Season 4 Episode 5


Aired Unknown Mar 02, 1975 on NBC
out of 10
User Rating
48 votes

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Episode Summary


An inventor videotapes his mother-in-law's death, and then replays it back to the security guard, giving himself an apparently perfect alibi.

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  • A classic of the genre and the series

    This is a technically spectacular episode that is gripping from the beginning to the reveal, one of the most cleverly plotted and uncovered of the series. Many familiar Columbo keynotes: the Lt. does not appear until a long and elegantly executed murder; his unceasing questioning peeling back layers of the facade, his suspicion aroused whenever someone does something completely out of the ordinary on the day of the crime (writing down the number of the art gallery on the magazine); a masterfully conceived alibi for a suspect who steadfastly refuses to yield ground, and yet continues to suppose what might have happened to the victim; and Columbo seizing upon the solution in the rare moment he is enjoying some chili, here a burger.

    The set is classic mystery theater, with a wonderful wood paneled study and a control room that looks like Scotty's office on the Enterprise. Many well-staged scenes contribute to a fast-building finish. The watch adds nice effect with the constant attention to the exact minute each event allegedly took place. Memorable scenes include the opening, the art gallery, the "gotcha" moment with the clown in the chair, the comparison of the tapes, and the incredible conclusion with the invitation where Mrs. Van Wyck and Columbo share an unspoken moment as he shuts the tape. The crime is superbly planned and meticulously carried out. Oskar Werner is very convincing in the lead and he does an excellent job building the familiar interplay between the killer and the Lt. The end is very satisfying, as Columbo has done a brilliant job proving unequivocally what really happened.

    The 70's tech in the episode is also very cool. I had one of those slick gold watches with "the numbers all written out" that I bought off the street in NY for five bucks in maybe 1981.moreless
  • Spoilers

    Oskar Werner plays an electronics expert who has completely outfitted his house with gadgetry to help his wheelchair-bound wife. His clever plan to murder his interfering mother-in-law and to use a delayed videotape of the murder to establish his alibi seems to be working, until Lt. Columbo starts looking into the case. The unique plot technique of showing the murder and then watching the subsequent investigation gives the viewer the strange experience of identifying with the murderer. Like the killer, we know all the facts ahead of the police, and begin to feel the same anxiety and tension as the net closes in. The climax of this movie is wonderful, as the killer is trapped with the very technology he has set up to establish his innocence.

Oskar Werner

Oskar Werner

Harold van Wyck

Guest Star

Gena Rowlands

Gena Rowlands

Elizabeth van Wyck

Guest Star

Robert Brown (II)

Robert Brown (II)

Arthur Midas

Guest Star

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (3)

  • QUOTES (4)

    • (At an art gallery)

      Columbo: Uh, now this here. I see it doesn't have a title.

      Francine: That?

      Columbo: Yeah.

      Francine: That, sir, is the ventilator for the air conditioning.

      Columbo: Oh. That's the ventilator?

      Francine: Yeah.

      Columbo: Oh. (blushes) I'm embarrassed.

      Francine: Oh, no.

      Columbo: You won't tell anybody?

      Francine: Of course not. You know, I think you would appreciate the more traditional things. If you'll come with me, we have some beautiful landscapes upstairs. If you'd like to come and I'll show you--

      Columbo: Well, I'll tell you the truth about that, ma'am. I've got plenty of landscapes. Thank you very much. You see, my wife, she paints a little.

      Francine: Oh, does she?

      Columbo: Yeah. She buys those canvases with the numbers on them. You've seen 'em around. Yeah, you fill the spaces with the paints that have the corresponding numbers. They turn out pretty good.

    • Columbo: Good afternoon, Mr. Van Wyck.

      Van Wyck: Oh, what is it? A new experiment?

      Columbo: I'm sorry to bother you again so soon.

      Van Wyck: Perhaps it would be more convenient for you, Lieutenant, if you'd just move in one of our guest rooms.

    • Columbo: (talking to the gate man) So ordinarily he'd pull up in a car and tell you where he's going and you would come in here and you would record it on a log. But tonight he wrote it on a magazine in advance. I've got this funny habit. You know, when a person does something one way and then he suddenly does something another way I immediately think...(taps head). I'm sure it doesn't mean anything.

    • Columbo: This is this. This is what you presented at the art show the night of the murder. The problem is it was on the desk immediately after the shooting. How did it get to the art gallery? By your own testimony you took it there. But in order to get it off the desk you practically had to step over the body. That woman was shot before you left the house and you shot her.

  • NOTES (2)