Columbo: Season 9, Episode 1

Murder, a Self Portrait (25 Nov. 1989)

TV Episode  |   |  Crime, Drama, Mystery
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Ratings: 7.1/10 from 802 users  
Reviews: 13 user | 5 critic

Columbo investigates the apparent drowning of a famous painters first wife.



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Episode complete credited cast:
Max Barsini
Vanessa Barsini
Isabel García Lorca ...
Julie (as Isabel Lorca)
Dr. Sydney Hammer
David Byrd ...
Don Bovingloh ...
Lenny Hicks ...
Morgue Attendant
Danny Hassel ...
Roger Etienne ...
Night Visitor
Officer (as Frank L. Wiltse)
Harold Harris ...
Harry Chudnow
Don Schneider ...
Bystander at Beach


Max Barsini is an artist who has a most unusual living arrangement with three women. He is married to Vanessa, and Julie is his live in model. Louise is his first wife who lives next door. Max takes delight in the way they fight for his attention, but also likes to control them. So when Louise starts seeing a psychologist, Max not only fears that she will break away but also that she will reveal a secret that Max will kill to keep hidden and he does. He makes it appear that she drowned but Columbo knows something is wrong. Written by <>

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Release Date:

25 November 1989 (USA)  »

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Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


One of the few episodes where we see Columbo before we see the murder or murderer. See more »


At 1:02:18, Columbo lifts Dog up at a railing to look at the ocean. The camera switches to face the dog, and Columbo sets Dog on something, and Dog stands there with his paws over the rail. But there is nothing to stand on. Columbo lifts the dog down, with the camera from behind, and again there's no platform where the dog could have stood. See more »


Lt. Columbo: You would never tell.
Vanessa Barsini: Wild horses couldn't get it out of me.
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User Reviews

An OK Columbo film but not one of the better ones
2 April 2006 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Some say he is a contrary sort but painter Max Barsini is certainly a bit of a character. He lives with his current wife and his model under one roof, while his ex-wife lives next door. It is a complicated situation that seems to work quite easily – until that is, Max's ex starts seeing her psychologist and potentially revealing a secret from his past. To ensure that this does not happen, Max kills her and makes it look like a swimming accident. However for Columbo it doesn't quite add up and he starts asking just one more question to get to the bottom of the mystery.

The Columbo films are enjoyable to those that enjoy them mainly because they just follow the same reliable formula. With the new Columbo films some have tried to vary this with differing degrees of success. Here we have a fairly straight shot at the formula with the usual cat and mouse games, a new world or career for Columbo to be interested in (or feign interest in) and a murder to be solved. At this level the plot does work and fans of the series will find some stuff to enjoy but I didn't think it was one of the better of the series. The dream sequence stuff put me off a little bit and the development of the case left much to be desired – I must confess I wasn't totally engaged in it at any point. That said I did find it distracting and it had enough moments that were typically Columbo to suffice.

The cast are reasonably good. Falk is as enjoyable as ever and he works well with the material. Bauchau is not as good as the series usually demands but he is still a fun presence. Support is not as good from Flanagan, Danese and Lorca but generally they are good enough to do the job. The chemistry between the lead two is pretty good and I would have quite liked to see them served with better material.

Overall this is an OK Columbo film that will please fans of the series but seems unlikely to be good enough to win over new ones. The acting from the lead two is good enough to do the job even if the material is not quite as consistently engaging as at times it is. Worth a look for the formula but there are better Columbo films.

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