Month: May 2012

EP0672: Crime on the Waterfront: Murder of Mrs. Lattimore

Mike Wallace

Lou Kagle looks into the murder of the wife of a returning diplomat who used to be a mob lawyer.

Recording Date: February 24, 1949

Take our listener survey…

Become one of our friends on Facebook…

Follow us on

Click here to download, click here to add this podcast to your Itunes, click here to subscribe to this podcast on Zune, click here to subscribe to this feed using any other feed reader.

EP0671: Barrie Craig: Nobody Lives There Anymore

William Gargan

Barrie undertakes to help a woman who claims her husband disappeared from a hotel room where the clerk says neither of them registered.

Original Air Date: February 9, 1955

Become one of our friends on Facebook…

Take the listener survey at

Give us a call 208-991-4783

Follow us on Twitter @radiodetectives

Click here to download, click here to add this podcast to your Itunes, click here to subscribe to this podcast on Zune, click here to subscribe to this feed using any other feed reader.

DVD Set Review: The Columbo Mystery Movie Collection: 1991-93

If quantity was more important than quality that the first two seasons of Columbo’s revival in the 1989 and 1990 movie sets would be a high point. The truth is that Peter Falk remained brilliant as Columbo making the programs worth watching. However, an old spark was missing.

Perhaps, the biggest difference between these early films and the 1970s Columbo were the guest villains. The 1970s series had featured some of Hollywood’s most distinguished actors as foils for Columbo: Gene Barry, Robert Culp, Jack Cassidy, Donald Pleasence, Roddy McDowall, Leonardy Nimoy, William Shatner, Janet Leigh, and Patrick McGoohan.

By contrast the first twelve Revival movies over ABC had a cast of Hollywood unknowns. The exceptions to this were McGoohan who starred in Agenda for Murder (1990)  and walked away with an Emmy nomination and Golden Globes winner Anthony Andrews who led off with Columbo Goes to the Guillotine. When researching the actors, many of them looked good on paper with many nominations for awards. A surprising number of Soap Opera actors made their way to be Columbo guest villains.  When cast with the Columbo in his iconic rain coat they showed they weren’t quite ready for “prime time.”

The next six movies took a difference pace. Over 1991-93, a total of six Columbo movies were released and in 2011, these six were released on DVD. However, these had far superior guest murderers which produced some better movies, particularly the first three.

The set has absolutely no extras, but Columbo fans will glad take the presence of our favorite police Lieutenant with no bells and whistles:

Murder Can Be Hazardous to Your Health (1991): George Hamilton became the second actor to play a Columbo killer in both the 70s and 1990s. He plays Wade Anders, a man who hosts an America’s Most Wanted Style TV show. The man who he beat out for the job (Peter Haskell) threatens to reveal Anders participation in a porno decades previously: information sure to undermine his credibility. The non-smoking Anders poisons the chain-smoking Anderson’s cigarettes, and plans to make the death look like an accident. Then Columbo comes on the case. He and Columbo have some memorable scenes including a hilarious non-speaking scene in a parking lot.  Overall, a very well-done professional Columbo film. Grade: A-

Columbo and the Murder of a Rock Star (1991): Dabney Coleman, in an Emmy-nominated performance, plays a high-powered defense attorney who murders his live in girlfriend. Coleman’s lawyer is slick and charismatic,  making this game of cat and mouse between him and Columbo particularly enjoyable. Grade: A-

Death Hits the Jackpot (1991): A man going through a divorce wins the lottery but doesn’t want to split the proceeds with his soon-to-be ex-wife. So he turns to his Uncle Leon Lamar (Rip Torn) for help. The Uncle (who is financially in trouble) comes up with a clever idea: let him cash in the ticket and then he’ll pay off the nephew later quietly once the attention has died down. Instead, he murders his nephew and attempts to keep the money for himself with the help of the nephew’s ex-wife.  Torn is perhaps the most sinister and cold-blooded Columbo murderer since Lee Grant in “Ransom for a Dead Man.”  I cheered for Columbo like never before in this one. Grade: A

No Time to Die (1992): No Time to Die” was based on an Ed McBain novel and really tossed the Columbo formula out the window in favor of a more straight police procedural. The result was an “okay” somewhat average TV mystery movie. For fans of the series, there’s a lack of Columbo being Columbo and he does unColumbo-like things like carrying a gun.

Of course, other TV shows such as The Rockford Files and Simon and Simon adapted novel plots for TV episodes. The difference was that they adapted that fit the tenure of the series. Columbo comes from a much more soft boiled tradition like Poirot. Throwing him into a procedural was entirely bizarre. The whole case centers around the kidnapping of a policeman’s new bride on his wedding night by a psychopathic sexual pervert. It’s not Columbo stuff. Falk did the best he could with it, but from me it just gets a: C+

A Bird in the Hand (1992): A problem gambler (Greg Evigan)  decides to murder his sports team owner father.  He wires his dad’s car with a bomb, but his father dies in an apparent hit-and-run accident, and his bomb instead kills the family gardener. This episode is an interesting experiment as we follow one person who plans the killing, but another person executes in an entirely different way. It doesn’t work out quite as well on the screen mainly because the writers did not give the talented Tyne Daley enough work with in her role as the not-so grief stricken widow. Grade: B

It’s All In the Game (1993): A wealthy socialite (Faye Dunaway) plots the murder of her boyfriend with the help of another woman he’s dating. Columbo is very courteous to her at the crime scene, but he’s also suspicious that the theory of a robbery motive for the murder may be wrong. Her plan to stop Columbo? Seduce him.  In the process, she actually starts to fall in love with him, telling her daughter that Columbo is “fun to be with.” While Columbo does like her, there are numerous signs that in the “romance” he’s only playing along until he gets what he needs: signs that she misses. Her confidence that her feminine wiles can get a veteran homicide cop to change a report border between attractive and over the top.

