Episode Guide / Opinion / Pilot

Episode review: Columbo Ransom for a Dead Man

ransom-titles

Just a shade over three years after he made his character debut in Prescription: Murder, Peter Falk was back in the role of Lieutenant Columbo – this time in an official pilot for what was hoped would become a hit series.

Airing on March 1, 1971, Ransom for a Dead Man was a big-budget spectacular with a cinematic feel and a captivating villain in the shape of two-time Oscar nominee Lee Grant. But would the mystery at its heart be good enough to win hearts and minds of the viewing public? Let’s buckle up and find out…

Ransom for a Dead Man blog

Dramatis personae

Lieutenant Columbo: Peter Falk
Leslie Williams: Lee Grant
Margaret Williams: Patricia Mattick
Agent Carlson: Harold Gould
Paul Williams: Harlan Warde
Written by: Dean Hargrove (from a story by Richard Levinson and William Link)
Directed by: Richard Irving
Score by: Billy Goldenberg

Episode synopsis: Columbo Ransom for a Dead Man

Lady lawyer Leslie Williams has no further use for elderly husband, Paul, so she shoots him, and disposes of the body in the ocean. A wily one, Leslie has a perfect plan to side-step suspicion. Using answer machine tape audio of her husband (the first example of what would become a Columbo staple), and by fashioning a ransom note saying he’s been kidnapped, she puts her elaborate scheme into action.

Ransom gunshot
Stylish visuals are a hallmark of the episode

The FBI is called in, in the suave shape of Agent Carlson. The LAPD representative is his polar opposite: the scruffy Lieutenant Columbo, who appears in bumbling fashion having lost his pen in the dark doorway of the house. But while the FBI go through the motions, ignoring Columbo, it is the Lieutenant who starts asking questions.

As an automated phone call comes in to her home, playing the message Leslie created to make her husband appear to be alive and well, and demanding a $300,000 ransom, it’s only Columbo that notices that she didn’t ask if he’s alright. That bothers him, and it’s the first sign of the cogs in his razor-sharp mind whirring into action.

Once she has the ransom cash, what follows is an intricate set piece where Leslie, a skilled pilot, heads out in her light aircraft to a pre-arranged drop point over the desert. There she flings an empty bag out of the plane window, supposedly containing the ransom money, which she had already nabbed. As Leslie circles back to the airstrip, the FBI and police storm the drop site to find just the empty bag.

Again, only Columbo wonders why the kidnappers bothered to leave the bag behind instead of making an instant getaway. He even picks the lock of Leslie’s locker in the airport’s pilot room, but she’s already removed the evidence and stashed it in a secret compartment in her walk-in wardrobe.

“Lieutenant Columbo appears in bumbling fashion having lost his pen in the dark doorway of the house.”

The next day, the body of Leslie’s husband is discovered. The news is broken to her in court prior to trial and, for the first time, she breaks down, collapsing in front of witnesses and has to be escorted out. Again, Columbo is bothered. Why lose it now when she’s been so calm and collected? Why didn’t she ask where the body was found, or how he died?

Columbo’s suspicions aside, things have gone to plan for Leslie. All until Margaret – her husband’s daughter – returns home from Switzerland, that is, to act as the thorn in her side. The two despise each other and Margaret makes a scene at the funeral, slapping Leslie’s face and bellowing: “This what you wanted, isn’t it?” Columbo comforts Margaret at the cemetery. He has found a likely ally in his bid to prove Leslie’s guilt.

As the episode races to its conclusion, via a wonderful scene where Leslie takes the Lieutenant on a spin in her plane (much to his discomfort), it is the relationship he has forged with Margaret that gives Columbo the edge. Over a bowl of chilli at his favourite diner, Margaret reveals to Columbo that Leslie hated her father, and had used his reputation in the legal profession to springboard her own ambitions. Margaret is sure Leslie pulled the trigger, but there’s still no hard evidence. So they cook up a scheme of their own as fiendishly clever as Leslie’s was.

