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Episode review: Columbo Short Fuse

Short Fuse 1

The year 1971 was a monumental year for American TV. Following the ultra-successful Columbo pilot Ransom for a Dead Man in March, five more magnificent outings followed between September and December in Season 1 proper. These included three of the very best TV episodes of all time – Murder by the Book, Suitable for Framing and Death Lends a Hand.

The Year of our Lord 1972 duly arrived, with millions of fans desperate for more Lieutenant Columbo action after the Christmas break.Would the New Year be kind to them? Let’s pull on our tightest trousers and turn back the clocks to January 19, 1972, the date Short Fuse first aired, and find out…

Short Fuse montage

Dramatis personae

Lieutenant Columbo: Peter Falk
Roger Stanford: Roddy McDowall
Doris Buckner: Ida Lupino
David Buckner: James Gregory
Everett Logan: William Windom
Betty Bishop: Anne Francis
Quincy (credited as ‘Murphy’): Lawrence Cook
Directed by: Edward B. Abroms
Written by: Jackson Gillis
Score by: Gil Melle

Episode synopsis: Columbo Short Fuse

Madcap genius Roger Stanford (Roddy McDowall) ain’t happy that his Uncle ‘DL’ David is trying sell off the family chemical plant against the wishes of both Roger and his beloved Aunt Doris (Ida Lupino).

Wicked uncle DL needs Roger to quit the business and convince Doris to back the sale. To ensure his co-operation, DL threatens to reveal the skeletons in Roger’s closet to Doris. Said skeletons involve debauchery, car theft, drug dabbling and other misdemeanours of the sort guaranteed to break the heart of even the staunchest old crone (no offence, Doris).

The evidence has been collected by Uncle D’s sinister sidekick Quincy, who, in the dual role of chauffeur and private detective, arguably deserved a spin-off show of his own, which could have scuppered the popular Jack Klugman vehicle years before it ever got off the ground.

However, I digress…

As well as getting mad, Roger gets even. Using his extraordinary brain power for EVIL, he rigs a bomb in a cigar case and deftly manipulates matters to ensure the booby-trapped box will be opened as DL’s car traverses a twisty mountain road. BOOM! So long Uncle! KER-BLAM! See you later Quincy! And helloooooo luxury office and total control of the chemical empire that Roger believes is his birthright.

“The action is intercut at one stage with a female Star Trek reject frenetically cage dancing. Ahhhh, the 70s…”

His plan works. In a scene reminiscent of a Hammer Horror film, David and Quincy battle sky-splitting lightning and driving rain as the car creeps up the mountain pass to explosive oblivion. Roger, meanwhile, is establishing his alibi by necking with company secretary Betty Bishop at a discotheque, like a pair of teenagers in love. This is unashamedly played out against a funky little Gil Melle jazz number, the canoodling action being intercut at one stage with a female Star Trek reject frenetically cage dancing. Ahhhh, the 70s…

If you can’t quite recall the glory of the scene, revisit it below from 1.49 mins in!

With disco beats still doubtless ringing in his ears, Roger stops off to steal Quincy’s typewriter from his luxury pad (don’t ask), and, lo and behold, runs into Lieutenant Columbo, who has been sent to investigate after Aunt Doris reported DL missing.

Why has a homicide detective been called in when there’s no evidence of a homicide you might justifiably ask? Well, it’s because indignant protesters have recently been giving the company trouble – even throwing a stink bomb into Doris and DL’s garden! This shocking act leads Doris to conclude there must be foul play afoot, and she insists on police action. Hence the humble Lieutenant is given another chance to pester some of LA’s filthy rich.

Short Fuse car

Columbo’s car is aptly described as ‘that old heap’ by the Ferrari-driving Roger in Short Fuse

Columbo’s first real clue comes via cutting-edge technology, 70’s style, in what was a familiar theme for the series. Calling from his car phone (which probably cost the equivalent of several trillion dollars by today’s standards) DL leaves Doris a message in which can be heard Quincy passing him the rigged box of cigars. Listening to it unfold, panicky Roger starts looking at his watch, knowing that a minute after the box is opened his Uncle will be a charred corpse.

“If only Roger had confessed early on it would have saved us all a lot of time and trouble.”

