IMDb > "Columbo" Dead Weight (1971)

"Columbo" Dead Weight (1971)

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John T. Dugan (written by)
Richard Levinson (created by) ...
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TV Series:
Original Air Date:
27 October 1971 (Season 1, Episode 3)
A war hero shoots and kills his business partner; an easily manipulated young divorcée is the only witness. Full summary » | Full synopsis »
Plot Keywords:
User Reviews:
Fine "Columbo" episode, though this time the witness is more interesting than the murderer See more (21 total) »


 (Episode Cast) (in credits order) (verified as complete)

Peter Falk ... Columbo

Eddie Albert ... Maj. Gen. Martin J. Hollister

Kate Reid ... Mrs. Walters

Suzanne Pleshette ... Helen Stewart

John Kerr ... Col. Roger Dutton

Val Avery ... Harry Barnes

Timothy Carey ... Bert
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)
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Bobby Gilbert ... Exibit Patron (uncredited)
Earl Spainard ... Fisherman (uncredited)
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Episode Crew
Directed by
Jack Smight 
Writing credits
John T. Dugan  written by &
Richard Levinson  created by &
William Link  created by

Produced by
Everett Chambers .... producer
Richard Levinson .... executive producer
William Link .... executive producer
Robert F. O'Neill .... associate producer
Original Music by
Gil Melle (music score) (as Gil Mellé)
Cinematography by
Russell Metty (director of photography) (as Russell L. Metty)
Film Editing by
Richard M. Sprague 
Art Direction by
Archie J. Bacon  (as Arch Bacon)
Set Decoration by
Richard Friedman (set decorations)
Production Management
Henry Kline .... unit manager
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
Jack Barry .... assistant director
Lou Watt .... second assistant director (uncredited)
Sound Department
David H. Moriarty .... sound
Costume and Wardrobe Department
Burton Miller .... costumes
Editorial Department
Richard Belding .... editorial supervisor
Steve Johnson .... colorist (uncredited)
Music Department
Henry Mancini .... composer: theme
Billy Goldenberg .... musical cues (uncredited)
Transportation Department
Donald P. Desmond .... driver (uncredited)
Other crew
Steven Bochco .... story editor
Wayne Fitzgerald .... main title design
Crew believed to be complete

Production Companies
  • Universal TV (from Universal City, California) (as Universal® Studios)
DistributorsOther Companies
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Additional Details

Also Known As:
USA:76 min
Color (Technicolor)
Aspect Ratio:
1.33 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
Australia:M (video rating) | Finland:K-7 (2004) | UK:PG (video rating) (1999)

Did You Know?

Books by Mrs. Melville (from Murder By The Book) are seen on General Hollister's bookshelf.See more »
Revealing mistakes: 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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19 out of 21 people found the following review useful.
Fine "Columbo" episode, though this time the witness is more interesting than the murderer, 9 March 2005
Author: J. Spurlin from United States

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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