Margaret Williams: a model example of the benefits of a private school education

In full-on psycho mode, Margaret terrorises Leslie in her own home, firing blanks from a gun at her, and letting her know that she knows the ransom bags were switched. Margaret will get out of Leslie’s hair and back to Europe, she says, if Leslie will pay her her $25,000 annual allowance. Leslie takes the bait.

After an icy farewell at the airport with Margaret, Leslie runs into, who else, but Lieutenant Columbo. He invites her to have a drink: his tone suggesting it’s a farewell knowing she’s beaten him fair and square. Then the coup de grace: Columbo produces the ransom money that Leslie had used to pay off Margaret. Only the killer could have the money. Ultimately, it’s Leslie’s greed, and total lack of conscience that has done her in.

As Columbo puts it himself: “Mrs. Williams, you have no conscience and that’s your weakness. Did it ever occur to you that there are very few people who would take money to forget about a murder? It didn’t, did it? I knew it wouldn’t.”

Another officer escorts Leslie down town, and Columbo is left with a bill for the drinks he can’t pay, despite having $25k on the table in front of him, as credits roll…

Ransom for a Dead Man finale
Money, money everywhere, but not a cent to spend

Best moment – the quiet ‘f*** you!’

It’s a bit of an under-the-radar moment, but the scene in the courtroom following the revelation that Leslie’s husband’s body has been found, where the Lieutenant asserts his authority over the smarmy Agent Carlson, is a moment to treasure.

When Columbo starts discussing all the things that bother him about Leslie’s reaction, Carlson gets snooty. “Let’s understand this one thing,” he bleats. “If you start harassing this woman I’m going to take it upstairs.”

Cue a magnificent Columbo comeback: “Um, just one minute, Mr. Carlson. It’s like this. This is not just a kidnapping. This is a murder now and I kinda figure that’s my department. I’ll see ya around.”

The message is clear: Columbo may be small. He may be scruffy. He may be humble. But he will not be pushed around. It’s a brilliant scene, and well worth refreshing your memory on below…

My thoughts on Ransom for a Dead Man

What a difference three years makes! If you’ve read my previous review of Prescription: Murder, you’ll know that, while I loved the episode, I suggested that the Columbo we encountered in it was one we couldn’t love. As the official pilot episode, Ransom for a Dead Man’s Lieutenant Columbo had to be a character the audience could really dig in order to give the network confidence to commission a full series. This placed no small amount of pressure on Columbo’s creative team – but they nailed it in every way.

Peter Falk’s performance here was arguably the single most important barometer of success. Granted, he might not have 100% mastered the character yet, but he’s very close. It’s a terrific performance, full of warmth and trickery, and packed with the idiosyncrasies that will come to define the character. It’s a big step up from Prescription: Murder and sows the seeds of a character that we really will take to our hearts.

Ransom for a Dead Man
Columbo and Leslie Williams are evenly matched throughout the episode

Ransom’s Columbo is a less confrontational figure than in his debut outing, while his efforts to lead those around him to underestimate his mental prowess have been strongly dialled up. Take his intro scene here, when the seemingly bumbling Lieutenant is searching fruitlessly for a pen in the dark doorway of the Williams’ household. He doesn’t seem a threat to anyone.

Another good example swiftly follows when Columbo raises the troublesome issue of how the lemon-shaped soaps in Leslie’s bathroom stick together when wet. The facial expressions on display from Leslie and snooty FBI agent Carlson make it abundantly clear that they believe him to be a fool. It’s the classic Columbo disarming technique in action and was rarely displayed better. Falk was in the groove straight away.

Lee Grant also excels as Leslie Williams. Indeed, she would earn an Emmy nomination for her turn here and one must concede that it was well deserved. She’s wickedly cold, yet dangerously alluring at the same time (witness her flirtatiousness with Agent Carlson); a confident woman in a man’s world who isn’t afraid of anyone or anything. Leslie takes calculated risks to achieve her desired outcomes, both professionally in court, recreationally in the air, and personally in murdering her ageing husband, and later in paying off the troublesome Margaret.

