IMDb > "Columbo" The Most Crucial Game (1972)

"Columbo" The Most Crucial Game (1972)

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John T. Dugan (written by)
Richard Levinson (created by) ...
View company contact information for The Most Crucial Game on IMDbPro.
TV Series:
Original Air Date:
5 November 1972 (Season 2, Episode 3)
The manager of a football team murders its callow owner, making it look as if the young man had had an accident in his swimming pool. Lt. Columbo is on the case. Full summary » | Add synopsis »
User Reviews:
Good mystery with a somewhat awkwardly executed ending See more (26 total) »


 (Episode Cast) (in credits order) (verified as complete)

Peter Falk ... Columbo

Robert Culp ... Paul Hanlon

Dean Jagger ... Walter Cunnell

James Gregory ... Coach Rizzo

Valerie Harper ... Eve Babcock

Susan Howard ... Shirley Wagner

Dean Stockwell ... Eric Wagner

Val Avery ... Ralph Dobbs
Kathryn Kelly Wiget ... Miss Johnson
Richard Stahl ... Mr. Fremont

Don Keefer ... Deputy Coroner
Cliff Carnell ... Plainclothesman
Joe Renteria ... Box Attendant Jimmy
Ivan Naranjo ... Sgt. Hernandez, L.A.P.D.
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Donald Chaffin ... Fisherman (uncredited)
LeRoy Ellis ... Basketball Player (uncredited)
Keith Erickson ... Basketball Player (uncredited)
Ben Frommer ... Photographer (uncredited)
Mickey Golden ... Spectator (uncredited)
Harold 'Happy' Hairston ... Basketball Player (uncredited)
Jim McMillan ... Basketball Player (uncredited)

Pat Riley ... Basketball Player (uncredited)
Flynn Robinson ... Basketball Player (uncredited)

Episode Crew
Directed by
Jeremy Kagan 
Writing credits
John T. Dugan (written by)

Richard Levinson (created by) &
William Link (created by)

Produced by
Edward K. Dodds .... associate producer
Dean Hargrove .... producer
Original Music by
Dick DeBenedictis (music score) (as Dick De Benedictis)
Cinematography by
Harry L. Wolf (director of photography) (as Harry Wolf)
Film Editing by
J. Terry Williams  (as J Terry Williams)
Art Direction by
Archie J. Bacon  (as Arch Bacon)
Set Decoration by
John McCarthy Jr. (set decorations) (as John McCarthy)
Production Management
Henry Kline .... unit manager
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
Brad H. Aronson .... assistant director (as Brad Aronson)
Sound Department
Edwin S. Hall .... sound
Costume and Wardrobe Department
Grady Hunt .... costumes
Editorial Department
Richard Belding .... editorial supervisor
Steve Johnson .... colorist (uncredited)
Music Department
Hal Mooney .... music supervisor
Other crew
Wayne Fitzgerald .... main title design
Jackson Gillis .... executive story consultant
Crew verified as complete

Production CompaniesDistributorsOther Companies

Additional Details

Also Known As:
74 min
Color (Technicolor)
Sound Mix:
Australia:PG (video rating) | Finland:K-7 (2005) | UK:PG (video rating) (2005) | USA:Not Rated

Did You Know?

Robert Culp's character of Paul Hanlon wears a green single-breasted blazer as one of his costumes. Culp also wore a green blazer in both of his other appearances as the murderer, Investigator Brimmer in "Death Lends a Hand" and Dr. Bart Keppel in "Double Exposure".See more »
Miscellaneous: When Shirley Wagner lands at the airport, there is a scene showing the wheels of her plane touching down. The wheels are of a B-52 bomber and not a commercial airliner.See more »
Paul Hanlon:Columbo, are you in charge of this mess or not?
Lt. Columbo:Sir...
Paul Hanlon:This is...!
Lt. Columbo:Sir, I'm only trying to solve a murder...
See more »
Movie Connections:
Edited from A Gathering of Eagles (1963)See more »
Eine kleine NachtmusikSee more »


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12 out of 15 people found the following review useful.
Good mystery with a somewhat awkwardly executed ending, 12 August 2004
Author: The Welsh Raging Bull ( from Port Talbot, South Wales, UK

A refreshingly originally plotted Season 2 Columbo episode which sees the general manager of an American Football team, Paul Hanlon (played by Robert Culp) bump off the lazy, unambitious and wasteful owner, Eric Wagner (played by Dean Stckwell).

The script adds one or two nice twists along way and Culp, in his second outing as a Columbo villain is consistently stern-faced and oddly humourless throughout; in fact, he encapsulates the devious, selfish determination of his character and his scenes with Columbo are increasingly confrontational.

There is humour afoot in this story too: the scene when Columbo goes to call-girl Eve Babcock's home to question her is really funny, as she thinks Columbo is one of her customers.

There are however some nagging minus points - some aspects of the script rely too heavily on coincidence and luck. For instance, Eric Wagner was obviously a stubborn person - Hanlon's pestering manages to ensure that he is the pool so he can orchestrate his murder. This happens too easily for my liking...

Furthermore, the sealing clue is both inconclusive and rather contrived: amongst other things, Columbo's damning of Hanlon's alleged alibi-creating phone call takes place at exactly the same clock time it was perpetrated some days earlier. Therefore, Columbo miraculously judges his typical end-of-case wrant to perfection....

A very curious episode in many ways....worth a look for its's controversies.

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