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These two gifted actors were so dynamic together in their previous
team-ups in the early Columbo series, that much was made of this
installment in the second wave of newer Columbo films.
Once again Peter Falk dons the trenchcoat as Lt. Columbo, and Patrick McGoohan ("The Prisoner") this time is a murderous criminal attorney(!). Basically, this one is another great showcase for their talents, with Falk playing dumb, and Pat playing wise. As if no time has passed since the last episode they worked together, there are jabs, barbs, playfulness, intensity and tension. Columbo gets his man as he always does, but in the simplest way possible, that even McGoohan doesn't believe it.
This episode isn't as clever as the first two, but it is still very good. If you're someone who likes TV, a good mystery, and good acting, then flip on to this movie whenever you spot it. It's not a waste of time.
The effervescent Patrick McGoohan plays a Columbo murderer for the
third time (and does a directorial turn to boot), as he depicts the
hitherto untouchable lawyer, Oscar Finch, whose past comes back to
haunt him in the form a notorious racketeer, Frank Staplin, who
threatens to expose a 21 year old scandal in which Finch bribed the
District Attorney at the time, Paul Mackey (who is now running for Vice
President) to discard vital evidence that would have had severe
consequences for Staplin.
McGoohan's performance deservedly won him an Emmy - McGoohan encapsulates the "charm" of a Columbo villain effortlessly with a crisp, precise and purposeful portrayal, tinged with a mild eccentricity, ensuring that his scenes with Falk have a razor-sharp entertainment value.
The script-writer, Jeffrey Bloom, also ensures that the vital commodity of humour is inserted at several well-timed moments in this TV movie, and like the 1973 episode from the original Columbo series "Candiadate for Crime", Columbo's intrusions with key personnel become increasingly antagonising as the presidential campaign reaches it's climax.
Satisfying as a whole, the episode is really only guilty of losing some its initial zest and pace around its mid-section when some of the investigation becomes a little drawn-out as the discussion of the clues becomes deliberately selective and individualised.
The resolution is totally unexpected and it astounds the murderer and viewer in equal measure: a devilishly clever element to a largely solid, well-made adventure for Columbo, which is probably one of the most polished stories of Columbo's latter-day movies.
Patrick McGoohan plays Oscar Finch, a brilliant attorney who has murdered a man who has been blackmailing him. He makes a good attempt to make it look like a suicide. However, Lieutenant Columbo is on the case and he soon begins to suspect foul play. McGoohan is arguably the best Columbo villain, having made four appearances. This is his third outing. He and Peter Falk play a game of cat and mouse which is great entertainment.
This is one of the best Columbos. The reason for this is the cat
and mouse games Columbo and the bad guy, Patrick McGoohan
(who won an Emmy for this one, I believe), use against each other.
Also the way Columbo catches him is really funny. I always enjoy
Columbo but I enjoy it even more when McGoohan shows up. (For
those of you who don't know McGoohan watch the old British tv
show "The Prisoner" or more recently watch him as Edward I in
McGoohan makes the man he murders looks like he committed suicide. No one knew that McGoohan was showing up excpet for the man he murders. Lt. Columbo is still able to figure out that he did it. To give away more would be wrong, so I won't do that.
The dialogue between Columbo and McGoohan is some of the most entertaining out of all the Columbos that I've seen. McGoohan really thinks he is going to get away with it but he's up against Columbo and we know how that will work out.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In the later group of Columbo episodes several previous villains were
able to return for new confrontations with Peter Falk. William Shatner
and Robert Culp (actually in a comic bit) were two of the returnees,
but Patrick McGoohan made two return visits. The first was this one.
McGoohan is a leading criminal trial lawyer, who has been managing the career of a former assistant District Attorney (Denis Arndt) who is now a popular young Congressman. McGoohan is approached by a Governor (Arthur Hill) who is the party's leading contender for the Presidency - he wants Arndt as his Vice President. McGoohan is quite happy at this prospect - not only his protégée as Veep but he would possibly hold a cabinet post. But he gets a call from Louis Zorich, a mobster who is facing prison. Zorich knows a dirty secret about McGoohan (his former attorney) and Arndt regarding destroying vital evidence against Zorich twenty years before. Zorich wants McGoohan to help quash the criminal case against him now.
McGoohan has no intention of ruining his chances or Arndt's. Instead he kills Zorich, but sets things up to make it look like a suicide after a conference ended hours earlier. Of course, when Colombo shows up he notes the interesting modern tech telephone system that Zorich has, and that it records the last phone number he dialed - and this is where he starts zeroing in on McGoohan.
With the earlier episode co-starring Jackie Cooper Falk's detective twice gets involved with political campaigners who don't deserve their chance at office. But the unraveling of the two cases are different, and the duel of wits by McGoohan with Falk was far more compatible and even(Cooper seemed too surprised in his battle of wits at times). This episode is interesting too because it is one of the few episodes that refers to an actual criminal case: here the conviction of Ted Bundy. Definitely one of the better later episodes.
At face value, "Agenda for Murder" seems pretty average: the typical
Columbo-esque villain is a businessman who commits a simple murder to keep
some professional skeletons in the closet. The crime is simply executed,
without the usual bells and whistles of a complicated alibi or
Patrick McGoohan, however, is brilliant. In "Braveheart" he chewed the scenery as the evil King. In this Columbo episode, he's a high-priced attorney vying for the position of U.S. Attorney General. He's efficient, wealthy, pompous ("If you can answer that question, Lieutenant, you're a smarter man than I"), intelligent, and underestimates Columbo by a long shot. McGoohan played different shades of the same role in other Columbo outings (a domineering commander of a military school, a secret government agent, and a suave funeral director), but he's at his best here.
