Columbo (1971–2003)
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How to Dial a Murder 

A behavioral psychologist whose wife died under suspicious circumstances trains his dogs to kill on command using a telephone.



(teleplay by), (story by) | 2 more credits »

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Episode complete credited cast:
Dr. Eric Mason
Joanne Nicholls
Dr. Charles Hunter
Dr. Ernie Garrison
Miss Cochran - the dog trainer
Officer Stein
Technician (as Fred J. Gordon)


Dr. Eric Mason is a self-controlled man who teaches how to get control over one's own life. Six months earlier, his wife died suddenly in an inexplicable car accident. Now his best friend, Dr. Charles Hunter, dies when Eric's two Doberman pinschers, Laurel and Hardy, suddenly tear him apart in Eric's kitchen while Eric is away. Lt. Columbo love dogs and needs to figure out what happened before Laurel and Hardy are put down and Dr. Mason gets away with murder. Written by Baldinotto da Pistoia / revised by statmanjeff

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


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Release Date:

5 April 1978 (USA)  »

Filming Locations:

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Technical Specs

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


The word "Rosebud", in reference to the sled in Citizen Kane (1941), is used as an important plot element in the episode. Kim Cattrall, who plays the girl who discovers the murder victim, made her film debut in the movie Rosebud (1975), where a yacht named after the same sled serves as the movie's setting. See more »


Columbo seemingly smokes magical cigars. Between camera cuts, they change length, hands, and adjust themselves by manner in which they're held. At several points (17:09, 17:22, 17:35, 17:53, and 18:00 into the film) it's doubtful but possible that Columbo switches his cigar from one hand to the other while the camera cuts over to Dr. Mason for a moment - unlikely but possible - but the most blatant switch comes at 18:18 as Columbo says "I almost forgot." His right hand, holding his cigar, touches his forehead. In the next shot, his right hand still touches his forehead, but his cigar has jumped to his left hand. See more »


Lt. Columbo: Well, listen, you're only a dog. You're not a college professor.
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References Two-Fisted Law (1932) See more »


This Old Man
Traditional English children's marching song
Whistled by Peter Falk
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User Reviews

1 September 2008 | by (Groningen, The Netherlands) – See all my reviews

I must say I really liked the director approach of the movie from James Frawley. It's the second Columbo movie I've seen so far which got directed by him and it was the second one from him that I loved. He directed a total of 6 Columbo movies throughout his career, of which this one was his third. The directing is done with lots of style, which makes the movie great to watch and provides it with some good pace as well.

The movie actually knows to create a good general thriller atmosphere and style, also not in the least thanks to the musical score from Patrick Williams, who did the score for all of James Frawley's Columbo movies. It's a style which I really loved about this movie and makes it more special to watch than just the average Columbo movie entry.

It has actually a quite far fetched main plot but nevertheless you'll buy it, thanks to the skillful directing and storytelling of it all.

The movie features a 'great' killer, portrayed by Nicol Williamson. He gives away one fine performance and is a worthy opponent for the good old Lieutenant. The movie also features a still very young Kim Cattrall. Funny thing is that she also made her debut in a movie called "Rosebud", the word that plays a key element in this movie, which of course refers to the 1941 Orson Welles classic "Citizen Kane".

The movie has all of the typical great Columbo movie elements in it, including some great relieving humor at points.

Another real fine Columbo movie from James Frawley!


7 of 7 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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