Columbo: Season 1, Episode 2

Death Lends a Hand (6 Oct. 1971)

TV Episode  -   -  Crime | Drama | Mystery
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Ratings: 7.7/10 from 1,193 users  
Reviews: 16 user | 6 critic

When the CEO of a private detective agency threatens the wife of a publisher with blackmail and she threatens to expose him, he accidentally kills her.


(as Bernard Kowalski)
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Title: Death Lends a Hand (06 Oct 1971)

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Episode complete credited cast:
Investigator Brimmer
Mrs. Lenore Kennicut (as Patricia Crowley)
Arthur Kennicut
Ken Archer
Eric James ...
Medical Examiner
Len Wayland ...
Capt. Of Detectives
Ceil Gentry
Barbara Baldavin ...
Brimmer's Secretary


Brimmer, a short-tempered private detective, is hired by Arthur Kennicut, a prominent Los Angeles publisher, to investigate the publisher's wife's activities under suspicion of an extra-marital affair. Although his investigation discovers an affair with a golf instructor, Brimmer chooses not to tell Kennicut about it and proposes Mrs. Kennicut to act, in return for Brimmer's silence, as a "pipeline" for information involving powerful persons with whom her husband is involved. When Mrs. Kennicut refuses to cooperate and threatens to tell her husband about Brimmer's unsavory proposal, Brimmer becomes enraged and accidentally kills her. He then transports her body across Los Angeles and dumps it in an industrial area, hoping her death will look like a robbery gone awry. Enter Lieutenant Columbo, the cigar-smoking detective in a rumpled raincoat, who does not accept the murder-by-mugging theory surrounding the woman's death. When Kennicut assigns Brimmer to assist Columbo in the murder ... Written by Kevin McCorry <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


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Release Date:

6 October 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 first regular Columbo episode filmed, after two pilot movies. It was the second episode aired, however. See more »


Mic is visible in the scene where Columbo first sees the body. See more »


Denning: [Showing Columbo the company computer] This is our memory bank, lieutenant. Millions of bits of information, all cross-filed and on tape immediately available. There are more electrical impulses in this room than in your brain.
See more »

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User Reviews

A well-plotted and solid early Columbo adventure
19 April 2002 | by (Port Talbot, South Wales,UK) – See all my reviews

A very high-standard Columbo story which was actually the first filmed episode of the long-running series but was originally transmitted second (after "Murder By The Book").

Robert Culp makes his first of three appearances as the guest murderer in the series and plays the owner of a private detective agency, who blackmails the wife (Patricia Crowley) of a rich, highly influential businessman (played very sympathetically by Ray Milland) after he falsifies a report, in her favour, after it is discovered she was having an affair. The wife later rebels against the blackmail scheme but is killed in a fit of rage....

A very satisfying episode in many respects, particularly as the plot is so strongly set-up and subsequently developed and also because of the rare Columbo ingredient that the crime is an unpremeditated killing. The whole thing is further enhanced when the widowed husband uses the murderer to assist Columbo in his investigations: a feature that facilitates numerous good quality scenes, particularly in the first sequence when the three central characters meet and Columbo's crucially deceptive qualities are wonderfully in evidence.

Directed with flair by Bernard L. Kowalski and acted to an appropriately high level, this really set the tone for whole series (since "Murder By the Book" was let down by a poor ending). The script by Columbo creators Richard Levinson and William Link is precise, well-structured and well-thought-out and is underpinned by a steady, productive pace and meaningful sequences which really exhibit the unpredictability of the story. Ultimately, the finale fittingly epitomises that Columbo has always been one step ahead of the murderer.

Overall, this is a very fine piece of detective work for Columbo, and strongly suggests that the production team had worked positively and constructively to render a polished Columbo story.

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