Fortunately, DL rings off picoseconds before the fatal blast, but Columbo has noticed Roger eyeing his timepiece (which was so overtly done that a blind man would have noticed). Doris then gives the Lieutenant further grounds for suspicion when she openly states that she knows Roger doesn’t like his uncle very much. Way to go, Doris

If only Roger had confessed there and then it would have saved us all a lot of time and trouble. As it is, we’re taken on a convoluted journey of discovery with Columbo up the mountain via cable car to the crash site, and around the chemical plant with Roger, as he firms up his suspicions and races to the far-fetched conclusion that an exploding cigar is the only explanation, and that only someone of great intellect – i.e. ROGER – could devise such a crime.

Definitive proof eludes him, but the wily Lieutenant has a habit of making his own luck and finds a way to unravel the mystery via a splendid set-piece in a mountain cable car with Roger (now the boss of the plant) and just-sacked company Vice Pesident Everett Logan – who Roger has feebly tried to incriminate over the course of the episode.

Pretending that the cigar box has been found, unopened, at the crash site, a jovial Lieutenant cracks it open to divvy out the cigars as the claustrophobic cable car creeps up the mountain pass.

Untitled design (2)

Roger’s bluff is about to be well and truly called…

Roger, who’s been slowly losing his cool since the box was revealed, now blows his top completely. As well as desperately studying his watch again as he counts down towards what he believes is his own impending doom, he starts bellowing at the Lieutenant and striding round the cable car like a man possessed.

At the last moment he flings open the cable car doors and makes a grab for the box, scattering cigars all over the floor as he scrabbles desperately for the rigged one. When there is no kaboom, Roger realises he’s been had. He also seems to have completely lost his marbles, playfully slapping Columbo’s cheeks and roaring with maniacal laughter as credits roll…

Short Fuse’s memorable moment

The admittedly excellent cable car finale aside, Short Fuse is low on noteworthy moments. Indeed for the majority, their single enduring memory will be of his puffy patterned shirt and skin-tight blue trousers combo, as shown below. Some things, once seen, cannot be unseen…

Fashion McDowall

Roddy’s trousers: the enduring take-out from Short Fuse

My opinion on Short Fuse

All jokes aside, when the lasting memory of an episode revolves more around ridiculous trousers than a gripping plot, you know you’ve got trouble.

Short Fuse rather proves the old maxim that you can have too much of a good thing. This is the episode Season 1 didn’t need – and the blame lies squarely with NBC. The network got greedy following the stellar quality of the series up to now. They demanded ‘just one more’ episode be produced – much to the fury of series co-creators and producers William Levinson and Richard Link.

Although it wasn’t the last episode of Season 1 to be aired, Short Fuse was the last to be filmed. And because it was even more hastily put together than the others, it lacks the finesse and the attention it needed to elevate it to the standards we’ve come to expect. So where does it wrong?

Let’s start with Roddy McDowall. Some people love him in this. I’m not one of them. I find him fiendishly annoying. One senses that if this wasn’t his family business his co-workers would’ve delivered wedgie after wedgie to the prick in comeuppance for his ‘hilarious’ hi-jinks- although given his penchant for tight trousers, he’d probably have enjoyed that too much.

Roddy McDowall

Convincing genius, or irritating little Herbert? You decide…

I get that that’s how the character is written. Roddy is undoubtedly committed to the role. It’s just that he brings no subtlety to it. Granted, he offers a contrast to the usual, suave killer we normally associate with the series, but there’s too much madcap and not enough genius for my liking. In fact if we weren’t repeatedly told/reminded that Roger’s a genius, we’d have no reason to deduce it given his, at times, totally stupid actions and his default ‘out to lunch’ facial expression.

McDowall and Falk don’t hit it off in a satisfactory fashion, either. In fact we’ve not seen less chemistry between leads (pun 100% intended) since the dreary Dead Weight. Elsewhere, and despite some big names, Short Fuse is lacklustre. Ida Lupino is wasted as Aunt Doris; Jimmy Gregory merely OK as fiery uncle DL; Anne Francis insipid as Roger’s love interest.

