Episode Guide / Opinion / Pilot

Episode review: Columbo Ransom for a Dead Man


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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247 thoughts on “Episode review: Columbo Ransom for a Dead Man

  1. Overrated episode. Too much literal “head scratching” by Columbo. Biggest flaw is he picks up the empty ransom bag except THEY WOULD OF DUSTED FOR PRINTS. Major plot mistake. Can’t have Columbo rely on hunches, but ignore basic police work.

  2. Happy Tuesday, awesome people!
    Probably you know this but METV is airing the pilot episodes again- Sunday 7/18 Prescription: Murder and Sunday 7/25 the best episode ever- in my humble opinion- Ransom for a Dead Man. In a new time slot- starting at 6 pm EST – they are showing Monk at 8 pm now. At least with 2 hours -well there should be no cuts.
    Hope your daughter is doing better, Columbophile!

    Best regards,

    Ed the librarian

    • I’ve seen that they’re doing this. But after those two pilots, they’re going back to “Etude in Black.” I thought that they’d be using the new time slot to show the rest of the 2-hour ones, some of which I still haven’t seen. I’m disappointed, to say the least.

      • It would be better if the followed the order of the episodes…. And much rather have Columbo at 8 pm and Monk at 6pm….not the other way around…. Oh, well…. I think the last time they aired Ransom was in January ….. I have the collection on DVD…. But is always nice to see the episode on tv…..

        Ed from Florida

  3. Leslie’s motive, although it’s hearsay, is made clear. Margaret tells Columbo all about how Paul was upset with Leslie’s phoniness and intended to expose her. In Leslie’s warped mind, she was defending herself & Paul had to go.

    • Yet Paul’s reaction to Leslie
      upon his arrival suggests that
      they had patched up their differences. And
      that at least Paul believed that they were
      behind them now.

  4. “I don’t don’t how you do it,” said Columbo.
    “Do what?” asked the young, male associate lawyer.
    “Work for a woman, ” Columbo said.

    That line might have worked in 1971, but it has certainly not aged well.

    I much prefer “Prescription,” but we are seeing Peter Falk evolve nicely into the Columbo we know and love in “Ransom.” (The chili, the stories about his family, etc..)

    Also, and I’m not ashamed to admit it: when I was a kid, I sometimes thought those lemon soaps were candies!

    • Greetings from Florida! Indeed, some of the comments are typical of the times, 1971…. “How can you work for a woman?”…. Columbo asks the John Fink character….yes, other times…..

      Just like the scene when Margaret is watching tv and having breakfast and Leslie comes down and they exchange some words. When Margaret asks Leslie where is she going, and Leslie tells her she is going to work, she replies “Seems like a strange time to play “lady lawyer”…. and they exchange looks…. that is an “interesting” line…. indeed other times.

      Is an interesting, good episode, all in all…

      My 2 cents…. best regards,

      Ed the librarian 🙂

      • We see the term “outdated” used sometimes for male-female relationships of the recent past. I wonder what the comment will be forty years hence, for the ideas popular these days.

      • Hello Eric,

        So true- I guess the true constant in life is change…. the world in 1971 was a quite different place- I was 2 then so don’t remember much…. but the 70s were a magical time…. This coming March 1st will be the 50th anniversary of the original airing of Ransom- 3/1/1971… time flies… Only Lee Grant and John Fink are still alive….

