Columbo (1971–2003)
32 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.



(teleplay by), (story by) | 3 more credits »

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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
... Columbo
... Leslie Williams
... Michael Clark
... Agent Carlson
Patricia Mattick ... Margaret Williams
... Hammond
... Phil
Charles Macaulay ... Richard
Hank Brandt ... Attorney (as Henry Brandt)
... Pat (as Jeane Byron)
... Perkins
Norma Connolly ... Celia
... Paul Williams
Bill Walker ... Crowell
... 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)  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


The plane Columbo and Leslie Williams are flying in is a 1968 Beech 36 Fixed wing single engine, registration number; N7835R. See more »


When Columbo and Mrs. Williams are ordering drinks at the airport bar, a Boeing 747 can be seen taxiing toward them in the background. In the time it takes for Columbo to say "I'll have a Root Beer", the plane vanishes. 20 seconds later the same plane is taxiing farther into its parking space. See more »


Lt. Columbo: I don't know how you do it.
Michael Clark: Do what?
Lt. Columbo: Work for a woman.
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 See 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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