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|Index||15 reviews in total|
A Season 2 Columbo story that is primarily notable for it's success in
straying slightly from the hitherto successful Columbo formula by
installing a plot with twists relating to both motive and murder
Anne Baxter gives a captivating, well-judged performance as a movie star in decline who realises that the blossoming relationship of her secretary and a persistent journalist could uncover her darkest secrets. Her deep-rooted desperation and selfish protectiveness are intriguingly conveyed in a story that is never quite what it seems: the viewer is not armed with all of the incriminating facts from the outset, so although it is not a who-dunnit, it is successfully sustained as a why-did-she-do-it.
Mel Ferrer also gives a decent performance as the journalist and his scenes with Baxter are consistently powerfully staged and purposefully developed.
There is a priceless scene too involving a cameo from real-life costume designer Edith Head, who gives Columbo a lavish tie from her rather vast wardrobe.
One other noteworthy and enjoyable sequence is when Columbo confronts the murderess near the end with the things that bothered him...
The script-writer Jackson Gillis expertly keeps things going at a startlingly frantic pace, and although the coincidence which helps Columbo solve the case is too coincidental, the strength in the plot, script and performances are too be admired, making this a little gem for the Columbo archives.
The Columbo DVD box sets are allowing me to savor these old episodes
without commercials and with the ability to watch parts over again to
see how clues are planted. As another comment also stated, this episode
may not be the most cleverly plotted or most exciting, BUT it has the
great Anne Baxter as a fading star who was married to a now-deceased
studio head and is now pitted against a sleazy tell-all biographer,
played by another great, Mel Ferrer. Baxter's assistant is having an
affair with Ferrer. The assistant winds up dead, but switched cars with
Ferrer at the last minute. So was Ferrer or the assistant the intended
target? Columbo doesn't miss a beat as he investigates, and as in the
best Columbo episodes every seemingly throw-away remark or observation
later takes on great significance. And it's always fun to see the
Columbo character star-struck around celebrities, asking the celebrity
to call his brother-in-law on the phone and the like.
In addition to seeing Columbo "crack" the case, the viewer doesn't really understand the motivation for the crime until the final scene, which adds another level of excitement. With a supporting cast including Kevin McCarthy and Frank Converse, this is an episode you should definitely check out. Baxter and Ferrer bring such class to the show. And Falk is always perfect in this role...
I have a special fondness for this particular Columbo episode, though
I'm not sure why. It is very good, but there have been other Columbos
that have moved a little faster. This one has a few interesting twists
to the plot, but what is most enjoyable is the presence of Anne Baxter
as a movie star, Nora Chandler, from Hollywood's golden age who now
stars in a TV series. Kind of like Loretta Young, but with an entirely
different persona. Mel Ferrer guest stars also, as does the lovely
Pippa Scott. Scott plays Baxter's secretary, and Ferrer is a gossip
columnist who seems to have some real dirt on Nora. He's also courting
Scott, which Baxter is tremendously unhappy about. Nora is also getting
some pressure from the studio. Nora has a cottage on the grounds with a
fountain in the back - her late husband, Al, actually ran the studio.
The present bosses want to sell off parts of the land, but Nora won't
Falk and Baxter are funny together. He's initially starstruck - though I can't really agree with one poster on this board who thinks he wasn't onto her. He calls his brother-in-law George and has Nora say hello to him, and there is another cute scene with Edith Head.
It's a fascinating story, made special by Baxter and her chemistry with Falk.
Frankly, when considering a "Columbo" plot revolving around a faded
actress, the 1975 "Forgotten Lady," with Janet Leigh, is far more
memorable than this exploration of 70s TV movie-making. The plot seems
to borrow bits from various Hollywood sources, such as Shirley Temple
and her bungalow at 20th Century Fox in the 30s, etc.
I always enjoy Anne Baxter's performances, but this comes across as a bit over-the-top. Granted, the script requires that she intentionally overact for Columbo, but at times, her supposed "natural" scenes are also a bit camp/vamp.