        Best regards,
        Ed 👍

  5. Just finished watching- I definitely liked it overall (BIG fan of the last scene, I always love when the murderer congratulates Columbo for his well fought win. Similarly, I loved the scene where Leslie calls him out on his bumbling act. Every scene between the two really was wonderful! It felt like such an even playing field- Leslie made a fantastic villain.) but what a shock to see Columbo still transitioning into the character I’m more familiar with. For some reason the diner scene was hardest for me to watch- Columbo seemed so cold and dismissive to the daughter. I’m still not entirely sure why- he’s the one who told her to come find him if she wanted to talk. He knew she’d be an ‘in’. She hadn’t done anything to provoke him (yet- god that slapping scene was rough to watch too). I’m not sure him giving her the cold shoulder helped win her onto his side in any way- she was already willing to spill everything to him. His demeanour seemed so odd and out of place there, and a complete contrast to how he bends over backwards to comfort women later on in the series. On the note of Margaret- I really liked her character, she was petulant and impulsive but she had good reasons for it. Reminds me a little of Hamlet- snarky when he didn’t know his step-father killed his dad, FURIOUS and snarky when he DID know but couldn’t prove it. Overall a good episode! I am glad Columbo’s edges get rounded out more as they go though- but maybe I’m falling too hard for his friendly act. Diner-Columbo struck me as someone who wouldn’t smile at you in a hall-way.

    • Hello from Florida,

      I totally agree, Random is a great episode. Seems like the Margaret character wasn’t very well developed- or there are some contradictions in the script on how it was developed…and I’m not criticizing the actress who played her- Pattye Mattick did a great job.

      She was following the instructions from the director- Mr Irving, a seasoned pro…and you are right-Monique, he is cold and rough with this teenager. The slapping scene, the diner… after he offered his help in the cemetery…. (They have to be in agreement/confabulation to do what Margaret did later-she was following Columbo’s instructions.) He is using a teenager- to catch the criminal….even gave her a gun, even if it had only blanks….
      Also there should have been some closure at the end—after Leslie accepts the fact the Columbo caught her- bring in Margaret in at the end….

      Columbo was tougher and rougher with Margaret than with the suspect- Leslie. And he was always nice with the ladies, even the criminals….

      All in all, a great episode. My 2 cents…

      Thank you,

      Ed the librarian 👍

      • I think it’s incredibly convenient for the killer to leave no evidence i.e. blood etc when she kills her husband at home and then moves his body?

        • I seem to recall Columbo saying something about the small caliber weapon being used because the killer didn’t want an exit wound. We’re supposed to think the blood was (mostly or completely) on the victim’s clothing. Not uncommon for TV murders.

  6. Great writeup of the episode. I have to admit the stepdaughter annoyed me the first few times I watched it. At first I thought I didn’t like her acting but now I think it’s just good acting which was a major contribution to Columbo solving the crime.

    One thing that has always bothered me was the bag. Instead of having a duplicate bag in the office where she got the cash, why not have a bag in the plane? She could move the money during the flight to her bag then toss out the original bag.

    • They were watching her pretty closely and Columbo was already suspicious about the bag. If she tossed it out of the plane, someone might have seen it.

    • Hello!

      Totally agree! Patricia Mattick was awesome as Margaret Williams- she did an amazing job. She was a great actress, RIP. And anyways she would have followed the instructions of the director, Richard Irving….


      Ed the librarian from Florida 👍

    • The money was a little too
      bulky to carry on her off the
      plane, so she had to do the switch at the flying club
      office and leave the bag in her locker until she got

  7. I thought this episode was a gem. One thing I especially liked–other than Margaret, who I thought was terrific–was something actually missing–that is, Columbo not calling Leslie “ma’am” every two seconds. I love our detective as much as everyone else, but in later episodes his constant use of “sir” and “ma’am” gets tiring. It makes him seem to obsequious. In this one, he addresses her by title much less often, and when he does, it’s “Mrs. Williams.”

    • I couldn’t find any real
      flaws, and I thought the
      final sting was really well prepared.

      So many of the episode’s part were
      later reused – the fake kidnapping,
      the edited victim’s voice, the missing
      keys – in regular episodes, that the
      pilot became boring to re-watch. But
      it really packed a punch originally.

  8. Bert of Barney’s Beanery is played by legendary character actor Timothy Carey, who appeared two more times on Columbo. He played Bert again in Dead Weight and Tony the deli proprietor who got beat up in Fade in to Murder. Carey was a terrific actor, with notable appearances in two of Stanley Kubrick’s earlier works as well as two films by John Cassavetes. Carey had the rare distinction of being on the album cover of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, but his face was obscured by George Harrison’s head. He can be seen in alternate takes from that photo shoot.

