Columbo (1971–2003)
35 user 6 critic

An Exercise in Fatality 

A health club owner murders one of his franchisees. Lt. Columbo is on the case.


Bernard L. Kowalski (as Bernard Kowalski)


Peter S. Fischer (teleplay by), Larry Cohen (story by) | 2 more credits »

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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Peter Falk ... Columbo
Robert Conrad ... Milo Janus
Gretchen Corbett ... Jessica Conroy
Pat Harrington Jr. ... Buddy Castle (as Pat Harrington)
Collin Wilcox Paxton ... Ruth Stafford (as Collin Wilcox)
Philip Bruns ... Gene Stafford
Jude Farese Jude Farese ... Al Murphy
Darrell Zwerling ... Lewis D. Lacey
Dennis Robertson Dennis Robertson ... Jerry
Raymond O'Keefe Raymond O'Keefe ... Sgt. Rickets
Victor Izay ... Medical Examiner
Ernesto Macias ... Fred (as Eric Mason)
J.R. Clark J.R. Clark ... Harry Lassiter (as J. R. Clark)
Mel Stevens Mel Stevens ... Dr. Freeman
Manuel DePina Manuel DePina ... Photographer


Milo Janus owns a chain of health clubs, but one of his franchisees discovers the man is cheating him - and can prove it to the authorities. Janus responds by murdering his partner and making it look as if he had accidentally killed himself trying to lift a barbell that was too heavy for him. Janus creates a would-be perfect alibi for himself involving a tape recording of his victim's voice, a phone that doesn't light up, a sexy secretary, a party for friends at his house, and a pornographic horror movie. But no alibi is perfect when the rumpled Lt. Columbo is on the case. Written by J. Spurlin

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

health club | barbell | See All (2) »


TV-PG | See all certifications »






Release Date:

15 September 1974 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Dalle sei alle nove See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Universal Television See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


| (DVD)

Sound Mix:



Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Milo Janus theme song plays at the end of this episode during the closing credits See more »


After Milo Janus has just killed Gene Stafford, he moves the body. As he moves the body of Gene Stafford, his feet are crossed, but when he drags him through the door, his feet are wide apart. See more »


Columbo: [on the phone with his wife] I'm gonna hang up. You can keep talkin' but I'm gonna hang up.
See more »

Crazy Credits

During the end credits the usual theme music is not heard. In its place is a jingle for the fictional Milo Janus fitness club instead. See more »


This Old Man
Traditional English children's song
Sung by Peter Falk on beach
See more »

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User Reviews

My favorite Columbo episode.
23 August 2005 | by Reality-BitesSee all my reviews

This is my favorite Columbo episode. This really ought to be on DVD, I would love to add it to my permanent movie library.

To some extent it's hard to believe that this film dates from 1974 – wow, over 30 years ago already! - since the picture quality is still quite sharp and vivid, and watching it today, you almost get the sense that time has not passed since its filming. But then of course it's quite apparent that this must have happened in some previous generation: just get a load of Milo Janus's (Robert Conrad) widely flared pants, the phone tape-recording and teleprinter equipment that today would nearly qualify for antique status, not to mention some of the huge Detroit-built cars… Also, as another reviewer pointed out, the then "state of the art" gym equipment in Milo Janus's gyms was vastly different from the rather exotic and high tech stuff you'll find nowadays in modern fitness centers.

But I love this episode so much, for several reasons. Firstly, I myself had discovered the wonderful world of weightlifting right about the time period this movie was shot (early 70's) and I really enjoyed the walk down memory lane, seeing the gym with the free-weights and stuff. I also liked the weightlifting "accident" which the perp concocted to cover the murder.

Secondly, this particular episode had much more of an aura of realism about it than other Columbo episodes. There was nothing really far-fetched about the crime – neither the motive for it, nor the execution of it, nor Janus's attempts to create a plausible cover-up. I don't know, maybe it was the way Robert Conrad conducted himself so coolly, so Teflon-coated cocky, much like in his battery commercials which some of you may remember from back then ("I dare you to knock it off my shoulder"). But it all seemed so very real.

I've seen this episode several times, and I am always struck at the palpable chemistry between Columbo and Janus: they really truly seem to loathe each other, and the scene in the hospital where Columbo very publicly confronts Janus and accuses him of the crime always seems chillingly believable. You can't help but wonder if the real actors here (Falk and Conrad) actually despised each other off the set?

The final resolution of the case (something to do with the way shoelaces are tied) was a bit extreme, but taken against the greater context in which 'whodunnits' nearly always require at least some sort of clever if not sensationalistic ending, it definitely fit the bill.

Oh, and one other thing: I always love the part where Columbo digs the evidence (in this case, several pairs of old shoes) out of his paper lunch bag. In the process he pulls out a cellophane-wrapped hunk of lord-knows-what, to which he comments, almost as if to himself, "That's just my lunch, that don't mean nothing." Bon appetit, Columbo!

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