Notable for being the first (and only) episode directed by Peter Falk himself, Blueprint for Murder hit the air on 9 February, 1972, as the curtain fell on Columbo‘s legendary first season.
Being pitted against egotistical architect Elliot Markham, and investigating a crime for which no body has been found, Columbo has his work cut out for him more than usual. But how did Falk cope with the rigours of being in front of and behind the camera? Or to put it another way, is Blueprint for Murder TV immortality or should it be condemned to quiet burial in the foundation of a skyscraper? Read on to find out what I reckon!
Lieutenant Columbo: Peter Falk
Elliot Markham: Patrick O’Neal
Bo Williamson: Forrest Tucker
Goldie: Janis Paige
Jennifer Williamson: Pamela Austin
Directed by: Peter Falk
Written by: Steven Bochco
Score by: Gil Melle
Episode synopsis – Columbo Blueprint for Murder
Volatile Texan Bo Williamson is in a trademark hot temper. He’s taken exception to ace architect Elliot Markham’s attempts to wheedle him out of millions of dollars to fund a super-sized vanity project dubbed ‘Williamson City’.
Returning from an 8-week trip to Europe to find that his young trophy wife, Jennifer, has green-lighted Markham’s project without his permission, Williamson goes APE – Texan style. First he smashes a scale model of Williamson City in front of the gaping eyes of Markham’s busybody secretary. He then hoons over to the construction site (where Markham is directing some bungling oafs) to confront his nemesis.
A blazing altercation ensues. Williamson tells Markham (in his inimitable Texan way) to go whistle for his cash, and not to speak to his easily-influenced wife ever again. Markham zaps him back, calling him a Philistine and hinting MASSIVELY that he’d like to see him dead.
Williamson laughs it off. Jennifer won’t inherit his fortune even if he were dead. She’d earn a fair income from a trust fund, but not enough to fund a city. Williamson then delivers a condescending slap to Markham’s cheek as he bustles away to his horse training track, confident that he’s left the architect in no doubt who’s boss.
But Markham doesn’t take the hint. And when Williamson finishes whooping away at the racetrack, who does he find waiting for him in the back seat of his car but Markham himself. To the jaunty soundtrack of Williamson’s beloved country and western music, Markham whips out a revolver and frogmarches the Texan to a presumed grisly demise in the nearby equipment shed. He then drives off in Williamson’s car, switching to a classical music station more amenable to his high cultural leanings, to put the next phase of his plan into action.
Back at the construction site the next day, Markham and young Jennifer Williamson (in a stupid polka dot hat) are merrily swigging Champagne at the dedication of his current project when they are interrupted by one Lieutenant Columbo. The LAPD have been informed by Bo Williamson’s wife that he’s dead, and Columbo has been despatched to investigate.
Jennifer isn’t in the least concerned. Of course Bo’s not dead, she says. He’s likely just jetted off to Europe again. He does shiz like this all the time. And she hasn’t rung the police. It must be Goldie – Bo’s first wife, who he remains on chummy terms with (i.e. “friends with benefits”).
Columbo pootles off to see Goldie – and meets as flamboyant a character as he’s ever come across. She’s being attended on by a Japanese masseuse, clad only in a towel, as he grills her. Goldie’s adamant Bo’s dead. Why? Because Bo tells her everything, and always lets her know when he’s leaving the country. He also has an appointment with his heart specialist coming up, and he’s very wary of his health. Ergo, his disappearance must be foul play.
While Columbo is open-minded and takes Goldie seriously, when Bo’s car (planted by Markham) shows up at the airport it’s starting to look like she might have got it wrong. But something’s bothering the Lieutenant. All of Bo’s cassette tapes (Google them, bewildered, younger readers) are country and western. Yet the radio’s tuned into classical music. As his puzzled colleagues look on, only the wily Lieutenant realises that the game is afoot!
The clues then start coming thick and fast: Columbo learns that Bo has a pacemaker for his dicky ticker and that his upcoming appointment was a crucial one that he’d never miss. He finds out that Bo and Markham met on the day the former was reported missing. Markham tells the Lieutenant that they were discussing Williamson City, which, he alleges, Bo was cock-a-hoop about.
When Columbo visits Markham’s office, though, he discovers the smashed up model of the city. Hardly the act of a man in love with the project, eh? He also comes across Markham’s clearly visible stash of classical LPs that he relaxes to while at work. The detective is very quickly building a solid foundation for his suspicions (puns 1,000,000% intended).
Next up, Columbo goes to earwig into one of Markham’s university lectures on Egyptian burials. The idea of a body being buried within the foundation of a building is conveniently raised, poker stylee. But who is bluffing, and who’s got all cards in their hand? At this stage, it’s not clear who’s leading who on.
