The Columbo murder mystery Ashes to Ashes is an intriguing thriller. When an investigative reporter goes missing Lt. Columbo is tasked with finding her, and before long he starts to suspect a shady funeral director. Patrick McGoohan returns to the series once again and gives a very strong performance. However, the writing is rather poor and doesn't bring a lot of suspense or danger to the film. Still, there's a nice mixture of comedy and the plot is pretty interesting. Ashes to Ashes has some weaknesses, but it still has the Columbo charm.
Even the presence of Patrick McGoohan doesn't do much to liven up "Ashes to Ashes." The guest stars vamp melodramatically through a script that emphasizes the broad comedy over the mystery. And Peter Falk continues his streak of portraying an addled Columbo. The Columbo of the 1970s appeared disorganized and uncouth, but never demented. Here, sadly, the lieutenant seems like he'd be more at home shuffling down the hallways of an old folks' home.
Falk and McGoohan still play very well off of each other, though, and their scenes (even the really bad comedy, such as the Undertakers' Convention) are strong. It's a shame that as the series went on, the script quality declined to this point. Padding the stories to run 90-95 minutes instead of 70 in the golden days really hurt "Columbo," and "Ashes to Ashes" is a perfect example of this.
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