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"Columbo" Short Fuse (1972)

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10 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Good first-season Colombo

Author: Robert J. Maxwell ( from Deming, New Mexico, USA
5 March 2006

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."

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13 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

A Columbo adventure without much spark!

Author: The Welsh Raging Bull ( from Port Talbot, South Wales, UK
10 March 2005

When I say that the ending is the best part of this final Season 1 Columbo adventure, I'm not being totally sarcastic: it is the most enjoyable and entertaining aspect of what is a largely indifferent addition to the series.

Roddy McDowall is certainly not one of Columbo's strongest adversaries, a fact that is perpetuated by his character's alarming tendency to incriminate himself. The story is not bloated with the typical script ingenuity or fluency, the plot development is laboured and the characters are decidedly boring.

All in all not one of Columbo's finest hours. On reflection, nobody's heart appears to be in it. For Columbo completionists only.

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10 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

A typically enjoyable Columbo film

Author: bob the moo from United Kingdom
28 March 2005

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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5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Worth An Extra Point For The Scenery Alone

Author: stubbers from Essex
27 February 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

If it wasn't for the stunning mountain scenery and the role it plays in this story, I'd probably only give this episode seven. But the dramatic cable car scenes certainly add an interesting dimension to this intricately plotted Columbo adventure.

Roger Stanford is extremely annoying, I can't deny, but I don't have any problem with Columbo murderers being annoying. It just makes their eventual arrest that much more satisfying. And the way in which Stanford incriminates himself is very enjoyable.

I find the ins and outs of the plot quite a lot to take in, despite repeated viewings. It all revolves around the wheelings and dealings of a large family-run chemical corporation. The murder is caused by a home-made bomb planted into a cigar case.

It's not the best, it's not the worst, but it's highly watchable.

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6 out of 8 people found the following review useful:


Author: superfloususer from England
6 March 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Firstly I love Columbo. I think it is the best written, and most intriguing of all Murder Mystery dramas.

However I am not sure on this one. The basic plot is that a rich stepfather, is killed by his stepson (McDowell) with an exploding Cigar Case which makes his car explode. As usual Columbo resists all normal lines of interrogation and starts finding those small clues to highlight who the real culprit is. The final reveal is brilliant (Columbo, Company VP and McDowall in a Cable Car with the exploding case. Columbo knows that McDowall will try to get rid of the case before it explodes and kills them all, but the trick is its not the original case) And now why I don't like this episode, and I have to admit its common in Columbo episodes...The villain. McDowall's inane laughter was just so grating. He acted to portray a childish person, but it just comes off so "lame", even though he is supposed to have great intelligence proved by his concoction of his plan. For me he ruined this entire episode, because no-one would have believed him in real life. Case in point :- When he finds the photos of his stepdad with the secretary and doesn't want his mother to see them. Over the top acting, which detracts from Columbos brilliance Best Columbo villain for me ? The Great Santini (Cant remember the episode), or the Conductor from Etude. The best villains are the ones who don't over-act, but are cool ,calm and cerebral

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Even when he's wrong he's right

Author: sol from Brooklyn NY USA
30 September 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

***SPOILERS*** On the verge of being forced out of the family business sly and cunning Roger Standford,Roddy McDowall, plans to both set up his uncle the president of Standford Chemical David L. Buckner, James Gregory. the set-up is to be a faked affair with his private secretary Valerie Bishop, Ann Francis, and his uncle's private investigator and part-time chauffeur Quincy, Lawrence Cook, as the man who's blackmailing him.

Besides his obvious dislike of Uncle Buckner who's been trying to get rid of the buffoonish Roger for years Roger also has in for PI Quincy who got all the goods on him, Rogers gambling in the casinos with the company's money. If his aunt Doris, Ida Lupino, ever got wind of it Roger would be disowned and written out of her will.

Rigging up a box of exploding Cubans Cigars Roger sneaks it into Uncle Buckner's limo with a timer made to activate and explode a minute after the box is opened. With both Uncle Bunker and Quincy driving up to see aunt Doris that evening the car explodes after Uncle Buckner pulls out a cigar. Lt. Columbo, Peter Falk, is immediately put on the case being, as Aunt Doris said, he's considered to be by the L.A police commissioner the best man for the job.

Roger trying to act like a brainless smuck at first makes like he's completely unaware of his uncle's plans to can him out of the family business. Columbo suspects that the accident, which the tragic deaths of Uncle Buckner & Quincy was first reported as, was no accident at all but premeditated murder but didn't have the proof. Roger putting plan 2 into motion then implicated his Uncle Buckner and his secretary, Valerie, in an illicit affair and putting the blame of it coming out into the open on the company's vice president Everett Logan(William Windom), a bitter enemy of Buckner, with the deceased Quincy as his co-conspirator and fellow blackmailer. Getting an enraged Aunt Doris, who's the majority stock holder, to fire both Logan and even poor and unsuspecting Valerie. Doris then puts Roger in as chairman of the board of Standford Chemical a position that he wanted all of his adult life.

