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"Columbo" Strange Bedfellows (1995)

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10 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

The Limits of A Good Cop?

Author: theowinthrop from United States
9 December 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is not the best Columbo episode, nor even my favorite, but it has one moment in it that I will always treasure.

George Wendt has a chance here - finally - to move away from his lovable barfly "Norm" in CHEERS. Here he plays a hard working grasshopper type. He runs a horse farm, and has been grooming and training a potentially great horse. But he's stuck with a ne'er-do-well brother (Jeff Yagher)who is potentially going to wrecked all of Wendt's hopes by his gambling debts. Wendt kills this idiot, but now has to figure out how to avoid going to jail because of it. His brother's debts are owed to Jay Acovone (playing a bookie for the Mob). Wendt lures Acovone to his home to collect the debt, and shoots the bookie "in self defense". The idea is that Yagher was killed by the bookie as a message to Wendt to pay up or else.

Enter Colombo...and Peter Falk is soon beginning to spot all the apparent unnoticed minor details that Wendt overlooked (but which the surface incidents seem to cover pretty well). But Falk realizes he has competition. It seems mobsters have private lives too. Acovone was more than a Mob bookie: he was the close godson of local Mob capo Rod Steiger, and Steiger (who like most capos has a pretty shrewd head on his shoulders) realizes that Acovone had no hand in this crazy "message" murder if he was expecting to be paid.

What happens then is similar to an episode from the first decade of "Colombo" where Hector Elizondo was an Arab diplomat who killed Sal Mineo to hide and advance a conspiracy against his monarch, and Falk and the monarch end up putting Elizondo on the spot in a squeeze play. Here Steiger works with Falk in putting Wendt in a similar squeeze-play.

Falk and Steiger have nice moments together, including a moment of lunch when Falk suddenly realizes they are eating a specialty that he can't eat, but Steiger happens to like. But the best moment comes when Wendt sees his real moment of truth. Confronting Steiger and his army of goons at a small coffee shop, only Falk happens to be there. When Falk (playing his game on Wendt) sees that Steiger means to kill Wendt and anyone else who is "troublesome", he says finally, "My salary is not worth this!", and walks out. We know he's doing it to effectively scare Wendt, but boy is it funny to see his limit finally!

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

I'm surprised by some of the poor reviews. This is one helluva episode and a whale of a ride.

Author: Harry Smart from United States
13 May 2014

A little over the top, and might not fly 100% in reality, but still one of the wildest, funniest and wackiest of all the 69 episodes. Columbo is not the doddering old fool that he portrays in some of the later movies. He is serious, with a tinge of humor throughout. Although he seemingly goes on and on with his stories, in actuality few of his lines are wasted at all. In every line he drops some subtle allusion that is part of his grand design to ensnare his suspect. George Wendt will never be mistaken for a great actor. But he actually is well cast in this particular role - a lying, not too bright criminal, who nonetheless designs a brilliant, extremely complex murder/frame-up plan that only Columbo can figure out. Consequently, he is convinced that he is smarter than he actually is. So naturally he looks down at Columbo and keeps saying unnecessary things w/o realizing that Columbo is setting him up. Rod Steiger, in a brilliant performance as a mafia godfather, is hilarious and delectable (although even someone like me, who can't speak any Italian, can easily detect that his Italian diction is laughable, spoken like a true American of French, Scottish, and German descent might speak it). As for those reviewers who say this film is bad because Columbo is out of character, I respectfully disagree. He often uses questionable means to get the proof of the murderer's guilt, once he is convinced that he surely has the actual murderer. Yeah, it's a little overboard here, but it works because it is done with a sly smile, rather than in a purely serious manner. The final wild roller coaster ride seems finally to have entered the realm of the inconceivable, until the truth is revealed about what just happened and it gives you a big laugh. Hang on!

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Highly Underrated, This Is A Classic Episode

Author: stubbers from Essex
22 February 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

All the elements are in place here, great acting and an interesting story. Columbo's trademark mind games about smoking and mice are especially hilarious. What's great is that he suspects Graham McVeigh from the very beginning and is deliberately toying with him. It's a particularly good combination of comedy and suspense in this episode.

The triple-bluff restaurant scene was excellently planned by Columbo, and as in "It's All In The Game", he will gladly go to great lengths in socialising with people (in this case the Mafia) in order to get his conviction. But it's made clear that Columbo is a "cream soda" kind of guy, so it's not out of character at all, just what he has to do to get enough firm evidence of McVeigh's guilt.

