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 1,320 users  
Reviews: 25 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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Title: Ransom for a Dead Man (01 Mar 1971)

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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

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Produced as a second pilot for Columbo (1971) three years after Prescription: Murder (1968). Its success led to "Columbo" being made part of a rotating Mystery Movie wheel of programs for most of the 1970s. See more »


Early in the pilot when Lee Grant's character leaves her husband's 1971 Lincoln sedan at the stop sign and goes to a mailbox to mail the ransom note she is startled by an approaching car. As the car approaches it is a Corvette. However as the car is shown driving away the rear of the car is a 1971 Lincoln sedan; possibly the same car and/or a sequence planned for earlier in the scene. See more »


Lt. Columbo: You know the soap you have in the bathroom, the ones shaped like little lemons? Well I was almost afraid to use 'em.
Leslie Williams: But that's what they're there for, lieutenant - to be used.
Lt. Columbo: Well if you don't mind my asking: when you use one, and you put it back in the plate, how do you keep it from sticking to the others?
Leslie Williams: It's a problem.
Lt. Columbo: That's what I figured.
See more »


References Perry Mason (1957) See more »

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User Reviews

"From one old bag to another......."
13 January 2002 | by (Down the pub with Leopold Alcocks) – See all my reviews

A distinct improvement on PRESCRIPTION: MURDER, especially in the visual field: this was actually released in cinemas in Britain, in 1973, and it's easy to see why. Despite some gimmicky camera effects, dating the show as the product of the early 70's (but why the hell not), the style of the visuals, particularly the opening murder scene, and the atmospheric music lend the TV production an enjoyable air of assured professionalism more associated with the big screen. (Especially, one might add, with Hitchcock, whom Levinson and Link had previously written for.) Lee Grant is a simply superb adversary, coldly beautiful and never once descending to the "chink-in-the-armour" factor that let down some of the later COLUMBO murderesses. Falk looks no different in this second pilot (in effect a special, anticipating the series' current status) than he would in the series, and has also raised his voice above the near monotone employed in PRESCRIPTION: MURDER, although his loss of temper with Grant's obnoxious stepdaughter is quite unlike the easy-going Lieutenant we all know.

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