    • Hello friends! Greetings from Florida! Ransom for a Dead Man plays tonight Sunday 11/22 @ 8 pm on METV – travel back to 1971- my favorite Columbo episode! Be well, be safe, regards,

      Ed the librarian

  9. After watching this episode (“Ransom For a Dead Man”) for a second time I was even more impressed with it than after the first viewing. The acting is superb. Lee Grant, as Leslie Williams, is one of the few villains who, as pointed out by Columbophile, quickly learns to not underestimate Lt Columbo’s self-portrayal as a forgetful, clueless, incompetent lawman and realizes he is exceptionally perceptive and intelligent. That makes their chemistry and interactions even better than many of the other killers, who naively dismiss Columbo and let their guard down. The only mistake Leslie Williams makes is to pay off her stepdaughter with her husband’s ransom money, incriminating herself in the process. I personally thought that Patricia Mattick’s acting performance (as Margaret Williams) was very good (she’s not on the same level as Peter Falk or Lee Grant, but few actors are), and would ask those viewers who found her performance annoying to consider these circumstances:

    Margaret was a young teenaged girl whose mom had died, whose dad had gotten re-married to a greedy woman who disliked Margaret, and Margaret suspected her stepmom of killing her father. Further, Leslie threatens to cut off Margaret financially. Isn’t it understandable for her to be angry and bitter?

    I do have one question, however, that maybe someone could help me with:

    1). How did Columbo know that the $$$ in the suitcase that Leslie gave to Margaret was the ransom money? Was it marked, or were the serial numbers recorded?

    Like many other viewers have pointed out, the plot is not perfect (none of the plots are EVER perfect, so this is in no way criticism that ruins my impression of the storyline:

    1). It’s hard to believe that Leslie could ever have carried her husband’s body out of the house, placed it into her trunk, wrapped it like she did, and dispose of it into the ocean by herself.

    2). Dumping her husband’s body in this manner immediately after shooting him risked the police finding the corpse even before the phone call for the ransom came in the following day, which would have blown her entire plan.

    Something else that bothered me a bit was the fact that the police helicopter told Leslie that they would follow her at 2 miles in trail before they departed to airdrop the ransom bag. Leslie reported her airspeed as 150 knots (nautical miles per hour). This equates to about 160 statute miles per hour, or a tad faster than 2.5 miles per minute. So the helicopter, 2 miles behind Leslie’s plane, would been slightly less than 1 minute behind her. There is no way, even if the ransom bag had fallen perfectly into the waiting arms of the theoretical kidnappers, that they could have emptied the bag and driven off before the police helicopter landed.

    On the plus side, I love Grant’s performance. Aside from the fact that she kills her husband, she plays the role of a strong woman (highly successful lawyer, daring private pilot), which was extremely rare for females in the early 1970s. Watching this episode in the 21st century is amusing – Columbo was the typical old-fashioned male with the rather chauvinistic mindset of the time (asking the male lawyer if it bothered him to work for a woman, or playing a secretarial role, asking Leslie with amazement if she really knew could fly an airplane, and if she flew by herself, etc.).

    Something that strikes me is the contrast between Columbo’s murder cases (where the killers almost always confess when Columbo confronts them with circumstantial evidence, but rarely with damning proof off their guilt), versus the “Dirty Harry” movies of the same era (early-mid 1970s). In the original “Dirty Harry” movie, inspector Callahan (played by Clint Eastwood) is constantly thwarted by legal technicalities (damning evidence of a murder weapon is thrown out because it was acquired without a warrant, someones Miranda’s rights aren’t read to them, etc). A judge even tells him that, as a result of legal technicalities, a lot of solid proof that would have put the killer behind bars is all inadmissible because it was obtained before Callahan got a warrant, and “I don’t have enough evidence to convict him of spitting on the sidewalk”. But in the Columbo episodes, Columbo often seems to walk into rooms without warrants and collects evidence, and the killers nearly always confess to him when he lets them know that circumstantial evidence is not in their favor. I think it’s ironic that the tone of these two police shows/movies are so very different, when they were done in the same time period. Has anyone else ever noticed this?