Things take a radical twist when Markham and Jennifer, flirtatiously playing tennis, find one of Bo’s blood-stained cowboy hats in undergrowth. The blood type matches Bo’s. Even the unflappable architect is taken aback, although he tries to hide it. “A battered, bloodstained hat by itself means next to nothing,” he tells Columbo. Errrm, since when, matey…?
Realising he has to now disprove that Bo is dead (no body means Jennifer can still fund Williamson City, see?), Markham indulges in some gentle private investigating, you know, the sort of help that immediately indicates to Columbo that the helper is also the killer. He suspects Goldie has planted the hat, so turns the tables on her.
During his snooping, Markham discovers Goldie stands to inherit 25% of Bo’s money. She has an excellent motive for killing him. Columbo doesn’t fall for that, but he is aware that Goldie has a cut on her leg and that her blood type matches Bo’s. She admits to planting the hat, but she remains adamant that Bo has been slain.
Success appears to be eluding Columbo. He believes Markham has bumped Williamson off, but where is the body? Has it been buried in the foundation of the high-rise Markham has been constructing? Goaded on by Markham, Columbo is determined to find out by digging up the pile of the building – a major operation that will cost the taxpayer thousands of dollars.
Before that can happen, Columbo needs PERMITS, which he gets after several hours of real-time queueing in a government office. The building pile is duly dug up and drilled to pieces. There’s not a trace of any foul play, let alone a body. The Lieutenant has been publically humiliated. Or has he?
Not wanting to miss the chance to finally be rid of the troublesome corpse, Markham fetches it from the horse farm and returns to the construction site. He’s just about to pitch the body back into the foundations when the scene is illuminated all around. Markham’s been caught in the headlights – just like Investigator Brimmer in Death Lends a Hand a few episodes before.
“Why would a man who only ever listens to country music have his radio tuned into a classical station?”
Columbo saunters over. Turns out he’d been playing along with Markham’s games all along. Why had the architect been so keen for Columbo to dig up the pile? So he could place the body in a place nobody would think to look: a place that had already been searched.
Columbo played a classic double bluff – and it was the music in Bo’s car that cracked the case for him. Why would a man who only ever listens to country music have his radio tuned into a classical station?
“Carnegie Hall and Nashville. They don’t mix,” concludes the Lieutenant. “No. No they don’t,” concurs Markham as he’s carted off down town.
Columbo goes to light up a cigar but, remembering a health warning he received from Williamson’s heart specialist earlier in the episode, he symbolically crushes it underfoot before being driven away in a police black and white as credits roll…
Blueprint for Murder best moment: the near miss…
A chirpy Markham is racing back to the construction site with Bo Williamson’s body in his trunk when he runs into trouble. A blown tyre leaves him narrowly avoiding a nasty smash, but just when he thinks he’s gotten away with it a traffic cop pulls up behind him.
After congratulating Markham on his fine driving skillz, the cop then invites him to open the dead-body-filled trunk to help replace the tyre. Markham freezes, but, thinking fast, comes up with an excuse: his spare tyre is flat, too, and he’s been meaning to get it filled up. The affable law enforcer then rides off, promising to send a repair truck, and Markham is back in business after one hell of a close shave.
It’s a scene of superior tension – and one that was actually originally planned for Murder by the Book (also written by Bochco), but was cut for timing reasons. It does appear in the novelisation of Murder by the Book.
Additional: look closely and you can see Markham hands over Columbo’s ID to the police officer when asked for his licence. Did he pickpocket the Lieutenant? Does his scurrilousness know no bounds? Was the officer a halfwit? We’ll never know…
My thoughts on Blueprint for Murder
If you’ve read the previous reviews of Dead Weight and Lady in Waiting, you’ll perhaps already know that the filming of Columbo Season 1 wasn’t all plain sailing. Falk was having regular bust-ups with Universal after he accused them of reneging on an agreement to let him direct an episode. The rows even caused him to be barred from the sets, causing delays in production and, at times, consternation among cast and crew.
After toughing it out, Falk got his way. The studio would let him direct. But it would be the series’ most demanding directorial challenge, Blueprint for Murder, that the star would be lumbered with. The heavy amount of filming at a live construction site would have taxed a veteran. For a newcomer it would be a punishing prospect indeed.
“Directing Blueprint must have taken its toll on the star – Falk would never direct another episode.”
Series creators and co-producers, William Link and Dick Levinson, admitted that they had become exasperated with Falk and were pleased to palm off the episode on to him. But they also admitted that Falk’s commitment to excellence was commendable. He approached directing in the same meticulous way as he did his acting – even seeking input from Steven Spielberg (who he worked with on Murder by the Book) and his old mate John Cassavetes.
