Both my friend and I who thought we had seen every episode on ME TV at least twice had not seen this episode recently. In the first scene, i asked my friend "How come Colombo is so well-dressed?" "Look how young he is," she replied,"This is obviously an early Later, when he tried to browbeat, in a loud and un-Columbo-like manner, the girlfriend, I said this is so out of character from the Columbo we know, this must be a really early episode and, of course, it was. I liked the Hitchcockian touch in the murder scene where the victim grabs hold of and pulls off the window curtain. The screenplay proved compelling with its twists (The murder victim, not dying, yet I have to ask why wouldn't a doctor check her pulse to make sure she was dead?) then the set-up in the end. Seeing the girlfriend, who appears to me as sympathetic figure in that she is a perpetrator but also being a victim to some extent, cooperating with the police and presumably being able to negotiate a lighter sentence, added to a satisfying ending.
Gene Barry is magnificent throughout. And of course Falk is already beginning to evolve the amusingly scatter-brained persona of the title detective (sort of a cross between Inspector Clousseau and Nigel Bruce as Dr. Watson). Featuring some very nice directorial touches too early on (the hand hitting the piano and Barry unexpectedly reentering the picture to answer a phone). And the segment where Columbo attempts to sign on with Barry as a patient ("I seem to annoy people") is absolutely hilarious. Only one jarring note in the proceedings: when Columbo starts going all medieval on Ms Hudson toward the end. I always think it's better when he retains his court-jester attitude the whole while...so you never ARE exactly sure whether he's setting you up or whether he really is like that.
I hadn't seen this Colombo before. I never even dreamed that there had been an episode before 1971. This episode is pure 60s outfits, style and temperament. I really enjoyed it and thought it was a great addition to Colombo. Peter Falk is one handsome guy especially in 1968. The show has similar style to all other Colombos and the story is very similar - a killer commits a crime and Colombo hounds the person until they end up confessing but it is that 60s style that makes it all the more interesting. He isn't nearly as rumpled and the actors not nearly as naturalistic. I found the episode really engaging.
Dr Ray Flemming is a renowned psychiatrist who is having an affair with a patient, Joan Hudson, when his wife finds out. Flemming kills her and enlists the help of his lover to make it look like he boarded a plane with his (still alive) wife, had a fight on board and then continued his trip to Acapolco while she stormed off the plane (only to be murdered while he was a time zone away). The perfect crime and the perfect alibi he thinks but when he returns from his trip he finds that two things have ruined his plan – his wife still being alive (although critical) and a muddled little police officer called Columbo.
Overall fans of the series will enjoy this but may find that it is a bit flatter and toned down from the better films in the series. The chase is low key and not as fun as it could have been and the performances are pretty flat (Falk is yet to make the character his own and the one we know) but it is still an enjoyable tvm and worth seeing for being the film that started the long running series.
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