“Leslie Williams is a confident woman in a man’s world who isn’t afraid of anyone or anything.”

As befits a leading lawyer, Leslie’s also a very smart cookie. Despite initially falling for his bungling incompetent charade, she quickly learns that there is much more to the detective than meets the eye and recognises the ‘shop-worn bag of tricks’ that he uses to put suspects off their guard. She thinks she’s cleverer than him, naturally, but to give her credit, Leslie doesn’t underestimate him like so many others will in years to come. “Lieutenant Columbo, fumbling and stumbling along but it’s always the jugular that he’s after,” she notes. “And I imagine that more often than not he’s successful.” She certainly got that right.

The two leads share plenty of screen-time making for several juicy encounters. Highlights include Leslie taking Columbo for a joyride in her plane (putting an end to his niggling questions in the process) and the enjoyable gotcha scene where Columbo lays bare the moral vacuum at Leslie’s core. Great friends off-screen, Falk and Grant had genuine chemistry together and would go on to star together in Broadway hit The Prisoner of Second Avenue at the end of the year.

Columbo regretted his decision to have chilli for lunch…

Ransom is, in many ways, a big step up from Prescription: Murder. That one was an adaptation of a stage show and it sometimes felt constrained by that. Not this time. Ransom for a Dead Man was an original story and a big budget piece of television with few limits. They ramped everything up to 11, the sets, costumes, fashions and locations – including filming within the iconic Barney’s Beanery chilli haunt and capturing sumptuous aerial footage of Leslie’s light aircraft over California’s Tehachapi Mountains.

Ransom has style and class in abundance and captures that sense of ‘how the other half live’ as well as we ever see in the show’s long lifespan. It’s a visual treat and would have been great to see on a big screen to really gain maximum enjoyment from (as was possible in 1978 when the picture was released in cinemas in Italy and the UK). Some of the editing techniques and fades are very 70s – particularly Leslie’s eyes fading demonically into a set of car headlights and the highly stylised freeze-frame murder scene – but they enhance the episode’s charm rather than detract.

“Billy Goldenberg’s score is a cinematic wonder – as good as anything gracing the silver screens of the time.”

Dean Hargrove’s teleplay is sharply scripted and does an excellent job at showcasing Columbo’s speed of thought. Time and again, the Lieutenant is first to notice little inconsistencies in Leslie’s reactions to events, the types of minor details that elude the more polished FBI men around him. Even at this early stage in his career, Columbo is a fascinating character study and a highly believable on-screen presence.

Special praise must also go to Billy Goldenberg’s score. It’s a cinematic wonder, as good as anything gracing the silver screens of the time. He created a single iconic theme and then fashioned variations on it, sometimes subtle, sometimes haunting, sometimes sweeping and orchestral. Heck, there’s even a muzak version being played at the airport. It’s simply great stuff. The soundtrack was released on vinyl in 1976 and if you’re lucky enough to own a copy, I envy you. Remind yourself of the majesty of the score below…

So, if that’s all good, what didn’t work? Well, the hate-filled Margaret/Leslie relationship seems a bit too pantomime to believe at times. In fact, Margaret as a whole can be quite hard to stomach and the quality of her portrayal is something that divides fans.

Patricia Mattick was just 20 years old at the time of filming and was making only her third screen appearance. While undoubtedly a fine actress, her Margaret seems much more theatrical and less convincing than the assured screen presences of Falk and Grant. Also, I get that she’s the wronged party and has a right to furious with Leslie, but a lot of the time her peevish act meant that I just wanted her to pipe down and get off screen.

“Ransom is technically superior to Prescription: Murder, yet oddly less enjoyable.”