As a result, it sits proudly in the company of some marvellously directed pieces of television from Columbo Season 1. But it must have taken its toll on the star – Falk would never direct another episode.
Blueprint for Murder is also a strong mystery in its own right. There’s a lot to enjoy here, not least (as fast became the series’ norm) the stellar standard of the supporting cast. Everyone here adds value to the episode, from the central stars right down to the officious secretary, Bo’s doctor, the construction site security guard and the jobsworth at the government department, whose red-tape, regulations and lunch stand between Columbo and getting the job done.
Patrick O’Neal excels as Elliot Markham. He has the right level of cool arrogance to off-set the Lieutenant’s earthy charms, as well as being the perfect polar opposite to the blustering Bo Williamson, played with gusto by Forrest Tucker. O’Neal doesn’t have the natural charisma of Jack Cassidy or the danger of Robert Culp, but he does exude a sense of unsympathetic, cerebral menace that makes him a fine foil for Columbo.
As chronicled in my article about the best ever Columbo guest stars, Janis Paige as Goldie really rocks the house in every scene she graces. Goldie has sass in spades, but also an authenticity that both the Lieutenant and the audience can’t fail to warm to. Her best moment comes when she tells a bashful Columbo to turn away so she ‘doesn’t corrupt him’ while partially clothed in his presence, but every moment is to treasure and when Goldie’s on-screen the episode is at its most engaging.
Blueprint for Murder has its problems, though. Like Short Fuse, reviewed last time round, key clues come by the Lieutenant too easily. The lack of a corpus delecti throughout the episode ought to make this a real challenge for Columbo. Instead the crucial evidence he needs to build his case is handed to him on a plate. It’s painfully obvious Markham is the man. And the circumstantial evidence Columbo needs is gifted to him really quickly, too, which is another issue with the episode.
“The first half of the episode motors along like an enraged Texan in a Cadillac. Halfway through it slows down to a crawl.”
The pacing just isn’t quite right. The first half of the episode motors along like an enraged Texan in a Cadillac. Halfway through it slows down to a crawl – and not only when Columbo is forced to confront the bureaucratic process in a series of mammoth queues. These scenes actually raise a smile, but for me the frantic start unbalances the episode and highlights weaknesses that might otherwise have gone unnoticed.
Adapted for the screen by Steven Bochco, writer of the seminal Murder by the Book, Blueprint has a fine mystery at its heart and a terrific conclusion. I just feel that it’s heavy-handedly set up. There’s little subtlety in Markham and Columbo’s charade surrounding whether the body is buried in the foundation. When the idea is first mooted at Markham’s university lecture it feels conveniently shoehorned in, as if the writers didn’t quite have the time to establish the idea in the mind of the audience in a more natural way.
Part of that may lie in Falk wearing both actor and director hats. He must have been preoccupied. Having finally forced the studio’s hand to let him direct, Falk was determined not to fluff the task. He doesn’t, but it’s not his finest hour as Lieutenant Columbo, and I’m not convinced he and O’Neal really played off each other as well as they might.
“Blueprint for Murder is a good Columbo episode, but not a great one.”
I’ve read reviews of this episode suggesting that Falk and O’Neal ‘sizzle’ on-screen together. They don’t. While I’m interested in their confrontation, I’m not compelled by it as happens in the very best Columbo outings. But I feel like I should have been, as they’re such contrasting characters.
Maybe they were rushing the clock and didn’t get enough takes together with Falk on the other side of the camera. Or maybe the amount of overall screen time shared between Columbo and killer is lesser here than in other episodes. It’s hard to pinpoint, but something’s missing. It’s not a fatal flaw, but it does limit Blueprint‘s potential.
There’s another flaw, too, which has long bothered me. Boisterous Bo allows himself to submit to Markham far too meekly. Sure there’s a gun, but he lets Markham walk him into the equipment shed without a peep. I don’t buy it. The Bo we see before then would have gone down scratching, kicking, biting and butting to come out on top. What we’re shown is a cop out. Bo deserved better!
Even more damning for the episode is that the behind-the-scenes police work must have been non-existent. It wouldn’t have been hard to track Bo to the racetrack, where at least one witness could have placed him. Presumably a search of the grounds would have ensued, turning up the body in a jiffy. But of course, that wouldn’t have been any fun, would it? Instead I prefer to think the bungling Sergeant Grover (left) from Greenhouse Jungle was assigned to the task…
In conclusion, Blueprint for Murder is a good Columbo episode, but not a great one. While it sufficiently satisfies I believe it could have scaled greater heights under different circumstances. Although Falk does a competent job in the director’s chair, I’d rather he’d left it to someone else and just focused on the Columbo character. As he never returned to the director’s hotseat, I guess he must’ve felt the same way.
