Columbo: Season 8, Episode 2

Murder, Smoke and Shadows (27 Feb. 1989)

TV Episode  |   |  Crime, Drama, Mystery
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Ratings: 7.4/10 from 854 users  
Reviews: 16 user | 4 critic

An egocentric wunderkind director murders a childhood friend who threatens to expose his negligent complicity in the death of his sister years earlier.



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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Alex Bradey
Ruth 'Ruthie' Jernigan
Rose Walker
Leonard Fisher
Mr. Marosco
Jerome Guardino ...
Elizabeth Ruscio ...
Phil Crossette
Gayle Harbor ...
Avner Garbi ...
Meg James ...
Tour Guide


This time Columbo pits his wits against a movie director who murders an old friend on a set, because this friend is in possession of a damaging piece of film, on which the actress died and isn't helped by the movie director. Written by Maarten Hofman <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


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Release Date:

27 February 1989 (USA)  »

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Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


When Columbo tells him the victim is his friend Lenny, Alex puts his glasses up to his forehead. He later moves the glasses back on his nose, but in the next shot from behind the glasses are still on his forehead. See more »


Alex Bradey: Coincidence is what makes a story, Lieutenant. Without coincidence, life runs evenly like a train on a track. Coincidence is a trainwreck, violence, suffering, and guilt.
See more »


References Slightly Scandalous (1946) See more »

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User Reviews

One of the stronger "new" Columbo films despite not being up to the high standards of the original
11 October 2005 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Alex Bradey is a successful young director having gone from young auteur to studio daringly in a few short pictures. He has retained his sense of fun and childlike pleasure in cinema but all this seems threatened by the reappearance of old friend Leonard Fisher. Fisher has uncovered film that shows that Leonard's sister died during a stunt gone wrong for Alex and not on an accident on the way to the set as Alex had claimed. He plans to expose Alex but the director cannot allow this to happen and kills his friend – dumping the body on the beach with the face and fingerprints removed. A book on Bradey's films dropped near the scene leads Columbo to his door though, looking to solve the strange connections that are bugging him.

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. Knowing this ahead of time won't ruin anything for you; 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. Having had my fingers burnt with my first "new" Columbo, I wasn't sure if I should bother going back or should just rewatch the original series from the seventies, but I thought that the formula can't be that hard to pull off and figured that it was worth another pass. With this film I was pleased to find that it went back to basics by having a simple cat/mouse game with Columbo learning stuff in a new world. The connection to Alex is a bit of a stretch at first but the film copes with it well and manages to smoothly move into the formula.

The mystery is not that impressive but the delivery is good nonetheless. The characters are pretty good and the lead two work well together. Falk isn't as good as he was in the 1970's but he is better here than the other new episodes I have seen recently. He doesn't do the comedy as well as he can but he plays well enough with the mystery to make it work. Stevens is nowhere near the class of the 1970's guests but he is pretty enjoyable in a reasonable reference to Spielberg. He isn't that strong but he works well with Falk. The support cast are OK but nothing more than that, so the film wisely leaves them mostly in the background and focuses on the lead two.

Not a great Columbo film then and certainly not up to the standard of the original series' but it is one of the better "new" films. The focus on formula plays to the strength of the series and limits the amount of misjudged clutter that it has. Fans will like it – new viewers should skip back about 15 years to find out what all the fuss was about.

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