The movie was made in 1974 with all the attitudes and charm of that period. Luckily, I taped this movie and will watch it many times to fully enjoy the actors. Dick Van Dyke is at his wits' ends once Colombo gets finished with him. That's what is so enjoyable about this fine movie.
The ending scene where Colombo sits on a desk is flawless. Of course I'm an extreme Colombo fan, but this movie reminded me somewhat of Dial M For Murder, although the plot and characters are totally and absolutely different. If there are other Colombo fans out there who have seen this particular movie, please feel free to contact me to discuss it.
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.
There is a hilarious bit in which Columbo goes to a soup kitchen to try to find a homeless man who witnessed the murder of Van Dyke's accomplice, whom Van Dyke has also killed. The well-meaning nun, beautifully portrayed by Joyce van Patten, gives Columbo some soup and tries to find him another coat, believing him a bum! I dearly love Falk as Columbo, and this is a great episode where he unmasks a murderer who was just a little too artistic for his own good.
Virtually flawless in plot and script, Columbo is at his most irritatingly mischievous here as the clues start accumulating in a crisp, well thought-out and well-timed manner (the newspaper clippings which are presented later in the episode is priceless).
As with all vintage Columbo episodes there is wonderful comedy too: Columbo goes to quiz a driving instructor whose car has broken down and he has to give him a lift; the ensuing moments see the driving instructor condemning Columbo's wayward driving to the point of complete and utter intolerance...
The ending is very neat and unpredictable, and is underpinned with significant irony as Columbo's newly-discovered knowledge of photography comes in extremely handy!
Mystery fiction is filled with meek little men who murder their domineering wives (see Alfred Hitchcock's "Back for Christmas"). But whatever the opening scenes in Peter S. Fischer's script may try to imply, there's nothing meek about Paul Galesko. He's cold, ruthless and conniving. We feel some sympathy for him when we meet his despicable wife, but lose it the moment he murders a man just to strengthen his alibi. At no point after the murder do we find him to be a man capable of being browbeatenby his wife or anyone else. This robs him of a proper motive for his crime. And that robs us of seeing a believable human being as the lead villainsomething essential to a successful "Columbo" movie. Dick Van Dyke is a great favorite of mine, but he never manages to make this empty character seem real.
Once again, a "Columbo" episode has comic scenes that exist purely to pad the running time. The scene with the kindly Sister of Mercy (Joyce Van Patten) is funny at firstbut it's three times longer than it should be. The scene with the driving instructor (Larry Storch) isn't funny at all.
The music credited to Bernardo Segall seems to have been written by Generic TV Music Unlimited; very different from the weird but effective scores written by Billy Goldenberg. The final scene is only mildly satisfying, bringing to a close this disappointing "Columbo" effort.
One of the best-known and most enjoyable Columbo stories, this one succeeds like so many due to the talented cast. Falk is absolutely top-notch here, the shrewd bluffer par excellence, filled with comedy, pathos and endless nuance. A bearded Van Dyke gets a rare chance to play the villain, Van Patten is hilarious as a soup-kitchen Sister who takes pity on our poor hero (one of the funniest scenes in any Columbo) and series regulars Scotti and Mike Lally, both playing hobos, are great. Even the minor players, like Storch as the nervous driving instructor, are terrific. I'm never quite sure how I feel about the ending to this story though - the gag with the camera is clever, but really isn't any kind of solid evidence, and Columbo's dejection at resorting to such a trick is nicely played. It's almost as if writer Peter S. Fischer didn't want Van Dyke caught, despite the fact that he's a fairly egotistical and mostly detestable killer. It's a great little TV crime classic though, with Falk at his chiselling keenest (such as the scene where he looks at the dust on the clock) and the sequence in the flophouse alone is unmissable. Great entertainment.
Unfortunately, the ending has a big mistake.
Paul Galesko DON'T NEED to check the original negative in the camera to know, or to proof, that the image was inverted. He, as a professional photographer, will notice it very easily, because ALL what they get in the photo would be MIRRORED. Saying it more clearly: all what are left turns right and vice versa.
The victim, his wife Frances, appears in the picture beside the clock, and so, his left arm is now the right one and the right,left. All her jewels, or what else she wears or has, is shown on the other side. Paul certainly will notice this in a short overview.
I rated the movie with 8/10, but when I get the goof, I reduced it to 6/10.
