Columbo: Season 1, Episode 0

Ransom for a Dead Man (1 Mar. 1971)

TV Episode  |   |  Crime, Drama, Mystery
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Ratings: 7.6/10 from 1,352 users  
Reviews: 26 user | 6 critic

A brilliant tort attorney gets rid of her boring husband by faking his kidnapping and keeping the ransom. The FBI may be fooled, but not Columbo.



(teleplay), (story), 4 more credits »
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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
John Fink ...
Michael Clark
Patricia Mattick ...
Margaret Williams
Charles Macaulay ...
Hank Brandt ...
Attorney (as Henry Brandt)
Pat (as Jeane Byron)
Norma Connolly ...
Harlan Warde ...
Paul Williams
Bill Walker ...


Leslie Williams, a brilliant tort attorney is bored by her husband, a respected member of the state supreme court. After trading on his famous name to get ahead, she tries to get her freedom by murdering him and concocts a scheme to make it appear that he's been kidnapped and held for ransom. After she pays the ransom to herself, his dead body is found. She may have fooled the FBI but not Lt. Columbo, who is aided by her vengeful stepdaughter. Written by

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


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Release Date:

1 March 1971 (USA)  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


The plane Columbo and Leslie Williams are flying in is a 1968 Beech 36 Fixed wing single engine, registration number; N7835R. See more »


On the way to the dropoff point for the ransom, her new heading is 20 degrees Northwest, which is impossible. A 20 degree heading would be North Northeast. See more »


Leslie Williams: You know, Columbo, you're almost likable in a shabby sort of way. Maybe it's the way you come slouching in here with your shopworn bag of tricks.
Lt. Columbo: Me? Tricks?
Leslie Williams: The humility, the seeming absent-mindedness, the uh, homey anecdotes about the family: the wife, you know?
Lt. Columbo: Really?
Leslie Williams: Yeah, Lieutenant Columbo, fumbling and stumbling along. But it's always the jugular that he's after. And I imagine that, more often than not, he's successful.
Lt. Columbo: I appreciate that compliment, Mrs. Williams, and I ...
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Features Double Indemnity (1944) See more »

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User Reviews

A very promising pilot
3 September 2007 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Three years after the original Columbo pilot "Prescription: Murder", the great man got another chance for immortality in this film. Of course, the rest is history as Columbo went on to become one of the greatest and best-loved TV characters ever.

This pilot sets a high standard (which wasn't always maintained, let's be honest) and has strong writing and characterisation, as well as showing some visual flair with slow fades, jump cuts and other effects.

Columbo here is the Lieutenant we will come to love, absent-minded, rambling, but with pin-sharp instincts and a deep sense of justice ("I couldn't have you convicted on false evidence" he says at one point. He wants to catch the criminal but he will do it fairly and properly). The performances of Peter Falk and Lee Grant are excellent.

Some reviewers have felt the suspect wouldn't be stupid enough to use the ransom money after being so smart in planning the crime and covering her tracks. I think the fact the money was going into a *Swiss* bank probably made her feel it was a risk worth taking - you can't get any information out of those guys, so no-one would know it was the ransom money. Besides, she really doesn't have a conscience.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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