Another famous French policeman III

The second film in the Pink Panther series was A Shot in the Dark (1964), and marked the point where Closeau began to come into its own, as well as  introducing Herbert Lom as his boss, Commissioner Dreyfus, and Burt Kwouk as his long-suffering servant, Cato, who would both become series regulars.

The film was not originally written to include Clouseau, but was an adaptation of a stage play, itself adapted from a French play L’Idiote (I think all of you will understand it without a translation), and as the director and scriptwriter began work on the script, they decided the story would be a good vehicle for the Clouseau character, and rewrote the script around the new premise. The film was released only a few months after the The Pink Panther.

It was only in this film that Sellers began to give Closeau the idiosyncratically exaggerated French accent that was to become his hallmark (one example below).

The plot was vintage Closeau.  He is called to the country home of a Paris plutocrat, Benjamin Ballon, to investigate the murder of his Spanish chauffeur, who was having an affair with the maid, Maria Gambrelli.

Although all the evidence points to Gambrelli as the killer, Clouseau stubbornly refuses to admit that she is guilty, having fallen madly in love with her. In order for the real culprits to keep the truth hidden from Clouseau’s boss, Commissioner Dreyfus, they must commit more murders and for each, Maria is arrested, and each time Clouseau sets her free. Clouseau is always at the wrong place at the right time and manages to get himself arrested by uniformed police four times in quick succession (first for selling balloons without a license, then for selling paintings without a license, then for hunting without a license, and finally with Maria for public nudity, after they flee from a nudist colony without their clothes… this was classic).

As Clouseau continues to bungle, Commissioner Dreyfus becomes increasingly agitated. An anonymous figure begins stalking Clouseau, trying to kill him, but accidentally kills a doorman instead, as well as two cafe customers and a Cossack dancer. Clouseau gathers all the suspects together, and the guilty attempt to escape in Clouseau’s car, which is blown up……

Some dialogues:

Clouseau [entering the mansion soaking wet]: I’m sorry, my idiot driver parked too close to the fountain.

Maria Gambrelli: You can have one of my cigarettes.
Clouseau: Oh, thank you.
Maria Gambrelli: You have it in backwards.
Clouseau: Oh… it tastes very bad that way.

Here shades of the Reverend Spooner…

Clouseau [accusing Ballon]: And I submit, Inspector Ballon, that you arrived home, found Miguel with Maria Gambrelli, and killed him in a rit of fealous jage!

Dreyfus: Give me ten men like Clouseau and I could destroy the world.

Clouseau [arriving at Camp Sunshine]: I am here on official business and I am looking for someone in the recreation area.
Camp Attendant: Not unless you take off your clothes…
Clouseau: You, sir, are under arrest.
Camp Attendant: Arrest? What for?
Clouseau: For making lewd and suggestive remarks to an official of the French government.
Camp Attendant: Lewd and suggestive remarks?
Clouseau: Also for indecent exposure… doesn’t anyone wear any clothes around here?
Camp Attendant: No.
Clouseau: What!
Camp Attendant: This is a nudist colony.

Clouseau: There is something… personal… in this?
Dreyfus: Yes, deeply personal. I hate you! Every little bit of you! Now get out!
Clouseau: You want me to leave?

Clouseau: Well… that just goes to prove what I have said all along.
Dreyfus: What you’ve said, Clouseau, qualifies you as the greatest prophet since Custer said he was going to surround all those Indians!

Dreyfus: What about the maid?
Clouseau: The maid?
Dreyfus: Was he jealous of her too? He strangled her.
Clouseau: It is possible that his intended victim was a man and that he made a mistake.
Dreyfus: Mistake?… in a nudist camp? Idiot nincompoop lunatic!

And that example of the accent….

Clouseau: And… they were your fingerprints!
Ballon: Well, why not? It’s my house. I’ve often been in that closet.
Clouseau: For what reason?
Ballon: Last time was moths.
Clouseau: “Meuths”?
Ballon: [very clearly] Moths!
Clouseau: Yes, “meuths.”
Ballon: Maria was complaining of “murths.” [frowns at himself]
Clouseau: “Meurths”? Is that right, Maria, that – that you were complaining about these “meuths”?
Maria Gambrelli: Yes, I did complain about moths.
Clouseau: Oh, you mean “meuths”!

Dreyfus: Someone has been murdered here. Please let it be Clouseau.

Clouseau: [after getting his hand caught in a spinning globe] Look at that. I have Africa all over my hand.

Maria: [as Clouseau’s coat is burning] Your coat, Monsieur!
Clouseau: Yes, it is my coat.

Dreyfus: [a car bomb has just killed the real killers. Dreyfus refers to four other killings] A doorman, two customers, and a Cossack! And now eight more dead!
Clouseau: But they were all murderers, except for Maurice, who was a blackmailer!
Dreyfus: [whimpering] They were saints compared to you!

To be continued…..


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