Columbo (1971–2003)
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The Conspirators 

An IRA terrorist executes an arms dealer he considers traitorous; Lt. Columbo is on the case.



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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Joe Devlin
Kate O'Connell
George O'Connell
Kerry Malone
Albert Paulsen ...
Vincent Pauley
Gun Dealer
Deborah White ...
Captain (as Seán McClory)
Michael Prince ...
Michael Moore
Donn Whyte ...
Tow Truck Driver
Carole Hemingway ...
Herself (as Carole Hemmingway)
Tony Giorgio ...
John McCann ...


Devlin is an Irishman. In his youth he was a terrorist but now he is a famous writer and, officially, a supporter of an American society proposing to help the victims of terrorism. Actually he is buying from Pauley weapons for the terrorists. Devlin kills him because he thinks he has been betrayed. Lt. Columbo is responsible for the inquiry and becomes friendly with Devlin, but it is very dangerous to be familiar with Lt. Columbo when you are a murderer. Written by Baldinotto da Pistoia / corrected by statmanjeff

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Release Date:

13 May 1978 (USA)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


In this episode and in many others, Columbo can be heard whistling "This Old Man." It appears it is a leitmotif for the series. See more »


When at the hotel room, Columbo's cigar disappears from his hand while he takes out the sliding drawers from the suitcase that contain the guns. After he places the drawer back into the suitcase his cigar magically reappears in his left hand. See more »


Joe Devlin: A famous Irish philosopher named Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel once wrote that the essence of tragedy isn't the conflicts between right and wrong - it's the conflicts of right and right.
See more »


References San Francisco (1936) See more »


The Moonshiner
Traditional American/irish folk song
Sung by Clive Revill
See more »

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User Reviews

An excellent and rather daring entry in the series
25 September 2005 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Joe Devlin is an Irish poet living in the US. To help the orphans and widows back in Belfast he does shows for wealthy American Irish to raise cash to send home. However, little do his audiences know that every penny is going to buy guns for the IRA to help produce more of those orphans and widows. With a big deal coming up with one Mr Pauly, Devlin is looking to buy 300 machine guns to be loaded onto a ship on the 15th of the month. However when Mr Pauly appears to be cheating Devlin both men draw guns – with Pauly coming off the loser. A signed copy of Devlin's book leads Columbo to him, who then enlists his help in solving a puzzling murder.

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 starts 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. With this strict adherence to formula it is usually down to several factors whether or not the Columbo film stands out or if it is just average. With this film I was surprised to find the series touching on Northern Ireland politics. I was even more surprised by how well it managed to do it and how brave it was in its approach. With many IRA American films judgement on the IRA is deflected but here it is clear not only that the "orphans'" money is going to buy guns but also that Sinn Fein are involved in it. This made it stand out in my mind from the rest of the series and has managed to make it seem fresh and edgy even 30 years later.

The investigation is good and the clues and paths followed are convincing and engaging. However, as always, what makes the film work even better is the performances. Falk is excellent as Columbo – even better than normal. From his entry in this film he plays the game really well and has excellent presence, mixing downplaying his intelligence while also firing warning shots. Revill occasionally is a bit hammy (his one-man shows for example) and his accent isn't great but mostly he is spot on and he has good chemistry with Falk, making the cat'n'mouse games work well throughout. Support is mixed (although LQ Jones was a nice find) but really it doesn't matter because the lead two are where it is at.

Overall this is an excellent Columbo film that defied my fears that the NI conflict would be badly used and ruin the film. The issue of American funds being used for terrorism is a brave one to put out there (even today many films have avoided it for fear of upsetting Irish Americans who don't like to see the IRA as murderers), the plot itself is strong and, despite occasionally being a bit hammy, Revill works well with Falk to produce the goods individually and also in a well-written cat n' mouse affair. Well worth seeing for many reasons.

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