Columbo broke new ground on November 26, 1972. For the first time ever the Lieutenant stepped outside his LA comfort zone and mixed it up with a bunch of Brits on a work visit to Scotland Yard.
Predictably it ends up being a busman’s holiday for Columbo, who’s swiftly thrust into the middle of a murder mystery amid the twin settings of the theatre stage and a colossal country mansion.
Can ‘Leftenant’ Columbo cut the mustard in old London town? Or will this fish out of water be out his depth alongside the pride of Scotland Yard? Let’s stiffen our upper lips, roll out the tweed jackets, and perfect our Cockney accents as we find out…
Lieutenant Columbo: Peter Falk
Nicholas Frame: Richard Basehart
Lillian Stanhope: Honor Blackman
Detective Chief Superintendent Durk: Bernard Fox
Tanner: Wilfrid Hyde-White
Sir Roger Haversham: John Williams
Joe Fenwick: Arthur Malet
Sergeant O’Keefe: John Fraser
Directed by: Richard Quine
Written by: Jackson Gillis
Score by: Dick De Benedictis
Episode synopsis: Columbo Dagger of the Mind
It’s dress rehearsal night at The Royal Court Theatre, where husband-and-wife duo Nicholas Frame (Nick) and Lillian (Lilly) Stanhope are hoping to reverse their decline by wowing crowds with their rendition of Macbeth.
Their comeback has been bankrolled by Sir Roger Haversham, who has been coerced into opening his wallet by Lilly’s flirtatious behaviour. In short, Sir Roger believes he’s in with a chance for romance with the leading lady. Or he did – up until today.
Driving to a rainy London, an enraged Sir Roger turns up unannounced in Lilly’s dressing room. An argument breaks out, and Nick enters stage left to see what’s going on. It’s all happening now. Sir Roger bellows that he’s been taken by ‘a ham and a tart’ (ouch!) and a scuffle ensues. Lilly’s pearl necklace is broken and scatters over the floor, and as Nick and Sir Roger wrestle, she grabs a jar of cold cream and flings it toward the feuding fellows.
A one-in-a-million shot, it shivers Sir Roger on the noggin and kills him outright. Self-defence it may have been, but with the curtain about to rise there’s no way the self-obsessed actors are coming clean. They stuff Sir Roger in a trunk and take to the stage.
During an interval, Lilly’s in for a shock. Stage doorman Joe is tinkering with the heater in her dressing room, even wanting the trunk moved at one point. She gets shot of him, and when he’s still hanging around later on Nick pushes some coppers into his hand and tells him to get to the pub, which he does with cringing gratitude.
Little do the dastardly duo know that Joe has inadvertently wandered off with Sir Roger’s umbrella, leaving his own in the dressing room. As they make an exit with the corpse-filled trunk, Lilly grabs Joe’s umbrella, and they travel back in separate cars to Sir Roger’s country pile after locating his car in a side-street.
With the house silent, they set the scene to make it appear Sir Roger simply fell down some ‘apples and pears’ (stairs to those non-Brits reading) to his doom after a quiet night reading. They stash Sir Roger’s coat, hat and the wrong umbrella is his closet. Dashing off in Nick’s sports car, the crafty couple have every reason to believe they’re home free.
The next morning we’re at Heathrow Airport. Some police officers are awaiting the arrival of a ‘great detective from Los Angeles’. They little suspect it’s the same scruffy American who’s causing trouble to other passengers as he searches for his lost suitcase. Indeed, when he sends one case spilling open they eye him with unfriendly suspiscion – until he’s rescued by Sergeant O’Keefe, who’s tasked with escorting him to Scotland Yard.
After stopping for a photo opportunity at Buckingham Palace, Columbo is delivered to Detective Chief Superintendent Durk – his host for his London jaunt, where he’s come to see the Yard’s cutting-edge policing techniques in action.