    • Hello Sumo, great analysis and comments. Ransom is such a great episode, it’s the one that finally convinced NBC to finally launch the series- that didn’t happen with pilot #1- Prescription Murder, in 68’. The episode featured great acting from legendary actors the late Peter Falk and Lee Grant (today is her 95th birthday)- and of course Pattye Mattick- she was awesome as the stepdaughter Margaret Williams. Appreciate the positive comment about the latter’s acting.
      Best regards,

      Ed Porben from Florida 👍

      • Ed, thank you for the kind words. It’s nice to read the comments from other Columbo fans. This is definitely one of my favorite episodes. I’m currently watching a season 7 episode “Make Me a Perfect Murder” with Trish Van Devere playing another strong female character/killer. Have you seen this episode? Take care, Sumo

        • Thank you, Sumo- interesting comments and analysis. Ransom is such a great episode- it’s the episode that truly launched the Columbo fans got to know and love. The rumpled clothes, the ragged coat, his love for chili in the iconic scene in the diner, when he discusses with Margaret (Pattye Mattick) the puzzling case, his use of “homey anecdotes, shopworn bag of tricks, the seeming absent-kindness” to quote the lady lawyer, Leslie Williams.

          It’s a great episode- the one that finally convinced NBC to launch the series- that didn’t happen with Prescription Murder in 68’.

          Many thanks,

          Ed the Florida librarian 🙂

    • Columbo and Dirty Harry have very different premises (incidentally, do not confuse the storylines in both with real-life homicides – they are, after all, entertainment and not documentaries). Both have colorful characters, but the big selling point in Columbo is a seemingly bumbling detective with whom the audience can identify (since we often have feelings of inadequacy), taking down a superior person whom many of us would secretly envy. The selling point in Dirty Harry is the loner – say, the downtrodden, with whom we again might identify – managing against the odds to beat the bureaucracy which suppresses our lives. PS Contrary to the views of those who think human nature can be changed, there are still plenty of men out there who have the odd assumption that the average woman is not, or should not, be assertive.

      • Eric, thank you for the reply. I agree with your comments, and I’m a fan of both Columbo and Dirty Harry, despite their differences. I find myself watching a lot of shows and sitcoms from my youth – to me, there is nothing on film or tv that compares favorably nowadays. Sumo

    • Columbo picks up the empty ransom bag. thus contaminating evidence prior to finger printing. So this episode sucks

      • Columbo is good old entertainment- doesn’t have to be perfect…… Good enough for me! If I got all bent out of shape whenever the story didn’t make 100% …. That’s why the show won so many Emmys….

  10. Question for Columbophile: While this review goes a ways back, it sounds as if you rate Ransom a mere whisker behind Prescription. But in the final ranking of old episodes, you have a healthy sized separation between the two, with Prescription ending the first tier and Ransom ending the second tier.

    I’m just wondering if your opinion of Ransom has diminished since this review and having reviewed later eps, or if you feel the 15 or so episodes listed above Ransom in the second tier are that tightly bunched in terms of quality?

    Thanks for the addictive site!

    • Good question! For starters, although there are several places between the two on the charts, I do still rate them both very highly, and there’s only very fine divides between the episodes. At the time of writing the reviews, I probably would have thought I’d rank Ransom a bit higher overall than I do now, while at the same time I’ve grown to appreciate Prescription: Murder more.

      • Thanks for the response. In truth, one could probably toss all the good-not-great/B-list episodes into a hat and call em equal. But what’s the fun in that? 😏

      • I have been running Columbo’s around the clock even while working the last couple of weeks. Between all the multi-tasking I have come to realize what my favorite episodes really are even though I have seen them all a bazillion times.

        You are so correct that so many are razor thin. When I stop what I am doing to watch specific scenes in specific episodes or just lol at certain times, then I know that is an episode I truly love. This one has always been a fave, but Ransom and Prescription both I can watch at any time. I loved Lee Grant in this, one of the best performances in a Columbo and I have found I really enjoy the female killers because of Columbo’s interactions with them, even in weaker episodes. Wish there were more, actually.