I honestly don't think you can say this is in any way inferior to the original 70s episodes. It's perfect, timeless stuff.

One of the best.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

An Under-appreciated "New" Classic

Author: gerard-21 from United States
8 May 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is one of the best 1989+ Columbos because it relies on that old standby of the 1970s classic era, a great performance by a heralded movie actor, this time Rod Steiger. Columbo's interactions with the mob chieftain and his utilizing him to get a confession out of the murderer are nothing short of fantastic.

Additionally, the double murder plot is very reminiscent of the Columbo halcyon days gone by. I mean, couldn't you just picture Jack Cassidy in the George Wendt role? And while many of the 1990s era episodes involved slip ups in the use or proof in the form of the technology of the time, there is none of that here. Wendt's mistakes are small and not definitive; as in the good old days, they are just enough to make Columbo suspicious and he then has to rely on his guile and wits to get the murderer to incriminate himself; in this case revealing where the most crucial piece of evidence is hidden.

And reviewers who claim that it is out of character for Columbo to use less than honest methods to trap his prey must not be familiar with a few of the very best Columbo episodes like Death Lends a Hand and Negative Reaction. Basically, once his instincts convince him who the killer is, he would do just about anything to see the case through. In fact, Columbo admits to pretty much exactly that in the 1989's Columbo Goes to College.

All and all, an extremely entertaining later entry in the series which hearkens back to the golden years.

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4 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Strange to say the least

Author: TheLittleSongbird from United Kingdom
9 April 2012

Strange Bedfellows was one of those episodes that I wasn't sure what to make of at first. After further viewings, I think there are both good and bad things and that it is neither among the best or worst of the series. That said, if I were to rank the Columbo episodes Strange Bedfellows for me would be somewhere around the bottom, not because it's terrible but because there have been better episodes and so many good, often amazing, ones.

What were the good things? Well as is the case with all the Columbos, it is filmed and directed beautifully, and has a good score. I did admire that it attempted to stick to formula after some episodes that tried to be different but failed due to bad execution, it was mostly interesting and had some good scenes, with Columbo's triple bluff being the highlight of the episode. Of the support cast, Bruce Kirby was fun and Shani Wallis was a nice find but my favourite was Rod Steiger, not his best role but he is very good here.

Peter Falk does a fine job with what he had with the iconic character of Columbo. He has a lot of charisma and has some inspired line delivery. I wasn't taken with how Columbo was written in this episode though, Falk does make an effort to make him true to how he usually is but the material works against him. Columbo does seem out of character(note I said seem before somebody objects), and is not as likable as he often is. It is not as bad as him sending himself up in Last Salute to the Commodore or being almost completely sidelined in No Time to Die, but it didn't work for me.

My main problems though were the script and three performances that didn't work for me. There have been much cleverer, more arch, funnier and more tense writing before in Columbo, here the cat-and-mouse scenes between Falk and Wendt that are often highlights of Columbo seemed bland and lacking in tension and the script seemed very pedestrian in places. George Wendt I agree is too boorish and too unsubtle in his role, but he is at least better than the dull Jeff Yagher and the irritating Karen Mayo-Chandler.

All in all, a strange episode that at the end of the day I was very mixed on. 6/10 Bethany Cox

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14 out of 28 people found the following review useful:

Worst Columbo Ever (actually, 2nd worst)

Author: Gord from Canada
29 November 2004

The worst Columbo ever was "No time to die." This was the second worst. Why? Because Columbo was completely out of character, and committed reprehensible and illegal acts in trapping his prey: he plainly assaulted the suspect (death threats and ramming his car), held him against his will, extorted evidence (the location of the gun), a confession, and under threat of death a an ongoing covenant to take the fall.

Columbo is supposed to be a sympathetic goody-goody character (albeit a slob), not a felon.

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5 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Dribbles past three defenders only for Wendt's performance to put the ball wide of an open goalmouth

Author: bob the moo from United Kingdom
11 December 2005

Tired of his brother's gambling losses and influence on his life, Graham McVeigh sets it out so that younger Teddy will get in way over his head with bookie Bruno Romano. Graham kills Teddy on a deserted road and then arranges for Romano to come to his house to collect payment – only to kill him and call the police claiming self-defence. His plan is that the police will put the murder on Romano and just close the case. However some cigarette ash in Teddy's car is enough of a problem for Lieutenant Columbo to keep poking his nose in long after Graham had hoped it would all just go away. Meanwhile Romano's mobster boss informs Columbo that it must have been Graham that did the crime and that, either way, he must be punished.

