Columbo: Season 4, Episode 1

An Exercise in Fatality (15 Sep. 1974)

TV Episode  -   -  Crime | Drama | Mystery
7.5
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Ratings: 7.5/10 from 872 users  
Reviews: 27 user | 4 critic

A health club owner murders one of his franchisees; Lt. Columbo is on the case.

Director:

(as Bernard Kowalski)

Writers:

(teleplay), (story), 2 more credits »
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Title: An Exercise in Fatality (15 Sep 1974)

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Cast

Episode cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
Gretchen Corbett ...
Jessica Conroy
...
Buddy Castle (as Pat Harrington)
...
Ruth Stafford (as Collin Wilcox)
Philip Bruns ...
Gene Stafford
Jude Farese ...
Darrell Zwerling ...
Dennis Robertson ...
Jerry
Raymond O'Keefe ...
Sgt. Rickets
...
Medical Examiner
Eric Mason ...
Fred
J.R. Clark ...
Harry Lassiter (as J. R. Clark)
Mel Stevens ...
Dr. Freeman
Manuel DePina ...
Photographer
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Storyline

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 J. Spurlin

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

alibi | spa | barbell | police | murder | See more »


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Details

Country:

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Release Date:

15 September 1974 (USA)  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (DVD release)

Sound Mix:

Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Even architecture has been known to make a comeback appearance in "Columbo". A Columbo film that displays the opening street scene to "An Exercise In Fatality" on a TV monitor is Columbo: Death Lends a Hand (1971), near the beginning, in Brimmer's office. See more »

Goofs

When Milo Janus is cutting the tape of Gene Stafford, the initial statement made by Gene says "uhhhh....can I speak to him." Every time this tape is replayed, the "uhhhh....is omitted. See more »

Quotes

Columbo: [on the phone with his wife] I'm gonna hang up. You can keep talkin' but I'm gonna hang up.
See more »

Crazy Credits

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 »

Soundtracks

This Old Man
(uncredited)
Traditional English children's song
Sung by Peter Falk on beach
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User Reviews

 
A health club owner plots the perfect murder in this enjoyable entry, with a fine supporting cast—and one bad scene
21 January 2007 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Milo Janus (Robert Conrad) owns a chain of health clubs, but one of his franchisees (Philip Bruns) discovers the man is cheating him—and he can prove it to the authorities. Janus responds with a carefully planned murder. He finds his snooping business partner alone in the club and—after an unexpected struggle—crushes the man's windpipe. He puts the corpse in gym clothes, sets it on a bench, places a 180-pound barbell over its neck—and there you go. It looks as if the guy 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 (Gretchen Corbett), a party for friends at his house and a pornographic horror movie. But no alibi is perfect when our rumpled Lt. Columbo (Peter Falk) is on the case.

This is a good episode with only one bad scene: the one where Columbo waits for a snippy secretary—or rather the supercomputer she operates—to provide him with a simple bit of information. His endless wait is the point of the gag, but it's not funny and seems to exist only to pad the running time. Otherwise we have a good villain in Conrad, a man in his late 30s playing a man in his early 50s who looks like a man in his late 30s. The supporting cast is typically good. I especially liked Corbett as the sexy secretary (not the snippy one) who is amused then bemused by our crafty lieutenant; and Collin Wilcox as the inebriated wife of the victim. Both give performances that are rich and varied beyond the call of duty.

The best moment: Columbo drops the pretense and loses his temper with his suspect. Before this point in the series, he had done this only in "Prescription: Murder" and "A Stitch in Crime." Its rarity makes it all the more delicious.

I don't know if I really buy Columbo's damning bit of evidence at the end; but it's so amusing that I can't criticize it. I especially like how a brief moment between a mother and her small child inspires him to look for it. In any case, few "Columbo" fans will find this entry wanting.


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