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"Columbo" Dagger of the Mind (1972)

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17 out of 23 people found the following review useful:

A favourite Columbo

Author: Vaughan Birbeck from Scarborough, England
2 June 2004

This may not be the best ever Columbo episode but as it's set in England it remains a favourite of mine.

Apart from the plot the main interest lies in location spotting. We get scenes at London airport and outside New Scotland Yard near Victoria Street which means Columbo could pass Buckingham Palace on the way.

The "London Wax Museum" is actually the Imperial College Library, near the Science Museum in South Kensington (also used as a location in "The Ipcress File"), but it does allow an impressive closing shot of the Albert Hall. We also get to see the Royal Court Theatre and lots of English rain.

Apart from that I'm not sure how much of the film was shot in the UK. The stately home has a definite California feel.

This is a good Columbo entry, only marred by the usual American view of the British: we're either "Pip, pip, old boy" types or " Gor blimey, gavner" cockneys. At the time this was made the top cop show in the UK was 'The Sweeney'. Columbo meets Regan and Carter, now that would be worth watching: "Oh, just one more thing sir, er...you're nicked!"

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15 out of 20 people found the following review useful:

Likeable, but fragmented and uncertainly paced Columbo adventure set in London

Author: The Welsh Raging Bull (leighton.phillips@sihe.ac.uk) from Port Talbot, South Wales, UK
13 April 2004

Early on in the Columbo series, the producers obviously felt confident enough to take the "man in the mac" out of his familiar American environment and place him in London, to solve a murder - nevertheless, the results are decidedly mixed.

The episode boasts a wonderfully hammy performance from Richard Basehart, as one of the murderers (ably assisted by British actress Honor Blackman)and there are some very humourous scenes as we see Columbo cause mayhem at Heathrow airport and also as he scours London to take snapshots with his brother-in-law's camera.

Notwithstanding these strengths, the adventure is rather thinly plotted and uncertainly paced (the finale really comes without any significant build-up); and the murder set-up itself does not render the ingenious array of clues typical of many of the best Columbo adventures (all we really have here is a turned-over book, an unbroken set of reading glasses, rain spots on a car and an umbrella!).

Additionally, the episode does have a fragmented feel to it owing to the fact that not all of it was filmed in London (the scenes in the London pub are somewhat exaggerated and many of the character actors have awfully manufactured Cockney accents).

This is an average Columbo adventure, but still better than many of the detective shows of its kind.

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8 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Not exceptional, but definitely worth seeing

7/10
Author: TheLittleSongbird from United Kingdom
26 June 2010

I may be biased, but I have yet to see a Columbo episode I absolutely hate. Even with its problems, I did like Dagger of the Mind. It is quite slow in pace, with a rather thin plot and the build up to the finale I agree could have been better. But the scenery and photography are wonderful, the script does have its humorous moments, the direction is good enough and the music is effective. The acting is fine, Peter Falk is great no problem with him whatsoever, while Honor Blackman is wonderful, looks beautiful and has some memorable scenes with Columbo. Richard Basehart overdoes it a bit, but he seems to be having fun too. Overall, worth watching if not the best Columbo. 7/10 Bethany Cox

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9 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Columbo In London

5/10
Author: ShootingShark from Dundee, Scotland
17 May 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

When an eminent London stage promoter threatens to pull the plug on a production of Macbeth, a husband-and-wife acting team take a lead from their characters in the play and bump him off. Unfortunately for them however, Lieutenant Columbo is visiting Scotland Yard on a police exchange scheme ...

The charm of this Columbo story comes largely from transplanting the dishevelled Los Angeles detective to old London town (although most of this was shot on stages in Hollywood), a world of quaint old theatres, starched-shirt butlers, gentlemen's clubs and fish'n'chips. The script, penned by the show's creators, Richard Levinson and William Link, has some witty parallels with Macbeth and several funny moments, like the newspaper headline reading "The Butler Did It !" and Columbo's reaction to the autopsy photographs. Basehart and Blackman both give good, mildly histrionic performances and the rest of the British cast spark off nicely against Columbo's Californian sensibilities. The best bits though are the footage of Falk running around like a mad tourist at Buckingham Palace, Green Park, Tower Bridge and the Albert Hall. If only he'd been on the case of Jack the Ripper.

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9 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Is this London that I see before me?

6/10
Author: Robert J. Maxwell (rmax304823@yahoo.com) from Deming, New Mexico, USA
18 August 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A pretty good entry in the early series, this episode takes Columbo to London where he more or less guides a dilatory Scotland Yard through a maze of clues to the solution of a murder. The murder has to do with the social world of British theater and the culprits are a pair of Shakespearean actors (Richard Basehart and Honor Blackman).