With the last two or three of the new Columbo's I watched the producers (including Falk himself) seemed to be busily trying to do something different from the usual formula – with mixed results it must be said. So with this entry in the series I welcomed the return to the basic cat'n'mouse games that are played between Columbo and his prey while he gradually closes in on them. The film sets up the usual "perfect plan" and then moves ahead from there; it was almost a relief to me to see the formula back in place. The story is a nice one and in some ways the addition of the mobster adds a bit of spice to it but did change the character of Columbo a little bit – would he really just sit and listen to a man threaten murder and just eat soup? Anyway, the story unfolds reasonably well and it does just enough to work as a formula and, although the conclusion lacks logic it is still enjoyably delivered - it is just a shame that the usual strength of the films is a weakness here – namely the performances Well, not performances plural maybe but certainly performance. Wendt is far too boorish and lacking subtlety to convince – it is very much an one-note man and it doesn't lend itself well to the twists and turns within the story. It is a shame because so few of the new Columbo films produce a really good cat n'mouse story and this should have been a good one if not for his very basic turn. Falk is good although I don't think he or the material coped well with the moral complexity that came with technically working with a mobster. Kirby makes a welcome return in a small role that honours his long term connection to the series. Steiger is a nice addition despite my reservations and he certainly stands above a poor Yagher and a terrible "apples & pears, gov'ner" performance from a laughable Mayo-Chandler (influence within the industry one suspects).

Overall this was a welcome return to the formula after one too many duff Columbo's trying something new. The story is fine but it is just a shame that the usual tense chemistry is blown by a roundly poor turn from Wendt. A solid enough formula piece for fans but it is hard not to feel like it has managed to dribble past three defenders just to put the ball wide of an open goal.

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3 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Weak Columbo entry.

Author: Boba_Fett1138 from Groningen, The Netherlands
12 November 2008

I wouldn't exactly call this movie an horrible one but compared to the usual Columbo movie standards, this is a rather weak entry in the long running successful series, starring Peter Falk.

Some very odd things are happening in this movie, that just don't feel 'Columbo-like'. I would call this movie a rather unrealistic one, even for usual Columbo movie standards. It also really isn't the most clever Columbo movie around and it's actually a quite poorly written one, that perhaps even becomes a bit ridicules at part. Also the way the murder itself is being planned out and committed is quite ridicules in my opinion.

Vincent McEveety always was a director who tried out some new things for his Columbo movies, often with success but there also are some movies that simply don't work out well enough, of which this is obviously one.

It's also often a real slow movie. Some of the sequences go on for far too long, which I blame to the dialog. Some of the dialog is absolutely dragging and its the type of dialog in which the same things get said 3 times over again. It makes some of the sequences within this movie annoying to watch as well.

The movie also isn't really helped by its cast. George Wendt isn't an horrible actor but yet he really doesn't act well in this movie, so you can say he got miscast. It's still interesting to see Rod Steiger in this Columbo movie and his role is actually quite bigger than he gets credited for. Hardly the best or most interesting role out of his career but it's nice watching him in this nevertheless. Peter Falk also does his very best but I wouldn't call it the best performance out of his career, which again, is mostly also due to the movie its dialog.

So really not the best Columbo movie around, although I also just wouldn't call this movie an horrible one.


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2 out of 13 people found the following review useful:


Author: MovieAddict2016 from UK
2 February 2004

Fun, but average, "Columbo" TV sequel having the notorious Lieutenant returning to the screen tracing down a man (George Wendt) who kills someone (big surprise!).

I saw it on TV. Not bad, not great, somewhere around the "good" area. Worth watching if you've got nothing better to do. Columbo IS getting a bit old, but then has been since the first film.

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9 out of 30 people found the following review useful:

Awful performances by Wendt and Yaeger

Author: aromatic-2 ( from New York, NY
23 June 2001

They went to the bottom of the alphabet to get two bottom-of-the-barrel performances. But Yaeger is merely ineffectual. Wendt is spectacularly bad. And the pity is that the interest the viewer could have in the episode lies entirely in how well he pulls off his murder scheme. His character is supposed to be the smart and responsible brother but he cannot get past the boorishness of Normie to give us anything. As a result, this is the worst Columbo movie I have ever seen.

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