Columbo: Season 12, Episode 3

Undercover (2 May 1994)

TV Episode  -   -  Crime | Drama | Mystery
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Ratings: 6.9/10 from 591 users  
Reviews: 9 user | 4 critic

Lt Columbo investigates men and women who are being killed over pieces of a photo they have, that shows where 4 million dollars in stolen money is hidden.



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Title: Undercover (02 May 1994)

Undercover (02 May 1994) on IMDb 6.9/10

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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Irving Krutch
Mo Weinberg
Geraldine Ferguson
Bramley Kahn
Suzie Endicott (as Kristin Bauer)
Detective McKittrick
Hank Garrett
Dorothea McNally
Penny Santon ...
Marla Adams ...
Sheila Byrnes
Nurse Hilda


Cigar-chomping Lieutenant Columbo's investigation into the odd death of two men flings him headlong into a mystery revolving around the long-lost loot from an unsolved bank heist. Insurance investigator Irving Krutch asks for Columbo's assistance in tracking down the pieces of a photograph that will reveal the location of the hidden millions. To do so, Columbo must go undercover in various guises to obtain the pieces from the various people who now possess them. But in the course of the investigation, more than one of these people will be murdered, and Columbo can't shake the feeling that Krutch is somehow responsible for the entire bloody business... Written by Leaper

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Release Date:

2 May 1994 (USA)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


One of the very few times that Columbo carries a gun. He aims it at a man but doesn't fire. See more »


This Old Man
Traditional children's song
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User Reviews

An Underwhelming Columbo Entry
31 July 2012 | by (Canada) – See all my reviews

Even though the majority of people find the new (1989-2003) Columbo movies inferior to the classic episodes from the 1970's, I actually find them usually to be on par with the originals. For one thing, the newer episodes have much better production values; the cinematography and original musical scores are often striking and skillfully done. That being said, this particular "new" installment was a disappointment for me.

The premise of the movie is certainly intriguing - two men are killed in a seedy apartment and one of them has a jigsaw like piece of a picture. This leads Columbo into a complex mystery which involves finding the many pieces of a photograph that reveals the location of $4 million worth of stolen loot. This money was attained from a heist many years ago, where all four of the robbers were shot to death after they had already hidden the cash. Columbo then goes "undercover" to try to gain all the pieces of the puzzle from many different colorful characters before someone beats him to the punch.

The plot originated from an Ed McBain novel (Jigsaw) and it is an odd choice to mold the Columbo character into a seemingly unrelated novel. This results in a drastic change from the usual Columbo formula we all love and the results are lukewarm. While it was nice to see Peter Falk exercise his acting range in this movie by playing many different characters while undercover, the movie doesn't have the essential ingredient that made the Columbo franchise successful in the first place - the cat and mouse game. Without this dynamic the movie's momentum drags and by the end of the movie when the villain was revealed I really didn't care much. The "who-dunnit" aspect was not strong enough for me to care and the killer was not convincing nor exciting enough for this movie to be a success.

Some bright spots of the episode was the brilliant (but much too short) performance of Tyne Daly as the pitiful, sleazy ex-hooker Dorothea McNally. The scenes between her and Peter Falk crackle with electricity and their one scene together is the highlight of the movie. The musical score by Dick De Benedictis has a film-noir sound to it and adds to the atmosphere of the movie. The cinematography is uncharacteristically gritty and dark for a Columbo movie - which commonly focuses on the life of the rich and elegant.

Overall, this was an enjoyable but mediocre Columbo entry. Still recommended despite its shortcomings.

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