Columbo: Season 1, Episode 3

Dead Weight (27 Oct. 1971)

TV Episode  |   |  Crime, Drama, Mystery
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Ratings: 6.9/10 from 1,262 users  
Reviews: 22 user | 6 critic

A war hero shoots and kills his business partner; an easily manipulated young divorcée is the only witness.



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Episode complete credited cast:
Maj. Gen. Martin J. Hollister
Mrs. Walters
Helen Stewart
Col. Roger Dutton
Harry Barnes
Clete Roberts ...
TV Newsman
Ron Castro ...
Officer Sanchez
Glen Vernon ...
1st Officer
Jim Pelham ...
2nd Officer (as Jimmy Pelham)
James Halferty ...
1st Marine Cadet (as Jim Halferty)


While on a sailing-boat, Helen Stewart witnesses far-away, inside a room, a man with a gun killing another. She notifies the fact to the Police and Lt. Columbo begins to investigate. The man is the famous General Martin Hollister, a war hero. Lt. Columbo searches his house and afterwards he is very doubtful about Helen's statement. Written by Baldinotto da Pistoia

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


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Release Date:

27 October 1971 (USA)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Suzanne Pleshette, who had been friends 'with Pete Falk (I)' since she was 14 years old, said that he had behaved very badly during the making of this show. In fact, she didn't talk to him afterwards for a year. She also said that guest star Eddie Albert told Falk, "I always wanted to meet you, I always wanted to work with you, but you're a real asshole." See more »


It would be totally impossible to witness the shooting inside a house from the distance that the witness was from the house, especially during the day since the interior of the house would be much to dark to see anything. See more »


Harry Barnes: If you hand me your aft line, Mrs. Wallace, I'll secure your stern.
Mrs. Walters: I beg your pardon!
Harry Barnes: I'll tie up your boat.
See more »

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User Reviews

A nice try at something different that doesn't quite work, but is still an OK Columbo
6 June 2005 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Retired Major General Martin Hollister has made some money by being part of a business that gets work at very high prices, thanks to a partner inside the Government that awards him contracts and splits the profits, even though others are cheaper and better. However his partner's employers are onto him and Colonel Dutton is looking to run. Hollister can't end his career on the run and kills Dutton – effectively cutting any possible route back to him. However a woman boating off the marina thinks she sees the murder and calls it in. With no other evidence, body or weapon Columbo is ready to drop it but can't discount the eye witness account from Helen Stewart. While Columbo keeps digging for clues, Hollister gets to know Helen – hoping his easy charm will make her doubt what she has seen.

As with many TV film series (such as Perry Mason), if you like one or two of them then you'll pretty much like them all. This entry in the Columbo series pretty much follows the usual formula – we know the killer and the "perfect" plan but then watch Columbo follow his hunch and gradually starts to pick holes in the story he is told before eventually finding enough to prove his suspicions. Saying this is not a spoiler – it is simply what happens in all the films. With this strict adherence to formula it is usually down to several factors whether or not the Columbo film stands out or if it is just average. Here we try something pretty different – the cat and mouse games go three ways, with both men vying for the heart and mind of the witness to the crime. It could have been very good, and some strong moments in this dynamic show how well it could have worked, but too much of it is unconvincing and forced. If Martin and Helen had been good friends already before the murder, the step up to semi-lovers would have been easier to take. As it is, it feels too sudden and easy, and it surely would have set off alarm bells in everyone's mind – Helen would have suspected and Martin would have known better once the seeds of doubt were evident after only one or two meetings. Helen's character is well written and is a little believable that she would be suckered in by male attention, but Hollister is not as well laid out as a character – a problem since the conclusion relies wholly on an understanding of his character.

The film fails to set up Hollister as a vain and proud man early on and tries to do it suddenly at the end – mostly by Columbo telling us who he is. This weakens the solution because we have not been allowed to see these traits really until then. If it had been better written then these little things would have been evident across the film – just like personality traits are always there – it would have impressive if it had done this and it would have been further proof of Columbo's powers of observation (although, in a way it still is – but just a lot less effective). Falk is still good though, and even in 1971 he has "gotten" his character just right – almost a second skin even then. Albert is OK but could have been better; he toys with Columbo but then that didn't work because (with no evidence or body) why would he? He also seems smarter than the road he takes – not his fault as a performer but more of the material letting him down. Pleshette is good but again she is held back by the material; it was a nice performance though, and she did the best she could with it.

Overall this was a good try – but I really want to be able to say more than that. If it had been better written then it would have been a very good variation from formula but, with the unconvincing aspects looming large over the story, it doesn't work as well as the occasional strong moment suggest it could. The performances are all pretty good but the writing and development of characters and the plot lets them down when they need it most. Fans will enjoy it but, without anything being added by the change to formula, even they will probably acknowledge that it is not one of the better Columbo films.

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