Before that, though, they have a quick pit-stop at a country manor, where Durk’s wife’s uncle has died overnight. Of course, this is Sir Roger’s home and it’s not long before Columbo is snooping around the crime scene, spotting, among other things, a signed photo of Lilly prominently on display.
Columbo also notices that a first edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, that the deceased was said to have been reading, has been carelessly set face down. He wonders where Sir Roger’s reading glasses are, although household butler Tanner reveals he always kept them in his breast pocket. The Lieutenant’s still not satisfied, though. Surely they’d have been smashed? Yet there’s no evidence of any such detritus on the stairs.
Back at the theatre, last respects are being paid to Sir Roger, whose open casket is creepily up on stage. With the press present in spades, Lilly makes a ridiculous show of grief in front of the cameras and is comforted by Columbo – who’s in attendance with Durk and his wife. Lilly subsequently overhears the two detectives discussing Sir Roger’s death. His reading glasses weren’t broken after all. Durk (finally getting with the program) admits this is suspicious, so orders an autopsy.
When Lilly reports this to Nick, the two are in a flap. But cometh the hour, cometh them man: Nick has a cunning plan. Racing out to Haversham’s home (again), they quiz Tanner about a rare Shakespeare book Nick claims to have lent the deceased. Columbo and Durk also show up and let the theatrical duo know that they’re investigating murder after the autopsy confirmed the body was moved post mortem. This actually plays into Nick’s hands, as the missing book is valued between 20,000-30,000 quid. If there had been an intruder, there’s a motive for murder right there!
Columbo isn’t convinced. If someone broke in and killed Sir Roger, why would they only take a single book from a house full of valuables? His mind whirrs further into action when he spies a burly serf about to wash Sir Roger’s car. Indeed he washes it everyday, but Columbo notices rain marks on the bonnet. It didn’t rain where Sir Roger lives, but it did rain in London. Maybe Sir Roger was in town after all…
Back in London, and it’s been a magnificent opening night for Lilly and Nick, who are basking in the praise of well-wishers backstage. Columbo is amongst them, and once he manages to get a word in edgewise he grills them both about what happened the night before. An argument was heard from Lilly’s dressing room. Columbo wonders if Sir Roger had dropped in, but the thespians stick to their story that the argument was simply between the two of them.
They stick to it a little too well, though, as Columbo points out. “When my wife and I try to remember what happened yesterday or the day before, well, we don’t agree on anything. And you two, you not only agree, you use almost the exact same words to tell about it. [giant pause for effect] Good night.”
Their night is about to get worse, too. As they leave the theatre they notice the fawning Joe is carrying Sir Roger’s umbrella! In order to get it back, Nick tails Joe into the local boozer, and plies him with drinks in order to get his guard down enough to make off with the jealously-guarded brolly. And just as the heavens open, they’re off in the car to Haversham Manor (a-ruddy-gain) to return the umbrella to its rightful place.
Columbo, meanwhile, is finally getting some use out of his raincoat! He’s on the soaking streets of London, accosting Joe as he comes out of the pub. The detective wonders why Nick has spent his opening night with Joe and company instead of a more slap-up celebration. He wonders even more when Joe reveals his umbrella was stolen in the pub.
“Lilly and Nick demonstrate that cat-burglary is another string to their bows by breaking in to the wax museum.”
With suspicions rising by the minute, Columbo takes a car out to…. you guessed it (yawn)… Sir Roger’s house. Just as nears the driveway, he’s almost run off the road by a speeding sports car going the other way. Although he’s not sure who it is, we know that it’s Nick and Lilly. They’re having to get a wriggle on as their attempt to return the umbrella has been foiled. Why? Because Tanner has told them that the wax museum has taken his hat and umbrella away that same evening for their new exhibition, which will creepily immortalise the freshly-slain Sir Roger in wax.
Unwilling to just give up on the perishing umbrella, Lilly and Nick demonstrate that cat-burglary is another string to their bows by breaking in to the wax museum and finally making the switch. It’s fair to say it’s been one hell of a night for them.