Saying that, Margaret has two fine moments when she slaps Leslie at the funeral and later even tries to clobber Columbo when he admonishes her for her clumsy attempts to frame her stepmother. Both are powerful, emotional scenes that stand out in the memory.

Margaret aside, there’s the question of Leslie’s motive to consider. We never really know why she decides to kill Paul. We can infer that she had no further use for him and needed him out of the way to allow her to fulfil her growing professional and financial ambitions, but it’s never made clear. It doesn’t damage the episode, but I personally always find it more satisfying when we have a clear-cut reason driving the murderer’s actions.

No love lost between these two!

Some critics have savaged the ending, too, citing that someone as intelligent as Leslie would never be caught out the way she is. I don’t agree. As I alluded to earlier, I see Leslie as a risk taker. She calculates her odds in everything she does and her decision to use the ransom money to pay off Margaret is just another example of that. Her actions are believable for her character.

The issue I do have with the ending is that it’s all over in such a hurry. Ransom is long for a Columbo episode, with a 98-minute running time. They had ages to play with, yet the final wrap-up in the airport is gone in a flash. This is a shame, as it gives the viewer little opportunity to savour the gotcha, or marvel at Columbo’s stunning victory.

As a result of these imperfections, Ransom is, perhaps, a little less than the sum of its parts. It’s technically superior to Prescription: Murder, yet oddly less enjoyable. But credit to director Richard Irving, editor Edward M. Abroms and art director John Lloyd. They set out their stall to impress, and they succeeded. The episode was a ratings hit and a critical success. A month after Ransom debuted, NBC commissioned a full series. Six months later, Season 1 would air.

Gee whizz, will you look at that? NBC have commissioned a series…

So, while Ransom might not ultimately be one of my absolute personal favourites, it has many merits and played its part more than well enough to pave the way for greater things to come. I call that a job well done.

Did you know?

Ransom for a Dead Man was released in cinemas around Europe, notably in the UK (in 1973) and Italy (in 1978). A magnificent series of film posters was produced for the Italian release (Riscatto per un uomo morto), which can sometimes be found on eBay and are well worth tracking down if you’re a collector. My own home has a good few of ’em.

Ransom for a Dead Man artwork
A series of very cool Italian movie posters for Ransom were produced

On a sadder note, Patricia Mattick, who played Margaret, died of cancer in December 2003, aged just 52. Watch the episode closely and you can see that Margaret is watching the film Double Indemnity in the house kitchen during an argument with Leslie. Double Indemnity is about a woman who kills her husband to claim an insurance payout. Nice touch!

How I rate ’em so far

While it’s fair to say Columbo’s career is off to a flying start, I do prefer Prescription: Murder to Ransom, albeit it only by a slim margin.

  1. Prescription: Murder
  2. Ransom for a Dead Man

Where does Ransom rank in your list of favourites? Vote for your number one episode in the Columbo best episode poll here.

Thanks, as ever, for reading. I’ll be back with a review of Murder by the Book soon.


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Read my thoughts on the 5 best moments from Ransom for a Dead Man here.

Evil Leslie
See you next time…
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133 thoughts on “Episode review: Columbo Ransom for a Dead Man

  1. So this must have been the episode a friend of mine saw in the cinema in the late 70s, when it was part of a double bill. I remember him complaining to me afterwards about a sequence in a light aircraft “going on much too long”. I can’t say I felt the same when I watched this evening. Best thing for me was Lee Grant : I wish she’d been in more of them. Found the money in the suitcase somehow unsatisfying as a Gotcha though.

     
  2. Sorry, but this episode doesn’t work at all.
    Columbo doesn’t even invesigate here. He merely does two things: he shows his aversion to flying in those pointless though mildly amusing helicopter- and airplane-scenes and speaks about some circumstances bothering him. But he has no evidence whatsoever, He is hardly even involved in the story. The main characters are the villain and the stepdaughter. But she can’t prove her point either, so her action is limited to constantly repeating: “I know you did it ” Very convincing.
    The conclusion is even more problematic. For this sly lawyer who initially wanted to cut all her stepdaughter’s allowances would never ever give her the ransom money to prevent her adversary from firing dummy bullets at her. It might be an annoying experience, but would it induce her to act so foolishly?
    The theme was promising but the execution is somewhat poor.

