A gospel singer wants to be rid of his zealous wife. But a murder made to look like an airplane accident does not fool the wily Lt. Columbo.



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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Tommy Brown
Edna Basket Brown
Roland Pangborn
J.J. Stringer
Luke Basket
Mr. Grindell
The Colonel
Lucille Meredith ...
Jean the seamstress
Don Mantooth ...
Phil (as Donald Mantooth)
Jefferson Kibbee ...
Bonnie Van Dyke ...
Maryann Cobb
Douglas Dirkson ...
Jeff the airport mechanic (as Doug Dirkson)


A popular folk singer's plane has crashed. Two passengers have died, and one has escaped with minor injuries. Was it really an accident? How could it not have been? Or, was it really a nearly perfect murder? Columbo is called in to find out. Written by Cindy

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Release Date:

3 March 1974 (USA)  »

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Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


In-joke: As Tommy Brown (Johnny Cash) walks away from Columbo to board a flight he sings, sotto voce, 'Kris Kristofferson''s "Sunday Morning Coming Down" which was a huge hit for Cash. See more »


As Tommy Brown throws out the thermos, you can see he is pushing on the door hard to open it. But when he prepares to bail out, he first opens the door, and then grabs on his chute. You can clearly see the door opening by its own weight. See more »


Lt. Columbo: I'm not here to pry into your personal life.
Tommy Brown: My personal life is an open book. Everybody knows I done time.
Lt. Columbo: Yes, sir, but what you've done since you've gotten out, that's been an inspiration to a lot of people.
Tommy Brown: Then what're you buggin' me for?
See more »


I Saw the Light
Written by Hank Williams
Performed by Johnny Cash
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User Reviews

A guitar, a thermos flask and a home-made parachute....
15 September 2004 | by (Port Talbot, South Wales,UK) – See all my reviews

Johnny Cash's limited acting ability is remarkably offset by his semi-autobiographical portrayal of a gospel crusader who wishes to use half of the concert earnings to finance his lavishly reckless lifestyle, rather than plough all of the monies into building an ornate tabernacle. His blackmailing wife and one very young concert group member are killed off so that his reputation remains unblemished and his lifestyle can be maintained.

Everything you would want in a Columbo story is in evidence here: a refreshingly original, well-thought-out plot with an ingeniously conceived "murder" scenario; a very tightly structured script with each scene leading on nicely from the last; circumstantial clues which are clever and instinctively-developed; an abundance of well-crafted scenes between a typically persistent Columbo and a relatively self-assured murderer which have a progressive intensity about them; and well-timed injections of humour.

A crackerjack Columbo episode, that is all the better for making it look like the murderer has won(nb: the marvelous airport scene); and for not being sentimental when Columbo pities the murderer. Almost flawless in its conception and execution, this must be one of the top-three Columbo episodes.

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