        Murder by the Book, A Stitch in Crime, An Exercise in Fatality, The Most Crucial Game, Death Lends a Hand, A Friend In Deed, Suitable for Framing, Make Me a Perfect Murder, By Dawn’s Early Light, Troubled Waters, Candidate for Crime, Lovely but Lethal, Bye Bye, Blueprint for Murder, Columbo Goes to College and Death Hits the Jackpot are probably my faves and very hard to narrow down. Maybe even toss in A Case of Immunity as a must watch, at least for me.

        Probably leaving a few out, but I guess that could be my A list. Oops, left out Lady in Waiting, but Beth Chadwick really grated on my nerves.

        I will be donating again soon. This blog is a great source of entertainment for me and I really respect your efforts and abilities, so thanks much and wish your personal life the best and family well.

        I did have an idea or maybe it already exists and I missed it. What about an ad hoc thread not devoted to just one episode, but more of an all around topic thread or free for all? Just a thought and again, much appreciation to you CP.

  11. Proving that Leslie has the ransom money in no way proves that she killed her husband, just that she kept the money and threw an empty bag to the potential kidnappers. I don’t even know whether she can be prosecuted for that.

    • Not direct evidence of murder but hiding the ransom money is pretty strong circumstantial evidence–no one else had a motive to kill her husband, and why would she switch bags, hide the money, and fake the drop if she didn’t already know he was dead?

    • Hey, maybe child neglect? She tosses and pushes Margaret around- verbal abuse, Ed physical abuse- she is a minor-17, 18? This was 1971…. “You won’t see a nickel, collecting social security…” “where would you’ll friends be when you don’t have the money to buy them”…. she is mean to the poor girl-👩🏻‍🦰👓 child abuse-endangerment…. Maybe there is something there…… 😉Mean lady lawyer.

      Ed 👍

    • @Rob Gallagher
      That would just mean that she didn’t want to pay the ransom and didn’t want to admit it, only that she faked giving up that money.
      I think it wouldn’t be a crime to refuse cooperating with kidnappers and not doing what they say in the first place.

  12. Margaret copying the car keys, Columbo catching her using the locksmith–was that a set-up between Margaret and Columbo to rattle Leslie? It could have been–it happened after they met at Barney’s Beanery but it also could have been Margaret acting on her own after Columbo told her about the keys.

    • Possible-Rob, maybe that was part of the confabulation and perform all that show in front of Leslie. Seems quite possible- or maybe Margaret took matters into her own hands and she had the locksmith come over, etc. Perfectly plausible…. “You know she did it, she did it.”….. I think is one of the few times someone tried to slap Columbo- he stopped her…..

      It’s a cool episode, say what people may say…..


      • As Columbo says, he had the
        house watched. So Margaret
        having a locksmith come to the place, and then
        his finding out what keys were made, tripped her up
        The frame-up was Margaret’s response after Columbo
        tells her at the beanery, that her heresay evidence is no

    • Except for the last scene
      at the airport, I think Margaret
      is genuine in every scene she appears, and
      shows what she believes. That and simple
      logic makes me believe that her and Columbo’s
      argument was genuine. I suspect that her
      failure to find the keys, caused her to improvise.

  13. I have not read all comments so perhaps this was addressed. But, to me, the script for Random just wasn’t very tight for a murder mystery. Wouldn’t the random note be checked for fingerprints; she didn’t use gives. The close Wouldn’t they do a search on all her calls to see if could trace from where the initial call came and find out 12:15 call came from a friend? To me, these are just two of the fundamental holes that keep this script from being believable.

    • I thought about the fingerprints too and that Leslie didn’t use gloves but her prints SHOULD be on the note–it was mailed to her (she mailed it to herself) and she would have opened it before the police arrived.