Did you know?
Elliot Markham’s car of choice is an uber-stylish 1968 Mercedes-Benz 280 SE Convertible. If it looks familiar, it should, because the same actual car was driven by dastardly Ken Franklin in Murder by the Book. Like Markham, he also stowed a dead body in the boot. I like to think that Markham picked up Franklin’s car in some sort of auction after Ken was sent down, and perhaps a little of Ken’s wickedness rubbed off on the naughty little architect.
How I rate ’em
A decent enough outing without ever threatening the upper echelons of the leaderboard, Blueprint for Murder is a mid-tier Columbo episode in most regards. But that’s not necessarily a criticism given the sky-high standards we’ve largely seen up to now.
While Blueprint isn’t in the top half of our rankings yet, I have a feeling it will comfortably end up nearer the top than the bottom when every episode has been reviewed (at this rate in about 500 years). Read my past reviews by clicking on the links below.
- Suitable for Framing
- Murder by the Book
- Death Lends a Hand
- Lady in Waiting
- Prescription: Murder
- Blueprint for Murder
- Ransom for a Dead Man
- Dead Weight
- Short Fuse
And of course, if you heart Blueprint above all others, do vote for it here in the favourite episode poll!
Thanks for reading, and I hope you’ve enjoyed the complete run-down of Columbo Series One. I’ll be back to review Season Two’s curtain raiser, Etude in Black, in a few weeks.
Is there a connection between two facts discussed in this review? Fact 1: Markham’s Mercedes is the same car as Ken Franklin’s in “Murder by the Book” (both with plate no. XSM 494). Fact 2: the tire blowout scene originally was written for “Murder by the Book.” Add to this that (a) if you look at this scene, the key exterior shots of the blowout don’t clearly show the driver, only the color of his jacket; and (b) both Markham and Franklin are wearing a light tan jacket at these points in their respective episodes. (Maybe someone can enlarge those frames. I cannot.) Is it possible that this scene not only was written for “Murder by the Book,” but also was filmed with Jack Cassidy behind the wheel? And in order to spare (yes, I get the pun) having to reshoot the actual blowout, “Blueprint” simply gave Markham the same car and a jacket with a similar color? It makes complete sense, although without enlargements, I can’t prove it.
That would also certainly be a big help to any first-time director who was juggling different responsibilities on a difficult shoot with a tight timetable. And if Falk was indeed speaking with Spielberg for directing pointers, SS could give the scene he directed his blessing to be used. I think we’re very close to a Gotcha here.
I was interested enough to watch the scene again. I’m pretty sure it’s not footage from “Murder by the book”. The red guard rail is apparent in both the “blowout footage” and the footage of Markham driving the car.
In the blowout scene where the car briefly looses control, it’s impossible to make out who is driving, but it must be a stunt double pretending to drive a car that just had a blowout.
Thanks for the cool insight though. Keep ’em coming.
Blueprint for Murder: When he’s talking to the doctor about Bo Williamson’s last check up and his pace-maker… Columbo’s tries to strike up a cigar and asks the Dr. for a lighter for his stogie…
Quote: “You won’t find one here lieutenant, and let me give you some free medical advice, stop smoking those things”, “Well, I’ve been trying”… “trying isn’t good enough, remember, I deal in pace-makers”.
As classic as it gets…
I loved this! I only wish Columbo had taken his advice.
Not a bad episode to conclude Season 1 and leave this viewer itching to start Season 2. Agree with CP and most commenters that Blueprint is more good/decent than a standout but a clear notch or two better than the preceding Short Fuse.
It didn’t bother me that Bo walked into the shed without fuss because the cool-headed Markham does not seem unhinged enough to kill and Bo probably figured he was just trying to scare him. Guy like that wouldn’t give a wannabe tough guy the satisfaction. It’s also better than having him get shot in the car and forcing the viewer to ignore lack of blood evidence, as happens in Dead Weight.
Much more problematic is the failure of the police to search the stables — even if Bo didn’t tell anyone he was going out there, the jockey would have surely come forward with that info. This contrivance kind of hurts the big twist because Markham’s comment that he should’ve left the body where it was feels more on point than Columbo’s “it would’ve turned up” platitude.
