5) Columbo and the Murder of a Rock Star (1991)
The plot of this one involves a famous defense attorney murdering his girlfriend. It is well-written and a solid story, but Dabney’s Coleman Emmy-nominated performance makes this a standout. He manages to capture that classic Columbo villain arrogance. The final reveal is a stroke of genius as well.
4) Agenda for Murder (1990)
Patrick McGoohan’s third appearance as a Columbo villain is his best. He plays a high-powered lawyer with big-time political ties and kills off a man who threatens to reveal a scandal that could derail his ambitions. The murder is cleverly executed and the chemistry between Falk and McGoohan is superb.
3) Murder Can Be Hazardous to Your Health (1991)
Another 1970s Columbo Guest Star returns with George Hamilton playing the host of a program in the style of America’s Most Wanted. The murder method involves poisoned cigarettes and is ingenuous and there are good comic moments between Falk and Hamilton. I prefer this over Hamilton’s 1975 appearance in, “A Deadly State of Mind.”
2) Columbo Goes to the Guillotine (1989)
It had been nearly eleven years since the last Columbo movie. So the return film had to be good. It was superb. A mentalist murders an old friend as an act of revenge for having been abandoned in a foreign prison so many years ago and uses a magic guillotine to do it. It’s a baffling crime for Columbo to unravel and part of that involves Columbo exposing the mentalist as a fraud in a very clever scene. The story also has a dramatic ending that features an attempt by the killer to get rid of Columbo. It’s a great return for Columbo.
1) Death Hits the Jackpot (1991)
An almost-divorced photographer buys a winning lottery ticket but wants to avoid splitting the winnings with his soon-to-be ex-wife. So his Uncle Leon (played by Rip Torn) comes up with a plan. Leon will cash in the ticket and give his beloved nephew the lion’s share of the winnings once the divorce is final, but Leon kills his nephew instead. Torn is superb in this one. He’s probably the most menacing Columbo murderer ever. He’s excellent as the calculating and insincere sociopath, making for a solid and underrated performance.
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