  14. The “Double Indemnity” connection works on a few levels in addition to wife killing husband. In both “Ransom” and “Double Indemnity,” stepdaughter and stepmother hate each other and stepdaughter suspects stepmother of killing her father. The scene where Margaret sees Leslie dancing around the living room after the funeral recalls the scene in “Double Indemnity” where Lola talks about seeing Phyllis trying on a black hat before the murder. Lola goes to the insurance investigator with her suspicions about stepmother; Margaret goes to Columbo. Lola and Walter go to a Mexican restaurant; Margaret and Columbo meet at Barney’s Beanery.

    • Also in both, the stepmother met the husband while he was still married to the mother–Phyllis when she was the mother’s nurse, Leslie when she was at the law firm.

    • How interesting, Rob! Never thought of so many connections between the movie Double Indemnity and the episode Ransom. It’s a good episode, may not be perfect but it’s pretty good. It’s withstood the test of time-truly launched the Columbo most of the fans would grow to live, with all his “idiosyncrasies” and his “homey anecdotes” to quote a certain lady lawyer.

      Regards, Ed from Florida

  15. I don’t really understand Margaret’s pretend financial arrangement with Leslie.
    Margaret: “You used all of my trust account…”
    Leslie: “I’ll give you $20,000 a year for 5 years–that will take you into your trust.”
    Margaret: “My trust was for $25,000 a year…”

    But if Margaret thinks that Leslie used all of the trust to pay the ransom, what does “take you into your trust” mean? Does it mean that Leslie will use the ransom to pay the $25,000 a year (which Margaret already suspects) for 5 years until Margaret attains trust age, at which time Leslie will start regular trust payments under the original trust terms (maybe re-funding the trust during those 5 years?) That way, as Leslie understands it, Margaret would get 5 years of trust payments from the ransom before she’s of trust age. It’s all moot of course because Margaret doesn’t intend to keep any of the ransom money but “take you into your trust” confuses me since the trust has no money in it, according to Leslie.

    I love this episode. I sent a photo of Lee Grant as Leslie to her apartment in NYC a couple years back, she kindly signed it for me. My favorite actress.

    • Hey Rob! The writers kind of lost me there too- maybe some weird 1971 financial strategy/confabulation? …..Indeed it’s all moot since the purpose of the “bribe” is to bring the tricky lady lawyer down. It’s a great episode- to me far superior to “Prescription Murder.” Lee Grant is a legendary actress, so cool and nice she signed her picture for you. She is a classy, awesome lady. Wish Patricia Mattick was still alive, she died so young, only 52, 1951-2003. 😞

      Ed from Florida

    • She won’t receive her father’s
      trust payments left in his will
      until she becomes old enough. Take her into the trust,
      means the yearly payments until she becomes eligible.

  16. Jean Byron, who played Natalie Lane, Patty’s mother on “The Patty Duke Show,” is Pat, Leslie’s tennis partner and unwitting phone accomplice.

  17. So many great Falk-Lee Grant moments. When he asks if he can take down the name of her office recording machine, she has the pen out before he turns around (they first met when he was hunting for his lost pen outside her house–does anyone know what’s written on the welcome mat?)

    • Cool question- I think is could say “Williams Residence” on the welcome mat? The 2nd word is probably residence- the first one not so sure- looks like it could be Williams but it may be too short for that. Maybe “Leslie Residence”? Kidding……


        • Indeed- so hard to read- copy pasted the screenshot to Word and playing with it-is really hard to read. Maybe “Margaret’s Residence”- 👍 kidding- that would have come later after the lady lawyer was arrested.


        • Casa de Williams! Williams House! pretty cool. Maybe that was changed later to Margaret’s Residence… when the lady lawyer went away due to her “legal troubles”….. maybe she took the red wine with her…..


  18. Lee Grant lost the Emmy that year to…Lee Grant. She was nominated for “Ransom for a Dead Man” but won for “The Neon Ceiling.” The other nominee that year was Colleen Dewhurst in “The Price.”