Only William Windom as Everett Logan really comes away with credit, putting in a strong, noble turn. Windom had the presence and range to have made an intriguing Columbo killer in his own right. Yet he never graced the series again.

“The final set-piece in the cable car is enjoyably tense, and at least provides a satisfying conclusion.”

The story itself is a dog’s dinner and hard to follow. There’s a sub-plot of Roger stealing chauffer/investigator Quincy’s portable typewriter and using it to forge evidence and incriminate others (which involves deliberately getting himself collared in a police chase), but it’s so convoluted I can’t be bothered to explain it. Indeed I had totally forgotten about it in the long gap between viewings, so low does it rank in my estimations.

Still, nothing is 100% bad. Where Short Fuse succeeds is in some delightful location shooting in the mountains, which gives Falk the chance to shine as the nervous Lieutenant fearful of heights, as well as giving the episode some much needed scale and grandeur that a chemical plant fails to inspire.

Short Fuse cable car

The enjoyably tense finale really only amounts to a sheen of lipstick on a pig…

The final set-piece in the cable car is enjoyably tense, and at least provides a satisfying conclusion. That aside, it’s not even a very memorable outing by Falk’s own standards. The magic Columbo moments that can elevate any episode are fewer and further between than normal.

“Universal would’ve been better advised to have saved this for Season 2, and let the idea mature instead of unleashing it before it was ready.”

There are some fun snippets, notably Columbo covering himself in silly string (life lesson – DON’T spray mystery aerosal cans in own face), and there’s one cracking line he gets to deliver. Upon hearing from Aunt Doris that the police commissioner has ‘sent his best man’ to investigate, a sheepish Columbo retorts: “My wife says I’m second best. She says there are 80 guys tied for first.” What a cute couple!

But Falk just doesn’t have enough good material here to work with. For a perfectionist like him this must’ve been galling. Little wonder he’s been quoted as saying that Short Fuse ‘just wasn’t as good’ as the other episodes in Season 1.

Silly String

This fun scene is one of the few things worth smiling about in Short Fuse

In conclusion, then, there simply aren’t enough highlights to recommend Short Fuse. It all feels too half-hearted and thrown together. What this tells me is that the writer Jackson Gillis (who was responsible for terrific outings including Suitable for Framing) and the story editors didn’t have enough time to make the most of what was a half-decent premise – and an excellent ‘gotcha’. It’s a real pity.

The network would’ve been better advised to have saved this for Season 2, and let the idea mature instead of unleashing it before it was ready. It might never have been a classic, but it could surely have been significantly improved on. And, who knows, given another year those skin-tight sky blue trousers might have been out of fashion and might never been unleashed on an unsuspecting audience…

Did you know?

McDowall aside, all the other lead characters in Short Fuse have more than one Columbo credit to their name. Jimmy Gregory appeared as the LA Rockets coach in Most Crucial Game; William Windom had a brief role in Prescription: Murder; Ida Lupino’s talents were put to excellent use as the harpy-ish wife of Tommy Brown (Johnny Cash) in Swan Song; while Anne Francis was the first murder victim of Dr Mayfield in Stitch in Crime.

Short Fuse stars 2

Short Fuse guest stars in their other Columbo turns…

How I rate ’em

Oh dear. I accept that not every episode can hit the dizziest of heights, but this is the first Columbo outing so far that I actually consider poor. As a result, and like a furious uncle plummeting down a mountainside in flames, it displaces the merely average Dead Weight at the foot of the standings. If you’re new to this site, you can check out the previous reviews via the links below.

  1. Suitable for Framing
  2. Murder by the Book
  3. Death Lends a Hand
  4. Lady in Waiting
  5. Prescription: Murder
  6. Ransom for a Dead Man
  7. Dead Weight
  8. Short Fuse

As always, please accept my sincere thanks for taking the time to read this, to share it, or to comment – even if you don’t agree with my opinions (many won’t). And if Short Fuse is actually a favourite of yours, tell me why. You might even want to vote for it in the favourite episode poll.

I’ll be back in due course to review Season 1’s curtain call Blueprint for Murder, directed by none other than Peter Falk himself. Until then, adieu…

Read my take on the top 5 scenes from Short Fuse here.