Likewise the good Lieutenant, who has dragged Tanner (who covered for Nick and Lilly) to town and woken Durk in the dead of night to take them to wax museum, too. He wants to check the umbrella out for himself, and is disappointed to find that it’s the real deal when Tanner makes a positive ID. Durk is starting to think the Lieutenant has a screw loose, although Columbo keeps his minuscule hopes of an arrest alive by noticing that the basement window could theoretically have afforded an entrance to burglars.
Come morning, and a giggly Nick and Lilly are in bed enjoying positive reviews in the London papers over Champagne. Naturally they’re surprised when the doorbell rings to reveal Tanner with a bag a croissants.
As he prepares a breakfast for them, Tanner lets them know that he’s looking for a job and that his loyalty is beyond question. It’s a thinly-veiled threat that even the acting hams can’t miss: they look after him, or he’ll blow their cover. With seemingly little choice, they agree, but in reality have no plans to employ the old rascal.
Nick sees to that. As Tanner returns to his luxury bungalow on Sir Roger’s estate later that day, he finds Nick awaiting him. Any pretense of friendship is soon over as Nick bundles the old man into the house and strings him up by his neck to a rafter.
Turns out they’ve really done one over on Tanner. Not content with just getting him out of the way, they hide a selection of rare books under his floorboards. The message to the world is clear: Tanner was stealing from Sir Roger, and was himself the murderer, but guilt has led him to take his own life. It’s a smart but grisly maneuver from Nick and Lilly, who now seem to have finally eradicated the weak link in their chain.
Not so fast, though. The final act, fittingly, has a twist in the tail. Columbo has finally pieced it all together. And in a finale that Sherlock himself would be proud of, he gathers all the key players at the wax museum to set out his case.
“In a finale that Sherlock himself would be proud of, Columbo gathers all the key players at the wax museum.”
As they gather round the waxwork of Sir Roger, Columbo tells them what he thinks happened. The two actors killed Sir Roger in a fight that saw Lilly’s pearl necklace broken and scattered across her dressing room floor. They then moved him to the mansion and set up the scene of an accident.
Then Columbo plays his trump card. He conjectures that pearls from the broken necklace could feasibly have ended up in Sir Roger’s umbrella. As the tension mounts, the museum manager slowly opens the umbrella – and a lone pearl rolls out on to the floor. It’s the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Nick is seized by Macbeth-style lunacy and raves crazily in the background. A stunned Lilly comes clean and admits the killing.
As the guilty duo are carted away, Durk asks Columbo how he knew the pearl would be there. Clearly the Superintendent never tried to catch the attention of the pretty little redhead girl in third grade, says the Lieutenant. Feigning a cough (as he did while explaining the crime), Columbo effortlessly flips the pearl into a goblet being held by a wax figure. He really is a sly one…
Beaming despite missing his flight home, Columbo strides out of the wax museum across the road to the Royal Albert Hall, as credits roll.
Dagger of the Mind‘s best moment
All the scenes of Columbo sightseeing in London are a joy to behold, as Falk is at his most adorable scampering around with his camera to secure the snaps he’ll want to show Mrs Columbo. But the highlight for me is that scene on the London streets when it’s teeming with rain.
After a dozen episodes in which there appears to be no danger of him ever really needing it, the raincoat finally earns its keep. And if you look closely it actually looks to be pretty good at repelling the rain.
Not only a fun scene, it also has a pay-off as Columbo learns that Joe has lost him umbrella after hanging out with Nick at the pub – and that’s the trigger Columbo needs to really formulate his case against them.
My thoughts on Dagger of the Mind
From the fanfare and pageantry of the opening music as the camera sweeps across London, Dagger of the Mind certainly does a good job at establishing the look and feel of old England.
The twin settings of the theatre and Sir Roger’s country manor feel far removed from the high-living LA backdrop that we’ve become used to, and with Brit actors galore taking prominent roles and putting their clipped accents to excellent use, Dagger swiftly ticks a lot of the boxes that a US audience of the day would have wanted.
