Columbo: Season 1, Episode 6

Short Fuse (19 Jan. 1972)

TV Episode  |   |  Crime, Drama, Mystery
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Ratings: 7.2/10 from 1,242 users  
Reviews: 19 user | 5 critic

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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Title: Short Fuse (19 Jan 1972)

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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 ...
Jason Wingreen ...
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 eight (8) 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 »


In the limousine as David Buckner is opening the cigar box, he removes the piece of tape on the left side. As he removes the piece on the right side, the piece that was on the left side reappears. See more »


Lt. Columbo: You don't think that all of these people wanted to kill Mr. Buckner, do you?
Roger Stanford: I did; but, a large corporation is like a jungle, Lieutenant, to coin a phrase.
See more »

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User Reviews

A typically enjoyable Columbo film
28 March 2005 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

When his Uncle uncovers compromising evidence against him, Roger Stanford is offered an ultimatum – sign away his rights to his Aunt's corporation or be exposed. Without any options Roger plants a bomb in his Uncle's car and kills him on a remote mountain road. When someone as important as Doris Buckner calls in a missing person, the Police Commissioner sends his best man (Lieutenant Columbo) to investigate. Whenever the wreckage of the car is discovered at the bottom of a ravine, it appears like an accident but a phone message, strange burn patterns and a curious Stanford make Columbo suspect that something untoward may have caused the fatal crash.

As with many TV film series (such as Perry Mason), if you like one or two of them then you'll pretty much like them all. This entry in the Columbo series pretty much follows the usual formula – we know the killer and the "perfect" plan but then watch Columbo follow his hunch and gradually starts to pick holes in the story he is told before eventually finding enough to prove his suspicions. Saying this is not a spoiler – it is simply what happens in all the films. Here the film is pretty obvious throughout but does have some nice touches along the way. The main problem is that Roger is about the least subtle murderer that the series has seen – not only eccentric but with loads of motive and ability, Columbo goes after him as usual but the game is not as good it can be mainly because the character is so unusual. However the film has a neat ending that is tense and enjoyable even if it is a bit obvious. The fact that it has dated very badly is a bit of a problem, thanks to loads of seventies touches in the music, the direction and, most hilariously, the costumes. It isn't much of a problem but it is funnily distracting at times. The lack of consistent tension is more of a problem and the lack of clues means that the "investigation" is more of a speculation rather a building case.

Falk is his usual self – crumpled, self-deprecating and with a good line in mocking wit. He is as comfortable as an old pair of shoes and is very good value. McDowall is not as good but the problem is more to do with his character than anything else. He is an oddball and he drips suspicion at every turn, he never convinced me that he was the genius that the script would have us believe he was and, what's worse, he never once came across as a match (or anything like a match) for Columbo. The two have vague chemistry but there are no sparks between them and you almost feel pity for McDowall by the end because it was all so easy. The support cast threw up a flashback in the shape of Ida Lupino but it is Falk that steals the film as usual.

Overall this is a standard entry in the series that has the usual formula that will please fans but lacks anything special to really make it stand out. It is enjoyable on these terms but I didn't get much more from it than the average – watch it if you like the films generally but don't expect it to win you over if you have no particular love for the crumpled little policeman.

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