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112 thoughts on “Episode review: Columbo Short Fuse

  1. It seems no one caught an error made by Ida Lupino when she is speaking to ROGER after Columbo purposesly spills the glass of water by the phone answering machine. She mistakenly calls him by his real name, RODDY.

  2. Roger Stanford is a
    bratty, ex-prodigy and
    genius chemist, about to be blackmailed
    out of his aunt’s company by his stepfather
    David, its president, and David’s private
    eye and chauffeur.

    Instead, Stanford blows the two of them
    up with a booby-trapped cigar box. At
    the same time, setting in motion a plan
    to discredit his vice-president uncle, next-
    in-line to succeed as president.

    This latter plan uses nude photos of
    Roger’s girlfriend (David’s secretary),
    his stepfather, darkroom trickery, and
    the chauffeur’s typewriter. A risky
    idea given the murder investigation in
    progress, with the lieutenant alerted
    from the get-go by Roger’s first break-in.
    It’s also full of loose ends, notably the
    secretary, Columbo begins to realize.

    The murders themselves are perfect, clearly
    the work of a chemistry wizard. However,
    Columbo saw Roger timing the cigar box
    after it is opened during the playback of
    David’s phone call before the explosion.
    This gives him an idea.

    The final gotcha is played aboard a
    cable-car, where there is no escape.
    Confronted by the same (another?) opened
    about-to-explode cigar box, and Columbo’s
    explanation of Roger’s faking the chauffeur’s
    reports, photos, and bank account, and his
    firing the secretary, Roger crumbles completely.
    Then is relieved at suddenly finding he’s been

    A good episode, but with deductions for
    the loose ends and needlessness of Roger’s
    second plan. Rating 9/10

    • Marking scheme for
      ‘Short Fuse’:

      Entertainment (acting, color, humor, locales): 5/5
      Gotcha (ingenuity, surprise, irrefutable, viewer-deducible): 3.0/2.5
      Clues Leading Columbo To Killer (logic, relevance, slip-ups): 1/2.5

      Bonus of 0.5 for the Gotcha! in this otherwise perfect murder.

      Deductions from the clues:
      0.5 the illogical risk in framing the uncle during a murder investigation
      0.5 loose ends, such as the secretary disputing the photos
      0.5 obvious break-ins to steal and plant the typewriter and evidence

  3. Y’know, I can definitely see how this episode would be off-putting or grating fair for some, but personally I love to hate Roger. Certainly he’s an annoying little twerp, but for me, McDowall plays him in such a way that he almost circles back around to have a certain greaseball charm. Certainly the plot is a bit convoluted and could do with some tightening but I like watching Roger try to wiggle his way out of Columbo’s tightening grip. It also makes it more satisfying when he’s finally put in a situation he can’t lie, cheat, or screw his way out of.

    All that said though, I totally get the irritation with certain elements of this episode. Maybe I just like Roddy McDowall too much!

  4. For a clearly half-baked, convolutedly plotted episode, this entry could be a lot worse. As it is, it comes off as merely average, despite a strong cast, namely, Roddy McDowall’s wacky villain.

  5. I’m pretty sure the blue shirt Roddy McDowall was wearing was his own shirt. I saw him wearing the exact same shirt in Night Gallery and I thought it was a pajama shirt at first.

  6. Whew. I thought it was just me. I found this episode boring and convoluted.

    A question: if the car blew up from the cigar box and Roddy McDowall’s character knew that – why was he worried about (what he thought) was the original cigar box? Did he tamper with several cigars and that’s why he was worried? Because if it was just one he tampered with then it would have been spent.

    I liked Roddy McDowall’s performance. It’s pretty much similar to all his performances so I wasn’t disappointed.

    • Columbo told Roger/Roddy that police had discovered that the car gas tank exploded, killing his uncle in a tragic accident. The unopened cigar box was said to have been found in the wreckage, so when Columbo opened it Roger thought the single booby trapped cigar would blow them all sky high.

  7. I’m a big Columbo fan. Peter Falk doesn’t disappoint.
    I agree with you that this isn’t one of the better episodes.
    The cable car or gondola was fun to look at.
    I wondered where the mountain scenes were filmed?