There’s more to follow, too. Columbo dashes around some of London’s most recognisable landmarks. The butler, that most British of mystery story ingredients, is here. So too the gloomy weather, the traditional pub, and the tweed suits. All the stereotypical elements we’d expect from a mystery in the mould of Sherlock or Agatha Christie are present and correct.
Injecting the earthy Lieutenant Columbo into this environment should be a blast. There’s certainly fun to be had as he struggles to comprehend what the country cop and Tanner the butler are telling him when he meets them at Sir Roger’s home. Little wonder, too, when lines like this are dished up: “Just took ‘is Lordship off, they did, to have ‘im properly coffined for public mourning.” Yes folks, Columbo is a loooooong way from home, in more ways than one.
“As a Brit myself, much of what I see here grates terribly. The stereotypes are too cliched.”
But aspects of this episode that might have delighted a US audience of the 1970s haven’t stood the test of time. And as a Brit myself, much of what I see here grates terribly. The characterisations are too cliched. And the acting from the murderous leading pair is just too hammy to bear – even if you take into consideration the theatrical setting. I get that this is a homage and not to be taken too seriously, but even so I feel like the joke’s on me.
On occasion this feels like we’re watching a Hammer horror film. There’s kitsch value in that but, really, as a viewer I feel patronised by the clumsy stereotypes on display. Nothing feels genuine, which is criticism I could also label at other Columbo outings with a foot in other cultures: namely A Matter of Honor and A Case of Immunity.
A saving grace of even mediocre Columbo episodes is the enjoyment one can glean from watching the Lieutenant mentally tussle with his adversaries. There’s very little of that here. Part of the problem is that Richard Basehart and Honor Blackman are so wooden as Nick and Lilly. They’re almost unwatchable at times and there’s precious little chemistry between the two and Falk.
Despite the show’s longer running time (approx 95 minutes as opposed to the ‘standard’ 75 minutes), Columbo and the killers spend comparatively little time locking horns. There’s a nice scene when Columbo grills them after their opening night success, but in terms of rapport and intrigue there’s nothing here that holds a candle to the sparring off against Cassidy, Culp et al that we’ve seen before.
I have a problem with the longer running time of this episode, too (as I do with the majority of the ‘longer’ episodes). It means this dross is drawn out far longer than is required. It doesn’t help that we’re taken to Sir Roger’s house so often – 7 times if my calculations are correct. Frankly I was bored well before the denouement. I suspect I wouldn’t be alone.
“Most of the time Nick and Lilly are too silly to be taken seriously.”
The finale isn’t entirely satisfying, either. Columbo has made a lot of assumptions in this episode, not all of which seem entirely justifiable – particularly his hunch that Nick and Lilly might have broken into the wax museum to tamper with the umbrellas. His resultant planting of the pearl in the umbrella may have been enough to extract a confession from the emotional stage stars, but it’s a bit too cute for me.
We’ve seen Columbo bend the rules to get his man before. Death Lends a Hand is the standout example. The difference here is that Columbo admits to the stunt. In Death Lends a Hand, we’re pretty sure he planted the contact lens and put Brimmer’s car out of commission, but we’re ultimately kept guessing. The Lieutenant’s aura of mystique is preserved. There’s a class distinction between the two episodes, and for all its uppity Britishness, Dagger is the poor relative by a country mile.
Still, as I perennially come back to when critiquing Columbo, nothing’s all bad. The same is true here. The second murder of the untrustworthy Tanner is a highlight. Although we don’t see it, the murder must have been gruesome and a terrifying way for the old guy to check out. I’d have liked more of this dark edge to come through. Most of the time Nick and Lilly are too silly to be taken seriously. Tanner’s grisly demise shows they’re actually pretty hardcore.
“Peter Falk himself didn’t like this episode, feeling it was too gimmicky. I’m firmly with him.”