     
    • Greetings!

      Beg to differ- is a cool episode. The 2nd pilot introduced us to the Lieutenant Columbo we will love- with all his idiosyncrasies- like Leslie says “one of the best” (words) – with the diner scene that introduced us to Columbo and his love for chili. That’s TV history right there.

      Where I possibly agree is that the “lady lawyer” wouldn’t give up so easily/ the woman had no scruples, so the plot hatched by Columbo and the confabulation with stepdaughter Margaret possibly would not have worked, at least not so easily. Doubt that she would have killed Margaret too- 2 deaths in the family in a few weeks would have been way too suspicious- but Leslie would have found a way to avoid Columbo’s trap.

      Also – this is TV and 1971- would a policeman enlist a minor (17, 16? y/o) to bring down Leslie? Giving her a firearm- even with blanks? Not sure about that….

      Still a good episode- superior to its predecessor, Prescription- Murder.
      It’s my favorite episode….always.

      Just my 2 cents – Happy 4th of July to all!

      Ed, the Miami librarian 👋

       
  3. This was a treat to watch. I love the visuals and flying sequences. The set of Williams’ house was great. Fine score and acting!
    I think you are right that the ending could have been better, the pace falls a bit in the middle. I think they could have made up plenty of time to give the episode a satisfying ending – see William’s unwind, get a bit stressed, another damaging clue..

     
    • It’s an awesome episode, always truly enjoy watching it- and lost count how many times that DVD has been played. This is the first apparition of the Lieutenant Columbo one will get to know and love- with all its “idiosyncrasies”- “That’s such a great word. One of the best.” The chemistry between the 2 antagonists is great- I just wish at the end, after Leslie is caught, in the airport, that Margaret passed by and had a “ha ha” moment. Gotcha!

      A word about Margaret- she lost her mother to illness, her father was killed by her stepmother and now the latter is going to jail. Goodness, such a tragic life at 17 already. (Think she is supposed to be that age, more or less.) Patricia Mattick did a great job as Margaret- not a “bratty” performance- she was just defending herself from that evil lady lawyer.
      RIP Patricia Mattick 👩🏻‍🦰👓💐

      Ed from Florida 👋

       
    • Totally agree- the cemetery scene is awesome. The music and the lush green scenery as Margaret walks through the gravestones and at the ends meets Lt. Columbo. 1971 sure was a different time! Very well filmed and acted. 👍

       
    • Another winner of an episode. Lee Grant always delivers a great performance. I personally enjoy the episodes with a female killer. I think this is the start of where the victim is killed rather quickly. Without us viewers seeing the reason/ or threat behind the killing. I like it better when I think the victim deserves it, Did he deserve to be killed in this episode.?
      Also the uncle in suitable for framing, killed too quickly. Did he deserve to die.
      Ida Lupino in swan song, that killing I enjoyed, she deserved it. Columbophile can I ask of you to go through the episodes and see who deserved to die and who didn’t. Those accidental deaths that you helped me with are on the list of not deserving to die. Now I’m thinking this could be very difficult to do, thinking it’s a matter of opinion. Did the Uncle in the Martin Landau episode deserve to die?. Dick Van Dyke’s shrew of a wife deserved it. Or we might not see the reason, but the killer obviously did.

       
  4. Not the strongest of episodes but the plane scene was terrific, it really felt like the first of those instances where the murderer tries to show their superiority to Columbo by taking him out of his comfort zone. Falk’s acting in that scene is top notch.

