Season 7 Episode 4

How to Dial a Murder

Aired Unknown Apr 15, 1978 on NBC
out of 10
User Rating
50 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

How to Dial a Murder
A famous psychiatrist uses an appointment with his doctor be his alibi while he calls his house, where his dead wife´s lover is. The call serves as the first step in a conditioning reflex on the psychiatrist´s dogs. The other part is the word "Rosebud" as uttered by the victim. When Columbo comes to the scene, the psychiatrist is very understanding when the police says that they may have to put his dogs to death. But Columbo notices how friendly the dogs seem, and then there´s the telephone that´s hanging from it´s hook...moreless

Who was the Episode MVP ?

No results found.
  • Kill on command!

    Scottish actor Nicol Williamson plays Dr. Eric Mason (known among others from the Excalibur in 1981 as Merlin, Hamlet 1969, Black Widow 1987 and The Exorcist 1990). A very young Kim Cattrall (best known from her role of Samantha in Sex And The City) plays a part we’re not used to. She plays a romantic a bit unstable woman Joanne Nicholls. Dr Eric Mason is having a heart check-up when his dogs at his house attack and kill his wives lover Dr. Hunter (played by Joel Fabiani)

    It is not long when Columbo suspects Mason for the murder , after all Dr Mason is a psychologist who uses words to influence people, why not dogs? But Columbo has to find a way and prove how Mason made his dogs kill on command from such a distance

    Quite amusing episode even if you know from the beginning what happened. The only thing you don’t know is the commanding word Not the best story but quite amusing.moreless
  • Dobermans. Rosebud. Columbo. Boom.

    I haven't seen many Columbo episodes, but I did happen to see this one and it blew my mind. This episode was extremely well written and had doggies in it. YAY! And a really creepy main character/murderer, the strange psychiatrist dude. Training the dobermans to attack on command was fantastic. The only minor flaw with the outcome of this episode was that it gave dobermans a bad rap. A posotive outcome was that it as influenced the creators of Monk, another detective series, to use dobermans in their episodes. Not only are dobermans cute, but they can add all sorts of magic to a TV Screen.moreless
Joel Fabiani

Joel Fabiani

Dr. Charles Hunter

Guest Star

Nicol Williamson

Nicol Williamson

Dr. Eric Mason

Guest Star

Tricia O'Neil

Tricia O'Neil

Miss Cochrane

Guest Star

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (2)

    • Columbo secretly tapes his conversation with Dr. Mason, hoping to pick up the "kill" command. The conversation leads to the movie Citizen Kane and Dr. Mason, with relish, pronounces Kane's dying word, "Rosebud". At the end of the episode, when Columbo plays the tape for Mason, his pronunciation of the word "Rosebud" is distinctly different.

    • Although Dr. Mason's gate is said to be the original gate from the movie Citizen Kane, with the exception of the "K", it only vaguely resembles it. If you watch the movie Citizen Kane, you will notice that the real gate is much heavier wrought iron, and exceedingly more ornate.

  • QUOTES (6)

    • Eric Mason: You're a fascinating man, Lieutenant.

      Columbo: To a psychologist, sir?

      Mason: You pass yourself off as a puppy in a raincoat happily running around the yard digging holes all up in the garden, only you're laying a mine field and wagging your tail.

    • Mason: Very good, Lieutenant. Remarkable, really. You take control very well, all the way. I'd swear you'd taken my course.

      Columbo: Oh no, sir. Oh no, never. It's just that I enjoy the pleasure of the game.

    • Columbo: Very simple case. Not that I'm particularly bright, sir. I must say I found you disappointing, I mean your incompetence. You left enough clues to sink a ship.

    • Columbo: Oh, you killed him with a phone call, sir. I'll bet my life on it.

    • Mason: Really, you have a morbid streak, Lieutenant. I should have suspected that.

    • Columbo: Thank you very much, sir. I'll explain to Mrs. Columbo how my condition is work dominated.
      Mason: Well, I think she might have guessed.

  • NOTES (6)

    • This episode was originally titled "The Laurel and Hardy W.C. Fields Citizen Kane Murder Case", which would have beaten out "The Bye-Bye Sky High I.Q. Murder Case" for longest title.

    • According to Mark Dawidziak, author of The Columbo Phile, playing a guest murderer on Columbo was usually a cherished memory for an actor. Nicol Williamson was the exception. Even after being reminded of the plot details, he had no real recollection of the show. He was getting divorced at the time, needed money, and the role was just another job.

    • 70 minutes long

    • In 2004 the cable channel Bravo made a commercial composed of "Columbo" clips to promote the shows addition to its schedule, including a clip of Columbo saying "Word" from this episode, twisting it to mean the current slang for 'truth'.

    • According to the tvtome bio on Kim Catrall, she made her screen debut in Rosebud (1975) by Otto Preminger, which, ironically is the key phrase in this episode

    • 90 minutes long.