Dagger also further explores the notion that Columbo is held in high regard by the LAPD, as he’s been chosen for the honour of visiting Scotland Yard. He’s even described as ‘a great detective’ by the officers expecting him at Heathrow.
This idea was first raised a couple of episodes earlier, when Sergeant Wilson described Columbo as ‘fast becoming a legend in the department’ in Greenhouse Jungle. This is a natural extension of that heightening profile – even if he remains ever so humble.
Personally I think it’s rewarding to see Columbo earning recognition of this type. After all, this is the cop who brought down a best-selling mystery writer, a revered war hero and a highfalutin concert maestro in the space of a few months. He deserves the plaudits. Conversely, I always find it irritating when other officers don’t show Columbo the respect he’s due, and show impatience with his methods. Don’t they know who he is?
As referenced earlier, the scenes of Columbo jalloping around London, camera in hand, help enhance the spectacle. It leads to a magic moment as Columbo and Durk stop to admire the Houses of Parliament.
“Is that Big Ben?” asks the wide-eyed Lieutenant. “Yes it is,” Durk assures him. Then, eyeing his own cheap timepiece, Columbo responds: “Well, look at that, a big clock like that and it´s only a minute slow.”
So while there are smiles to be had while watching Dagger of the Mind, they’re too few and far between to raise this above the mundane. Peter Falk himself didn’t like the episode, feeling it was too gimmicky. I’m firmly with him.
Some say a change is as good as a holiday. When it comes to Columbo, Dagger of the Mind proves that he’s at his most watchable in his own backyard. A homage to the Victorian mysteries of yore it may be, but as a piece of television this is about as unconvincing as Columbo gets.
Did you know?
Only the location shots of Columbo sightseeing and the interior shots at Durk’s gentleman’s club were actually recorded on location in the UK. Everything else was filmed either at Universal Studios in LA or at Greystone Mansions in Beverley Hills – the location of Sir Roger Haversham’s palatial dwelling.
Although he’s as British as The Queen herself, the scenes involving Wilfrid Hyde-White had to be shot in Cali, as he was a tax exile and owed thousands of pounds to the UK Inland Revenue! The sly old dog…
Both Hyde-White and Bernard Fox would return in future, nautical-themed episodes: Hyde-White in Last Salute to the Commodore, and Fox in Troubled Waters.
How I rate them so far!
Remember that time I panned Short Fuse, claiming it was the first ‘poor’ episode of the lost up until that point? Well all I can say is: come back Roddy and your tight trousers – all’s forgiven!
I’d watch Short Fuse a dozen times before selecting Dagger of the Mind again. This is a very silly episode, which is both hammily acted and tediously drawn out. It may not ultimately be the worst of the 70s’ run, but I’d expect it to be ‘bringing up the rear’ for a long time yet.
Check out my other episode reviews via the links below!
- Suitable for Framing
- Murder by the Book
- Death Lends a Hand
- Lady in Waiting
- Prescription: Murder
- The Most Crucial Game
- Etude in Black
- Greenhouse Jungle
- Blueprint for Murder
- Ransom for a Dead Man
- Dead Weight
- Short Fuse
- Dagger of the Mind
I thank you kindly if you’ve taken the time to read this article, and would love to hear your own thoughts on this one in the comments section below. I wonder if there’s a nationalistic split, with Brits loathing it, but others finding more to enjoy. Either way, let me know!
Next up on our voyage through all Columbo episodes is Requiem For a Falling Star, starring Oscar-winning actress Anne Baxter. A return to form for Season 2? Let’s wait and see…
Read a very different perspective on Dagger of the Mind in a ‘second opinion’ review here.
I’m amused to see that Columbophile is a Brit (should’ve known) and that he found the stereotypes here annoying.
I hate to break it to you, old chum, but a few of us on this side of the pond do indeed have a sense of irony. The stereotyping struck me as definitely intentional and satiric. (The same criticism was leveled against the movie Match Point where, again, the exaggeration was entirely intentional.)