     
    • In my humble opinion- a great episode- it laid the groundwork for the episodes that followed- in this episode Falk found the Columbo “persona”. Prescription Murder – the first pilot-2/20/1968- was a great beginning- but Ransom 3/31/1971-convinced NBC that they should get going with the series. Both Falk and Grant were awesome- and this episode introduced the viewing public to a newcomer, 19 y/o Pattye Mattick- and whatever people may say of Margaret Williams- her character-she was awesome. (It was her second TV appearance- after Room 222 in November 1979, but that show had a smaller audience.)

      The rest is history. Just my 2 cents…

      Best regards,

      Ed from Miami, FL 🙂

       
      • Apologies- Half Way- the Room 222 in which Pattye Mattick appeared aired on November 1970, not 1979- typo. 😮

         
  5. Sorry, but this episode doesn’t work at all.
    Columbo doesn’t even invesigate here. He does do two things: he shows his aversion to flying in those pointless helicopter- and airplane-scenes and speaks about some circumstances bothering him. But he has no evidence whatsoever, He is hardly even involved in the story. The main characters are the villain and the stepdaughter. But she can’t prove her point either, so her action is limited to constantly repeating: “I know you did it ”
    The conclusion is even worse than that. For this sly lawyer who initially wanted to cut all her stepdaughter’s allowances would never ever give her the ransom money so that she wouldn’t fire dummy bullets at her.
    The theme was promising but the execution is just very poor.

     
    • Greetings! Ransom is on this Sunday 3/15 at 7 a m EST on Hallmark Movies and Mysteries- for me is the best episode. 👍💐👩🏻‍🦰👓 Ed

       
  6. ‪Greetings! Know Sunday is still far away but finally one of the networks will air Ransom for a Dead Man- they take their time to air it—-and is the best Columbo episode ever, in my humble opinion—Hallmark Movies & Mysteries is airing it next Sunday 3/15 @ 7 am EST- starring Peter Falk, Lee Grant & Patricia Mattick- March 15th-the ides of March. 👩🏻‍🦰👓💐📺🕵️‍♂️‬

    Ed from Florida

     
  7. Ransom for a dead man was aired last Sunday not one of my favorites but not a bad episode either , I find Margarets character was very annoying and the ending was a bit flat and predictable . best part/scene of this episode was the plane / Cessna scene ransom is ok but wouldn’t trouble my top 30 overall .

     
    • Margarets character was annoying. But do you think the actress purposely played her that way? You have a hard time mustering up any sympathy for her that’s for sure

       
    • Yesterday March 1st-49 years ago Ransom for a Dead Man aired on NBC…the 2nd pilot that convinced the network to launch the series ..starring Peter Falk, Lee Grant and a newcomer, an awesome 19 y/o redhead by the name of Patricia Mattick..the rest is history. RIP Patricia 🙏🏻👏📺

       
    • It’s true. Margaret was annoying. And Patricia was directed. She didn’t write the script or direct the episode. If the director had wanted her to be sweet (or even slightly less obnoxious), she could have played it that way. Patricia was so talented and professional, she could have played Margaret any way the director asked her to.

      I like how far out Margaret is. Her dad’s dead, Leslie’s a murderer, and Margaret knows it.

      Patricia enjoyed playing that part, and working with Peter Falk and Lee Grant.

       
    • Hello to all! Just FYI tomorrow Sunday 3/15 at 7 am EST- Hallmark Movies and Mysteries will air the 1971 classic, the 2nd pilot, “Ransom for a Dead Man”, starring Peter Falk, Lee Grant and Patricia Mattick. Let’s go back to March 1, 1971- I find it so interesting. Don’t remember the 70s much, was 2 y/o when Ransom premiered. Kudos to HMM, is the only network that shows it every now and then, no love from the others. Obviously I own the DVD – but love to watch it on TV. Despite what some people say, I love this episode, Patricia was so awesome.
      Regards,

      Ed from Florida 👍

       
  8. Easy to rank these 2 pilots

    1) Prescription Murder
    2) Ransom for a Dead man

    IN summary Ransom isnt a bad episode but Prescription murder is 5 times a more enjoyable quality and memorable outing and would almost make my top 10 overall.

