IMDb > "Columbo" Ransom for a Dead Man (1971)
"Columbo: Ransom for a Dead Man (#1.0)"
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"Columbo" Ransom for a Dead Man (1971)

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Dean Hargrove (teleplay)
Richard Levinson (story) ...
View company contact information for Ransom for a Dead Man on IMDbPro.
TV Series:
Original Air Date:
1 March 1971 (Season 1, Episode 0)
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. Full summary » | Full synopsis »
Plot Keywords:
User Reviews:
My absolute favorite Columbo episode See more (26 total) »


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

Peter Falk ... Columbo

Lee Grant ... Leslie Williams
John Fink ... Michael Clark

Harold Gould ... Agent Carlson
Patricia Mattick ... Margaret Williams

Paul Carr ... Hammond

Jed Allan ... Phil
Charles Macaulay ... Richard
Hank Brandt ... Attorney (as Henry Brandt)

Jean Byron ... Pat (as Jeane Byron)

Richard Roat ... Perkins
Norma Connolly ... Celia
Harlan Warde ... Paul Williams
Bill Walker ... Crowell

Timothy Carey ... Bert
Judson Morgan ... Judge
Richard O'Brien ... Priest

Celeste Yarnall ... Gloria
Lisa Moore ... Nancy
Lois Battle ... Waitress
Reginald Fenderson ... Mechanic
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Angelo De Meo ... Desk Clerk (uncredited)

Episode Crew
Directed by
Richard Irving 
Writing credits
Dean Hargrove (teleplay)

Richard Levinson (story) &
William Link (story)

Richard Levinson (based on a character created by) &
William Link (based on a character created by)

Gene Thompson  uncredited

Produced by
Dean Hargrove .... producer
Richard Irving .... executive producer
Original Music by
Billy Goldenberg 
Cinematography by
Lionel Lindon (director of photography)
Film Editing by
Edward M. Abroms 
John Elias (uncredited)
Art Direction by
John J. Lloyd 
Set Decoration by
Bert Allen (set decorations) (as Bert F. Allan)
Production Management
Donald L. Gold .... unit manager (as Don Gold)
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
George Bisk .... assistant director
Sound Department
Robert R. Bertrand .... sound (as Robert Bertrand)
Costume and Wardrobe Department
Burton Miller .... costumes
Editorial Department
Richard Belding .... editorial supervisor
Crew verified as complete

Production CompaniesDistributorsOther Companies

Additional Details

Also Known As:
95 min | USA:98 min
Color (Technicolor)
Aspect Ratio:
1.33 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
Australia:PG (video rating) | Finland:K-7 (2004) | Sweden:11 | UK:PG (video rating) (2000) (2004) | UK:U (theatrical release) (1972)

Did You Know?

Peter Falk and Lee Grant costarred in the Broadway production of Prisionrr of Second Avenue.See more »
Continuity: 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 »
Agent Carlson:Let's understand this one thing: if you start harassing this woman, I'm going to take it upstairs.
Lt. Columbo:Ah, just one minute, uh, Mr. Carlson. You see, it's like this: this is not just a kidnapping; this is a murder now... and I kinda figure that's my department. I'll see ya 'round.
See more »
Movie Connections:
Features Double Indemnity (1944)See more »


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16 out of 17 people found the following review useful.
My absolute favorite Columbo episode, 7 May 2008
Author: djoeg_62 from Dallas

I love this Columbo pilot has a richness of production lacking in most of the regular series episodes. I wish the regular episodes looked and felt like this.

The musical score by Billy Goldenberg is absolutely beautiful...variations on a simple theme, first as a intriguing, gently unfolding tune as the murder is planned and carried out. Then, as the cover-up is under way and we are introduced to a lush dramatic orchestration of the same theme, exciting and beautiful, worthy of a James Bond film. So versatile, this amazing tune, that it is used throughout the movie without ever sounding quite the same. The final iteration is as a jaunty little ditty in the airport coffee shop that sneaks up on you...totally unnoticed until the fun wrap-up and credits. Genius! Billy Goldenberg was only 34 when he did this...a master!

I also like the way the titles at the beginning and end look. The way the camera lingers at the last scene, of nothing but an airport window, allowing the credits to play out as the music plays, is so much more satisfying, more "movie-like", than the abrupt ending cut and the harsh yellow titles against stills of prior scenes of the regular series episodes. Some have derided the digital zooms and other editing choices made in this episode, but I couldn't disagree more. One of my favorite images is of the coldly beautiful Leslie, standing at the edge of a cliff, her eyes black as night, then suddenly ablaze like diamonds. They are actually the headlights of the big Lincoln she is driving in the scene. Beautiful imagery not even attempted in the series episodes.

That gets me to my final point as to why this Columbo is a cut above...Lee Grant! I enjoy watching Columbo match wits with female adversaries, and Leslie Williams is one of the best adversaries, if not the best, he has ever had...beautiful, sexy, flirtatious, shrewd, cunning and let's not forget - "greedy". I could watch her all day...I can't get enough of her. She is in control of every frame of film she appears in, every word, movement, every breath. Lee Grant is a great actress - great acting in a really fun part.

This episode is not perfect, but the Billy Goldenberg score, the "movie" look, and especially Lee Grant elevate it to the top for me. Fun to watch anytime.

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Why is Colombo on a kidnapping case? jonjax71
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