Season 5 Episode 5

Now You See Him

Aired Unknown Feb 29, 1976 on NBC

Episode Fan Reviews (3)

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out of 10
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  • Problem is, it isn't a perfect murder

    It's not even really that good a murder scheme. For some reason they treat the magician's code of silence as some kind of sacred oath that means Santini can refuse to give Columbo an alibi. Ummm, he's not a priest or a psychiatrist. So the first hour pretty much wastes time with Columbo trying to figure out where Santini was. Then the murder just boils down to, "Well, this waiter can testify that I was in my office." What if the waiter was so sick of losing a bet every night for umpteen billion weeks that he decided to lie and say Santini wasn't there? Especially over a junior high school-grade trick. What if Jerome had told anyone about his knowledge of Santini's past? What if he left a "in case of my death" letter revealing Santini's secret?

    Jack Cassidy can play haughty arrogant murders in his sleep and he kinda does. It isn't a particularly well-rounded performance of his, certainly not compared to "Murder by the Book." The character of his daughter is kind of a waste, and gets tossed overboard. What does she think of having a Nazi as a father? Is he really concerned about her and her boyfriend, or is Santini just being a jerk?

    The bits with Columbo and the raincoat (and telling Dog to "not" guard it) are cute, and his relationship with Wilson is funny. But overall this seems to be a fairly week mystery with weak characterization.
  • Two words - Jack Cassidy.

    "Columbo" has had its share of fantastic guest actors as murderers: Robert Culp, Patrick McGoohan, Robert Conrad, Lawrence Harvey, Janet Leigh, Martin Landau, and many more. But for my money, Jack Cassidy and his three turns as a "Columbo" killer make for the best episodes in the series.

    He has saved the best for last, in his final "Columbo" appearance. He plays Santini, the great magician (and a former Nazi concentration camp guard). Threatened with exposure, he kills the club manager who is blackmailing him...all while he appears to be in the middle of performing on-stage. Cassidy's interplay with Falk is as good as always, with Santini wishing he could make Columbo disappear. Watch Falk's reaction after Santini escapes from the handcuffs on-stage. "I knew you could do it," has never been so loaded a phrase. The final reveal, where Columbo exposes Santini using his own trick is priceless. You had to love Cassidy's face, as he realized he was bested by this little rumpled man in a raincoat.

    Speaking of the raincoat...this is the episode where Mrs. Columbo tries to replace the beloved brown coat, only to have Columbo go to great lengths to leave it behind wherever he goes. "The coat - I can't, I can't think in the coat!"
  • Spoilers

    This episode of Columbo has a very strong whiff of cheese about it. Think of a really bad 1970's parady of a magician and you have The Great Santini. He murders his employer who has found some damning evidence against him. Columbo has to find out whodunnit. Santini has a cast iron alibi - he was doing his "piece de resistance" escaping from a box routine. The venue for his "World famous" tricks appears to be a recently vacated Indian restaurant. Wearing his velvet cape and huge bow tie, Jack Cassidy plays Santini with a camp aloofness that obviously had paid off with his part as gay Miles in The Eiger Sanction a year previously. All I can tell you is that if I had been one of the fortunate wealthy to have paid to see The Great Santini, I would have felt hard done by. Obviously constricted by the types of magic tricks they could blow the cover on, the producers of this episode had to stick with the "chained up in a box and trap-door" routine.

    Columbo takes a surprisingly long time to catch him out, naively believing a trick that isn't even worthy of Paul Daniels. The best bits involve the run up to the box trick, Santini doing a routine with a top hat and doves (yawn). Then, when he is in the box a woman in a leotard does a trick with a long tape on a stick (something I used to do quite well as a five old). In the background, to increase the tension (!) a percussionist does the Tss tss tsstss tss tsstss brrrrum tss tss, etc that always leads up to a finale and enthusiastic applause as Santini emerges unscathed. How did he do that? You will have to watch it and see, but I guarantee to those Columbo fans like myself that this is an entertaining yarn and in some instances downright amusing. Columbo's mannerisms are, as always, are at their usual eccentric best.
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