Wade Anders is the host of a popular television show. Budd Clarke was the one who was originally suppose to be the host of the show but Anders did a hatchet job on him and got it. Clarke discovers that Anders once did a porno movie with an underage actress and is threatening to expose this unless Anders resigns thus paving the way for him to take over the show that he believes is rightfully his. Anders then doctors some cigarettes and replaces chain smoker Clarke's and Clarke smokes them and dies. Anders then steals the evidence that Clarke had on him. Columbo then comes in to investigate and discover a few inconsistencies.Written by
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Sticks solidly to formula and is all the better for it, producing a film that fans will really enjoy
Real crime show Crimealert (think Crime Watch) host Wade Anders has not got to his position by being a nice guy and letter the better man get a fair crack at the whip. So when he was going for the job of host against the much more experienced Budd Clarke, he was sure to drop lots of remarks to the producers about how unsuitable a character Clarke was for the show's image. His remarks (and more) worked and he won the gig, much to the ongoing annoyance of Clarke. Years later and Clarke has returned to tell Anders to quit the job and arrange for him to take over in his place or else he'll break the story he has uncovered that will reveal that a pre-fame Anders made a porno film. Unwilling to let his life be ruined, Anders puts poison in one of chain-smoking Clarke's cigarettes and waits. With him dead all is good but when Lieutenant Columbo is assigned the case and can't seem to get over one or two minor details, it looks like it won't be over any time soon.
Starting with the usual "perfect" crime, this Columbo film sticks well to formula as our hero picks up on some small clues missed by everyone else, gets his sights on a main suspect and doggedly goes after his man until the end much to the annoyance of the suspect. With this film the actual crime doesn't totally ring true in terms of logic but mostly it works in the context of the film and it sets up a series of flaws to hook Columbo. After that it is the usual cat and mouse pursuit, "one more thing" etc until the resolution; by sticking to this formula the film works well and produces plenty of the material than fans will enjoy. At points it is unconvincing (would Anders' porno really have not come to light years earlier?) but generally these concerns are lost in the sweep of the film and they don't detract too much. The solution is a clever one and an enjoyable example of Columbo's skills as an investigator.
Falk is as good as ever in the lead role and delivers his usual mix of scruffiness, deductive skills but also showing a nice touch with the comedy aspects. Hamilton is a solid guest star and he works well with Columbo getting frustrated by him, trying to hold it together but generally being closed in on. The two men work well together and their chemistry is part of the formula working here where perhaps it wasn't so good in other "new" Columbo films. With the lead two carrying most of the weight the support cast are only OK but does throw up a few surprises. Gilborn turns up with his usual reoccurring (but pointless) character while the presence of Penny Johnson in a small role caught me off guard as a 24 fan.
Overall this is one for the fans, who will enjoy it because (like the 1970's films) it sticks closely to formula. The story is good and is developed well throughout all the way to a conclusion that is a satisfying demonstration of how sharp Columbo really is (as opposed to some endings that come out of nowhere and don't show him actually picking at it). The two leads are solid and work well together and the end result is a Columbo film that stands up well with the best of them engaging, interesting, funny and typically Columbo. Well worth seeing (and this from someone who greets all the "new" Columbo's with suspicion and slight dread).
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