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"Columbo" Ashes to Ashes (1998)

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22 out of 22 people found the following review useful:

First-class Columbo comedy-mystery

Author: herbqedi from New York, NY
19 June 2003

A tremendous cast, by latter-day Columbo standards, including Rue McClanahan, Sally Kellerman, Edie McClurg, Richard Libertini, Aubrey Morris, and Ron Masak have a field day chewing up the scenery in clever scene after clever scene. Legendary tap dancer Arthur Duncan even shows up to add the proper element of theatre d'absurd to the proceedings. The dialogue is well-above average in the cleverness department as well. The twists and turns are ingenious. McGoohan has a field day as director and actor. The last line puts the proper icing on the cake. This is one of the very best of the latter-day Columbo movies.

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15 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

All is Dust

Author: Moor-Larkin from United Kingdom
17 February 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

As a Patrick McGoohan fan, I'd been trying to catch this one for a while, having missed it in the late 1990's when Columbo was still prime-time. This episode was broadcast on a Sunday morning in England, at 11am. How the mighty are fallen, the great humbled, and the classics a mere space-filler. Time waits for no man and all that.

The episode is a rip-snorter, full of delightful performances and character combinations. It was essentially the final filmed performance by the great actor, Patrick McGoohan (barring some unexpected late-life cameo) and as such, it is as perfect an adieu to the medium as there could be. McGoohan often likes to add personal notes to his Columbo movies, and so in this plot his character's would-be nemesis (Golden Girl, Rue McLanahan) refers to his Eric Prince character as having been a "never-was actor from England, who never-was over here either!" Adding a further layer of subsumed reference is the presence of Catherine McGoohan, as Rita, Eric Prince's efficiently innocent mortuary assistant. She is given the task of beginning the end of her boss when she advises Eric Prince that, "Someone's waiting for you in the display-room." A corpse might be expected in such a setting, but whilst any corpse would barely ruffle the arch mortician that was Eric, the thick cigar-smoke wafting above the open coffin signals to us that Eric's time-clock is now ticking. Columbo has arrived! By the time Peter Falk shuffles in, we are already twenty minutes into the show. When we see him we realise why he is only putting in half a shift. Man! Columbo is old! He's grey, wizened and almost gap-toothed. His speed is gone. But what he lacks in speed has been replaced by wisdom. Heck, he's done so many of these cases he figures out what has gone on, in the twinkling of an old dog's eye.

McGoohan's Prince, is flabbergasted. He's on a hook and no matter how cleverly he shifts his weight, he knows he's being reeled in. he doesn't know how the other guy knows, but he knows he knows; and the other guy knows he knows he knows. Time to party! Two old men (McGoohan was 70, Falk 71) decide to fun with us young 'uns by playing up the fact we're all gonna die! Ashes to Ashes! We are taken to a Funeral Directors' "Man of the Year" ceremony! Death is all around: we have an uneasy fear of it. These guys laugh at it! They even make up witty songs about it. Death is a part of their life. The very last line has one saying to the other: "It's your funeral!" What a way to go.

By pure chance this viewer watched an old 1955 film for the first time, on a DVD at 11pm the night before this show. In the 1955 film Patrick McGoohan was playing scenes with Errol Flynn! Forty-three years later he played his final scenes with Peter Falk. Half a century after Errol Flynn became ashes, this viewer feels privileged to have been able to watch, in the space of twelve hours, what took these men a lifetime to achieve.

We'll seeing you, in all the old familiar places.

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15 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

Columbo fan gives nod for Ashes to Ashes

Author: Barry-44 from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
8 August 2000

I'm a great Columbo fan and Ashes to Ashes certainly didn't disappoint me in any way, shape or form. Peter Falk, as usual is splendid as Lt. Columbo. Patrick McGoohan, as stern and sometime wry undertaker Eric Prince, plays his role precisely and believably. He had played in previous Columbo movies. Rue McClanahan plays gossip columnist Verity Chandler with such magic and charm that we want to see much, much more of her. Sally Kellerman plays Liz Houston convincingly. Along with the rest of the actors in this wonderful movie, the viewer will not be disappointed at the end of the movie. If you adore mystery and Columbo, this movie is for you! It's to be noted that it's not just the main actors that make this movie work. All actors play their parts exceptionally.

