Columbo: Season 1, Episode 3

Dead Weight (27 Oct. 1971)

TV Episode  -   -  Crime | Drama | Mystery
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Ratings: 6.8/10 from 1,142 users  
Reviews: 22 user | 5 critic

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



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Title: Dead Weight (27 Oct 1971)

Dead Weight (27 Oct 1971) on IMDb 6.8/10

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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?


When Columbo flashes his badge in this episode, his first name can be seen, alongside his photo (it's Frank). See more »


The German swastika at the war display is backwards. See more »


Harry Barnes: If you hand me your line, 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

Fine "Columbo" episode, though this time the witness is more interesting than the murderer
9 March 2005 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This is a good, workmanlike episode of "Columbo." But for the first time, another guest star is more interesting than the one who plays the murderer.

A young divorcée, Mrs. Stewart (Suzanne Pleshette), and her mother (Kate Reid) are out sailing when the daughter happens to look into the window of a nearby house; she sees a man in a bathrobe shoot another man in military uniform. Her mother doesn't believe her, and she even begins to doubt herself when the man she accuses proves to be the celebrated Major Gen. Martin Hollister (Eddie Albert).

"Columbo" fans know the splendid formula here. We witness a high-status personage commit a murder. The rumpled Lt. Columbo (Peter Falk) investigates and knows intuitively who the killer is. He plays a cat-and-mouse game with the criminal until he is able to prove his suspicions right and send the sophisticated perpetrator up the river. But my plot description above skews toward the witness, because for once that's who really captures our interest. Not the murderer.

Eddie Albert is best known as the straight man in the wacky sitcom, "Green Acres," but also played a wide variety of supporting roles in Hollywood, two of which earned him Oscar nominations. Here he plays a war hero who has aged into a corrupt businessman capable of cold-bloodedly murdering a colonel (John Kerr). This fellow Marine, who has conspired with him in illegal shenanigans, visits the bathrobe-clad Hollister to warn him that they are about to be exposed. Hollister thinks he can prevent discovery by getting rid of his co-conspirator. Albert is far too amiable to give this potentially fascinating character any depth; which is a shame, because Columbo finally discovers the damning piece of evidence through his understanding of Hollister's psychology. The impact of this revelation is muted because Hollister is not a fully realized character.

But Mrs. Stewart and her mother are. We meet them at the moment before the shooting; the camera cuts to the two of them just as it happens. Mrs. Stewart tells her mother what she just saw, and the mother immediately belittles the idea.

We soon learn this is the essence of their relationship. Mrs. Stewart phones the police, despite her mother's mockery. Columbo investigates, but Hollister has covered up the murder so well that not even our eagle-eyed detective can find anything. And when he meets Stewart and her mother, he thinks even less of her report. Mrs. Stewart clearly lives an empty life, poisoned by a mother who never misses a chance to denigrate her. Later, Hollister appears and seduces his witness. Finally even she begins to doubt what she saw.

Suzanne Pleshette ("The Bob Newhart Show"; Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds") gives a splendidly sympathetic performance, further enhanced by her interplay with the excellent Kate Reid ("The Andromeda Strain"). They are the heart of this episode. Eddie Albert's performance never really gels and prevents this from being a top-notch "Columbo" outing.

MISCELLANY: The music is credited to Gil Mille, but the score seems to be stock music from earlier episodes, primarily from Mille's "Death Lends a Hand."

Mrs. Stewart calls Columbo "an unmade bed," probably the first time anyone had used this apt metaphor.

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