The whole vibe of this episode is fundamentally different than most other episodes. It’s a fine episode, pretty amusing, it’s just not something you can directly compare against a “regular” episode of Columbo. The tone here is just fundamentally different, just like the first Shatner episode… which, curiously enough, was yet another case of Columbophile managing to miss the satirical edge entirely, instead assuming that Shatner’s ridiculous, flowery hammyness was intended to be some sort of Multiple Personality Disorder.
I wish the episode had done more with John Williams, who played Sir Roger. Williams played the detective in Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder, which I always felt was something of a prototype for Prescription for Murder. I would have liked to have seen Williams in a role that brought him into contact with Falk.
There are a lot Hitchcockians in the Columbo universe:
John Williams (Dagger of the Mind) – Dial M for Murder, To Catch a Thief
Ray Milland (Death Lends a Hand, The Greenhouse Jungle) – Dial M for Murder
Jesse Royce Landis – To Catch a Thief, North-by-Northwest
Janet Leigh (Forgotten Lady) – Psycho
Vera Miles (Lovely But Lethal) – Psycho
Anne Baxter (Requiem for a Falling Star) – I Confess
Suzanne Pleshette (Dead Weight) – The Birds
Diane Baker (Last Salute to the Commodore) – Marnie
Louise Latham (Double Exposure) – Marnie
Nehemiah Persoff (Now You See Him) – The Wrong Man
Louis Jordan (Murder Under Glass) – The Paradine Case
Robert Walker Jr. (Mind Over Mayhem) – Strangers on a Train (yes, I know it’s actually his father, Robert Walker, who was Hitchcock’s memorable villain, but I couldn’t resist the connection).
Nicholas Colasanto (As Director: Etude in Black, Swan Song) – Family Plot
Norman Lloyd (As Director: Lady in Waiting, The Most Deadly Game) – Spellbound, Saboteur
Edit: Jesse Royce Landis (Lady in Waiting)
I agree there is a certain amount of “cliche” shown, but that was certainly typical of shows in those days. Still, Dagger is more fun than I expected, based on reviews such as above.
Couldn’t recall if I’d seen this longer-than-usual episode before, but then I did remember the final clue falling into place (no pun) and it was jolly-good the Det. Chief Super recognized the odds of what Columbo found were quite extraordinary, before the final reveal.
Blackman and Basehart were terrific together, very dashing and believable in their roles. I do feel this could’ve been a regular 75-minute show, though. Making Tanner the butler into a scapegoat felt rather tacked-on, although he did bring his own demise upon himself.
I won’t say it’s among the 70’s Columbo shows finest, but it’s much better than expected, and humorous; a bit repetitive at times, which a shorter length could’ve repaired.
I’m watching Columbo for the first time and this one might be one of my top episodes. Pure fun.
Wonderful and accurate review. Personally I thoroughly enjoyed this one, belly laughs aplenty! I thought it was quite possibly the weirdest Columbo episode I’ve seen (I thought I’d seen them all from the first 6 or 7 series too!). Totally hammy and kitsch play on Britishness – certainly one for the American midwest! – but some excellent moments. Wildred Hyde-White stole the show I thought.
The plot absolutely secondary to the novelty aspects. By the way, I think the wax museum is actually a made up frontage of the Royal College of Music on Prince Consort Rd (I used to work next door in the Royal School of mines). Totally made my day to think Falk and Honor Blackman were sparring just around the corner!
Dave, thanks for sharing your observations! I also liked this episode for exactly the same reasons you listed. I just caught it again during the marathon on Great American Family and enjoyed every minute of it. And once again, why do fish and chips have to be so greasy?!
Poor Tanner the butler! And he even brought them breakfast. Yep, he made himself an accessory but he definitely should not have trusted those two evil hams.
I was surprised to learn that Richard Basehart was an American from Ohio, just as I was to learn Connie Booth (of Monty Python and Fawlty Towers fame) is from Indiana.