    • Grant was superb in this episode, she was always the pro. She was almost as good as Patricia Mattick………………

      • Greetings! Lee Grant is an awesome, legendary actress. She was an amazing villain as the “lady lawyer.” Her chemistry with Peter Falk was great- they worked in several projects throughout their careers. And am I reading right? A compliment for Pattye Mattick? So awesome to read it. This was her 2nd tv appearance- she did a good job. Richard Irving- the director of the episode passed away in 1990- long time ago. Would have loved to ask him his opinion- the actors act the way the director tells them to act. Patricia Mattick was very talented and unique.

        Cheers from Florida!


  19. Ransom for a Dead Man is a solid entry in the series but isn’t one of my favourite episodes of the original run. The Columbo character is really taking shape and Falk is so good. I enjoy his scenes with Lee Grant, especially when in the plane. I actually don’t mind the gotcha and I can see how a character like Leslie could be tricked into paying off Margaret with the ransom money, although it does feel rushed. The middle of the episode drags but the murder at the start is rushed with little back story and I find it hard to believe Leslie could have carried out this murder alone and I am certain she couldn’t have dragged her husbands body into the boot of the car alone.
    There is not enough detective work for me and it feels a bit like a soap opera sometimes when Margaret arrives to stay with Leslie. All in all a decent episode but not the most interesting one for me.

  20. Her motive is given. At the end of the plane ride, and knowing how beloved her late husband had been, Colombo tells her about how perfect his cousin Ralph was – so perfect that Colombo could just have killed him (as he says). At that there is a long pause and the two gaze into each other’s eyes. She knows that he knows. I also concur that she should not have made the mistake of giving Margaret some of the ransom money, with marked bills. Somebody as calculating as she would have burned the money – it is the one item that could nail her (well, ok, she was greedy, too, so maybe not burn). There was one other very subtle connection to Double Indemnity. Soon after we see the clip from Double Indemnity, Mr Falk and Miss Grant meet and exchange a few lines virtually taken from that movie. PS I agree that the FBI behavior at the site of the supposed pickup of the ransom money was WAY off police procedure – no securing of the site for tire tracks, handling of the bag with gloves.

    • Hello! I love Ransom for a Dead Man- is a great episode. Not perfect, but then again perfection is nonexistent. I been watching a lot of 1970s tv episodes the last year- online, DVDs I bought- I was 2 when Ransom originally was broadcast on 3/1/1971. And Columbo stands as a jewel- the quality of the filming, the acting, the gold standard. And I watched like 16 different tv shows from that golden decade!

      Ransom is well written, well acted, truly a joy to watch. Here we meet the Columbo we love- with all his “idiosyncrasies”- the cigar, the “homey anecdotes”, the diner scene is great- first time we see him eating chili! Columbo loves his chili- and he tells us that the crackers make the dish.

      Peter Falk was an amazing actor- timeless, so talented, truly missed.
      Lee Grant is a legendary actress- she was great in this episode as the villain, the “lady lawyer”- I believed she worked with Peter Falk several times. She and John Fink are the only 2 cast members still alive as of today.

      And Patricia “Pattye” Mattick is part of tv history- of the world of Columbo and his fans-she appeared in the diner scene- where we are introduced to Columbo’s chili habit. She played a great stepdaughter- I don’t care what other people say. She would appear in many tv shows over the rest of the 70s decade- and then went on to have a distinguished career as a theater actress in the 80s and 90s. Just think -she was acting on national television less than 2 years after graduating from high school- that’s pretty impressive to me. RIP Patricia.

      These are my 2 cents- be well, everyone.

      Ed, the Florida librarian 📚

    • I think the motive was the ransom
      money, and wanting to move on.
      To her young associate for instance. Columbo is
      trying to elicit a remark from her, like “I know
      just what you mean”. But she keeps her cool
      all of the time. Including the end, where she
      even tells herself no, before congratulating

  21. A very good episode, and Lee Grant was great. It’s surprising to me when I think how can Lee Grant, physically movie her 6 feet tall dead weight of her husband. Let alone put him in his car, take him out and let fall from the top of the hill. In the episode with Martin Landau, he knew one person could not move uncle out of the bathtub.

