Columbo: Season 3, Episode 8

A Friend in Deed (5 May 1974)

TV Episode  |   |  Crime, Drama, Mystery
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Ratings: 8.0/10 from 972 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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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 deputy police commissioner. 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?


Richard Kiley and Rosemary Murphy had not met before shooting their first scene, where Kiley's character Mark Halperin dives into a swimming pool to pull out his drowned wife, played by Murphy, and attempts to give her mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Upon finishing the scene, Kiley held out his hand to Murphy and said, "How do you do? I'm Richard Kiley." See more »


Browsing through different police files of suspected known criminals in an attempt to identify Caldwell's blackmailer, commissioner Halperin recognizes Artie Jessup by his file photo even though he never actually saw him before. Only Caldwell had met and seen him, in a bar. See more »


Mark Halperin: [to his wife] Darling, if you're embarrassed by all your millions, why don't you just sign them over to me? They wouldn't embarrass me in the least.
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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

One of the gems of season 3
19 April 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Thanks to Universal for releasing the DVD sets. I became a Columbo fan in the 1980's when CBS was running heavily-cut versions after midnight. Edited Columbos are pretty good-- uncut, the good Columbos are the best TV detective programs of all time.

And Richard Kiley is the best Columbo villain of the third season. Donald Pleasence and Jackie Cooper also turned in emmy-quality performances that year, but Kiley brings a presence to the role that, physically, is intimidating. I don't think the Lt faced anyone quite this scary until they cast Rip Torn in the revival series in the '90's. He was the perfect choice for deputy police commissioner, in the way it makes you realize how a someone who seems to be so "in charge" can be evil penetrating the highest levels of order, and how he can pervert attempts to uncover it. The Lt's perplexity at Halperin's unwillingness to cooperate is one of the good bits on this. Big red flag, and you can see the Lt realizing it, in a turning point for the story.

This episode also has one of the best depictions of Columbo at work. As he wanders about the murder scene, it's like the camera's not even there--here's the bare intellect putting it together, and repeated viewings, when you know what he's thinking, are fun to watch.

Also, good job by Val Avery-- he was in a few other episodes, but Artie Jessup, a greasy little cat burglar just trying to make it on the outside, is his most memorable. Check out the way he tries to intimidate that fence, who isn't buying. Futility or what?

And catch Columbo's reaction when the husband hands him the major break, about the nightgown-- the case is cracked and he doesn't let on at all. Again, repeat viewing just makes it better.

Also I would be remiss not to mention the brief appearance by Arlene Martel as the jewelry saleslady. If I brought my crappy little watchband in, and she smiled at me like that while she turned me down, I'd consider myself blessed. By the way, Columbo picked up a bunch of people who had worked on Perry Mason-- Jackson Gillis was script editor on both shows, and some of the actors, such as Ms Martel, and the lovely and talented Jeanette Nolan, turned in memorable roles on both programs.

Finally, this episode covers the range of life in LA, from cozy clubs of the privileged to the seedy dives of the desperate. In fact, Columbo cracks it by having Halperin, a habitue of the former, be dragged into the latter.

One last comment-- I don't think Columbo did that well in seasons 2 and 3-- the episode with Julie Newmar and Martin Landau, for example, was in season 2-- the most depressing Columbo murder ever. And the cosmetics murder episode? If I had a chance to work with Vincent Price, I'd have made him the murderer if I'd had to rewrite the script from scratch. What. A. Waste. And that robot alibi in the one with Jose Ferrer-- even in 1972, they would have connected the computer with a cable, you wouldn't have had a ham-handed robot trying to type like a person. But they had Robbie the Robot available, so they had to write him and this Cute Kid into it. Completely unnecessary.

Peter Fischer (the author of this episode) came on board in season 4 as story editor, and frankly the improvement is noticeable. So, as a Columbo fan, looking at season 3-- I'm just glad they got Mr Kiley for this one, that Columbo had to fight someone within the department, and that his solution relies on the character's shortcomings like it does. Best of season 3.

22 of 24 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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