It's a Planet of the Apes reunion in the crime thriller Short Fuse. Planet of the Apes series alumni Roddy McDowall, James Gregory, and William Windom star in this tale of an ambitious playboy who seeks to take over his family's company by killing his uncle in an apparent car accident, but when explosives are found in the debris homicide detective Lt. Columbo must find the killer. While Roddy McDowall gives a good performance, his character is poorly written. Additionally, the directing is rather mediocre and doesn't bring a lot of suspense or tension to the film. Short Fuse is a solid murder mystery, but the film craft has some weaknesses.
chemist guy is the same actor from "Fright Night". He is very weird and somewhat gay in this episode. But still, the episode is pretty good. Especially the last sequence in the lift with the cigar box. Very seventies feel to this one. Clothes, lights, disco, ect. My kind of stuff. Afros. My favorite part of the episode is when Columbo tosses the box of cigars down at the chemist gu and the chemist guy just stares unbelievingly up at Columbo. Then he begins to laugh insanely and hangs his medallion around Columbos neck. Priceless Columbo moment. Vanquished but admiring advesary.
Spoiler warning: do not read further if you haven't yet seen this episode!
The episode is expertly plotted. Roger (Roddy McDowall's character) works for his uncle's chemical factory and has, so far, been given free rein to carry out his own pet projects. His uncle calls him in and tells him he's going to sell the company, forcing out Roger. Roger plants a bomb in a cigar case in uncle's car shortly before a long journey, and to ensure he opens it en route, removes all other cigars from the car. The car explodes on a remote mountain road. Enter Columbo.
Following the usual game of cat-and-mouse with Roger, which includes some superb lines ("Well, my wife, she says I'm second best but, uh, she claims there are 80 fellas tied for first"), Columbo figures out the murder method and -- of course -- turns it back on the murderer. In one of my all-time favorite "gotchas", Columbo tricks Roger by convincing him that the explosion that killed his uncle was unrelated to the bomb, and that the rigged cigar case survived the explosion. He explains all this to Roger while they are in a cable-car halfway up the mountain. He then produces the cigar case and Roger watches horrified when Columbo proceeds to open it! In a desperate bid to save his own life, Roger is forced to reveal his guilt.
Sheer genius; it is always a pleasure watching Columbo outwit a murderer, and in this case the murderer was absolutely hoist by his own petard.
"Columbo: Short Fuse" is quite special.
Roddy McDowall helped to make it terrific, above the rest. He was greatly assisted by Edward Abroms, who did a marvelous job of direction--especially with the opening and closing scenes. The music score is awesome. Great supporting cast of Anne Francis, James Gregory, William Windom, and Ida Lupino too. McDowall especially proves to bring a very entertaining combination of villainy and boyishness to his unforgettable role of Roger Stanford. This episode helped Season One of the series to set very high standards for the show to live up to.
Curious note: Both Falk and Anne Francis were raised in Ossining, New York, the site of Singsing Prison, born only a few years apart. Falk visited his home town recently on a kind of nostalgic tour. Arriving, he was greeted by an enthusiastic, cheering crowd, raised his hands, smiled gratefully, and announced, "I gotta take a leak."
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