    Also I would have imagined a well respected successful lawyer would have had life insurance, especially since having such a younger wife, and a daughter that I’m sure he would have wanted to secure her future.
    It just made me think though $300.000,00 is a lot of money in 1971, and that was basically what they had, Lee had her successful practice, but her talk with her step daughter where we had to tighten our belts. These are smart people and think he would have prepared.

  22. Happy Sunday to all! Hope everyone is well and safe.Great news! Next Sunday 7/19 at 8 pm EST on METV Columbo’s most awesome episode “Ransom for a Dead Man”-1971. Starring Peter Falk, Lee Grant and an awesome 19 y/o actress doing her second TV appearance- Patricia Mattick! 👩🏻‍🦰👓💐 I own the DVD of course but always enjoy it more on TV and on prime time! 👏👏👏

  23. 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.

    • The main thing is that
      Leslie thought Columbo
      was done and gone from the case and
      the threat of exposure from Margaret,

      Also, Margaret teasing her with the
      details of the murder, and where she’d
      hidden the loot. It was Columbo’s psychology
      for Margaret to provoke Leslie this way.
      Leslie had no inkling of what Columbo was
      doing at the airport, or what he was waiting

  24. 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 👋

      • This pilot made a big splash
        when it first came out. But then
        later episodes stole so much from it, it didn’t
        seem so special when watching it again. But
        viewed objectively on its own merits, it really
        is a great episode.

  25. 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 👋

        • I see all these criticisms of Pattye Mattick’s portrayal of Margaret as annoying and Uber-hyper- and truly I don’t understand where they come from.

          She portrayed Margaret Williams as the director, Richard Irving, wanted her to portray her. And she did an awesome job- she was only 19 at the time- less than 2 years after graduating from high school.

          Best regards,

          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.

  26. 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. 😮

    • That was my impression
      when I first saw this scene
      too. But now I think Leslie was trying to charm him
      like she did Agent Carlson. By showing herself to be
      fun-loving, considerate by getting Columbo to try flying,
      and appear honest by answering his questions

      Columbo wasn’t buying her act though, judging by
      his last comments when on the ground. Telling her
      he knew someone so perfect like her husband that
      sometimes he “just wanted to kill him”. Leslie doesn’t
      blink, and goes off to change.

      Much to his credit, he never accuses her directly
      until he has some of the confirmed ransom money
      in his hands. After he knows for sure she is guilty.

  27. 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

    • Columbo finds her
      weakness that will
      blind her to the final sting. A lack of imagination
      along certain lines. That Margaret might not be
      like her, and have scruples. Columbo correctly
      sizes her up as someone without a conscience.
      Margaret is threatening to expose her, and
      just wants money. Which she will take and exchange
      in a country then well known for not asking questions
      about cash. Believing Columbo is out of the picture
      Leslie just gets rid of her.

  28. ‪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

  29. 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.

      • I didn’t find Margaret annoying at all. I loved her and felt a lot of sympathy for her. Stuck with a hell of a stepmother who she knows killed her father. I love how she slaps Leslie in the cemetery!

        • Most importantly, Columbo
          finds her sympathetic, and
          becomes her ally. Margaret was the reason
          Leslie calls him ‘lucky’, after realizing the
          two of them fooled her.

    • 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.

      Ed from Florida 👍

  30. 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!


      Ed, the Miami librarian 👍

  31. Pingback: Episode review: Columbo A Deadly State of Mind | THE COLUMBOPHILE

  32. Pingback: Episode review: Columbo Try & Catch Me | THE COLUMBOPHILE

  33. 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…

    • I rather doubt that. It’s just
      that the FBI is so much more
      experienced with kidnappings, and not murders,
      they don’t suspect the latter to be the truth. It’s
      perhaps part of Leslie’s plan to get the FBI to
      help cover-up the motive.

  34. 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.

      • Just watched Ransom For A dead Man again on ME TV and remembered i posted this over a year prior…. had the exact same thought watching this scene again….. if u watch It’s a mad mad mad mad world, you’ll see the resemblance.

  35. 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.

  36. 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).

  37. 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

  38. 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.

  39. 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.

  40. 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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