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This was the recycling of an old Macmillan episode that starred
Stefanie Powers - notice I said Macmillan and not Macmillan and Wife.
It was after Susan St. James left. That's the only reason I was
disappointed in this episode - I'd seen it! It was "Affair of the
Heart" on Macmillan. Strangely, Peter Falk himself did not realize that
this episode had been previously done until I told him during an
interview and sent him the Macmillan tape. Apparently, it was written
by Steven Bochco, who also wrote for Columbo, and it was used again.
I enjoyed the Columbo episode more. The package was somewhat classier, including James Read, Paul Burke, and Jo Anderson. It also included a fun poker game that included Nancy Walker and Dick Sargent.
Dentist Wesley Corman works for his father-in-law's firm and has wasted
a small fortune of his in-law's money on business ventures and bad
gambling. However his luck has run out his wife is cheating on him
and is planning a divorce while his father-in-law is planning to call
in all Wesley's debts. Desperate for a way out he calls in his patient
(and his wife's lover) Adam Evans and sets something inside his crown.
Later that night, while he is at a poker game, the poison in the crown
breaks out and kills him in the arms of Lydia Corman. Wesley comes to
the rescue, taking the body out on the road and making it look like an
accident naturally his in-laws appreciate his discretion to protect
his wife and all is forgiven. However Columbo gets assigned the case
and a grain of salt, an empty stomach and some blue blotches are all it
takes to lead him back to the Cormans with a lot of questions.
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 simple enough for the series to do the business although I have had my fingers burnt with some of the "new" Columbo's. With a solid pun of a title and a world that Columbo is a stranger to (dentistry) things looked OK but it is a foundation that the story can't build on that well. The plot steps away from the classic cat'n'mouse game, retaining only an element of that if favour of more of a general investigation. This works better than I suspected but the unlikely plot undermines it a bit just because a lot of it doesn't ring true Corman's office being empty of staff, his in-laws doing a 180 so easily, the crown idea working as well as it is; all these are things that take a leap of faith that sometimes the material can't make.
The cast are mixed. Falk is on pretty good form, not quite his best but he doesn't look as old as other "new" films and he comes across as a bit sharper. Read is a bit bland and doesn't quite match up to Columbo, so it is perhaps in his favour that the film only turns to cat and mouse in the final third. The support cast is so-so, some nice characters like Columbo's dentist and Gilborn's George but the family is not that great. There are some "star" cameos from people like Walker and Sargent as themselves at a poker game I didn't care about them so much as I was annoyed by the guy doing impressions at the game, he is just the sort of w*nker that you wouldn't want at a game! The game itself though provides a nice touch where it is contrasted and intercut with Mrs Corman panicking.
Overall a solid Columbo despite the problems with the plot. The cast aren't anything special but the story moves along well and Falk in on good form. Not up to the standard of the original series' then but it stands up for itself with the lesser "new" episodes.
A substantially plotted and scripted 1990 Columbo episode penned by
prolific writer Steven Bochco, which sees a debt-ridden, gambling
dentist murder his wife's lover, by putting an overdose of a heart
condition drug in the crown he puts in for him and then frames his
wife, who is filing for divorce and also possesses a tragic marital
The murder set-up is fine, the story holds together very well, but it isn't particularly well-paced despite the deft development of clues which shift the focus of the investigation from the murderer's wife to murderer. Moreover, the story deserves more gritty and assured performances than we evidence, particularly from James Read as the murderer, who, for me, shamefully underacts in his relatively juicy role. Consequently, his scenes with Columbo, which should have possessed a mesmerising ferocity, instead only generate mild entertainment, which unfortunately deflects from the proficient elements of the storyline (just think what Jack Cassidy or Robert Culp could have done with the material!).
Very passable stuff for a new Columbo series that was trying feverishly to get somewhere near the quality of the original series, and in terms of storyline they get very close here. Sadly, the performances from the supporting cast don't really get the best out of the material.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The idea of having a dentist poisoning a patient, who has an affair
with his wife and then guessing that the person he would die the moment
he is lying in bed with his wife is of course far fetched. On top of
that he guesses that his wife would give the victim a margarita, so
that he is given the full opportunity to let the murder look as if his
wife committed it. He then also guesses after dumping the body that the
police will track down his wife as the person the victim spend his last
night with. The movie its plot is hanging together from its
coincidences and it just doesn't make this the most likely Columbo
movie to watch.