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14 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

Just great

Author: W-J-Langbein from Germany
31 October 2005

This episode is just great...Peter Falk's acting is great. He obviously liked doing the show and it is enjoyable to watch it. I saw it several times and I love seeing it again and again. The more often you see it, the more you discover. Columbo...just great, nothing can be compared...and the "undertaker" sympathy was with the killer in this case. This episode is a great piece of entertainment...all the actors doing an excellent job...there are so many little things in this episode worthwhile noticing. I really do love this episode...Thank you, Sir Peter!


To be honest: I love every single episode of the 69!

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12 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

A great favourite

Author: TheLittleSongbird from United Kingdom
30 June 2010

I am a huge Columbo fan and Ashes to Ashes is without a doubt one of my favourite episodes for many reasons. The plot is quite complex, but is explained well, has many interesting scenes, and the motive is a good one. The script is top notch, particularly in any exchange between Columbo and Eric and Verity's bitchy dialogue is a joy. As always the photography and scenery are striking, and the music is rich and haunting. Then there are the performances, Peter Falk is exceptional once again as Columbo, no surprise really he is always brilliant as the character, while Patrick McGoohan is brilliant as Eric. In fact, McGoohan is one of my favourite Columbo guest stars, and he works really well with Falk. Rue McClanahan has to work with a very strong minded and seemingly hateful character, and McClanahan conveys her with the charm she always had, not to mention her presence which is quite entrancing. The episode is also very well directed, and I was gripped right up to the final solution. Overall, first class, quintessential Columbo I'd say. 10/10 Bethany Cox

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13 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

A charming episode of one of America's best detective programs!

Author: ( from United States
18 May 2006

There is no doubt that Columbo's star Peter Falk loves this character. He always takes him out of the closet in a manner of speaking. Peter Falk would be knighted if he was a British actor but since he is an American actor and icon, we'll take him the way he is. I remember watching this episode with Golden Girls' star Rue McClanahan as the gossip columnist Verity Chandler. Of course, Patrick McGoohan has often been associated with Columbo whether he is directing, writing or starring. There is something addictive about Columbo. He doesn't dumb down the role or the characters. He learns just as well as we do. He is quite the detective. He always gets his man or woman and I just adore Columbo. He is always worth watching. He mixes humor and seriousness with the most serious crime of murder. His job might be murder but it sure is fun watching him get the man or woman to be caught. Even then, you kind of feel sorry for the criminal for his actions. It' the Columbo touch that you pity the criminal and love the detective.

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7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Always has been a favorite of mine.

Author: Boba_Fett1138 from Groningen, The Netherlands
10 December 2008

Don't really know why but out of all Columbo movies this is the one that always sticked most into my mind. I think this is mostly due to Patrick McGoohan's presence, who only a few years prior to this movie impressed with his role in "Braveheart" (how did he not won an Oscar for that?).

Like many Columbo movies before, this one got also directed by Patrick McGoohan, who also once again plays the killer of the movie. Most of the McGoohan Columbo movies are some really classy made ones, that are well directed and also better than the average Columbo movie entries. You can say that a McGoohan Columbo movie is always something special, even though not all are quite as good, such as for instance the failure "Columbo: Last Salute to the Commodore". It wasn't the last movie McGoohan would direct for the Columbo series but it was the last Columbo movie he played in.

As a matter of fact this also as of yet is the last movie McGoohan has appeared in. He did some voice-work after this movie but he psychically hasn't appeared in a movie ever since. He's still alive and kicking though, so he might once pop up in a movie again, though I assume that he is enjoying his retirement. He always had some good interaction with Peter Falk within the Columbo movies, probably also due to the fact that they have been close friends for years. Peter Falk also must have felt at ease with McGoohan behind the cameras, who in return also gave Falk lots of room to play around. This really shows within this movie.

