Initially, Edwards declined, but finally relented on the condition that it be revamped as a Clouseau vehicle. Sellers enthusiastically agreed and convinced the film's backers. Edwards and William Peter Blatty (who would later write The Exorcist) completely rewrote what Edwards could come to call "the unintentional Clouseau" film.
|Clouseau: "You've been cutting flowers."|
|Herbert Lom with eye twitch.|
Although there are classic comedic routines in other Pink Panther films, A Shot in the Dark features three of my favorites. The first occurs when Clouseau tracks Maria to a resort that turns out to be a nudist camp. The sight of Clouseau navigating among the camp members--with a guitar hanging strategically in front of him--is brilliant visual comedy. Equally amusing in a more subtle way is the running gag of Clouseau being arrested and carted away to jail for selling balloons without a licence, hunting without a license, painting on a sidewalk without a license, and--of course--indecent exposure while fleeing from the nudist camp. Of course, Sellers isn't responsible for all the best scenes. Herbert Lom's eye ticks and muffled manic laughs are funny on their own, but the part where an irritated Dreyfus accidentally cuts off one of his fingers is a classic.
|Kato stops to answer the phone|
during martial arts practice.
What is amazing is that additional Pink Panther films were made at all after A Shot in the Dark. Despite their successful partnership, Sellers and Edwards frequently clashed when working together. In fact, they swore they'd never work together again after A Shot in the Dark. Yet, four years later, they made The Party, a fairly funny film with Sellers as a small-time Indian actor mistakenly invited to a posh Hollywood party.
|Clouseau in disguise!|
None of them can match A Shot in the Dark for laughs per minute and originality. In 2000, when the American Film Institute saluted great screen comedies, it ranked A Shot in the Dark at #48 among the all-time comedy classics. I might have ranked it even higher.