Pressured to give up his birthright, a chemical company heir enacts a clever plan to get rid of his blackmailing uncle and take over the family business. But Lt. Columbo suspects the man's death was not just a tragic accident.



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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Roger Stanford
Valerie Bishop
David L. Buckner
Doris Buckner
Everett Logan
Steve Gravers ...
Lawrence Cook ...
Quincy [Murphy in credits]
Rosalind Miles ...
Lew Brown ...
Eddie Quillan ...
Annette Molen ...
Jim Neumarker ...


Stanford Chemicals CEO David Buckner wants to sell the business, but he is overruled by several people: his wife Doris, company lawyer Everett Logan, and his nephew Roger, the lighthearted young genius whose late father founded the company. But he has a plan: he has uncovered some very embarrassing and illegal past activities on the part of Roger. He demands that his nephew change his aunt Doris's mind about the sale, or he'll tell Doris about all the nasty things her precious Roger has done. But Roger is one step ahead of him, and initiates a plan to murder his uncle with dangerous explosives. Unfortunately for him, he didn't count on Lieutenant Columbo investigating Buckner's "car accident." The Lieutenant quickly suspects Roger, and puts together a web of evidence to trap the young scientist in his own lies. Written by Anonymous

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Release Date:

19 January 1972 (USA)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


This episode of Columbo, Short Fuse, contains nine (9) cast members (including Peter Falk) who all starred in Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone (1959-1964) during its run, some in multiple roles. See more »


When Columbo walks over to play an answering machine message, Roger's right hand is on the top of a decanter while his left hand holds his drink. When the camera changes, neither hand is on the decanter and his right hand holds his drink. Also, the glass was just under half-full, but with the camera cut it becomes two thirds full. See more »


Roger Stanford: [annoyed] Lieutenant, you take an inordinate length of time to come to the point.
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User Reviews

Good first-season Colombo
5 March 2006 | by (Deming, New Mexico, USA) – See all my reviews

This one has Roddy MacDowell as the chief villain, a conniving and brilliant member of a family that owns some kind of gigantic chemical plant, only two victims away from the presidency. Good support too, from James Gregory (huffing and puffing), Anne Francis, Ida Lupino, and William Windom.

In order to eliminate the two obstacles to his career path, MacDowell blows one of them up with an exploding cigar and frames the other one for fornication and first-degree mopery.

Comic moments include Colombo being forced by circumstances to take a 15-minute ride on a tram suspended from cables, at times half a mile above the earth. Steve Bochco was the story supervisor and he knows his character. Colombo is frozen with fear but never speaks a word, perhaps unable to. He just stands there like a statue, avoiding the windows, while his guide points out all the scenic features.

The climax is good too, however implausible. MacDowell is led to believe that the exploding cigar is now aboard the tram, along with him, Wisdom, and Colombo. As the time passes and the moment of destruction ticks nearer, he becomes more nervous, finally betraying himself by becoming hysterical and ripping the box of cigars out of Colombo's hands.

It's lots of fun.

Curious note: Both Falk and Anne Francis were raised in Ossining, New York, the site of Singsing Prison, born only a few years apart. Falk visited his home town recently on a kind of nostalgic tour. Arriving, he was greeted by an enthusiastic, cheering crowd, raised his hands, smiled gratefully, and announced, "I gotta take a leak."

10 of 11 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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