Columbo: Season 7, Episode 4

How to Dial a Murder (5 Apr. 1978)

TV Episode  |   |  Crime, Drama, Mystery
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Ratings: 7.7/10 from 958 users  
Reviews: 17 user | 4 critic

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



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Title: How to Dial a Murder (05 Apr 1978)

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Episode complete credited cast:
Dr. Eric Mason
Joanne Nicholls
Joel Fabiani ...
Dr. Charles Hunter
Dr. Ernie Garrison
Tricia O'Neil ...
Mrs. Cochran - the dog trainer
Officer Stein
Fred J. Gordon ...


Dr. Eric Mason is a self-controlled man and he teaches how to get control over one's own life. His wife died suddenly because of an inexplicable accident and his best friend is Dr. Garrison, or so it seems. Eric has two dogs and his two Doberman pinschers will be his arms to kill Dr. Garrison. But Lt. Columbo love dogs... Written by Baldinotto da Pistoia

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


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Release Date:

5 April 1978 (USA)  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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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 »


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. But 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 site. See more »


Lt. Columbo: Who knows what goes on in the head of a dog?
See more »


References The Fugitive (1947) 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!


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

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