     
    • Hello to all! Ed from Miami, FL. I’m the one always researching and writing about the late Patricia Mattick- Margaret in Ransom for a Dead Man. Is taking me longer than expected to her Wikipedia article up, boy, they are picky- but now she has an article on Everipedia- it has 22 views since this morning, if anyone cares to visit. She is also on Pinterest and Listal-under her name; below is the Everipedia link, or just type her name and it will come up. About time she had one! 👩🏻‍🦰Thank you for the opportunity to mention this, most awesome Columbophile!

      https://everipedia.org/wiki/lang_en/patricia-mattick

      Ed, the Miami librarian 👍

       
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  11. Watching it again, and thinking for the first time: did Leslie’s cover-up include sleeping with the FBI agent in charge of the investigation? She is especially charming to the poor guy. Then, after he kicks Columbo out of the house, Carlson doesn’t leave– and while I’m typing this, Margaret is sitting there watching Double Indemnity, where some dame knocks off her husband and has an affair with the insurance investigator. It’s a really faint hint…

     
  12. Just watched this episode again and saw a slight resemblance to the Grant and Falk airplane scene to the scene in the movie It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World, in which Mickey Rooney and Buddy Hackett were forced into landing a plane. Falk had a small cameo in that movie several years before this episode. I just wonder if the scene in this pilot episode was derived from that scene in this classic 1963 comedy.

     
  13. I’m watching this episode right now on COZI TV and find the music and direction pretty irritating. The stop-action business shown in the clip above when the shooting occurs is ridiculous, along with the accompanying smoke-detector music. I guess these silly effects were in vogue back then. Glad later episodes did not employ them.

     
    • Hello to all,

      Well done episode- great performances by Peter Falk and Lee Grant. Regarding Patricia Mattick- she was only 19 when the episode was filmed and her second acting opportunity- after Room 222, according to my researching. She did a fine job- a little unhinged, not bad. This is1971 and after all, her father was killed, not sure how I would have reacted if that happened to me. TV has changed so much- I saw this episode for the first time in the 80’s….when it came out I was 2 y/o….Awesome website- thank you for the opportunity of adding my 2 cents to the conversation.

       
      • Patricia Mattick tragically died of cancer in her 50s the early 2000s. Lee Grant (pushing 94 as of this writing) is the sole surviving credited actor from this episode, as far as I know, given that Falk and Gould are also long deceased.

         
        • Indeed, she died of cancer in FL in 2003 and was buried in her native Colorado. So only Lee Grant is alive-fine actress, a legend. RIP Patricia Mattick.
          Best regards,
          Ed, Columbo fan from FL

           
          • On behalf of my dear friend Patricia Mattick, I thank everyone for their continuing interest in her. She would be so pleased to know that she is remembered.

             
            • Thank you so much, Iva! 👌 I appreciate your comment so much, since you knew her. I never met Patricia but I seen most of her work that is available online or on DVD and she was a great actress- Tv, Theater, The Beguiled. Talented and soo beautiful.

              It saddens me she is not on this earth anymore but her work lives on, and it will always be remembered- every time they show Columbo’s Ransom on TV- my favorite episode. 👍
              I made a board on Pinterest and another one on Listal about her, and I am working on a Wikipedia article for her- she should have one. Hope this is ok, always respectful.
              Again, thank you for writing- this means a lot from someone that was her friend as you were.
              Best regards, Ed Porben 👋
              Miami, FL

               
            • Hello everyone! I just wanted to mention that I got on the mail the Ironside DVD of the episode “Walls are Waiting”- and it was an awesome episode. I know Columbo is dear to all our hearts as the best detective in the world…..but it was a great episode.
              Iva (Turner) if you read this- Patricia was amazing- such passion and how awesome the portrayed her character of Millie- scary and sad, in particular the end. She was so talented- so sad she has departed this world. She was such a talented, accomplished actress, not to mention so pretty. I always wondered why she stopped doing television- I think in 1979 and started doing theater/plays.

