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Columbo: No Time to Die (1992)
The hate this episode gets is preposterous - this is the most Columbo ever seen in a episode!
Of course this episode isn't "Columbo" in the way that it is not following the usual formula, but the CHARACTER Columbo is the same. Falk never breaks his character, and on top of that this is the only time we actually get to see Columbo interact with blood relatives and the extra effort he puts in for them, like any family members would do for each others, is very refreshing. It shows an extra level of humanity to the already very benign hero.
This, the greatest of all detective shows, lasted for over 30 years, and it's only good to have at least ONE break from the formula, as long as it is done with suspense and entertainment. The people who claim this episode is boring are making a laughing stock of themselves. Obviously they are so blinded by the fact it goes off formula that they can't comprehend that as a kidnapping mystery for television this is very entertaining and suspenseful. It's the only time Columbo truly has to "beat the clock", the entire story unfolds over a period of roughly 15 hours. Some claim it is more boring than the horribly plodding "Last Salute to the Commodore". Utter nonsense. That infamous episode stuck to the formula all the way except it broke the most important rule of all: we never got to see in the beginning who actually did the murder, that was strike one. Then long into the episode it went and killed the chief suspect, strike two. As if this wasn't enough Falk's portrayal was so totally off, it was like they tried to curtail his entire character, impose restrictions on everything. It was a complete snoozefest the entire episode. "No Time to Die" however throws out the entire formula altogether BUT Columbo himself stays in character all the time, and there is no restrictions of anything, there is plenty of energy to go around.
Those who claim the Columbo character isn't here have no clue what they're talking about. Just because he shows extra dedication because one of his own are at risk does not remove the fact he is still Columbo. If anything he is MORE Columbo. We see more of the character than ever before, even physically: this is the first and only time we see Columbo from the very beginning of the episode, and it starts with a look of great affection on his face as the old detective is staring at the newlyweds dancing. This is also a very rare moment in the show where we truly feel that something is seriously at stake, since it involves his personal family - and even the "police family".
"No Time to Die" breaks the entire formula, yes, but it never breaks character, quite the opposite.
The Medusa Touch (1978)
Great fun as Police procedural turns to Horror!
With an extraordinary stage presence and a baritone voice so pleasant he could read the phone book and get a standing ovation, RICHARD BURTON would make even the dullest movies interesting (the exception that proves the rule being the dreadful 1977 Exorcist-sequel, THE HERETIC).
Legendary for his two turbulent marriages to Liz Taylor, this Welsh Wonder of the World ranks up there with the giants of British film and theatre, but sadly so did his health. The man, who in 1974 nearly drank himself to death, suffered from both kidney disease and an enlarged liver at his early death ten years later.
The toast of Hollywood in the early 1950's (Humphrey Bogart was one of his biggest fans), the 1960's saw him as one of the highest-paid movie stars in the world, he received a total of six Academy Award nominations. A Socialist and an Atheist with a strong contempt for Capitalists "exploiting the poor," he even suggested all actors were "latent homosexuals."
Like so many of his stage and screen roles, Richard Burton could be larger than life. So what better part for this man, than the starring role in THE MEDUSA TOUCH, playing a writer living in horror convinced that he can murder people just by thinking about it!
Most critics strongly dismissed this film upon its release in 1978. In retrospect I guess it's easy to see why a movie like this would seem silly, almost archaic at the time, especially as it was following gritty classics like Deliverance, The French Connection, Mean Streets, Taxi Driver and beautiful spectacles like Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Seen with 21st Century goggles however it's near impossible not to enjoy what is going on here. THE MEDUSA TOUCH starts out with a brutal murder, takes on the shape of a police procedural, then flirts more and more with the supernatural, before moving into possible Sci-Fi territory and finally punching you in the face with scenes of both Action and Horror!
"Horror" in this case meaning closer to Hammer House than it does the cynical US horror movies of the era (just so I don't get any angry messages from people who were expecting ROSEMARY'S BABY or THE SHINING).
THE MEDUSA TOUCH has plenty of quirks and odd twists along the way, even a suicide-scene sprinkled with comedy, but this just adds to the fun, the end result being a movie quite unlike anything else. The movie's finale I found so memorable, I wanted to hug the screen, but that probably says more about me than anything else! Other people might want to punch the screen, and I would pity them for taking their movies so seriously.
Italian veteran actor Lino Ventura is a fun choice co-starring as the French (!) police detective who has to figure out what is real and what's not. The beautiful Lee Remick is also along for the ride as Burton's doctor. The rest of the cast is made up of familiar faces, almost like a who's who of British film and television; Gordon Jackson, Harry Andrews, Michael Hordern, Derek Jacobi, Michael Byrne and the greatest classic "Sherlock Holmes" in the history of television; Jeremy Brett.
The highlight of the cast is still Burton though. There is always something about this man's presence that lends extra credence to anything he's in.
Compared to similar films, THE MEDUSA TOUCH seems somewhat forgotten today. Why this is, I'm not sure. Could it be so simple that it followed on the heels of the aforementioned EXORCIST II: THE HERETIC? A genre movie so boring, it works like a black hole on any nearby piece of celluloid.
THE MEDUSA TOUCH is anything but boring. It might be eccentric and throwing in everything but the kitchen sink, but just like Richard Burton, it is never boring!