Columbo must solve a murder without a body in Blueprint for Murder. An overly worried ex-wife of a business tycoon calls the police when he appears to have gone missing, and it's up to Lt. Columbo to discover if he's in fact been murdered. Peter Falk steps into the directing chair and does a fairly good job. However, the writing just isn't up to par and fails to make the characters that interesting, or the mystery that intriguing. Still, Falk is able to carry a lot of the load by bringing an extra amount of charisma and humor to his character. Blueprint for Murder is an interesting thriller, but not all together that compelling.
It starts slow, with wooden performances by some of the minor characters. To me they were actors just saying lines. The first half of the story was like someone trying to do Columbo, but not succeeding. The story only catches fire in the second half, with the scenes at the construction site and the clever idea that is exposited. That is where you get your money's worth! Falk and the villain's acting is very good.
Overall, this is a great episode, but not one of the best of the first season. By now, Columbo's character and methods are firmly-established, so it's up to the writers and other actors to play off of him to make an episode shine. In this case, the actors do a decent job, but the writers somewhat let us down.
The peformances are overall quite good, with the best showing from Janis Paige as Goldie. Of course, Peter Falk was brilliant as usual. Patrick O'Neal as Markham was a rather run-of-the-mill villian. I didn't think the character was smart enough to make him interesting and O'Neal did not really add anything beyond what the writers had given him to flesh the character out more. Columbo decides he has fingered the killer early on, when he finds Bo Willliamson's car tuned to a classical music station, given that Bo only listened to country music. It just takes some cat and mouse with Markham, waiting for him to make a mistake before Columbo can arrest him. However, this one large and rather glaring mistake is really not all it takes to catch a killer. Markham practically dares Columbo to dig up the contstruction site, so we know the body is not there, despite all the hints he gives in his lectures about Egyptians and tombs. Had Markham already disposed of the body somewhere else, Columbo's whole plan would have been ruined and he would have had no evidence to catch Markham. It's hard to believe that Markham is so foolish as to try to get rid of Bo's body right after Columbo's fruitless search of the pile. Of course, Columbo was going to be following him around waiting for him to make a move. A smarter man would have led Columbo in the dance but had a completely different location picked out and waited for the heat to die down a bit.
Markham lectures on Ancient Architecture, and remembers the Egyptian engineer in his tomb guarding the secret of the pyramids; he conceives the plan of killing a recalcitrant client ("philistine," Markham calls him—"ego trip," says the client) and burying him in the foundation of his new skyscraper, thus securing the commission for a model city through the man's wife, although it's not really a question of money in itself. "You can't put a price tag on genius," he says.
There is a nice judgment shown here in the script, which makes this the client's second wife and rather young, his first being a great collector of gold lamé, and himself a devoted Nashville fan.
The case is solved early in Lt. Columbo's mind when he notes the architect's favorite classical station on the missing client's car radio. So it's a matter of humoring a murderer blinded by vanity, who tells Lt. Columbo "you're learning architecture the hard way," until the evidence can be obtained with a piece of drama and a gambit.
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