Columbo: Season 1, Episode 1

Murder by the Book (15 Sep. 1971)

TV Episode  |   |  Crime, Drama, Mystery
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Ratings: 7.6/10 from 2,164 users  
Reviews: 29 user | 8 critic

When one member of a mystery writing team wants to break from his less talented partner, he becomes the victim in a real-life murder mystery.



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Title: Murder by the Book (15 Sep 1971)

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Episode complete credited cast:
Ken Franklin
Joanna Ferris
Jim Ferris
Lilly La Sanka
Lynette Mettey ...
Gloria Jr. (as Lynnette Mettey)
Bernie Kuby ...
Mike Tucker
Woman (credit only)
Haven Earle Haley ...
2nd Reporter


Ken Franklin is a rich socialite living in a luxurious coastal mansion bought from his years in connection to a series of popular crime and mystery books written entirely by his business partner. He turns his one and only original idea for fiction into reality as he murders his exiting partner to maintain his lifestyle and then desperately tries to cover up his crime due to a blackmailing witness. Columbo arrives on the scene to begin pestering his suspect with questions about the murder. Mr. Franklin soon realizes that no murder is perfect, and his own clever plot may return to haunt him. Written by Scott Dawson <> / revised by statmanjeff

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


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Release Date:

15 September 1971 (USA)  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Although Billy Goldenberg scored the opening Columbo stories in 1971, his commercially released "Columbo Theme" recorded as such by Norrie Paramor and His Orchestra (Law Beat album, Contour Records 2870 369) did not become a regular feature of the show. The theme is first heard during the helicopter sequence of pilot "Ransom for a Dead Man" but Goldenberg did not use it as a title theme and composed mainly fresh music for "Murder by the Book" and all his subsequent scores. The Columbo show never had any recognizable theme tune of its own. See more »


Ken Franklin refers to his missing partner's body as the "corpus delicti." This term does not mean the physical body, but the body of evidence needed to prove that a crime has actually been committed. Black's Law Dictionary (6th ed.) defines "corpus delicti" as: "the fact of a crime having been actually committed." A mystery writer should have known better. See more »


[first lines]
[Jim works in his office]
Jim Ferris: [knock on the door] Who is it?
[another knock on the door]
Jim Ferris: [He opens the door - Ken is aiming a gun at his face. Jim laughs]
Ken Franklin: Oh, you're not intimidated.
Jim Ferris: Oh, come on, Ken. You're forgetting that I'm one-half of the world's greatest mystery-writing team? You, ah, don't have gloves on, your finger's not on the trigger, and there are no bullets in the cylinder.
Ken Franklin: [smiling] You're right. I'm a lousy practical joker.
See more »


References Prescription: Murder (1968) See more »


Love Theme from 'Red Sky At Morning'
Composed by Billy Goldenberg
Heard during the bar scene
See more »

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User Reviews

"It's a cinch you have never cheated on Joanna before...."
13 January 2002 | by (Monmouth) – See all my reviews

A terrific start to the series, and I'm not just saying this because of its director: he'd have done a great job on this even if his name was Joe Nobody. Spielberg's cool, clipped way of creating an air of menace, through constant anticipations (not for nothing does the opening panning shot include a skull on Ferris' table) in the opening sequences should be required viewing at film schools. He still permits the classic character conflict to evolve in the later, less firmly paced stages: even inserting a signature (reflected in E.T. and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS) of officials loudly creating fuss and sidelining the vulnerable, in the scene at the Ferris home just before Columbo appears. Jack Cassidy, unfairly only really remembered today as the father of teen idol David, is on splendid, autocratically smarmy form here, as a mystery writer who can't write, but knows how to play the media. His staring eyes and coldly composed face as he points the gun at the camera, for the second time, are unforgettable. As ever, Falk charms in his down-to-earth manner, complaining of the cold - "there's no lining on this coat" - and helping out the distressed Mrs. Ferris in the kitchen. (A shame that Rosemary Forsyth is saddled with a line like, "I know Ken, he's not a murderer", though.) The music, more than slightly reminiscent of Bernard Herrmann's score for PSYCHO, is another eerie advantage. All in all, a shame that Falk's plan to get Spielberg to direct COLUMBO's return to TV, in 1989, came to nothing........

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