Columbo this time tries to tackle a murderer who has one of the highest IQs in the world. The victim is a business partner who threatened to expose the killer for stealing money from his clients. The murderer uses all his intelligence to plan the perfect murder. Written by
Maarten Hofman <email@example.com>
The portrait of Mrs. Melville, the fictional detective of the Franklin and Ferris mystery novels, prominently featured in Columbo: Murder by the Book (1971), makes a cameo appearance on the back wall of the meeting room at the Sigma Society club. See more »
The character in the suede coat originally starts with a straight-stem briar pipe, then right before the supposed gun shots, he is smoking a bent-stem meerschaum pipe. See more »
Here I've been talking with the most intelligent people in the world, and I never even noticed.
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Wonderfully delivered Columbo case that is highly entertaining
Bertie Hastings and Oliver Brandt are business partners; they are also both members of a selective group made up of a handful of people whose IQ's fall within the top 2% of the world. However Oliver has been stealing money from clients and Bertie has found out, meaning Oliver must kill him to keep it quiet. With the clever thought of genius, Oliver constructs the perfect crime, providing himself a watertight alibi and he has no doubt that anyone would ever suspect him, far less catch him certainly not the poor bumbling detective that has been assigned to the case. Detective Columbo however, has been underestimated before.
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 start 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. Here we have the usual perfect crime and all the formula is followed but what makes the film so much fun is the little things that add to the formula. The main thing is the comedy, for this is a Columbo film that is more jovial than some of the other films that go for a tense edge. The comic tone starts wit the characters and continues all the way thanks to their constant input; I found this to make the film feel very fresh and light perfect for the mood I was in at the time.
The collection of characters mean that the film has more support than the lead two, but even just looking at them the film is very strong. Part of the reason is the writing but a big part is the acting. Falk can do Columbo in his sleep but here he has got his humility down pat and to see him afraid of telling these genius's that he has already thought of (and dismissed) their ideas is a wonder. He plays very well opposite Bikel and the two share a very interesting moment near the end where we learn a little more about them. Aside from looking like UK comic Jethro, Bikel is great. He is funny but his performance is well pitched throughout witness his nerves give way to increasing arrogance when the evidence-containing trash can is removed; this makes his self-betrayal later so much more convincing and so much more satisfying. Support is good from the various boffins in support and Booke is a very funny victim.
Overall, those who hate Columbo (no, I don't know who they are either) will continue to dislike this film but for the rest of us it is a very entertaining film on so many levels. The formula is in place but it contains so much more than just that with nice character touches, good performances and a very satisfying script. Falk and Biekl are a joy and it is films like this one that mean I will always watch Columbo when he is on.
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