I was actually enjoying this episode up until the end, but the conclusion was unsatisfying, as it relies on Columbo basically tricking a confession out of the suspects instead of actually outsmarting them and coming up with the damning piece of evidence. Missed opportunities galore in this episode.
Dan, your comments are valid but Basehart and Blackman were just too arrogant and stupid to plot their escape. Their own hubris brought them down and Columbo just helped them along the way!
I dunno, but I’d prefer to handle miss Dudley than the fish n chips!
The difference between outsmarting someone and out-tricking someone is very little. Columbo correctly deduced that the pearl-like beads he found on Lillian’s dressing room floor were related to Sir Roger’s death, and thus that Nicholas and Lillian would react in an incriminatory way if one such bead were discovered in Sir Roger’s umbrella. If he had been wrong — if they had been innocent, or if the scattering of the beads was totally unrelated — there would have been no telling reaction. More like: “How could that have gotten there? Sir Roger wasn’t anywhere near when that necklace broke.” But Columbo was right. Just like with Brimmer’s discovery of the contact lens in “Death Lends a Hand.” As Columbo said, whose lens it was didn’t matter; Brimmer’s reaction proved enough.
Were you equally unsatisfied with the endings of “Ransom for a Dead Man,” “Death Lends a Hand,” “Short Fuse,” “Requiem for a Falling Star,” “Any Old Port in a Storm,” “Double Exposure,” “Swan Song,” “A Friend in Deed,” “Negative Reaction,” “Troubled Waters,” “A Deadly State of Mind,” and “Forgotten Lady”? In each, Columbo tricks the suspect into proving his or her own guilt by word or deed. Even “Prescription: Murder” is solved with a trick, only here it’s the accomplice’s confession, not Dr. Flemming’s, that Columbo is seeking.
Out-tricking a suspect is part of the Columbo DNA.
I am not Dan C, but yes, I would say I’m equally unsatisfied with a number of those endings. For example, in “Short Fuse”, Roger doesn’t even confess to anything. Once he regains his composure he could easily claim a fit of mania because the detective kept mentioning how there was a bomb in that cigar box and Columbo had gotten him all worked up.
Others among those endings are fine. In “Any Old Port in a Storm,” the “trick” gave Columbo actual, usable data from an expert in a field…the only one with a palate refined enough in order to give him specific information that helped solve the case. Columbo didn’t lie that the wine was spoiled and cause Carsini to rant and rave mistakenly, it was actually spoiled. In “Negative Reaction,” Galesko proved he had access to information he shouldn’t have been able to have — though it might still be possible for him to weasel his way out by claiming a lifetime of photography experience led him to understand what type of camera must have taken that photo. But in any case, these are different sorts of tricks with different results than the silly, blatant one in “Dagger.”
If “Dagger’s” trick is valid, then why not stuff all sorts of personal possessions in such an umbrella, and bring a whole procession of people by to make false accusations against them, until one of them with a fragile constitution freaks out?
“[A]ll sorts of personal possessions” in Sir Roger’s umbrella would have looked ridiculous to both Frame and Stanhope, and produced no incriminatory reaction. They both reacted as they did because (as Columbo correctly deduced, or at least guessed) Lillian’s necklace was ripped apart during the altercation with Sir Roger. And his umbrella was never opened afterwards. So the presence of the bead was logical from the murderers’ perspective, because they knew the truth. Nothing else would likely have triggered the same response. Was this subterfuge worse than planting the fake contact lens in “Death Lends a Hand”? What makes Brimmer’s confession to an “accident” somehow more satisfying than Lillian’s?
As for “Short Fuse,” let Stanford claim that Columbo’s comments drove him into a state of mania. Everett Logan (William Windom) was there, too, remember? Logan heard everything Stanford heard. You didn’t see him pounce on the cigar box in a state of mania, did you? Once Logan testifies to what happened in the cable car, and how nothing Columbo said put him in fear (because he didn’t have the same guilty knowledge as Roger), Stanford can tell whatever cockamamie lie he chooses. It won’t matter.