Incidentally, I like both classic country and classical music. Had it been me killed, Columbo would have been quite flustered. 😉
Watching the opening credits/scene, I thought who in god’s name is holding the camera? So shaky. Later on, the soundwork for some dialogue at the construction scenes was rough. Not that he didn’t use good technicians, but hearing here that Falk was first trying his hand at directing — and that the studio intentionally gave him a brutal assignment — explains a lot. I also agree his performance feels a little underacted as a result. Maybe the studio knew best that it should humble the “unqualified actor” for the good of future seasons, though it feels like a lousy thing to do to a guy who you promised could direct at some point.
It’s especially unfortunate if for no other reason than this episode could have been quite a bit better with a bunch of little improvements across the board (writing, acting, directing, score).
Sorry I doubted your commitment to this site G4. Thought you might just want to connect with Pugfest. Actually, my neice from Madison is the one, and she’s down to one pug.
Did want to say that in a review of Bob Hope and Lana Tuner comedy satire “Bachelor in Paradise” Leonard Maltin commented that “Janis Paige is always fun” and I agree. She has never done a “bad turn” to my knowledge. A real pro.
Bo getting out of the car and allowing himself to be marched to the shed was ridiculous and unrealistic given his personality and (as a successful businessman) his intelligence. Was he so stupid as to think that the guy pointing a gun at him was just going to talk to him and let him go? Even after he had already indicated he was going to kill him by saying “or the reverse” and also given what he had said earlier about the coffin? Bo’s passive compliance was totally contrived for the show.
Wow. So many comments on this episode.
It’s just me, but I was unimpressed with about half the supporting cast.
Goldie was fun, and was a pal for Columbo in this episode – as sometimes happens.
Forgive me if I unload a bit. I think Forrest Tucker sucks; he was soulless, B-grade and unappealing. O’Neal I found one notch better than the ‘phone-it-in-Texan’, but worst of all was the pint-sized, whiny doctor we saw so many times in minor roles in the 60s and 70s. This guy was so unnatural with his stilted delivery and baby-steps between pieces of equipment. Woeful.
Being crass and a frustrated ‘ladies man’, I was delighted with Jennifer’s tennis outfit (Pamela Austin). Holy smoke, was there ever a shorter ‘skirtlet’? At the back, the skirt basically sat on the top of her butt! It was Star Trek v1.0 burlesque!
And what the heck was all that “yes, it is” from Markham’s PA? Fives times!
But what an elegant central idea – to prompt the rumpled one to dig the site… and only then bury the body in a spot already searched at great expense.
By the way, someone commented that the body of the Texan would be ripe after perhaps 3, 4 or 5 days in a barn. Certainly! And if you watch carefully, Markham reacts to the smell as he fetches up the body from the bin (or whatever it was in).
It has been suggested that not only was Falk taxed by the directing role, but he was also unwell during the filming. Maybe so: always good, the Lieutenant was a little less quirky and amiable and Emmy-award-winning in this particular investigation.
Wasn’t it amazing that after his tire blowout, Markham hands the cop Frank Columbo’s police ID! I don’t think it was an ‘Easter Egg’ or an inside joke. Rather, TV picture quality in the early 1970s – and particularly the American TV sets which had about 20% less resolution than in some other markets like Australia – was so poor there is no way in the wide world that a home viewer back in the day could have picked that up. I think they just needed a card that was about the right size:)
Goldie is, maybe, one of my favorite character actors in the series. She embodies the ’70s vibe (man); gold lame go-go boots, teased wig, orange lipstick, and calling Columbo “lover”? Classic! Even her bedroom, where most of the interviews take place (odd), drips of the decade. That cigarette box? Did people actually buy cigarettes and empty them into a box? How fancy. How…cancerous. I truly loved when Goldie showed up at the construction site to support Columbo and offered to buy him a drink. I wanted them to become pals. As to the crime itself, I thought that burying a body in a location that had already been extensively searched was brilliant. I really liked this episode…lover.
I lose a little bit the track of how many days passed between the murder and Markham´s retrieval of the corpse. It´s sunny, hot weather, and the basic harsh rules of nature ensuing death appear not to apply here. Markham seems to pick the body out of a big ice container (at least it sounds like ice rolls to me when he heaves the corpse), but it´s not all that clear. Initial location of the body was obviously makeshift, temporary, precarious …. and impossible to keep a secret for more than …. how long? Half an hour, maybe? That´s a major fault of the script, a reflection of the relatively rare fact that this was an impromptu murder, not carefully planned as in most Columbos. Markham seems to have no plan at all as to what to do with the body, until he stumbles onto the pillar thing as if by chance. However, though these faults cripple the episode´s logic, I really like it and, if we forgive that original sin of the script, Blueprint for Murder is a really enjoyable Columbo outing.
I agree with your impression on this episode. But what’s up with the bandaid on Goldie’s left upper arm for the whole episode? I wanna know.
