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"Columbo: Fade in to Murder (#6.1)"
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Reviews & Ratings for
"Columbo" Fade in to Murder (1976)

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21 out of 22 people found the following review useful:

A curious, patchily enjoyable Columbo yarn

Author: The Welsh Raging Bull ( from Port Talbot, South Wales, UK
14 July 2005

Decently plotted and reasonably originally conceived Columbo Season 6 opener, which sees him square-off, rather interestingly, against an actor renowned for his portrayal of the television detective Lt. Lucerne (played by William Shatner) who murders his blackmailing ex-lover (the show's producer) in a made-to-look-like robbery.

The most noticeable thing about this episode is the inordinate amount of screen time between Columbo and murderer, which therefore places a heavier emphasis than normal on having a quality script. In this respect, the scenes are carefully drawn and many of them are executed in a pleasing style, particularly as we get more information on the murderer's motives behind his crime. Nevertheless, the playful style of Columbo's interfacing with his rival (which may be too strong a word) is not a particularly rewarding approach by the script-writer, who almost airs on the side of caution to maintain a lighter atmosphere than is often the case in Columbo adventures. This style also renders a lack of build-up to the conclusion, which with all the open-mindedness in the world, is very inauspicious and unsatisfying.

Shatner's performance is carefully executed but overly hammy; although he probably does everything he is asked of in the script, particularly in conveying his character's deep-rooted insecurity, which is rather heavily portrayed at the end as he tries to seek sympathy for his crime.

I especially liked the final piece of dialogue after Columbo collars the murderer: Lt. Lucerne to Columbo - " would do me a enormous favour if you would stop calling me sir...."

It's a very curious episode with positives and negatives in equal measure; perhaps the script-writer could have allowed Lt. Lucerne's character to possess more self-assuredness, particularly as he gifts Columbo evidence off and on during this adventure.

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13 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

Good episode

Author: julien-neel from France
13 January 2009

This episode has several nice twists to it : the murderer genuinely helps Columbo, providing him deliberately with questions, answers and even evidence to incriminate himself ; the murderer is a narcissistic TV show detective, and he works alongside with Columbo, playing his role throughout the episode in an amusing and convincing fashion.

The murder itself is very nicely conducted (especially the trick with changing the time on the gofer's watch), and could have almost fooled Columbo. I was really wondering how Columbo would figure it out as I was watching, and in fact he didn't : a fingerprint the murderer forgot to wipe off, and that we spectators had no clue of, pops out of the blue at the end. That was a little frustrating, because the story worked so well in favor of our murderer and that this mistake seemed quite amateurish for a murder so well conducted on the whole.

Overall, I liked the nice slow tension, great acting and great plot, but the conclusion left me a little disappointed, given that I like to figure out how Columbo will crack the case as I watch. It was impossible this time.

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10 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Great Episode

Author: kenneymljken from U.S.
28 December 2000

I found this to be one of the funniest episodes I've ever seen, even though most of them are funny, anyway. Falk and Shatner work great together. One of the funniest things is when Shatner's character is video taping Columbo and he has no idea how to act on camera. One of the aspects of Columbo that fascinates me is how he is able to almost befriend his suspects; that plays a great part in this episode. Don't miss character actor Timothy Carey's hilarious cameo.

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8 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

An enjoyable mystery with a few good additions to the usual formula (spoilers)

Author: bob the moo from United Kingdom
9 May 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Ward Fowler is not a brilliant actor but he has settled into a steady and successful role in a detective serial, playing the title role of Detective Lucerne. His producer, Claire Daley was once his lover and now is his blackmailer – taking a cut of all the money he makes from his television deal. When her cut increases, Ward decides that it is time for Claire to go and plots to murder her. Inviting a friend over to watch a baseball game live on TV, Ward drugs him, dresses in a mask and goes to a shop where Claire is and kills her in a scenario made to look like a robbery. He returns to his home, rewinds the baseball game on videotape, adjusts the clocks in the house and wakes his friend as if it has only been a minute or two. When Columbo gets given the case he suspects the whole thing was just a faked robbery and he is happy to be able to turn to Ward for help, since he is Mrs Columbo's favourite TV detective.

