Columbo

Season 4 Episode 5

Playback

2
Aired Unknown Mar 02, 1975 on NBC
SUBMIT REVIEW

Episode Fan Reviews (2)

8.7
out of 10
Average
46 votes
  • A classic of the genre and the series

    10
    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.
  • Spoilers

    9.5
    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.
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