Otherwise it's a rather fine and enjoyable Columbo movie, that follows the usual formula. It has some nice relieving humor in it and despite its unlikely main plot this, this movie really isn't among the worst Columbo movies, from the long running popular and successful series starring Peter Falk.
The movie is being told in a good and pleasantly fast pace. It's a quite long Columbo movie with its 90 minutes of running time but yet the movie doesn't feel overlong or anything like that. The movie moves along fine and it doesn't drag.
James Read isn't really a great actor but yet he also isn't among the worst Columbo 'villains'. His character is still strong and interesting enough for the movie.
I liked watching it, despite all of its weaknesses.
This is one of the better second generation Columbos. The murder is ingenious and the murderer is more intelligent than many others in the later Colombos. He doesn't make any careless mistakes and if not for his arrogance in thinking he couldn't be caught, probably would have gotten away with it. James Read plays a charming and sophisticated villain. It's a pleasure to watch him spar with Colombo and to see his mounting irritation as Columbo keeps turning up as the proverbial bad penny ("uh, just one more thing, sir..."). The cameos by the murderer's poker buddies are a nice treat. Columbo's solution is equally fun and ingenious.
All in all, this was an enjoyable and clever episode. The villain is good looking but rather bland. His interaction with Columbo is nothing exciting. But where the episode excels is in Columbo's sleuthing. This episode reminds me a lot more of the vintage episodes. It follows the classic formula, no cheesy music and straight forward story telling. The newer movies only veer off when they try to be too cute or trendy. That's usually where the bad music comes in. My only complaint here is my usual gripe : choice of villain. They could have really used a more dynamic actor. The vintage episode usually had the best guest stars. The newer movies, with a couple of exceptions, used lesser known (and lesser talented, IMO) actors. Best moment : the tricky ending and Columbo's stained laundry.
Uneasy Lies the Crown is certainly not a bad episode, in fact I thought it was quite good, just not great like a lot of Columbo episodes. It is a little far-fetched and implausible in the plot at first, luckily the clues are deft and the tone of the episode becomes grittier and diverting by the final act. James Read certainly looks the part, tall, handsome and sophisticated, and he works very well with Falk in their sparring, however there were other times in this episode especially at the start where his performance felt underplayed and bland. There are some bright spots in the supporting cast, but the general standard was inconsistent ranging from inconsistent to bland and annoying. Uneasy Lies the Crown is still a well made episode with a strong score, often clever writing like in the cat-and-mouse scenes between Falk and Read and Peter Falk is just wonderful as always as Columbo, though I do think he has given better performances in the series. Overall, decent if lacking the extra something that the best episodes of the series had. 7/10 Bethany Cox
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Written by Steven Bochco, maybe partly because of that, this episode is
pretty good for the later series of "Columbo." The title paraphrases
Shakespeare from Henry IV: Part Two. The plot lacks the outrageous but
understated humor that we sometimes find in earlier Columbos, but it
does have a few smiles -- mostly involving the rumpled lieutenant's
battle with blue laundry dye. And it's not only a joke; it figures in
the resolution of the plot.
The villain here is James Read. It's hard to gauge his talent because he fits the part so well -- tall, handsome in an undistinguished way, looking trustworthy. He was good in a similar part in "Eight Men Out." He certainly gets the job done here, as a wealthy but miscreant dentist who murders his wife's boyfriend in an ingenious way and frames her for the deed. Jo Anderson, who may or may not have ripped off the name from Bobby Burns, is fine as the fragile, pale, unfaithful wife -- not quite debilitated enough by a heart condition to keep her from being an active sexual receptacle. (The story is a little racier than most.) Several recognizable faces occupy the background -- Paul Burke, and a handful of stars or ex-stars from the Universal TV stable.
James Read is so much fun as the dentist-killer in this ingenious episode that I've watched it four times. It is fun to watch the late sitcom stars, Nancy Walker and Dick Sargent, play themselves as two of Read's poker-playing buddies. And, Columbo is in great form. This one gets an "A" from me.
This plot creates one of the more ingenious murders for Columbo to solve. However, he's still in form, with the notebook and the usual questions "just before I leave". A pity we don't see the results of his betting.
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