The script by Peter S. Fischer is a marvel of economy and speed. Gazzara profits from this gratefully with superb direction.
His exemplary technique figures a three-pointed resolution to basic problems. First, and overwhelmingly, he puts his experience as an actor to work in close-ups that allow each actor to convey with novelistic expressiveness what's going on in each shot. Second, he has a stage actor's understanding of stage layout in group scenes. Third, he understands the value of composition in creating the first two.
Every shot is telling, but the overall style is equally tight. A long shot with a long lens gives compression, the camera follows unusually intimate and refined close-ups like an MGM dance camera, in constant minute adjustments.
He pays exceptional attention to a naturalistic lighting, which is created by emphasizing variety rather than realism or a stylistic approach. Lamplight, shadow and reflected light make a color chiaroscuro, established by toning down the NBC lighting system from high summer to something more equable.
A police commissioner covers up a murder, to force a reciprocation whose victim is his wealthy, philanthropic, "bleeding heart" wife. This is a pure example of Lt. Columbo discerning the culprit almost at once (the mind constructs, the heart detects), and gradually working out the solution, which hinges on a framed cat burglar.
The double murder quid pro quo suggests the main theme (as well as Strangers On A Train), which is diffused over the three married couples: the cheating wife and her jealous husband, the liberal heiress and the police commissioner, the cat burglar and his demanding mistress.
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