Didn’t she cut herself to get blood on the cowboy hat, to try to get the police to believe there had been a murder?Although colombo said leg, Maybe it’s to show she’s capable of self harm?
I love blueprint for murder its not top top tier though , here is my ranking of season 1
1) Suitable for framing
2) Blueprint for murder
3) Death lends a hand
4) Murder by the book
5) Short fuse
6) Lady in waiting
7) Dead weight
There you go suitable for framing the most memorable from the season , while i know columbophile considers Short fuse poor which it is , I also consider lady in waiting merely average and the dreary Dead weight living up to its name bottom.
As always, an excellent review from the Columbophile. I just watched it on Dailymotion.com (shown reversed, for copyright reasons, I guess). A few notes on this viewing (each time I watch, I always catch something new):
1) The 70’s avocado green/gold interior/exterior of Bo’s Cadillac is revolting, and I forgot how un-trimmed the interiors were back then, especially the radio/cassette player (at least it wasn’t an 8-track player). His door handles on the avocado-mobile had 6-shooters on them. The horse on the hood ornament was a nice stereotypical touch for a drugstore/rhinestone polyester suit wearing “cowboy” like Bo.
2) Bo should have never left Goldie. Man, she jumps off the screen. If she were to call me “lover” (like she called Columbo repeatedly), you can bet I would be hers, right then and there…along with her masseuse, Miko (who was the lovely Asian lass Midori, that showed up as Kalani on an episode of Gilligan’s Island). Goldie is in every way superior to Bo’s younger bride. Janis Paige, who plays Goldie, will be 97 this year. She must have given up the cigarettes and bourbon on ice not long after this. Her wigs and outfits were a little over the top in this episode, though. Her legs looked great for a 50 year old (blatant sexism was allowed during that time as well as smoking indoors in public buildings and hospitals).
3) At around 4:40, when Bo is confronting Markham at the site, he calls him “Jackson Boy”. What is that a reference to? Is it Bo’s way of saying “Schmuck”?
4) Markham calls Bo a “Philistine”, thinking that he doesn’t have culture/breeding to appreciate “art”, but when we see the building he’s proposing, it’s anything but artistic, more like autistic. As Engineers, we (and everyone else involved in the construction industry) always chuckle about “Architects” and “Interior Designers”. It’s a matter of function over form, I guess.
5) I don’t know why anyone assumes Bo is a Texan in this episode. After he smashes the rather lame and un-detailed model of Williamson City, he then cramps up like he’s in the middle of a seizure, with some really strange looking contortions, like he’s readjusting a colostomy bag after the most recent deposit. A real Texan wouldn’t have let Markham walk away alive after some pansy Architect pulled a snub-nosed .38 on him. Some of the music he was listening to was not country and western, but some lame sounding track with a saxophone on it (possibly Boots Randolph, who technically did work out of Nashville). Some of it did have a Bob Wills-West Texas swing to it, though. IMDB points out that one of the cassettes in the Cadillac was from Stephen Stills, which I don’t think Bo would listen to, possibly his child bride did, though I doubt she drove that car. Maybe he was, as Goldie said that “we could have used you (Columbo) at the Alamo”.
6) From IMDB: Markham’s Mercedes is the same one used by Jack Cassidy in “Murder by the Book”. CA License plate XSM-494, though I didn’t see if it had the “Have a Nice Day” with smiley face bumper sticker on it, like when it was Cassidy’s Franklin had it. Markham’s secretary in real life was married to Sam Jaffe, the victim of Janet Leigh’s character in “Forgotten Lady”. I never understood her answering Columbo with “Yes, it is”….5 times in a row.
7) I won’t even get into the hardhat and other safety issues on site. One of the workers even had his shirt off while jackhammering.
8) The security guard who questions Columbo’s credentials at the building dedication is Nick Dennis, who appeared in Spartacus, East of Eden, and A Streetcar Named Desire. I remembered him from 1970’s Kojak series.
9) Again, why was Columbo called out on a missing person’s case?
10) Always great seeing Mike Lally (in the permit inspector’s line, 2 people behind Columbo, holding a set of drawings) and John Finnegan as the Project Supt. (though a Project Manager or Project Engineer would be reviewing HVAC quotes, not the Supt). Also great seeing John Fielder as Bo’s Doctor. He was omnipresent in so many movies and television series in the 60’s-70’s, usually playing a nervous ninny with a high pitched soprano whine.
11) I can’t believe that there was no contractural agreement between Bo and Markham before starting a project as large as Williamson City, and Bo wouldn’t have let his young, ignorant spouse act as his power of attorney in his absence, as she was merely window dressing for his mid-life years.
