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)  »

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Technical Specs

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Rosebud, the sled made for Orson Welles's classic 1941 film ''Citizen Kane,'' was one of three balsa versions made for the final scene of the movie. It happens to be the only one that survived the filming; the other two were burned in filming a scene in which a workman tosses the sled into a furnace. See more »


Right after the murder, we see the caged van that will take away the dogs to the lockup until their fate is decided by the judge. Before being locked up, the two Dobermans, that less than an hour earlier devoured a man for seemingly no reason, are allowed to jump all over Columbo as he arrives, with no leash or guard in sight. See more »


Miss Cochran - the dog trainer: If you wanna protect your wife, Lieutenant, why don't you just teach her karate? Good-bye.
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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

My favourite Columbo episode
7 June 2009 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Many who look at my reviews would probably know from my IMDb reviews that I am a huge Bollywood fan and also a fan of the James Bond movies but one thing people wouldn't know about me is that I am a huge fan of Columbo. This is the first time I am reviewing a individual episode rather than an entire series. Ever since I was a young child I loved the fact that this is unlike most mystery shows of it's kind because it reveals the murderer within the first half hour and the rest of it is about how the murderer gets caught. Another thing that separates Columbo from other mystery shows is that the detective(Peter Falk) is sometimes shown as a bit of a buffoon at times.

How to dial a murder is easily my favourite Columbo episode. In this episode a man(Nicol Williamson)seeks revenge on a friend for having an affair with his wife. He achieves that by training his dogs to attack whenever he says the word "Rosebud". To ensure that he doesn't become a suspect himself he makes sure he is not in the house when the murder takes place. While he is out he phones his friend who is at his house and asks him to say "Rosebud" and he gets mauled and killed by the dogs. Naturally Columbo is investigates the matter and he is caught at the end.

There are some references to Hollywood in this Columbo episode. The word Rosebud as most film buffs was featured in Citizen Kane. The two dogs are called Stan and Laurel after the famous comedians. The title of the episode I find it quite similar to the Alfred Hitchcock classic Dial M for Murder. As an episode it follows the usual Columbo route, the killer thinks he has committed the perfect murder only to slip up on the most minor of details and how Columbo at first starts to befriend the killer before finally exposing them.

What sets this episode apart from other episodes is that when the killer is finally exposed the killers decide to hand themselves whilst in this episode Nicol Williamson sets his dogs on Columbo by saying Rosebud only to find out the dogs have been detrained and instead of attacking him they start to lick him. Despite the familiarity I find Columbo episodes so remarkably fun to watch and are a damn sight better than mystery shows of today.

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