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
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 »
One of the best entries in the series, and the first. "Colombo" followed the usual trajectory of commercially viable TV series. A few good episodes while the cast and writers got their acts together, then a string of iconic hits, followed by a slow deflation. Sometimes, as with "Colombo", the series is resurrected to see if there may be another nickel worth squeezing out of it.
Come to think of it, lots of art styles follow the same route. Exactitude followed by sloppiness followed by decadence. Egyptian hieroglyphics of three thousand years ago used a very carefully carved picture of a snake. Borrowed and passed on, the picture got sloppier until it turned into our letter "N".
The style presented in this particular episode can be called primitive but careful. Colombo is recognizable, but he has not yet become his rumpled and wrinkled self. His tie is straight, his hair is short, his shirt laundered, and his raincoat pressed. (We don't see his shoes.) And he can become forceful and harsh when the situation calls for it.
The plot's complicated but not hard to follow. Colombo doesn't appear until post crime, about midway through the movie. As usual his suspicions are aroused by tiny bumps in the scenario, which everyone else can find good, sound reasons for. And he rambles on without apparent point about his losing the pencils his wife gives him every morning.
It's efficiently done. Not exactly part of the glorious golden age which was to follow, but a first-rate prelude. Gene Barry's head looks awesomely brachycephalic from behind, like a small bowling ball. Katherine Justice is is patient mistress, or patient/mistress, complicit in the murder of Barry's wife. I swear that if you close your eyes when she delivers her lines, you can hear Kim Novak speaking.
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