12) With the series based in the LA area, why does every guy Columbo converses with sound like they’re from Brooklyn, the South Bronx, or Queens? Talk about interstate carpetbagging.
13) The DNA tests of today would have immediately ruled out Bo’s blood on his hat planted by Goldie behind the tennis court. Goldie could have been in deep doo-doo for falsifying evidence.
14) Love Columbo having to stand in line waiting for the bureaucrat to finish lunch. It was strange how silent the line was, not very realistic.
15) After several days of decomposition, Bo’s rotting corpse would have been rather pungent and rigid. The cop that pulled him over would have noticed the aroma while walking up to the car.
16) At then end, when Markham is busted while trying to drop Bo’s corpse in the form for the next day’s concrete pour, don’t you think the workers would have noticed a bag the size of a human in there? The form would have been loaded with steel rebar, so I doubt it would have dropped very far, and probably just impaled his lifeless skin.
17) Being a prima donna Architect, a Markham-type would never wear a hardhat with scratches on it. It clashed with his polyester leisure suit. The outfit he wears while playing tennis with Jennifer is definitely fitting for someone of his character.
Thanks for letting me ramble about totally useless anal retentive drivel.
I just re-watched this. I think it’s a solid Columbo, but agree with the view here that it’s not quite in the top league. As you say, Bo Williamson would have put up a fight (especially faced with that silly little pistol Markham points at him – it would take a Colt’s Dragoon to fell Bo), and the idea that police business wouldn’t cut through city bureaucracy is just not believable and obviously included for comic relief (although we do get to see the immortal Michael Lally standing in line – it’s better than spotting Hitchcock).
The construction scene drags, maybe because once having set it up, they wanted to get their money’s worth, and also, people (ie. the filmmakers) tend to get mesmerized with big equipment moving big things. Also, the architect wasn’t just building a planned community, he was selling the notion of a workplace with space to accommodate affairs (a la Mad Men’s apartments-in-the-city). He’s the worst.
The most satisfying conclusion would have been if Columbo couldn’t get Markham for the murder but instead jailed him for designing and building a planned community – unquestionably a worse crime.
I wish that fate could be imposed on developers of “luxury condos.”
I actually really do like blueprint for murder ,kit has its weaknesses but this sneaks into my top 20 but not my top 10. like columbophile says it will be nearer the top half than the bottom in the overall rankings.
Just an old man’s thoughts. I really liked the episode–the characters were great. The pacing didn’t bother me. The country versus classical music bit was I thought fine. But thinking on it, the burying Bo in the building could be viewed as a great idea, or could be viewed as the only thing, if the body is ever discovered, which would put the noose around the neck of the murderer. If he simply buried the body out in some woods, even if it was eventually found, they would still have to link him to the murder. He had a motive, but motive doesn’t prove murder, and the wives had motives also, and probably others. So if I were him I would have simply tried to find a remote location for the grave.
I’ve just finished watching Bueprint for Murder, and I think it’s a brilliant episode. The change of pace didn´t bother me at all.
At one point at the construction site, Markham says Columbo has made unnecessary work for a lot of people. Columbo says that the whole thing has been more difficult than he thought. They might have been talking about Falk’s insistence on directing.
A very good thought. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if you were right about that.
In his autobiography Falk gives his own assessment of his work as director of this episode. A great deal of care was taken to schedule bits of shoot around the real life progress on the construction site location — probably more than is apparent to the casual viewer but filmmaking can be like that, the most intricately worked out details often go right by someone watching casually at home. All that material had to be shot very quickly so as not to interfere with the construction too much and while he did okay the stress of it all just about drove him round the bend. The problem with the final product as he saw it is that all that behind the camera stress bleeds over into his on screen performance as Columbo — Columbo was never as tense and un-chill as he is in this episode, Falk thought.
It’s a shame he never tried directing again with a later episode that didn’t call for so much production value, maybe “Any Port in a Storm” or any of the ones that are more concentrated two-handers with Columbo and the bad guy. Unfortunately, “Columbo” didn’t allow for the sort of sleight of hand that usually comes into play with a TV show when one of the stars wants to try directing — you can’t really send Columbo off on vacation for an episode so the actor can concentrate more on directing, can you?
i like this episode a lot and it is better than short fuse and dead weight ,yes it does drag a little
One of the things I did enjoy about this episode was Goldie’s relationship with the current Mrs. Williamson. Making them more comrades-in-arms than contentious rivals feels very fresh.
Quite right. Basically Goldie was brilliant!
I sensed a distinct late-era Joan Blondell vibe from Goldie. Probably not an outright homage but perhaps a source of inspiration for Paige. Either way, I too enjoyed her performance.
