A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Inspector Clouseau attempts to go to bed with the comely heroine. A possible rape is made light of. There is a comical revelation of multiple adultery in the household where a murder takes place. There are numerous murders, all slapsticky and practically bloodless.
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What's the story?
Inspector Clouseau (Peter Sellers) is called out to a mansion after the nighttime shooting of a chauffeur, which the audience has seen in the pre-credit sequence was a complicated intrigue involved different men skulking around the estate, just avoiding each other. The dead man was the ex-lover (possibly also the rapist) of the mansion's maid Maria (Elke Sommer), who was found holding the gun over his dead body. She claims she didn't kill him and that she can't remember anything about the fatal shot. Clouseau, immediately smitten, defends Maria. Even when other servants turn up slain around her, nothing convinces Clouseau of her guilt. Instead he insists to the increasingly exasperated Chief Inspector Dreyfus (Herbert Lom) that Maria is covering up for the real murderer, probably a boyfriend. And the only way for Clouseau to find out the truth is to stay near her. At all times.
Is it any good?
Sellers, naturally, is a riot. This was the second Pink Panther feature, and the one that set up all the elements that would become familiar: disaster-causing Inspector Clouseau, his wrathful chief Dreyfus, his attack-ready manservant Cato. Clouseau was just a scene-stealing supporting role in The Pink Panther; here, he's in the limelight. And Clouseau's blinding crush on Maria provides a stronger motivation for the detective's refusal to indict the maid than just sheer arrogance and stupidity.
Nobody watches Inspector Clouseau movies for the plots, although this one is a bit more story-driven and actor-centered than most of them, and its slapstick had not yet reached the epic-scale stunt proportions of the later movies. In fact, A SHOT IN THE DARK is based on stage play about a foolish judge, which was retro-fitted as a vehicle for the bungling detective character. It's not at all stagey, and the cast is a great display of star power. This may be the most exposure young kids get to British actor George Sanders, here playing Maria's aristocratic employer Ballon. A specialist in playing suave English cads and blackmailers, Sanders' distinctive voice and mannerisms were copied in countless cartoons for decades.
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