Columbo: Season 4, Episode 5

Playback (2 Mar. 1975)

TV Episode  -   -  Crime | Drama | Mystery
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Ratings: 7.5/10 from 827 users  
Reviews: 20 user | 3 critic

A gadget-happy inventor murders his mother-in-law; Lt. Columbo is on the case.

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Title: Playback (02 Mar 1975)

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Episode complete credited cast:
Harold Van Wick
Elizabeth Van Wick
Arthur Meadis
Margaret Meadis
Baxter (as Herb Jefferson Jr.)
Trisha Noble ...
Bart Burns ...
Officer Banks
Joe Ohar ...
Attendant (as Joe O'Har)


Electronics expert Harold Van Wick has wired his estate-home with closed-circuit television cameras and video recorders. His costly fascination with gadgetry raises the ire of his frugal mother-in-law, who owns the firm where Van Wick is the chief executive. She orders him to resign, threatening to reveal his philandering ways discovered by her private detective, but Van Wick has already set in motion a scheme to murder his angry mother-in-law, recording her demise on video tape while feeding a recording of an empty study to the guard monitoring the estate's rooms on television screens at the gate to the Van Wick estate. Having already forced open a window and planted footprints outside it to make the kill look like the deed of a burglar, Van Wick timer-sets the recording of the murder to play while he is away at a social function, thus giving him an alibi. But Lieutenant Columbo - that super-smart detective in a rumpled raincoat - suspects Van Wick and asks incessant questions as he ... Written by Kevin McCorry <>

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Release Date:

2 March 1975 (USA)  »

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Technical Specs

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


At the beginning of their first meeting, Columbo refuses to shake Van Wick's extended hand, explaining that he has a bad cold. Yet when he leaves 10 minutes later, Van Wick extends his hand again and Columbo agrees to shake it. See more »


Columbo: It had to be noise. I mean, that's the only thing that would explain it; otherwise, why would her door open? You see, that's my problem, sir. What caused the door to open? There HAD to be a noise.
Harold Van Wick: Uh, she didn't tell me the door opened.
Columbo: She didn't?
Harold Van Wick: No.
Columbo: She didn't tell me, either.
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Referenced in Remington Steele: Stronger Than Steele (1985) See more »


Ballade No.1 in g-minor, op.23
Written by Frédéric Chopin
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User Reviews

A classic Columbo
20 November 1999 | by (Ottawa, Canada) – See all my reviews

This is one of the best Columbo episodes, with a tightly wound plot, beautiful pacing, and excellent acting from the guest star. Oskar Werner plays an electronics expert who has completely outfitted his house with gadgetry to help his wheelchair-bound wife. His clever plan to murder his interfering mother-in-law and to use a delayed videotape of the murder to establish his alibi seems to be working, until Lt. Columbo starts looking into the case. The unique plot technique of showing the murder and then watching the subsequent investigation gives the viewer the strange experience of identifying with the murderer. Like the killer, we know all the facts ahead of the police, and begin to feel the same anxiety and tension as the net closes in. The climax of this movie is wonderful, as the killer is trapped with the very technology he has set up to establish his innocence.

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