    • Not really a fan either of this particular episode either. The only thing I liked about this was Roddy McDowall’s ham and cheese. I only wish he could have really let loose one of his trademark screams. Check out the original Night Gallery movie to see what I’m talking about!

  8. I also liked this episode. I don’t feel that there has be chemistry between Columbo and the murderer in every episode–that certainly wouldn’t happen in real life. Some of these killers are just plain slimeballs. And there isn’t necessary any conflict between having genius and behaving like the king’s least competent fool. They need to have some kind of outlet and they aren’t always the most socially aware human beings. And if Columbo’s murderers didn’t do dumb things, how would he ever catch them?

    I enjoyed the feast of great guest stars in this episode, too, though Anne Francis’s role could have been played by one of the usual ingenue-types who always play this kind of role. And why is it that the murderers are always having affairs with their secretaries or their wives’ or uncles’ secretaries? And why can’t these women see through them (but then maybe Betty saw too much through those pants….). I would like to have seen more of William Windom’s character, too. I know Columbophile doesn’t care for the longer episodes, but if this had been one they might have spent a little more time on building up his character and his relationship with Aunt Dory (he seemed to be quite fond of her) and on Roger’s scheme against him.

    However, you may take my opinions with a grain of salt when I tell you that I also like “Dead Weight”!

  9. Even when he’s not being ‘hilarious’, MacDowell’s character is being oddly camp. Either way, I find this one a hard watch because yeah, he is VERY annoying!

  10. I was 12 when watching NBC Mystery Movie with the family at the time. I only really remember two episodes after all these years which were Any Old Port in a Storm because of how he caught himself but mainly due to them sharing a respectful drink at the end and here in Short Fuse because Columbo tricked him with the cigar box (I was laughing so hard).
    I noticed that Columbo mentioned the chemical plant was like a “concrete jungle if you’ll forgive me” which was a popular catch phrase for urban cities at the time and Bob Marley came out with the song the following year, 1973.
    I’m rewatching all the Columbos and read your review after every episode. Great web site!
    Does anyone know what the real name of the chemical plant was?

  11. What was with all the picture taking by Roddy with that camera in this episode? I keep thinking it was supposed to be a big part of the plot, but it added absolutely nothing. He was just clicking random pictures! What was the purpose?

    • As I remember, there are two things:
      – first, it marks his character, as being not very serious,
      – secound, he took embarrassing pictures of company secretary Betty Bishop.

    • McDowell was a
      photographer of
      Hollywood stars in real life, and
      even snapped one or two nude
      photos of Liz Taylor. The photo
      taking scene(s) here are just a
      nod to his other occupation.

      McDowell seldom played normal
      characters, and even rarer was
      he the hero. However one example
      is the great horror film The Legend
      of Hell House, in which he costarred
      alongside Clive Revill. Who himself
      was the Columbo villain and guest star
      of the episode, The Conspirators.

      • That’s a good point about the nod to McDowall’s real-life photographer occupation.

        He was in a comedy film “Overboard” in the 80s, where he had more of a normal role.

        I saw the “The Conspirators” episode about two weeks ago.
        Peter Falk and the villain have a good rapport, but it’s not my favorite episode.

        • I would concede
          that the camera
          scenes remind us Roger has a darkroom
          for that purpose, which he also uses as a
          chemistry lab.

          The reason Columbo suspects right away
          that he faked the photos of his stepfather
          and his secretary together.

  12. Here’s a fun fact, Silly String was patented in the same year that this episode was produced. It must have been quite a novel thing for the viewers of the first broadcast.

  13. It’s true, this is hardly the best episode, and Roddy McDowell’s way-too-tight pants gave me nightmares, but WOW, that final scene in the gondola is so good. Even though I know what’s coming, my pulse ramped up noticeably!

    (It doesn’t make up for how insufferable Rosdy McDowell is, but yeah, gotta hand it to them for that final scene!)