Even when this first aired in January, 1973, I knew who Edith Head was, and got a kick seeing her cameo.
Director Quine was also at the helm of my least-favorite episode, the one shown prior to this,"Dagger of the Mind." Both exhibit unnecessary scenery chewing, and stray from the formula that usually makes any "Columbo" episode a television classic.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
- As you may, or may not, know, giving away the killer's identity in a
Columbo movie is not a spoiler. You discover who the killer is ten
minutes into the movie. In this episode, an aging star (Anne Baxter)
feels like she's in a desperate situation. Her secretary for 18 years
is leaving her to marry a reporter who has dirt on her. She's afraid
that the secretary may reveal even more about her personal life. She
does the only thing she can come up with to get out of the situation.
She goes to the reporter's house and pours gasoline in the garage. Just
as his car enter, she strikes a match and . . . well you get the
- I've seen a lot of Columbo's movies and this one has its strong points and its weak points. I really enjoyed the mystery in this one. There's really more to it than initially meets the eye. I found the story to be very engaging. It's definitely one of the deeper Columbo movies I've seen so far. In most of these movies, Columbo spots the killer right off the bat and hounds them until they crack. Because of the complexities of the case, Columbo picks the wrong suspect. It's a nice change of pace.
- The weak points - Columbo himself. In a lot of these movies, you'll see Columbo gush over a suspect, but it's usually to get information. Here, he seems genuinely star-struck by Anne Baxter. That's not Columbo! He's always under control and using everything to his advantage. Usually, every little movement he makes, no matter how insignificant it may seem, is all part of his grand scheme to catch the killer. Not here. We get to see Columbo act like a fool and for no real reason whatever.
Peter Falk as the ever persistent Lt. Columbo has a real conflict of
interest. Pippa Scott the secretary of big screen star Anne Baxter is
killed in a staged automobile wreck after she met sleazy tabloid
columnist Mel Ferrer to offer up some proof on her boss. Ferrer is a
real bottom feeder, even stooping to some shtupping with Scott to get a
real bit of gossip about Baxter. The woman really has something to
Columbo has two big problems with this case, first it looks like the target might have been Mel Ferrer who has a phonebook list of enemies who'd like to do him in. Secondly the motive for Baxter doing the deed isn't obvious. Columbo will have to literally dig up the truth to clench his case.
Kevin McCarthy and Frank Converse round out the list of guest stars in this episode. Baxter is both a sympathetic yet an egotistical suspect, not an easy thing to pull off yet she does it. Her fans will be especially impressed with this episode.
Requiem for a Falling Star I thought was a generally solid entry in one of my favourite shows of all time, but I don't consider it one of the better ones. It is another change of formula sort of episode, where Columbo for a while picks the wrong person, and it is mostly successful. I do have to agree though that Falk is made to act a little too obtuse here, and it really doesn't feel like him. While it is compellingly paced a vast majority of the time, I did feel some of the middle of the episode dragged, and the coincidence that helps Columbo I also agree is too much of a coincidence. However it is strikingly filmed, with an atmospheric music score, sharp writing that is at its best in the scenes between Columbo and Baxter and an interesting story where there is much more to it as it initially seems to be. Peter Falk is consistently wonderful as Columbo and Requiem for a Falling Star is no exception, Anne Baxter captivates as the edgy murderess, Mel Ferrer is wonderfully sleazy and under-appreciated Kevin McCarthy is good value. There is also a priceless cameo from Edith Head. All in all, quite good but not one of my favourites. 7/10 Bethany Cox
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Fading movie star Nora Chandler is being blackmailed by gossip
columnist Jerry Parks, who she is paying to ensure that her reputation
stays intact. With this ongoing, it comes as a great surprise when
Parks gets engaged to Chandler's trusted secretary Jean Davis. Seeking
a way out and an end to this union, Chandler kills Davis by blowing up
Parks' car with her in it and making it look like he was the victim.