Besides Peter Falk and Patrick McGoohan, the movie also features the great Rue McClanahan, as the movie its victim. She plays a very typical role, which has become sort of her trademark, ever since her "The Golden Girls" role. It also features some other fine actors in supporting roles, such as Richard Riehle, Sally Kellerman and Edie McClurg.

It's a movie that sticks nicely to the usual familiar Columbo movie formula. It has a nice typical murder-mystery story, although Columbo murders never really have been a 'mystery', since we always know from the beginning on who got killed by who, how and why. The story by the way also partly got written by McGoohan, so this really is 'his' movie. It isn't the most fast going Columbo movie but it nevertheless always is a good and interesting to watch, since the story progresses nicely and the movie features some nice characters and actors that are portraying them.


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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Ashes to Ashes --or--Patrick McGoohan as the Greek Phoenix!

Author: mike from United States
18 January 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I've been a fan of Columbo for decades. Prescription: Murder, the official introductions of Falk as Columbo aired as a TV movie in 1968. Although Columbo's persona and mannerisms were remarkably different from those we've grown to love throughout the Columbo series, Falk was a natural.

In my opinion, the earlier seasons of Columbo (Seasons 1 through 7 from 1971 through 1978), were the best. I believe most fans would agree. After season 7, it was hit and miss. As the seasons/years continued, there were fewer episodes that had that "Columbo Edge" although there were still some good ones. This episode, Ashes to Ashes, was, in my humble opinion, one of the better later episodes. It appears to me that Falk thoroughly enjoyed and savored his role in this episode; and it was evident in his mannerisms. This was the first time I saw this episode. After the first 15-30 minutes, I was NOT very captivated from what I saw. The acting appeared a bit weak and contrived and the story wasn't very clear nor interesting. But kudos to the writers and Mr. Falk for doing a 180 degree turn and breathing life and increasing interest in to this one! I wish there was more of a cat and mouse play throughout this episode as the ending seemed somewhat rushed. Yet I had a smile on my face when Falk ended the episode saying, "It's your funeral" as he closed the case and casket on Patrick McGoohan, who also directed this episode. I also admire the "loyalty" that existed in "recycling" many guest stars. Patrick McGoohan, for instance, McGoohan directed five episodes of Columbo and starred in 4 episodes as the murderer: By Dawn's Early Light (Emmy Award) (1974), Identity Crisis (1975), Agenda for Murder (Emmy Award) (1990), and Ashes to Ashes (1998).

Overall, I'd give this 7.5/10 stars and would recommend it to Columbo fans who may have missed it.

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6 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

Great until the end, then one horrible, glaring flaw.

Author: RafeMT from United States
20 October 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I've been a fan of Peter Falk's Columbo since its "NBC Mystery Movie" days. The not-nearly-as-dumb-as-he-seems approach always did it for me. It was almost like possessing a hidden super-power, which was even better when used against self-assured characters like Patrick McGoohan's. (And I've also been a fan of Patrick McGoohan's since his "Secret Agent" and "Prisoner" days.) So when "Ashes to Ashes" showed up on my TV schedule, I was all ready for a nostalgic treat. Everything was great... until the end.

It seems that diamonds were being smuggled out in bodies destined to be cremated, and then being recovered from the ashes. My heart sank. Why? It's physically impossible. Cremation furnaces run at around 870 to 980 degrees C. When diamonds get that hot, guess what? They burn, just like coal. They are a form of carbon, after all. I can't believe this movie made it all the way through production and release and no one noticed this high school chemistry-level flaw.

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8 out of 14 people found the following review useful:


Author: The Peacemaker from Alberta, Canada
22 May 2000

I saw this at a young age and loved it! My mother always taped Columbo movies, and I watched it with her. I understood perfectly! A woman clubbed to death, then cremated with stolen diamonds down her throat. The chemistry is great. I'm not as much of a Columbo fan as my mom, but I recommend it for mystery and Columbo fans!

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