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

Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


One of the many movie posters on display in Dr. Mason's house is for the 1940s thriller, "The Suspect", starring Charles Laughton. This is significant, as the structure of "The Suspect" prefigures the formula for "Columbo", presenting us, not only with a killer whose identity is known from the outset, but also a seemingly mild-mannered and polite police detective who befriends the killer and knowingly uses him, rather than a police colleague, as a sounding-board for his various theories about the crime. It is the close relationship between killer and detective thus formed that leads to the resolution of the story. It is not known if William Link and Richard Levinson, creators of "Columbo", ever saw this film, but it was made by Universal, like "Columbo". See more »


At 18:54 when Columbo says "The kitchen phone," his cigar changes from being held between two fingers to being held by the tips of his thumb and second finger with his index finger extended. See more »


Lt. Columbo: Well, I guess, most people, they like to hear about their personalities, I mean, especially from an expert. Lord knows *I* do. I could sit and listen to someone talk about me for hours.
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References Flesh and Fantasy (1943) See more »


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

Columbo learns about movies
9 April 2005 | by (Odense, Denmark) – See all my reviews

A very good, and above average, Columbo episode. This is caused by that it makes small variations from the classic scheme. The motive of the murder isn't present at the beginning, which is something, that really improves the movie. Columbo is playing up against Dr. Eric Mason (nicely played by Nicol Williamson), who doesn't loose his temper as much as the characters that Columbo previously met.

The third main character, Joanne Nicholls, should have a special mention, since she is not only played extremely well - by Kim Cattrall, later of "Sex And The City" fame (however her role in this movie is the complete opposite, a true romantic who has her teddy bear as her true companion) - but also that her unbalanced character adds well to the movie plot.

And ad with that, some great incidental music, good directing spots (particularly in a wordless sequence with Columbo and the dog trainer), a generally good script(rarely have I laughed so much in a Columbo movie, and the many references to old movies - particularly Citizen Kane

  • and psychology are well-put and well used), and that Peter Falk seems

in top shape makes it a great movie, and a Columbo classic.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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