Peter Falk as the Lieutenant is also top form - watch the scenes between Falk and McGoohan closely and you'll see how Columbo slowly manipulates Oscar Finch from a self-confident businessman into a man who is inwardly afraid of his own shadow but must keep his stern outward demeanor. As was mentioned in other reviews, their game of cat and mouse is a delight to watch, rivaled only by Falk's performances with William Shatner in "Fade in to Murder" and "Butterfly in Shades of Grey."
The episode is abound with clues that will make the viewer slap his head and exclaim "Why didn't I think of that?" Particularly clever are the faxed jokes and the drop of blood. I do think, however, that Finch was far too clever to mess up and leave behind the final clue that proved his guilt - he was, after all, a criminal attorney!
This episode is a must for new Columbo fans (after "Caution: Murder Can Be Hazardous to Your Health") and, should a distribution company ever decide to release the newer episodes on DVD, "Agenda for Murder" should be on the top of the list.
The main difference between the early Columbo's and the later ones from the late eighties and 90's were I felt the later episodes lacked the star power of the shows from the 70's. But in 1990 long time actor and director Patrick Mcgoohan returns to play the villain for the third time in Agenda for Murder. This episode was just brilliant and to see Falk and Mcgoohan playing cat and mouse 16 years after their first stint in " By dawns early Light " was just breathtaking. The line of the show is when Columbo parks in Mcgoohans parking stall and Mcgoohan states sarcastically to his secretary " What is that oxidized relic doing in my parking spot ". My God that was great and this show will keep you on the edge until the very end. It's the best the later episodes have to offer so seek it out.
Columbo I have always loved, and Agenda for Murder is a perfect showcase as to why. Although it is one of the later episodes, it is an episode that while not quite one of my favourites is just as good as the episodes of the 70s. Columbo has always been well made, and with the striking photography and slick editing, Agenda for Murder is no exception. The dialogue is very crisp and clever, adding so much to the playful and tense tone of the episode, oh and the flasher gag and bird puns are a hoot, and the story never has a dull moment and advantaged further by a totally unexpected ending that even shocks Finch as well as the audience. Peter Falk is wonderful as he consistently is, and Patrick McGoohan deservedly won an Emmy for his very pompous, stern yet very intelligent performance here. The scenes between him and Falk are a joy to behold, some of the most inspired rapport of any Columbo episode in my opinion. All in all, a fine entry to the series and just as good as the episodes of the 70s. 10/10 Bethany Cox
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I can't really add to what everyone else has said, this is a superb
"Columbo", and Patrick McGoohan probably the best Columbo villain of
all time, in each of his roles. The character Oscar Finch is worthy of
his own movie. One of the few Columbo villains who really get you
thinking about their life and how they arrived at their position of
power and influence, in this case in the murky world of politics. His
character is slick, ruthless, confident, meticulously self-controlled,
but not without a slightly offbeat sense of humour.
The joke scene is my favourite! The way Columbo and Finch fall about laughing and Columbo struggles to ask, amid all the hilarity, why a supposedly suicidal man would fax someone this joke a few minutes before blowing his brains out. I liked the bird puns as well between Columbo and the delivery driver.
The Vice-President is a brilliant role, very well acted with just the right balance of slightly smarmy, but basically likable, smooth-talking. He has much more conscience than Oscar Finch, but under pressure acquiesces to provide a bogus alibi for Finch. In a subtle twist, the murderer in this episode isn't the one who feels most uneasy in the presence of Columbo. Whereas Finch perversely enjoys his visits from the entertaining little Lieutenant, out of a misplaced sense of his own superiority, the VP shudders every time he catches a glimpse of that shabby shuffling man in the raincoat. Especially if the press are in the vicinity with cameras.
The evidence that provides Finch's downfall is fiendishly spotted by Columbo. You will never guess! This episode even surpasses "Death Hits The Jackpot".
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A brilliant Spin-doctor has got his protégé on the Presidential ticket.
However, as he breasts this career peak, a cruel blow sends him
crashing, careering, downwards. He is threatened by an old corruption
scandal and seeks to resolve it by a perfect murder. In an opening
reminiscent of a carefully crafted 'Danger Man' sequence, McGoohan has
Oscar performing a bewildering sequence of mysterious actions, using
tin foil and gunpowder. The trap is set. Making one final, failed
attempt to dissuade his criminal nemesis, Oscar is compelled to carry
out the wicked deed.
At last Peter Falk shuffles onto the scene. A tiny drop of blood is found dried on the floor, beneath the fallen pistol. Columbo has found the loose thread and Oscar's scheme unravels.
The duel between the pair has it's inevitable conclusion because Right must overwhelm Wrong in the world of Columbo. However the meandering plot is anything but predictable as it wends its way to the final denouement. The sequence involving the fax machine and Falk's perplexed wonder at it's workings is superb and had me laughing out loud at one point. The fact that fax machines were not exactly new in 1990 makes it even funnier that Columbo should be so flummoxed by them! McGoohan is at his calculating best as the debonair Oscar, a man, not evil, but driven to great evil by his own ambition: a lesson for us all.
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