lot to offer. The humor in "A Shot in the Dark" still works nearly fifty years later, and that's a testament to how well Sellers understood comedy.
The opening credits. Though it's the only film in the "Pink Panther" series not to feature the animated pink panther, the Fritz Freleng-directed animated short that opens "A Shot in the Dark" is charming and stylish. In fact, I'm just going to post it here:
It gives sequels a good name. If I told you that a film did well commercially and then a sequel was cobbled together from a pre-existing, unrelated script within months of the original's release, would you want to see it? Of course not. It would mostly likely be terrible -- a lame attempt to piggyback on the first film's appeal and score a few bucks. But in this one instance, you'd be wrong, because that's how "A Shot in the Dark" came about. "The Pink Panther" hit American theaters on March 20, 1964 (and U.K. theaters on January 7), and this sequel debuted on June 23, that same year. Defying all logic, it's actually quite good, but for that we can thank the French playwright Marcel Achard, whose 1962 play "L'Idiote" spawned an English-language production which was in the process of being adapted as a movie when the creative decided to re-write it as a new Inspector Clouseau adventure. (By the way, in the Broadway production, Sellers' role was played by William Shatner.)
It's No. 48 on AFI's "100 Years, 100 Laughs" List. Right behind "Shampoo," and that's pretty good.
Elke Sommer. She's never out of her element acting opposite Sellers, but it must also be said that she's peak-of-the-'60s adorable. It's also worth noting that Elke's character, Maria, returned for the 1993 film "Son of the Pink Panther." Curiously, the role was played by Claudia Cardinale, who played a different role in the first "Panther" film.
"Rit of fealous jage." Clouseau proves he's also clumsy when he speaks, and this spoonerism is one of Sellers' most famous lines ever. According to DVD commentary by director Blake Edwards, the slip-up was a genuine accident on Sellers' part, but it was deemed funny and therefore made the final cut.
Impress your friends with movie trivia! Here's one to lay on whoever you end up watching this film with: What, exactly, is the Pink Panther that gave the series its name? Most people casually familiar with the movies will think it's just the cartoon character -- you know, the one that once shilled for attic insulation? In truth, it's actually a pink diamond bearing a flaw that resembles a panther, and it's a major plot point in more than one of the series installments. Still, people seem to forget that.
Strategically covered-up nudity long before "Austin Powers" ever did it. It's a staple of the "Austin Powers" series, but "A Shot in the Dark" features a scene at a nudist colony where all the dangly parts are strategically shielded from the camera. And come on -- aren't you a little curious about what's going on in this scene?