Columbo is put on the case taking the bait and starts looking for
someone who wanted him dead although any celeb that he has slandered
could be on that list. Meanwhile Nora has to deal with Parks, who of
course knows that the murderer was Nora and believes that he was the
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 film the approach is similar to "Stitch in Time" where the wrong person is murdered and the real victim is still walking around, with the slight twist being that the victim here knows the score more than Columbo does. The blackmail aspect and the couple of characters involved make the plot slightly more interesting but rather take away from the cat and mouse games that usually exist between Columbo and the murderer. That said it does still engage and is a reasonably good plot the world of old movie stars is not that well brought out or looked at, although it does provide a reasonably interesting frame.
The cast, as always, are crucial. Falk is his usual reliable self, although his admiration of Chandler is not as convincing as it has been with other characters in other films; other than that though he is as good as he often is. Baxter is pretty convincing but her character doesn't fit with the formula and the approach her character is given doesn't make the formula work that well. That said, she is still a good fading star and works on that level. Ferrer is pretty good and does his thing well within the film. Support is good enough from McCarthy, Converse and others but the lead two make the film, although perhaps not as well as Falk has done it with others.
Overall a good Columbo film but not quite a great one. Fans will, of course, still find a great deal to enjoy here though.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Nora Chandler is a fading movie star being blackmailed by a gossip
columnist. When her assistant borrows the columnist's car and is killed
in a suspicious fire, Columbo thinks the assistant was killed by
mistake. But perhaps his hunch is wrong, and Nora has much deeper,
darker secrets to keep ...
This is not the most distinguished Columbo story, but it's still good fun. The best thing is the cast - Falk's aw-shucks charm, Baxter as the edgy drama queen, McCarthy as the bigwig and Ferrer as the heel. Baxter (the star of The Magnificent Ambersons, All About Eve, The Ten Commandments and many others) is great casting as the devious diva and her scenes with Falk are the highlight. Watch too for a rare appearance by Hollywood costumier legend Head (who was a close friend of Baxter's). This yarn has a good hook - we assume Baxter intended to kill Ferrer when she didn't - and her backstory is brought out with subtle effectiveness. However, the physical evidence of the crimes - so crucial and enjoyable in so many subsequent Columbo TV-movies - is almost entirely absent here. A pleasant but unexceptional TV thriller.
The movie is directed by Richard Quine, who simply isn't among one of
the most talented directors who ever worked on a Columbo movie. Despite
this he directed a total of 3 Columbo movies, so he must have done
something right in the mind of the creators and studio bosses or he
must have had friends in right places. To me it seemed that he didn't
really understood the Columbo character right and often overdid things
involving the famous character, mostly with his intelligence and
perception of things. He also in some ways differ from the usual
Columbo formula, which just isn't always for the good.
It isn't among the fastest going or best flowing Columbo movies but this is mostly being compensated by the acting and scenes with Anne Baxter and Kevin McCarthy. Both of them are a bit of forgotten stars, who also never reached true stardom but did their share of good movies and played some fine roles. It's mostly their movie, which also sort of means that Peter Falk is playing third violin in this one. This especially shows in the sequences when the three of them are together on screen. Another indication of that Richard Quine didn't really knew how to handle the character right (His car also looks dirtier than ever before by the way).
It features a good and quite non-formulaic Columbo murder-mystery story that however due to its treatment and pace just never really gets of the ground. Some minor script changes and a different director at the helm could had made this a true great and original Columbo movie entry! It features a story that is set in the world of Hollywood and movie-making and therefor also features some good egocentric characters who think they own the world and can get away with anything, even murder.
No it's really not one of the worst Columbo movies out there and it simply is just a bit below the usual Columbo movie standard in the long run and it's also definitely a big step up from Richard Quine's other Columbo movie "Columbo: Dagger of the Mind" but it still leaves you with the feeling that it all could had been done better, which makes this movie perhaps still somewhat disappointing to watch.
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