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Reviews & Ratings for
"Columbo" Agenda for Murder (1990)

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10 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Falk and McGoohan, together again.

Author: Spider-Lou from Bristol, CT
26 June 2002

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.

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7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

McGoohan is always a fine Columbo villain

10/10
Author: mr_anton_meyer
13 November 2002

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.

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6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

It restores your faith in the new Columbo movies

8/10
Author: The Welsh Raging Bull (leighton.phillips@sihe.ac.uk) from Port Talbot, South Wales, UK
17 October 2006

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.

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6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Very good Columbo

Author: smitheeallen from United States
7 April 2002

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 "Braveheart.")

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.

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

The Shadier Side of Presidential Politics

8/10
Author: theowinthrop from United States
9 December 2006

*** 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.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Oscar foiled by a single drop of blood

8/10
Author: Moor-Larkin from United Kingdom
13 December 2005

*** 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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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Excellent Columbo Vs Hotshot Political Campaign Manager Murder Mystery

6/10
Author: ShootingShark from Dundee, Scotland
11 December 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Oscar Finch is a celebrated legal prosecutor and political campaign manager for a vice-presidential candidate. Things are looking rosy until a skeleton from his past forces him to commit murder, and subsequently lock wits with the intrepid Lieutenant Columbo.

This is arguably the best of the second-generation Columbo TV-movies. It has a great script by Jeffrey Bloom, with a terrific out-of-left-field plot-twist at the end involving a piece of cheese. It's handsomely produced, well-directed and has a fine cast, including Columbo's old sergeant Kirby. Best of all though, it reteams old adversaries Falk and McGoohan in their similar-but-couldn't-be-more-different personas. One is modest, quiet and affable while the other is imperious, dogmatic and assertive, yet both are the epitome of shrewd, calculating professionalism. The pleasure of the piece comes from watching them intellectually wrestle over the subtlest of plot points; a dry patch under a car, an inconsistent fax message, a dry-cleaning order, the position of some blood. Solid entertainment throughout, and don't miss the flasher gag.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Brilliant Handling of a Typical Murder

Author: shomrig from Austin, TX
27 March 2003

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 execution.

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.

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

McGoohan v Falk pt 3

10/10
Author: columbo_fan
10 February 2003

Patrick McGoohan is in brilliant form as attorney Oscar Finch. The rapport between he and Peter Falk is superb. Finch seems to have all the answers to Columbo's questions, but as with all Columbo villains he gets his comeuppance in the end. This is one of the finest films in the series.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Reminded me of the good old 70's

9/10
Author: nightwatch4773 from Canada
24 February 2013

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.

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