There's nothing particularly innovative or amusing about it except the locale. Columbo loses track of his wife, as usual on his trips. And there are some scenes in which an audience might properly be feel it's being talked down to, with Columbo running around (followed closely by the camera) and taking pictures of the changing of the guard as if the pageantry hadn't appeared in a dozen other movies. "Is that BIG BEN?", Columbo asks his guide at one point. Yes, Leftenant, it's Big Ben. "Waddaya know -- hundreds of years old and it's not off by more than a minute." I mean, fumbling around and being gauche is one thing, but has he been raised in some cave? However, that silliness aside, the writers have folded Columbo's usual tactics neatly into the British mix. And it has Wilfred Hyde-White as an unctuous blackmailing butler and he's peerless. And it has John Williams, too, who has played more British detectives, inspectors, and lawyers than you can count. Alas, he's bumped off early -- by a cold cream jar Honor Blackman throws his way. (People die so easily in Columbo's environs; his presence is hazardous to your health.) Basehart and Blackman seem to be having a good time and they're a jovial couple of murderers, chuckling and making wisecracks about their own duplicity, a regular pair of Richard IIIs.

Enjoyable -- AND you get to see Tower Bridge! From a boat on the Thames!

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15 out of 23 people found the following review useful:

below average Columbo

3/10
Author: fcasnette from United Kingdom
13 April 2006

I've watched this a couple of times now and it gets worse the more you analyse. Compare it to the episode in Mexico where as a "fish out of water" Columbo has to help the local police. That episode is tightly scripted with a believable Mexican policeman and reason for Columbo to help out. Here we have lazy scriptwriting (exchnage visit) and cartoon English policemen going to their "clubs". Laughable! The theatre setting and "luvie" murderers have possibilities but marred by Basehart's Canadian drawl. The pub scene with "cockneys" is just ludicrous. The difference between the location shoot and the Californian and studio scenes is glaring and off putting.

The problem is Falk is not on camera enough to lift it, and a wealth of British character actors are wasted with not enough nuance in the script, and no interesting villain like Patrick MacGoohan, Jack Cassidy or Robert Culp to mask the story shortfalls with screen presence. The murder and denouement is just lame and it is surprising this episode came so early since it bears all the hallmarks of the type of episode you get when the series is going down the drain and a desperate attempt is made to liven the pattern up with a new location. Columbo has done far better than this, but I must admit that compared to more standard TV fare a bad Columbo is still better than a lot of other things you can pass the time with because Peter Falk is in it.

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8 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

also one of my favorite episodes

Author: blanche-2 from United States
9 September 2004

I am a die-hard Columbo fan and I guess all of the episodes, excluding the most recent ones, are my favorites. But Dagger of the Mind is one of my favorite favorites. It has wonderful performances by Honor Blackman and Richard Basehart and a familiar Hitchcock actor, John Williams.

This movie has one of my favorite scenes of all time - Blackman sobbing hysterically over a coffin and babbling to Columbo (we find out later she thinks he's from the press). In the midst of her over-dramatic performance, Columbo, in his most innocent voice asks, "Is there any way for me to get tickets? I'd LOVE to see the show." Too funny. Columbo is a great character. It's a shame that the last few episodes were not up to the wonderful standards of the old episodes and his comeback episodes of the early '90s. I haven't given up hoping he'll be back in top form before Falk decides to retire.

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5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Good but way off perfect

Author: andeven from London, England
15 August 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Despite the bad press which this episode generally receives, I rather like it. The plot is a touch far-fetched to be sure and the collapse of the murderer (one of them in this instance)on the flimsiest of evidence is par for the Columbo course but I was held by it and enjoy it on repeats.

BUT.....there are a few faults, viz:

* Changing the scene from LA to London and using an almost entirely British cast is fine, so why then use an American actor(Richard Basehart) for one of the main roles and moreover playing an Englishman? He is clearly uncomfortable in the part and his accent, while not as bizarre as Dick van Dyke's, is still awful.Was it to give the episode some USAppeal?

* Possibly the murder of Tanner, which I have never seen, does feature in some versions but I am left perplexed as to how Nicholas managed to hang him in a way that looked like suicide. Killing him first, even strangling him with the rope and then doing so, would be altogether too easy for the police to detect. I can't imagine that he said something like "Would you mind standing on this chair with a rope round your neck, old boy. Nothing to worry about!". So how......?

* You always expect errors when American films are set in England (usually geographical - see '23 Paces to Baker Street' and 'Knock on Wood' for some real howlers) and others have covered some of them here. However there is a rather strange double error in the London Wax Museum (presumably they were not allowed to refer to Madame Tussaud)where the English Lilian refers to "drapes" and the American Columbo mentions "curtains". Someone seemed to know the correct respective terms but then got them confused.

* Other reviewers are correct. Some of the attitudes were silly and patronising - right at the end Durk actually says "By Jove!". I suppose someone just had to.

