Paul Galesko is a famous photographer married to Frances, a nagging woman and a grumbler. Paul is moreover in love with his assistant, Lorna, so he decides to stage a fatal abduction of his wife. Everything seems to go very well to Paul, and the police accept his version of the events, but Lt. Columbo has some doubt. Written by
Baldinotto da Pistoia
A perfect example of what made the series so popular funny, engaging and very entertaining
Photographer Paul Galesko is fed up with his domineering and joyless wife and decides enough is enough. Taking her to a deserted ranch, he ties her up, photographs her and kills her. He then goes and meets with his patsy an ex-con called Alvin Deschler and sets the end game in motion by arranging Alvin to call him and then meet him the next day. Thinking he is helping Paul to invest in property, Alvin blindly does what he is told and falls into the trap and ends up dead. Paul then shoots himself in the leg and calls the police for help and when they follow the trail to Mrs Galesko's body and it all appears open and shut. However the sheer amount of evidence against Alvin worries Columbo and sets him picked at the threads until he can be satisfied.
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. Knowing this ahead of time won't ruin anything for you; 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. With this film the whole formula is in place and it works really well: the setup is complex enough to give Columbo something to dig away at and more than enough to keep the audience watching and guessing how he'll solve it. It is a little bit easy because Galesko is forced to become a moving target but it is still pretty satisfying. The ending is well written and produces a very satisfying conclusion that sees Columbo playing a perfectly pitched game.
This entry in the series is also a fine example of how small comic touches can improve the film. We have a handful of specifically funny moments but also a general air of good humour that runs all the way through the film. It is a common touch in the series but this is the funniest one that I can remember seeing and the arrival at the junk yard, the scene in the mission and the drive with the DMV instructor are all hilarious and suit Columbo's character really well. Falk also delivers well; he totally gets his character and he sharp while also playing it downbeat. Van Dyke worried me a little bit as a choice but he is pretty strong and works well with Falk. The support cast is quite good too with an early role for Beverly Hills Cop's John Ashton and a really funny turn from Storch as the DMV guy.
Overall this is a very fine Columbo that is spot on in almost every regard and is a perfect example of what made the series so popular. The mystery is engaging, the investigating interesting, it is funny, it has cat'n'mouse and it has two great leads playing off each other well. If you want to see what the series is all about then watch this to find out.
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