Trivia: This episode contains a true rarity--a clear shot of Columbo's face as he reacts to the sight of an extremely grisly homicide. As befits a veteran officer, his reaction is restrained, but he does react.
89 minutes long
This is the first episode of the second run of the series which lasted from 1989 to 2003.
When revived by ABC as part of its new "ABC Mystery Movie" wheel, Columbo alternated weeks with Burt Reynolds as "BL Stryker" and Louis Gossett Jr. as "Gideon Oliver". For its second ABC season, "Gideon Oliver " was canceled and replaced by two new shows, a revival of "Kojak" starring Telly Savalas, and Jacklyn Smith as "Christine Caldwell" . By the third season ABC abandoned the wheel programing and just aired the "Columbo" movies as periodic specials.
The character of Max Dyson (Anthony Zerbe) is obviously patterned after The Amazing Randi - himself a practicing magician and escape artist - who achieved a degree of celebrity during the 70's and 80's by debunking self-proclaimed psychics. One incident involved a "psychic" who was supposed to have been able to turn the pages of a phone book with his mind. Randi determined that he must be secretly blowing the pages, so sprinkled powder all around the phone book so that any air motion would be detected. The "psychic" was thus thwarted - not to mention publicly humiliated. Perhaps the most famous incident involved Uri Geller who was reputed to be able to bend forks and spoons simply by rubbing them. In 1973 Geller was invited to appear on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show. Carson - himself an amateur magician - conspired with Randi such that Geller had to use only props (silverware) provided for him by the Tonight Show staff. Geller was thus unable to bend anything.