Of course, the hilarity with Storch and Van Patten is terrific as well. I for one love the moments with Columbo and random members of the LAPD who engage with him at crime scenes in random conversations, often related to Columbo's chronic car trouble or not recognizing him as a Lieutenant. It's also inevitable that the on-scene cops have determined (incorrectly) how the murder has gone down. Fantastic that they never get it right. Same group that went after OJ and that didn't exactly work out for anyone.
The problem is that part of Van Dyke's scheme is to stage a false kidnapping of his wife and frame some innocent patsy for the crime and kill him as well. The patsy is Don Gordon recently released from the state penitentiary himself. Poor Gordon can't believe that a big shot like Van Dyke is taking an interest in his rehabilitation. Some things are too good to be true.
Van Dyke has fallen for JoAnna Cameron who would become TV's Isis in another year. Can't fault him for taste.
A couple of other interesting parts are Vito Scotti as a poor drunken homeless guy who's a witness, but his memory is kind of foggy from all the booze. Peter Falk has to track him to a soup kitchen and the nun in charge Joyce Van Patten naturally mistakes him for a client. It's a very funny scene. Columbo TV shows were always laced with a little humor to lighten the dirty business of solving murders. There's also Larry Storch who is a motor vehicle inspector and a most nervous chap who clears the late Mr. Gordon of the crime, but not without a few anxious moments with Columbo driving.
I don't think that anyone as smart as Van Dyke would have fallen for the trick Columbo uses to nail him for the crime in the end. It's not one of the better Columbos, but all right.
Some great humor is spotted in this one. Columbo's car is nearly written off as scrap, Columbo is mistaken for a bum in a soup kitchen, and a couple of other good gags. Especially, Columbo taking a driving license tester (Larry Storch) on a ride so wild that Storch questions his sanity in Columbos old jalopy.
This one has a great ending which I will not spoil except too say he takes major advantage of Van Dykes ignorance in knowing just who he is matched up against. An excellent out for this series.
Accoring to the rules of Columbo logics and standards, this shouldn't be a good Columbo movie at all. The movie, with its one and an half hour, is far longer than a regular Columbo movie and the character Columbo appears late into the story. The movie also features more humor than a regular Columbo movie and the character of Columbo himself is perhaps more looking like a bum than ever before. All things that make this movie differ from the usual Columbo movie series. Yet it is one of the Columbo movies that work out the best, due to its story, directing and Dick Van Dyke, who plays perhaps one of the best and most interesting Columbo movie 'villains'.
It's finally a Columbo movie again with a true ingenious thought out murdering plot, that of course however is not as perfect as it seems at first sight and there are still some clues left out for the good old Lieutenant. The story is being told in a good murder-mystery movie way and its hard to imaging that the same man who directed previously the Columbo movie "Columbo: Mind Over Mayhem" also directed this movie. They are two completely different movies in terms of its style and overall flow and way of storytelling. So perhaps its more thanks to the very fine script of this movie that makes this one work out so great and makes it one of the best Columbo movies to watch out there.
It's not necessarily a movie that simply feels as a made for TV Columbo movie. It's also plain and simple really good as a murder-mystery/thriller movie. The movie is also more treated that way. We see Columbo sitting around at the police station and thinking and interacting with his colleagues. It just doesn't feel like a Columbo movie who feels forced and obligated to put in certain elements and story bits to make this movie a typical Columbo movie. It's more original in its approach, which also makes this one of the more refreshing Columbo movie to watch.
What makes the movie also really work is Dick Van Dyke. Normally when I see this guy- and it doesn't ever matter what role he plays, I don't see a character, I simply see Dick Van Dyke. However not in this role and he really simply is Paul Galesko. Perhaps this also has to do with his beard or perhaps the fact that he plays a more 'villainous' character, something we haven't often seen him in during his still going on career.
An amazingly great Columbo movie.
First, of course, the story is simple and irrelevant: a man kills his wife, frames another man, and is caught through small errors.
However, the largest error van Dyke's character makes is almost laughable: he claims to have been shot by the framed man, and shoots himself in the leg with the gun pressed against his pantleg. Is there anyone in America who remains unaware of stippling (gunpowder patterns indicating a contact wound)?
Beyond that, his use and supervision of the pre-planning with the framed man left so many clues that he may as well have painted an arrow on the ground pointing to himself.
Columbo often borders on rudeness; in this episode, he crosses the line, loudly and obnoxiously taking photographs at a funeral. Why? What was so necessary to photograph that couldn't have waited? Very disappointing scene.
All that aside, van Dyke is excellent, as always, and if you like these types of shows, you will very much enjoy these 90 minutes.