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14 out of 23 people found the following review useful:

A tepid "Columbo" effort featuring a shallow view of Londoners, weak comedy relief and a pair of cartoonish murderers

5/10
Author: J. Spurlin from United States
20 March 2005

Richard Basehart and Honor Blackman are Nicholas Frame and Lilian Stanhope, a famous husband-and-wife acting team about to do "Macbeth." Just before dress rehearsal, Sir Roger Haversham (John Williams), the impresario behind this production, discovers they have tricked him – Lilian has seduced him for his money and Nicholas put her up to it. He secretly visits her dressing room to tell her the show is off. Nicholas joins them, and the three wind up in a scuffle that ends when Lilian hits Sir Roger on the head with a cold cream jar, accidentally killing him. They move Sir Roger's body back to his home and make it look as if he fell down a flight of stairs. Too bad for them our rumpled Lt. Columbo, visiting London as a guest of Scotland Yard, brings his sharp eye to this case.

Some English IMDb posters have already noted that this is a shallow and condescending view of Londoners, and I believe them. Nothing about this episode rings true, and the plot is thin stuff.

Basehart and Blackman have no trouble playing affected stars, but their roles are caricatures of actors, not real people. There's no fun in watching Columbo play cat-and-mouse with a couple of cartoons. In fact, this episode starts going badly the moment he enters the scene. We first see him bumbling and inadvertently creating havoc at the airport, a would-be comic sequence that falls flat. Columbo is funny only when his seeming ineptitude causes his quarry to underestimate him. Whenever the writers have him clowning like this, you wonder if they underestimate him, too. They even having him stumbling through crowds, trying to take pictures of all the London landmarks. For all these scenes add to the story, the producers might have scrapped the location shooting and spent the money on a better script.

This whole thing just feels like a cheap imitation of an English murder mystery down to the unsatisfying conclusion at a wax museum. If Basehart and Blackman weren't having such obvious fun with their roles (they even get to play a little Shakespeare), this would be a complete bore. Columbo may be a fish out of water in England, but so is "Columbo."

MISCELLANY. This is the second episode so far to feature an unpremeditated murder. The first was in "Death Lends a Hand."

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

The Worst Columbo I Have Ever Seen...But Still Enjoyable In It's Own Way

6/10
Author: stubbers from Essex
4 January 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I received a box set of Series 2 DVD's for Christmas and rapidly devoured every episode, even though I have seen nearly all of them before. Yesterday I finally plucked up the courage to watch "Dagger Of The Mind" again, this time with my reviewer hat on.

The result was that I saw more good in this episode than I had noticed before, having been comprehensively turned off last time by the appallingly bizarre parallel-universe version of London on show here. It can't be London, England. Maybe there's another city called London somewhere in California where people speak with these peculiar accents, but it sure as heck isn't the London I know and love. (And it's not an era thing, as one poster pointed out, look at The Sweeney or The Professionals for a much more realistic glimpse of 70s London, not REALLY that different to today).

But yesterday when sitting down to watch "Dagger Of The Mind", I was prepared. I KNEW that what I was about to view bore no resemblance to any real location, so I deducted points for the misrepresentation of London at the start of the episode, and from then on simply allowed myself to watch the detective story, which isn't that bad.

It's not that great either, but there's so much going on that despite its flaws, this episode is never boring! Richard Baseheart and Honor Blackman actually made pretty good Columbo villains, and it was a good touch having two villains instead of the usual lone operator. Columbo's UK host Durk is played rather more subduedly, one of the less cartoony characters here.

Needless to say Columbo himself was played perfectly by Falk. It never ceases to amaze me that even in the worst Columbo episodes, whenever Falk comes on screen he elevates the quality of the viewing experience. I would like to see more of Columbo in London, because the idea of the LA cop checking out an important London murderer has real potential IMO, once over the novelty of Tower Bridge and Big Ben (which according to my DVD copy has the most bizarre chimes ever - did the sound guys drop a cassette of the chimes in a cup of hot coffee or something? The chimes play ridiculously slowly, and start speeding up halfway through, even though Columbo and Durk are having a normally pitched conversation over the top of this strange noise). One thing's for sure...I'd like to see Columbo detour into Harlesden or Peckham!

If the nature of my review is slightly scattergun and disorganised, that's a reflection of this real mixed bag of an episode. It has great actors mixed in with awful ones. It has a good murder mixed in with a bunch of unbelievable clues and coincidences. It is a silly episode, but yet it's actually quite watchable.

I'll give it a 6 out of 10, because of the watchability factor.

Finally...do actors really ponce around quoting Shakespeare in real life? As Lily says to Nicholas: "stop acting!" This could have been a lesson for the makers of this episode. Real acting doesn't mean affecting a hammy voice that nobody ever speaks like in real conversation, it means bringing a character to life and making him or her believable. Less is more, as Falk proves. If only a few of the extras hadn't "acted" so much, instead just played their parts in a more low-key, well-observed way then the show may have been more realistic.

The only reason I bring it up is that in almost every Columbo episode (possibly not the Sky High IQ one), the beautifully subtle, understated bit-parts add to the realism and atmosphere of the show. Whereas with "Dagger Of The Mind", it's this out-of-place "acting" that causes all the problems with this episode. A bit less acting and the whole thing wouldn't seem so ludicrous!

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