Milo Janus owns a chain of health clubs, but one of his franchisees discovers the man is cheating him - and can prove it to the authorities. Janus responds by murdering his partner and making it look as if he had accidentally killed himself trying to lift a barbell that was too heavy for him. Janus creates a would-be perfect alibi for himself involving a tape recording of his victim's voice, a phone that doesn't light up, a sexy secretary, a party for friends at his house, and a pornographic horror movie. But no alibi is perfect when the rumpled Lt. Columbo is on the case. Written by
Even architecture has been known to make a comeback appearance in Columbo (1971). In Columbo: Death Lends a Hand (1971), near the beginning, the opening street scene to this episode can be seen on a TV monitor in Brimmer's office. See more »
Milo places a barbell on Stafford's neck which is supposed to appear as the cause of death. Columbo says that the barbell weighs 180 pounds and Milo doesn't question him. However, that type of barbell weighs no more than 120 pounds. See more »
I didn't spend eighteen years as corporate controller for nothing, and I can smell film-flam right down to the paper clips you make me buy.
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During the end credits the usual theme music is not heard. In its place is a jingle for the fictional Milo Janus fitness club instead. See more »
This is my favorite Columbo episode. This really ought to be on DVD, I would love to add it to my permanent movie library.
To some extent it's hard to believe that this film dates from 1974 wow, over 30 years ago already! - since the picture quality is still quite sharp and vivid, and watching it today, you almost get the sense that time has not passed since its filming. But then of course it's quite apparent that this must have happened in some previous generation: just get a load of Milo Janus's (Robert Conrad) widely flared pants, the phone tape-recording and teleprinter equipment that today would nearly qualify for antique status, not to mention some of the huge Detroit-built cars Also, as another reviewer pointed out, the then "state of the art" gym equipment in Milo Janus's gyms was vastly different from the rather exotic and high tech stuff you'll find nowadays in modern fitness centers.
But I love this episode so much, for several reasons. Firstly, I myself had discovered the wonderful world of weightlifting right about the time period this movie was shot (early 70's) and I really enjoyed the walk down memory lane, seeing the gym with the free-weights and stuff. I also liked the weightlifting "accident" which the perp concocted to cover the murder.
Secondly, this particular episode had much more of an aura of realism about it than other Columbo episodes. There was nothing really far-fetched about the crime neither the motive for it, nor the execution of it, nor Janus's attempts to create a plausible cover-up. I don't know, maybe it was the way Robert Conrad conducted himself so coolly, so Teflon-coated cocky, much like in his battery commercials which some of you may remember from back then ("I dare you to knock it off my shoulder"). But it all seemed so very real.
I've seen this episode several times, and I am always struck at the palpable chemistry between Columbo and Janus: they really truly seem to loathe each other, and the scene in the hospital where Columbo very publicly confronts Janus and accuses him of the crime always seems chillingly believable. You can't help but wonder if the real actors here (Falk and Conrad) actually despised each other off the set?
The final resolution of the case (something to do with the way shoelaces are tied) was a bit extreme, but taken against the greater context in which 'whodunnits' nearly always require at least some sort of clever if not sensationalistic ending, it definitely fit the bill.
Oh, and one other thing: I always love the part where Columbo digs the evidence (in this case, several pairs of old shoes) out of his paper lunch bag. In the process he pulls out a cellophane-wrapped hunk of lord-knows-what, to which he comments, almost as if to himself, "That's just my lunch, that don't mean nothing." Bon appetit, Columbo!
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