Columbo: Season 3, Episode 8

A Friend in Deed (5 May 1974)

TV Episode  -   -  Crime | Drama | Mystery
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Ratings: 7.9/10 from 891 users  
Reviews: 19 user | 5 critic

A police commissioner provides a false alibi for a wife killer, but then expects an alibi in return.



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Title: A Friend in Deed (05 May 1974)

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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Mark Halperin
Margaret Halperin
Michael McGuire ...
Hugh Caldwell
Artie Jessup
Bruno Wexler
Eleanor Zee ...
Lt. Duffy
Salesgirl (as Arlene Martell)
Victor Campos ...
Joshua Bryant ...
Dr. MacMurray
John Calvin ...
Charlie Shoup
Byron Morrow ...
Amos Lawrence
James V. Christy ...
Mrs. Fernandez


Hugh Caldwell kills his wife Janice and in despair asks for the help of his friend and neighbor Mark Halperin. Mark helps a friend in deed, of course, so the death appears to be the job of a thief, but Lt. Columbo has some doubts. There is not a single fingerprint of the deceased in her house and he begins to suspect Halperin. Unfortunately for Lt. Columbo, Halperin is the chief of the police. Written by Baldinotto da Pistoia

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Release Date:

5 May 1974 (USA)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


The funeral home featured in the stock shot (at around 36 mins) is not California. It is the luxurious Ephrussi de Rothschild villa and gardens in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat on the French Riviera. This location is notably featured in the James Bond movie Never Say Never Again. See more »


Position of (broken) windscreen wipers when Columbo arrives in the rain at car dealer. See more »


Columbo: I, uh, I looked at her body, and right away I saw on her finger the biggest diamond ring I ever saw in my life. Now, I gotta ask myself this question: What kind of burglar robs a house and leaves a ring like that on the victim's finger?
See more »


References Strangers on a Train (1951) See more »


Jesus, Joy of Man's Desiring
Composed by Johann Sebastian Bach
Played at funeral
See more »

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User Reviews

A strong story delivered well by strong performances aided by a director with an eye for helping the actors
11 August 2005 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

When Hugh Caldwell has yet another fight with his wife it ends in tragedy as he accidentally kills her in a struggle. His first call is to his friend and neighbour Mark Halperin, who also happens to be a senior policeman. Halperin advises covering it all up and helps Hugh set up an alibi in a bar, while he goes to his house and covers up the crime before "spotting" a man in the Caldwell property from his own bedroom window. The police find Mrs Caldwell dead and investigate the crime, believing it to be the work of a burglar who has been working in the area recently. Columbo doesn't totally accept this though because of a couple of small things that don't ring true and sets out to try and prove what he thinks he knows.

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. With this strict adherence to formula it is usually down to several factors whether or not the Columbo film stands out or if it is just average. Here the "deed" of the title is a murder and the friend involved in the "deed" is none other that the Deputy Police Commissioner Mark Halperin. This sets up quite a good story early on that only has a few weaknesses – specifically the steps that Halperin takes later in the film, they seem unlikely, too impulsive and risky for such a powerful man. It might have worked if he had been written as arrogant or cocky but he isn't, he is smart and scheming. Once you get past these though the film is strong mainly because it gets the cat'n'mouse stuff spot on.

The attempts at comedy fall flat, nor do they manage to add to the character of Columbo – the broken car and the desire for a cheap watch strap aren't funny and don't add anything to the story. However what director Gazzara does do well is frame a shot and he gives the series a gritty feel of the streets at times that was a fresh addition. More than that though, he gives the cast plenty of close ups and nobody takes more advantage of that than Falk himself. He is Columbo through and through but the close ups put him under pressure to show a lot in little things on his face, and he does it well. We can see his doubts, his thought process and even see it in his eyes as he sets and then springs the trap. It is a fine performance and it is these shots, rather than the broken cheap goods he owns, that tell us about the character. Kiley is a good match for him and plays his character well – a worthy accomplice who doesn't play with Columbo but does think he has played the player. The film is at its best when the two men are on screen together. The support cast are less able; Murphy and McGuire are OK but they are never more than passable and I kept wanting them to step aside for the main event.

Overall this is an enjoyable Columbo film that is built on a typically strong story. The actors rise to this and produce some good interplay and director Gazzara helps them out a great deal by directing with an actor's eye, dishing out close-ups and clever shots that add to the performances. A strong film in the generally strong series.

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