  14. Oh. My. God. McDowall as the appallingly puerile “Roger” makes circus clowns actually seem funny by comparison. And he’s effectively naked from the waist down in those ‘Barry Gibb trousers’ (remember the BeeGees?).
    So we know he “dresses to the left”, as they say in the classics. Moreover, we can gauge his assets as solid average; maybe slightly above average.
    It absolutely beggars belief that this was apparently close-enough to how 1970s playboys dressed that a costumer would actually put Roddy in front of a camera with a ‘Braille crotch’.
    Lewdness aside, it is totally distracting! Imagine the female equivalent! I am. Right at this very moment. I’ll get back to you shortly…
    And I’m relieved that Columbophile also found the busy side salad of plot details hard to follow. Sometimes I feel stupid when convoluted plot twists leave me thinking, “well, whatever the heck just happened there probably won’t be crucial to the outcome. Or will it…?”.
    In this case, suffice to say Roger is doing some ‘after the fact’ vilification of the already rather nasty, Uncle DL, as being both unfaithful to dear old Aunt Doris and a schemer trying to corner 2IC and family friend Everett. Which would also put Windom’s 2nd-tier executive character nicely ‘in the frame’ as a man under pressure.
    Although ‘Short Fuse’ is cluttered and annoying, the epic closing scene redeems the whole shebang. The gotcha is as good as they get: ambitious, picturesque, emotionally and physically claustrophobic in the cable car! Roger may have blown up old DL, but now we watch as the short fuse of his own odd and brittle personality sparks and spits toward another kind of blow-up!

  15. Agree agree, a thousand times agree. CP absolutely nailed this write-up and ranking below Dead Weight. Short Fuse gives us very little of Colombo and a LOT of McDowell (you think the front of those blue trousers was offensive, how about the visible panty lines when he turns his back *shudder*).

    Colombo just isn’t given much to do or say in this episode. McDowell practically throws clues his way to the point it felt like Falk was phoning in his performance, which may not be true but, regardless, is not a positive sign.

    The plot is indeed a mess. How did the killer know the cigar box would be opened in the mountains and not minutes from the office? And the zany typewriter angle? I could go on, but that’s what CP is for and, unlike the NBC producers of Short Fuse, he has performed his duties with aplomb.

    Looking forward to Blueprint for Murder!

    • Roger timed the explosion roughly by tossing a few extra cigars into the glove compartment. Previously he would have noted how much time his uncle would take on them, before reaching for the booby-trapped box.

      The murderer’s genius was in committing a ‘perfect’ crime for which no physical evidence remained. This might well be the least foreseen ending of the whole series for that reason.

      The lack of incriminating clues is also the episode’s main problem. There’s not much of interest between the murder and the ending. Roger’s red herrings meant to mislead Columbo should have been more convincing.

      • Actually, my memory
        failed me. Roger took
        the loose cigars from the glove
        compartment, and stole his
        stepfather’s cigar case so he would
        have to open the cigar box right away.

  16. I perfectly understand that the McDowall performance is not to everybody’s taste and that, as the goofy genius he plays here, he might present schemes to complex for casual viewing, but for me that makes this episode repeatedly watchable and enjoyable. At least he chooses for his intended patsy a more suitable person than “Suitable for Framing”. And, yes, the cable car, I’d watch any action movie involving those (e.g.: Where Eagles Dare, Moonraker, The Soldier).

    • I totally bought the role
      of the one-time prodigy
      becoming an immature adult with murder in their heart.

      I’ve seen a number of perfect examples of that in real-life
      since this episode first aired.

  17. Okay it doesn’t match the cream of the crop of series one, but I actually think Short Fuse is a pretty good episode. I prefer it to Dead Weight that’s for sure. Sure Roger is an annoying little twerp but it makes the gotcha (and what a gotcha) so much more satisfying to watch. The plot is a little convoluted but the episode zips along at a cracking pace with plenty of twists and turns. Love the shots from the cable car and Columbo’s fear when up in the clouds. The score is also first rate.

    • The series goes to great lengths to wring laughs from Colombo’s discomforts, in this case heights. But he sure held it together in the gotcha scene. Acted totally normal. Not enough to ruin the scene, but I didn’t care for that inconsistency.

      Maybe I’m selling Short Fuse, ahem, short, but while admittedly duller, Dead Weight has Susanne Pleshette. That breaks the tie for me.

  18. I watched this episode tonight before reading your review, and thought “ my god – he’s GOT to mention those no-imagination-required trousers !”