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 strict adherence to formula it is usually down to several factors whether or not the Columbo film stands out or if it is just average. With this film the potential is there from the start onwards as the setting (famous actor in successful detective mystery series) comes across as a very nice reference to the Columbo series itself. It doesn't do anything clever with this but it is a nice change to the formula and it does make for a nice comic edge to the whole show. The plot is good and it uses the relationship dynamic between Columbo and Fowler to good effect – the admiration from Columbo concealing a sharp mind while also drawing out Ward to make him think he is smart enough to make this shabby little man dance to his tune.

Of course it is helped by the fact that Falk is on good form yet again – he delivers his material with good humour, perhaps aware that the film is gently teasing him with the subject matter. Shatner is not as good but is still enjoyable, shame he is not a good enough actor to give a real convincing performance – he is a bit corny but it works well enough in a tvm. With the two men carrying the guts of the film, support isn't really a major factor but the addition of Koenig is a nice reference for Star Trek fans while Manson and Albright are good enough with little screen time.

Overall a typically enjoyable mystery that will please fans. The performances are not as roundly good as required but Shatner is cheesy in a good way even if he can't convince with the silly split personality sort of thing going on. The parallels with the Columbo series and the Lucerne series could perhaps have been used better but it still acts as a nice addition to the usual formula.

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8 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Great Mystery

Author: The Peacemaker from Somewhere In Canada
11 August 2000

William Shatner (James Kirk) plays an actor who murders a woman for revenge. He has an entire plot planned, with his roommate drunk and a baseball game taped, and a "borrowed" gun used only for the crime. Shatner plays a detective on TV who was Columbo's role model, and the lieutenant is over re-joiced that he will work with Shatner on the mystery. Great mystery with a completely obvious clue to the solving (when it's explained) unseen by anyone but Columbo (when I say anyone, I mean the audience, too), a real treat (just as all the Columbo movies are).

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5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

As with most Columbo mysteries, very enjoyable

Author: TheLittleSongbird from United Kingdom
9 March 2012

Columbo is one of my favourite TV series of all time, and once again Fade in To Murder is a solid and very enjoyable episode. I like Fade in To Murder especially for one of the most cleverly executed murders in Columbo history, the fact that the murderer leaves evidence, clues and questions helping Columbo in a sense, and the scenes between Columbo and Fowler which are very dynamic. What I didn't quite like so much was that was final solution was a little underwhelming, I liked Shatner's final line but other than that the ending could have done with a stronger build-up and at the end of the day considering how well-executed the murder itself was it felt somewhat amateurish introducing the incriminating clue that wasn't even mentioned until then.

However, it is slickly filmed, with everything looking beautiful especially the settings, the dialogue amuses and the story is clever and interesting a vast majority of the time. Pacing is solid and Kowalski's direction shows why he was one of the more consistent directors of the show. Peter Falk is as always brilliant as Columbo, playing with humour, an inquisitive air and cunning. William Shatner, whose performance is better than in Butterfly in Shades of Grey(an episode I was mixed on and I wasn't crazy about Shatner in it), can be seen as hammy and a little stiff at times, but considering the ego of his character and the story concept it works.

All in all, very enjoyable and a solid entry in one of the all-time great detective series. 8/10 Bethany Cox

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5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Enjoyable But Lightweight Episode

Author: stubbers from Essex
17 February 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This doesn't feel as serious as most Columbo movies for some reason. Ward Fowler never really seems that concerned about being investigated for murder, or bothered by the long, confusing series of lies and fake identities that have characterised his life before becoming a massive celebrity playing Detective Lucerne. It's not like he's covering up his insecurities in front of Columbo, he just doesn't come across as even remotely worried.

For much of the time he seems to be playing the role of Lucerne, even while talking to Columbo. So we have someone (John Schilling) pretending to be someone (Charles Kipling) pretending to be someone (Ward Fowler) pretending to be someone (Detective Lucerne), and it's never entirely clear who Columbo's actually talking to.

For all that, the murder itself is very clearly executed, in my opinion too well thought-through for a character as sloppy and disorganised as Fowler. He doesn't seem together enough to be a cold-blooded murderer, often talking gibberish to Columbo, changing his story willy-nilly and showing off the video machine which was used as an accessory in the murder. I don't even think he's deliberately goading Columbo by demonstrating the VCR, he's just incredibly careless and slapdash.

How much of all this is down to Shatner's "ironic" acting style and how much is down to the script, I don't know.