I couldn’t help noticing that the only piece the LA classical radio station ever seems to play is Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2 — the same piece Markham plays at full volume when he’s angry.
I am curious to know why this episode was held back and shown after Short Fuse when it was made before. Was it deemed a stronger episode than Short Fuse and the producers wanted to end the series on a high?
Are there any more occasions in future series where the transmission order is different to the production order? I know Murder by the Book and Death Lends a Hand at the start of series 1 were shown in a different order.
I did read somewhere Peter Falk was suffering with a bad cold while making Blueprint for Murder and ended up losing his voice. This may have diminished the power of his performance.
It’s interesting to note he never directed another Columbo, although of course he did write It’s All in the Game many years later.
I’m like you, I became a real fan of Janis Paige. I think the relationship between Bo and Goldie is great writing and realistic. Bo’s obviously a guy who can’t control his urges and is managing his guilt for leaving Goldie by making sure she’ll never want for anything. The other part of that is that Bo doesn’t want her finding some other man. Goldie’s a woman who can read the writing on the wall and lives life as it is. It takes the right kind of man to make her happy, and she makes you wish you were the right kind of man. 🙂
You’re spot on. Good analysis!
The story flaw in this episode, in my opinion, is not one you mention. (I’m not bothered when Columbo intuitively knows who did it early on. That’s fairly common and somewhat baked into the inverted Columbo formula. Columbo isn’t principally about figuring it out; it’s about proving it.) It’s this: police would have determined within hours that the last witness to see Bo alive was the jockey at the racetrack. Before the pile would have been touched, all the buildings at the racetrack would have been searched thoroughly.
Entirely valid point. Maybe Grover from Greenhouse Jungle was in charge of the search?
The body-in-the-trunk scene was in Steven Bochco’s teleplay for “Murder by the Book.” You can find Bochco’s typewritten MBTB script here: http://leethomson.myzen.co.uk/Columbo/Columbo_1x01_-_Murder_By_the_Book.pdf
In fact, this scene must have been a late addition to the MBTB script. The page numbers bear this out: 19-A to 19-D.
Wonderful, thanks for passing this on.
Lee Thomson has four original Columbo scripts on his site (http://leethomson.myzen.co.uk/Columbo/). Wish there were more.
Excellent, thanks. Did you hear about the episode that was scripted and De Palma was set to direct, but that fell by the wayside?
The problems I have with this episode is that:
A) Bo did not put up a fight and dare Markham to shoot him.
B) so Columbo concludes Bo is missing after they find his car. So don’t you retrace his steps and then conclude that the jockey was the one who last saw him alive and you start looking around the horse farm. Especially after concluding that someone else drove his car to the airport.
Yes, valid points. Markham was right at the trackside in Bo’s car, so must’ve known there was a witness who could place Bo at the track. Doesn’t suggest great police work…
I agree about Bo. Though Markham caught him by surprise-, i can’t see him letting this much smaller appearing man march him to his death. He would have stomped him to the ground…but I guess that would have made a much different story. Would Bo have tried to cover up his manslaughter crime like the London pair or ‘DR’ George Hamilton? Or tied him to the top of his car and driven him to the police station like a trophy deer? We can only imagine.
For multitudes of reasons, clothes’cars, styles, colors, and just the sheer entertainment of it, I love this episode. One of my favorites.
Forrest Tucker was terrific in this episode. I wish he could have returned to play another character some other time, and actually get some scenes with Falk.
Yes, he would have made a great killer!
I agree with many points including a) Bo would have put up more of a fight; b) Goldie was one of the best secondary characters in any Columbo episode
Catching Markham putting the body into the place already searched by Columbo is similar to the plot of a much later episode, which I believe was the one entitled Columbo Cries Wolf. I did not catch the Columbo ID given to the police officer; I will need to rewatch the episode. Since the ID has appeared twice now was it some sort of inside joke for the faithful Columbophiles to discuss amongst themselves, akin to all of the clues and subtle innuendos used by rock groups of the era (“I buried Paul” and Paul barefoot and out of step with the other Beatles on the Abbey Road cover).
Keep up the great work!!
I love the scenes where Columbo has to wait on very long lines at the building department. It’s so in his character to be like the regular people and not use his position to bully himself to the head of the line.
The delicious irony of Columbo’s obvious exasperation at dealing with an annoyingly inefficient government agency always plays. After all, that’s how his suspects usually feel about his work!
I loved how Columbo, after a brief hesitation, walks past the line into the office–we know he’s going to show his police credentials–then a moment later walks sheepishly out and goes to the back of the line. Bureaucracy reigns.
Uh…He DID try to use his police privilege to cut the line but was told to go to the back.