Columbo (1971–2003)
22 user 7 critic

Death Lends a Hand 

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)

On Disc

at Amazon



Episode complete credited cast:
Mrs. Lenore Kennicutt (as Patricia Crowley)
Eric James ...
Medical Examiner
Capt. Of Detectives
Ceil Gentry
Barbara Baldavin ...
Brimmer's Secretary


A private detective kills the wife of one of his most important clients when she refuses to take part in his blackmail scheme and even plans to expose his unsavoury methods to her husband. In an ironic twist, the PA is rehired by his client to assist Columbo in the investigation.

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?


French title : Faux témoin. See more »


When Brimmer, seated at his desk, says "crystal ball," he holds his coffee cup in his right hand. The camera cuts to Columbo for three seconds, and when the scene switches back to Brimmer, the cup is now in his left hand while his right arm rests over on the arm of his chair. A moment later when Columbo gets up from his chair, the cup is back in Brimmer's right hand as he transfers it to his left. 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're more electrical impulses in this room than in your brain.
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Referenced in Law & Order: Criminal Intent: Dead (2002) See more »

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User Reviews

A well-plotted and solid early Columbo adventure
19 April 2002 | by 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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