(For Part One, see here.)
7) Fade Into Murder (1976): This episode of Columbo was far from the most difficult case Columbo had to crack, however the guest murderer made the episode entertaining.
William Shatner plays the role of Actor Ward Fowler. Fowler plays a famous TV crimefighter, Detective Lucerne. Fowler kills the woman who is blackmailing him and tries to put the blame on her husband.
Shatner is perfectly cast as the hammy actor who tries to “help” Columbo solve the case by getting in character as Detective Lucerne. The interaction between Falk and Shatner is fun. The highlight of the episode comes towards the end when Fowler, in character as Detective Lucerne accuses himself of having committed the murder!
6) Murder By the Book (1971): There’s a reason Jack Cassidy played the murderer on Columbo three times. Cassidy makes for a dashing and deceptive villain, and the chemistry between him and Falk made each outing memorable.
The plot centers around a writing team, where one member of the team writes best-selling mysteries and the other. Ken Franklin runs the business end. When the creative genius decides to leave the team, Franklin decides to kill him. The way Franklin commits the murder, it looks like he was miles away from the muder room.
The case presents a serious challenge to Columbo and thinks get even more complicated when someone who could blow Franklin’s alibi tries to blackmail him. “Murder by the Book” was directed by a young Steven Speilberg.
5) Columbo-“Short Fuse” (1972)
Roddy McDowell plays Roger Stanford, a genius and the nephew of the owner of a chemical plant who murders his uncle by turning a box of cigars into a bomb.
Stanford’s scheming doesn’t stop there. He spends the episode trying to manipulate his aunt into giving him control of the factory through a series of cunning moves. Of course, the young genius is dismissive of Columbo which turns out to be his undoing.
This episode, written by radio veteran Jackson Gills, features a fantastic ending on board a gondola lift.
4) Death Lends a Hand (1971):
This was the first of three Robert Culp appearances and the best of the three. It was a unique story for a number of reasons.
The first one is that the killing was not premeditated. Culp plays Bremmer, the an ex-cop head of a security and investigations firm that lies to a client to tell him his wife wasn’t cheating on her, and then tries to blackmail the wife in hopes of getting some juicy information. When she comes to his door, threatening to tell her husband the truth, Bremmer gets angry and smacks her so hard that he kills her. He then tries to make it look like a robbery that happened somewhere else.
Bremmer then gets into an even better position to further the cover-up when the grieving husband brings him in to help Columbo investigates. Columbo begins to catch on, and Bremmer tries to get Columbo off the case by offering him a job with his security firm.
Bremmer was one of Columbo’s most worthy adversaries, and in order to get his man, Columbo has to use a good bit of trickery. Sometimes, this can come off as contrived, but the end to this episode is one of the most memorable in the series.
This episode was also well done from a visual and music perspective. The scene when the death occurs and Bremmer hides the body is fascinating viewing. Taken with a nearly unbeatable mix of Peter Falk and Robert Culp, and you can see why this is a classic that helped to put Columbo on the map.
The entire 1970s Columbo Series is available on DVD from Amazon, along the 1989 and 1990 Mystery Movies series. The 1991-93 Mystery Movies series will be available on DVD February 8th. Episodes of Columbo are also available on DVD and Instant Watch from Netflix.
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