Columbo (1971–2003)
33 user 9 critic

Ransom for a Dead Man 

A brilliant tort attorney gets rid of her boring husband by faking his kidnapping and keeping the ransom. The FBI may be fooled, but not Columbo.


Richard Irving


Dean Hargrove (teleplay by), Richard Levinson (story by) | 3 more credits »

On Disc

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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Peter Falk ... Columbo
Lee Grant ... Leslie Williams
John Fink ... Michael Clark
Harold Gould ... Agent Carlson
Patricia Mattick Patricia Mattick ... Margaret Williams
Paul Carr ... Hammond
Jed Allan ... Phil
Charles Macaulay Charles Macaulay ... Richard
Hank Brandt Hank Brandt ... Attorney (as Henry Brandt)
Jean Byron ... Pat (as Jeane Byron)
Richard Roat ... Perkins
Norma Connolly Norma Connolly ... Celia
Harlan Warde ... Paul Williams
Bill Walker ... Crowell
Timothy Carey ... Bert


Leslie Williams, a brilliant tort attorney is bored by her husband, a respected member of the state supreme court. After trading on his famous name to get ahead, she tries to get her freedom by murdering him and concocts a scheme to make it appear that he's been kidnapped and held for ransom. After she pays the ransom to herself, his dead body is found. She may have fooled the FBI but not Lt. Columbo, who is aided by her vengeful stepdaughter. Written by

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


TV-PG | See all certifications »






Release Date:

1 March 1971 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Lösegeld für einen Toten See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The plane that Columbo and Leslie Williams are flying is a 1968 Model 36 Beechcraft Bonanza, registration number, N7835R. As of January, 2019, it is still registered with the FAA, and is based in Macon, GA. See more »


When Lee Grant's character leaves her husband's 1971 Lincoln sedan at the stop sign and goes to a mailbox to mail the ransom note she is startled by an approaching car. As the car approaches it is a Corvette. However as the car is shown driving away the rear of the car is a 1971 Lincoln sedan; possibly the same car and/or a sequence planned for earlier in the scene. See more »


Lt. Columbo: Eh, say, eh, you know I have this cousin Ralph, eh, his name is Ralph. Eh, anyway eh, Ralph was the greatest at everything. You know I mean he thought better, he talked better, he made out better. Ralph was the greatest. I mean Ralph, boy, that Ralph was something, I'll tell you that. I'll never forget him.
Leslie Williams: Eh, is there a point to this story, Lieutenant?
Lt. Columbo: A point?
Leslie Williams: A point.
Lt. Columbo: No, I don't think there's a point, except... well maybe, you know maybe what it was, is that when you were talking about ...
See more »


References Casablanca (1942) See more »

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User Reviews

The lesser of the two Columbo pilot movies
7 September 2005 | by The Welsh Raging BullSee all my reviews

Overall this second pilot for the Columbo series does not have the dramatic impact and sustained tension apparent in the original movie "Prescription: Murder." The movie does however boast a strong performance from Lee Grant as the conniving and arrogant lawyer, Leslie Williams, and an even better performance from Patricia Mattick as her single-minded, spoilt step-daughter.

Peter Falk's characterisation had positively matured since the original and some of his scenes have wonderful dialogue attached to them , which epitomise the complexities of his character.

Nevertheless, the ransom scenes which dominate the first half hour drag a little and in retrospect, one is at pains to understand why Columbo is present as the kidnapping plot develops.

The direction from Richard Irving. who also directed the original, is somewhat flat and he insists on using some intrusive, mind-numbing (and now somewhat dated) visual effects.

It's a decidedly patchily entertaining Columbo adventure, whose rather predictable ending nevertheless conflicts with the murderesses's hitherto smartness. In spite of this, the collective successes of the pilots instigated one of the best series to hit our TV screens.

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