A psychiatrist who is married, is having an affair. His wife threatens to divorce him and take him to the cleaners if she ever catches him. So along with his mistress he plans to kill her and make it seem like she was killed by an intruder. He goes out of town as part of his plan and returns to find the police there investigating and the man investigating is Lt. Columbo. Columbo is a little odd and he asks the man some questions that he finds intrusive. Columbo continues to question him and the man's friend an ADA warns Columbo to watch his step. But Columbo goes on. Written by
Several different sources have different first names for Columbo. By focusing in on his badge he occasionally flashed, some say it was Frank some say it was Joseph. Trivial Persuit has it as Philip, which they got from a trivia book that purposely made it up to see if anyone was paying attention. The writers say he definitely was not given a first name. See more »
At the airport check-in, "Mrs Flemming" is asked if she has any hand luggage to carry on and she replies; "No." Yet she clearly has a large white handbag on her arm. See more »
The beginning credits feature a series of brightly colored animated splotches. The splotches were mean to resemble the ink blots used in a Rorschach test, as the villain in this movie was a psychiatrist. See more »
A baby-faced Peter Falk makes his first appearance in this 1967 TV movie as the world-famous detective Columbo, which was followed 4 years later by another TV movie and an exceptionally successful TV series.
An excellent, well-paced, cleverly-crafted mystery which spends a lot of time establishing and developing Columbo's characterisation - the dogged determination and persistence through seemingly trivial questions; the display of deceptive absent-mindedness and ineptitude; the constant references to his family etc. are all underpinned by the cigar, the mac and the generally scruffy appearance (although his overall appearance here is rather more tidy).
Undeniably, in hindsight, Columbo characterisation and Falk's performance is a little raw here, for it would take a little more time to fine-tune both things: nevertheless, Falk still does a great job with the complexities of the character and gives a smooth, unruffled performance.
The plot is purposely straightforward and relatively thin and there are not the plethora of accompanying clues and trivial pieces of evidence that invigorate the vintage episodes of the series, but you have to remember that this TV movies was the platform for the Columbo character.
Gene Barry gives a fine performance as the murderer: he certainly relishes his role; effortlessly displaying his character's cold-heartedness, self-confidence and smugness in equal proportions. His scenes with Falk have a marked air of tension about them, as Barry's character progressively shows disdain and arrogance towards the protagonist.
The ending is clever, especially as the murderer continually thinks that he has got away with his crime; the way Columbo unmasks him is superbly ironical.
The only problem watching this film is that most people encountered the Columbo TV series, prior to watching the "introductory" TV movies, so it can be a little unnerving, yet, on its own account, it's a very accomplished piece of work. Furthermore, the best detective to hit our TV screens was born!
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