  19. I liked the bit at the end when Roger, realizing he’d been bested, removes his scholarship medallion and hangs the chain around Columbo’s neck, acknowledging who the true genius is.

    And it occurs to me that this is an instance where the murderer can probably get off with a lighter sentence. Roger’s defense could be that his Uncle David was attempting to force his wife to relinquish her family legacy by selling the company, thus enriching and empowering him, and that to achieve that, he was threatening to blackmail his nephew. Furthermore, there’s no proof that Roger planted the evidence in Quincy’s apartment, so he could claim that David was also threatening to ruin Ms. Bishop with the pictures if Roger didn’t go along with his demands.

    Under those circumstances, and playing the part of the devoted nephew with an undeniable infantile streak of emotionalism, Roger could say that he thought he was doing what was best…saving the company, sparing his Aunt grief, gallantly saving Betty’s honor, and eliminating two very evil men. A smart defense lawyer facing a sympathetic jury could work wonders with that.

  20. This is one that I didn’t like very much the first time I saw it, because of how irritating I found Roger with his pranks and zaniness, and because of the gondola sequence, which after a lifetime of seeing bad things happen on gondolas in movies, is always mildly stressful. However, it has a great funky soundtrack, and I normally like Roddy McDowall in most things, so I wouldn’t mind giving this one another chance the next time it comes on. Plus I like James Gregory, and he even gets blown up just like his character Inspector Luger’s friends Foster and Kleiner and Brownie in “Barney Miller”! 🙂

  21. I found this episode barely watchable. I cannot stand Roddy McDowall in this one. He seems to overact and try too hard to be funny. I totally found him ANNOYING as well.

  22. An excellent episode, one of the best Columbos… apart from the weak conclusion! If only Roger admitted his guilt, it would have been perfect – but he does not. He just sits there, laughing goofily.

    “Why did your client try to throw out the cigars, counselor?” “He was annoyed at lieutenant Columbo’s constant pestering, and, knowing the man’s affinity for cigars, he felt angered at their presence, Your Honor. It was a foolish and immature act, as my client readily admits, but it was caused by the lieutenant’s behavior…”

    That’s the top annoyance with otherwise good Columbo episodes, by the way – the suspects so rarely openly admit to anything in the end that they would walk free in a minute, if all Columbo had was his conjecture that he shows them during the conclusions.

  23. I was never a huge fan of this episode (apart from it’s brilliant music score) but watching it again in these stay-at-home days I actually enjoyed Roddy’s performance and the fast pace of the episode. The contrast between factory plant and the mountainside works well. This is not ‘up there’ with Culp et.all. but has it’s own charm. And Anne Francis is always a treat to watch.

    • Anne Francis also is
      probably the only other
      guest star on Columbo, (besides
      William Shatner), that at one time
      had their own TV detective series.
      Honey West, which lasted only
      one season back in 65-66.

      (Though Patrick McGoohan,
      Patrick McKnee, Robert Culp,
      Robert Vaughan, Martin Landau,
      and Honor Blackman, also Colombo
      guest stars, did have starring roles
      in TV spy series.)

  24. I’m very sorry for you, Columbophile, because I like this episode.
    I reviewed it yesterday night (the seventh, eighth, nineth time…? I don’t know), and it still pleased me as much. It has a good and permanent rythm, from the first to the last scene, inforced by a very good score. The industrial and natural landscapes are faboulous, and contribute to the atmosphere, the suspense of the story. There’s a permanent stress in them. The final scene in the tram is one of the strongest scenes in 69 episodes. Weak points are (I agree) the trousers and the fact that there are less direct confrontations between the lieutenant and the murderer. But the one that is, really is, and is great. For me, it’s clear, this is a good episode, much better, for instance, than “Suitable for Framing”.

    • I just watched this episode only a few minutes ago on a classic TV reruns cable channel. The finalé on this episode reminded me of Roddy McDowall’s character as a Biology Teacher in the early-1980s cult film Class of 1984 where he also “lost his marbles” in that classroom scene where he pointed his gun at the three members of the antagonist gang of the movie (who just recently skinned and impaled his laboratory animals) while he quizzed each of the three with questions related to their Biology class and when he tried to run over them with his car a couple of nights later to no success until his character met his fate when his car flipped over and exploded.


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