              I know she was big on drama/acting in high school but I always wondered about this.
              I thank you all for reading my post, Iva if you read this I did another post- if you can read it and if you like to check out the pages I did on Patricia. Apologies for imposing- currently working on a Wiki page on her.

              Best regards to all, thank you so much, ColumboPhile, thank you Iva,

              Ed from Miami, FL

               
    • How different appreciations can be. I like the direction and the music of that episode, and especially of the shooting scene, very, very much. The images “seen” by the killed man (!) at 2:25 and 2:42 are the strongest. Very good work.

       
  14. As a Columbo fan and vintage telephone collector this one is an interesting episode as it is one of many to feature the Bell System’s (the US phone monopoly at the time) latest wares, in this case the WE (Western Electric) Card Dialler, a short lived automatic dialling telephone. The answer machine is an early model made by Dictaphone using 8 track technology. Bell System phones are common props in columbo, a tampered with WE 2500 multi line phone in “Excercise in Fatality”, a WE Automatic Telephone in “Old Fashioned Murder” and of course the wall mounted WE 2554 in “How to Dial a Murder”. I always wondered if the Bell System advertised in the ad breaks as a commercial tie in.

     
    • This is a very important remark. Because the telephone is almost always the “third character” (after Columbo himself and after the murderer) in the Columbo episodes. If it’s not only the telephone itself and its facilities, it’s the moment and the way the telephone is used, by the murderer (Negative Reaction, Exercise in Fatality, Murder by the Book, etc. etc.) or by Columbo himself. Often there is a phone-call for or by Columbo which allows him to give an information he wants the murderer to know (Swan Song, etc.).
      A Columbo in the 21st century would be very different, or even impossible, because of the telephone-technology.

      The Columbo TV-series shows the evolution of the ICT from the 70ties to the 90ties, and falisifying a telephone, a tape or a movie is more interesting stuff than changing a computer file (Murder can be Hazardous), although there are good exceptions, with mobile telephones (Butterfly).

       
  15. I’m a big fan of ransom. Mainly because I’m convinced Columbo has an idea what’s going on before he even arrives.
    When he enters the house and is introduced as local police liaison he announces that they have found the car. Although the FBI are already aware of this Columbo later claims that the drivers seat was too close and he couldn’t find the car keys. This made him believe a woman was driving the car and explains his entrance when he gets the wife to help him look for his pen. Surely she wouldn’t care less about his pen if she was genuinely worried about her husband.
    Columbo had solved this case before he even appeared on screen. Legend

     
  16. I’ve always thought the writers missed a great clue in “Ransom for a Dead Man.” A great negative clue. When the FBI and Columbo arrive at the drop location and find the empty flight bag, no one treats it as evidence. After all, the bag could have the “kidnapper’s” fingerprints on it. It should have been handled with care, sealed in plastic, etc. Even if Columbo often isn’t very by-the-book with evidence, the FBI always is. And the bag should have been fingerprinted. This would have revealed no prints (as Leslie was wearing gloves when she tossed it from the plane). But how is this possible? Lots of people handled that bag, loading the money, etc. They weren’t wearing gloves. The absence of their prints would have been powerful evidence that this wasn’t the bag the FBI filled with the ransom money.

     
  17. Mrs Williams wasn’t bad looking either but I’m not a huge fan of ransom for a dead man, I prefer the other pilot prescription murder as I think it has more memorable scenes better script and storyline and better clues and ending but I am not condemning Ransom for a dead man its a good episode.

     
  18. i love the scene as kay freestone races back to the projection booth in make me a perfect murder its the best scene from the entire 70s and what a strong episode it was and a gorgeous Colombo killer.

     
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