The episode also was made memorable by the fact that while we saw the murder, we were left with many mysteries as to the why and who the young woman with Dunaway’s character was. Overall, this was a very solid latter episode. Grade: A-

Overall set rating: B+

This post contains affiliate links, which means that items purchased from these links may result in a commission being paid to the author of this post at no extra cost to the purchaser.

If you enjoyed this post, you can have new posts about Detective stories and the golden age of radio and television delivered automatically to your Kindle.

Book Review: Please Pass the Guilt

Reading Please Pass the Guilt right after The Silent Speaker provided quite an interesting contrast. Both cases involve Archie and Wolfe drumming up business, but the times have changed in 25 years.

In the first place, technoligically things are quite different. In, The Silent Speaker, recording cylinders were a cumbersome  yet important part of the case that Wolfe and Archie didn’t really understand. By the time of Please Pass the Guilt, Wolfe and Archie are recording nearly every conversation to occur in the office. (Them and Richard Nixon both.)

Perhaps, more striking is the cultural change. Archie has to compete with a television when trying to pitch the widow of a murder victim on hiring Wolfe. Wolfe for his part remains the same iconoclastic figures as always. When asked if he watches television, Wolfe responds curtly, “I turn on the television rarely, only to confirm my opinion of it.”

Stout was clear that Nero and Archie had not changed in their basic temperment and behavior in the past thirty-eight years of the series while the world around them has transformed and that tension manifests itself. Stout even brushes with the more modern times and approaches (but back away from) edgier profanity when a women’s libber obsessed with the supposed sexism of language asked. “What is one of men’s favorite four-letter colloquial words that begins with f?” Archie demurred, claiming not to know what she was getting at. Acceptance of the use of that language may have been growing in the late 1960s and early 1970s but not in Rex Stout novels.

In a key moment, Archie expressed exasperation when unable to convince a female suspect go on a date as is his usual practice. Archie declared, “I’m done. Washed up. I’ve lost my touch, I’m a has-been. You knew me when.”

Fritz provides a rare moment of sagacity. “Then she is washed up, not you. You are looking at the wrong side. Just turn it over, that’s all you ever have to do, just turn it over” Perhaps, this served as a metaphor for the book and for Nero Wolfe and Archie’s place in a rapidly changing world. If 1970s American readers reached the point where they could no longer appreciate these characters, then readers were washed up, not them.

As one reviewer pointed out on Amazon, this is as much a period piece as the Wolfe stories from the 1940s. For most of Wolfe’s long-time fans, it’s just not a period they like as well. The case begins when Doc Volmer asks Wolfe to do a favor for a friend of his. A young man has shown up at a local psychological clinic and states he has blood on his hands, but he won’t even give his right name. He suggests Wolfe apply his skills to the problem to help unearth the truth. When the young man shows up, the most Wolfe is able to do is to connive to find out his real name. Wolfe discovers he’s one of the figures in the murder of an executive who went into another executive’s room and opened a drawer he kept whiskey in.

With the bank balance low and Wolfe having worked even less than usual the first five months of 1969, Archie goes on his own initiative to the widow of the executive to lobby her to hire Wolfe. She does so and answers a key question: What was her husband doing in another executive’s private office? Simple, he was spiking his whiskey with LSD so his would blow his interview with the board to become the next president of the company. Welcome to the 1960s, man.

From there, Wolfe embarks on an investigation to find the truth. Along the way, he runs into a steady stream of lies: from employees of the firm, complete strangers who respond to an ad for information, and even from his client. Wolfe has never treated a client with such contempt as he does in Please Pass the Guilt. However, the contempt was well-earned. What’s perhaps most astounding is that a truth embedded in one of the lies Wolfe’s told leads him to the true solution of the case.

So, while it’s not vintage 1940s Wolfe, Please Pass the Guilt shows the timeless power of Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin.

Rating: Very Satisfactory

You can find all the Nero Wolfe books in Kindle, Audiobook, and book form on our Nero Wolfe page.

If you enjoyed this post, you can have new posts about Detective stories and the golden age of radio and television delivered automatically to your Kindle.

EP0670: Yours Truly Johnny Dollar: The Voodoo Matter

 John Lund

Johnny flies to Haiti to solve the problem of an insured who is suffering huge crop losses. Johnny arrives to find the man suspicious that voodoo is behind it all.

Original Air Date: August 4, 1953

Save more and combine hotel and airline fare at

Become one of our friends on Facebook…

Take the listener survey at

Click here to download, click here to add this podcast to your Itunes, click here to subscribe to this podcast on Zune, click here to subscribe to this feed using any other feed reader.