It almost seems a bit of a pantomime this episode, like a parody of a Columbo show. Not that it's terrible, just quite tongue-in-cheek and comical, nowhere near as suspenseful as normal. Which is what often happens to shows nearing the end of their run, and "Fade Into Murder" marks the beginning of the end of the 70s Columbo shows.

But it's always good to see Shatner, not for the subtleties of his acting skills but because he's genuinely entertaining to watch. However I preferred "Butterfly In Shades Of Grey", the 90s episode which saw Shatner return as a Columbo villain.

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5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

One Of The Best Columbo TV Thrillers

Author: ShootingShark from Dundee, Scotland
8 May 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A highly-paid television actor is being blackmailed by his producer, who knows about his somewhat sordid past. He fakes a hold-up as a cover for killing her and uses a video-recording of a sports game as an alibi, but Lieutenant Columbo is on the case.

This is one of the best-known Columbo movies and is very entertaining, not least because the killer is a pompous, overpaid TV detective (in the seventies, Falk was the highest-paid actor on television). Shatner gives a woodenly likable performance, made all the more whimsical towards the end when he starts to turn a little schizoid. The rest of the cast are good, with nice little bits by Carey (playing another shopkeeper), Koenig (an old pal of Shatner's from Star Trek) and Danese (Falk's real-life wife). There are some lovely moments, especially a how-do-you-open-this-door gag, but the actual denouement itself is a little pedestrian. It hardly matters though - the pleasure of seeing these two actors swapping shots is a sheer delight

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Excellent. One of the best Columbo's.

Author: Stephen Bailey ( from Lincoln England
24 June 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Bill Shatner has long been hugely popular over here in England & is currently on our screens in a series of self-parodying cereal commercials. I've enjoyed everything he's done, except the atrociously bad "T.J.Hooker". Anyway. Back to 1974. Shatner plays Ward Fowler, a TV detective with a shady past, a dodgy present and an uncertain future. He solves all 3 problems by murdering his blackmailing producer in a staged hold-up. "Detective Lucerne" then finds himself dealing with Lt Columbo and they "work together" to solve the crime. The chemistry between Shatner and Falk is excellent throughout and they were re-matched in another episode 18 years later. William Shatner is a marvellously smarmy villain and quite magnanamous at the end when he's finally unmasked: "She was a blackmailer.I think, in this case, the murderer has the sympathetic part?" Well worth seeing. I'm wondering if anyone else noticed a similarity between William Shatner & Gene Hackman in this role? The 2 could have been interchangeable.

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Columbo vs Kirk

Author: stones78 from United States
29 March 2012

I would probably have to say this is my favorite episode of this great series, as both Peter Falk and William Shatner have great chemistry together, and it's very obvious from start to finish that they enjoy each other's company and bring out the best in each other. I know that Shatner has basically become a ham of late, and although I'm not sure he planned for this back in 1976, one can easily see how he set the stage for his future career being one, and how many more fans he's acquired over the years. In this instance, he smugly portrays Ward Fowler, a television detective of all things, who murders a woman named Clare Daley, who he used to have an affair with; it turns out that she's blackmailing him by taking half of what he makes for a reason I don't quite recall, but it has to do with silver certificates. There's a few Columbo familiar faces like Timothy Carey, the unimpressive Shera Danese, and John Finnegan; also watch for Alan Manson and Danny Dayton, who I know from All in the Family(Hank Pivnik). For a good laugh, look for a poor imitation of the shark from Jaws, as this episode takes place on a film set. The best moments are the scenes between Columbo and Fowler, who seem enamored with each other, and constantly compliment each other too; watch for a few very funny scenes, especially when Columbo tries on Fowler's hat and platform shoes, and another good scene is when Fowler records Columbo acting silly on a new fangled and very expensive gizmo called a vcr. The ending is a bit of a letdown, compared to the rest of the show, as Columbo finally gets proof to Fowler's guilt, because he forgot to wipe clean a bullet in the gun he used to murder with. It's also slightly odd the way that Fowler acts guilty through most of the episode, as he must've thought Columbo was too fond of being with a celebrity to think of him as a murderer. Although I mentioned a few aspects which I had a problem with, I wouldn't hesitate to call this my favorite Columbo episode, mainly because the chemistry between Falk and Shatner was very real and entertainingly funny.

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