Lt. Columbo sets a trap for the arrogant Roger by playing on his ego in thinking that he's infallible and above the law. Cloumb does this by trapping Roger, with the help of Everett Logan, on a sky tram hundreds of feet above the ground. Telling the smug and conceited Roger that the deaths of his uncle and Quincy were in fact an accident Lt. Columbo surprises the double-murderer with a box of cigars! the box that Roger planted in Uncle Buckner's car.

Columbo breaking open the seal, which is supposed to start the minute explosive timer, Roger goes totally nuts trying to get off the tram before the box explodes practically confessing to the crime! As you guessed it the box was a fake which was obvious to anyone watching the movie but not to the super-intelligent Roger.

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6 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

It should have been Sir Roddy McDowall!

Author: ( from United States
18 May 2006

It should have been Sir Roddy McDowall in my opinion. Why he never got knighted for his contributions to acting and drama, I will never know. This episode also feature Ida Lupino, another legendary actress, writer and director herself. Sir Roddy as I will call him plays a genius character who wants too much from his stepfather who played the evil Vice Presidential candidate in the original Manchurian Candidate. His plan is ingenious but there are exceptions being that Sir Roddy's character is still no match for Lieutenant COlumbo's genius. You have to laugh with him at the end of the film. Like most COlumbo episodes, you have to pay attention. We know who kills the character but how does Columbo catch him or her in some cases is just as fascinating as the episodes themselves.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Columbo and a box of cigars

Author: Petri Pelkonen ( from Finland
4 September 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Roger Stanford (Roddy McDowall) decides to kill his uncle David L.Buckner (James Gregory) using exploding cigars.Lt.Columbo's job is to prove the death of Mr. Buckner wasn't an accident.Columbo: Short Fuse (1972) is a very good first season episode.Peter Falk's Columbo, an avid fans of cigars gets to investigate a case of exploding ones.Roddy McDowall makes a great villain in this one.Ida Lupino plays his aunt Doris.Anne Francis plays Valerie Bishop.William Windom is Everett Logan.A brilliant cast.Columbo entertains in Short Fuse as he always does.The last sequence high in the lift is great to watch.Columbo makes Roger a little nervous when he makes him believe he has the exploding cigars with him.He's always one step ahead of the crooks.

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6 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

I liked the story and style, too bad about the main character, next to Lt. Columbo.

Author: Boba_Fett1138 from Groningen, The Netherlands
1 March 2008

This is a rather good Columbo TV movie, that only has one problem; the character of that of the murderer.

The movie has a great constantly present '70's style, that is mostly notable in its fast editing style but also really in its overall visual style, camera handling and general way of directing and storytelling. It's really great and provides the movie with a true great style, that also really helps to make this movie a good and enjoyable one to watch. Quite hard to believe that this was Edward M. Abroms' directorial debut. He also directed one more Columbo movie after this in 1973; "Columbo: The Most Dangerous Match". Too bad he always stayed stuck to TV work, though he did some big work as an editor, on movies such as "The Sugarland Express", "Blue Thunder" and "Street Fighter", as well as 4 Columbo movies (but not this one), of which 3 got made before this movie.

The movie has a fine solid cast with also some well known names in it, such as Roddy McDowall as the movie its killer. McDowall is perhaps still best known for his various roles in the Planet of the Apes movies, as yes an ape. But yes also Anne Francis is quite a name from the old days and so is Ida Lupino, a star mostly known from the '40's. McDowall is perhaps not the most likable one, which forms a bit of a problem for the movie. Of course murderers are never among the most sympathetic characters but in Columbo movies you still still need to have a certain sympathy and somewhat have to like them to create an interest in the character, not in the least because, next to Columbo, they are the main character of the movie and have more screen time than anyone else.

The movie its story differs from most other Columbo movies because the movie at first isn't about a murder when Columbo is first brought in to investigate the case but about the missing of a person. Columbo however of course soon starts to expect more is going on, due to Roger Stanford's suspicious behavior. Like always, the Lieutenant tries to capture him in his own web of lies, by playing dumber than he of course in fact really is.

It's a real fast going movie and it's over again before you know it. Perhaps the movie is so fast because it basically all of the time features both Lt. Columbo and the murderer Roger Stanford together in a scene, which assures that the story never strays away and the movie does not feature any distracting plot-lines or too overly present different characters. The ending is also really good and actually among one of the better Columbo endings.

A good Columbo movie that could had been great with a better McDowall character.


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8 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

The Best Columbo Episode!

Author: Dphilly521 from United States
22 December 2004

"Columbo: Short Fuse" is quite special. It is my favorite episode of my favorite TV series. Roddy McDowall helped to make it terrific, above the rest. He was greatly assisted by Edward Abroms, who did a marvelous job of direction--especially with the opening and closing scenes. The music score is awesome. Great supporting cast of Anne Francis, James Gregory, William Windom, and Ida Lupino too. McDowall especially proves to bring a very entertaining combination of villainy and boyishness to his unforgettable role of Roger Stanford. This episode helped Season One of the series to set very high standards for the show to live up to.

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