As for “Any Old Port in a Storm” (one of my all-time faves), what did Carsini’s refined palate actually prove? It proved that the wine cellar overheated, spoiling all the valuable wine inside. Carsini reacted as any innocent wine collector might whose collection of valuable wine is now ruined. But how does this prove where Ric died? Of the episodes you mention, this is one where the gotcha has the most tenuous connection to the murder.
The trick Columbo uses to gauge their reactions is one later on used by Det. Insp. Frost in the 2nd episode of Touch of Frost.
In which his own Det. Sgt. shows Frost a piece of jewelry belonging to the victim, which was intact, nothing missing.
So, umm, how did a piece from that piece wind up where it did? No matter; the culprit believed it had loosened after placing the victim where he did.
A bit of entrapment, I’m sure other shows have used the same “trick” but in “Dagger’s” case, and that excellent Touch of Frost one, very nicely handled.
A bit of deception, a bit of trickery, perhaps. But not entrapment. Entrapment applies only when police induce their target into committing the crime itself (if they are someone who had no predisposition to do so). Therefore, one might claim that an undercover officer entrapped someone with no prior drug history into purchasing drugs. But once the crime is committed, the issue of possible entrapment is over. Suspects may be tricked into confessing, but they are not entrapped into confessing.
thanks for the reference to Frost, another favorite to binge watch
I love your wordings on all the synopsis’s but the last time you mentioned umbrella (which was a lot) you used ‘perishing umbrella’ and ‘perishing parasol ‘ would have made me giggle a bit….American agreeing – lame episode
‘ Only the location shots of Columbo sightseeing and the interior shots at Durk’s gentleman’s club were actually recorded on location in the UK. Everything else was filmed either at Universal Studios in LA or at Greystone Mansions in Beverley Hills…’
And the scenes outside the theatre too surely…? They did a very good job with the traffic and the buildings otherwise.
I suspected an American location for much of the rest, the Manor House looked very American and the FX3 taxi Columbo took there was a number of years too old to still be in service.
As a huge fan of Honor Blackman, I was more forgiving of the episode than our dear writer, that said, I thought the episode to be rather boring and uninspired, yet still far from my least favorite episode (Last Salute takes that award hands-down.).
You’re right- not a good episode. It was all the more annoying because it was in the UK, and should have been a lot of fun. I couldn’t follow the plot to save my life. Still, I agree, Columbo playing tourist was so fun!
I agree it’s not a very good episode, and the killers are indeed unbearable. There are times when I feel like throwing something into my TV set – f.e. the infamous bed and champagne scene.
As for the stereotype Britishness on display, isn’t it possible that the episode is just trying to poke fun at the cliched ideas and prejudice that people had about Brits at the time, rather than poking fun at Brits as such? You know, like f.e. Asterix in Britain.
The moments showing their performances of “that Scottish Play” were so over the top and extreme I don’t see how any critic would have praised them.
my big problem here is the sets; that “baggage claim” set? the lighting? just wrong! reminiscent of some of the “Mind Over Mayhem” sets and Durk just flippantly gliding over a broken spined first edition “Alice in Wonderland” as oh well maybe he was in a hurry? that should’ve been his “lightbulb” moment. Columbophile made me look at this episode more critically and even though I still love it I do now see the “hammy” ‘e says wash em n i wash em maybe if DVD played Durk. but all the silliness is just a vehicle to get to the next scene with Wilfrid Hyde-White who seems to bring a comfort to every scene he’s in, it must’ve been a joy to work with such a talent, he’s one of the few who make it look easy. What’s comforting for me is to share this site with all of you, thanks for sharing and thank you Columbophile for hosting.
Rather harsh review of a very entertaining episode…it’s just a tv show, y’all.
If it was “just a tv show” to most people, the Columbophile blog wouldn’t have last a month. I think the reason for this excellent blog’s success is because people see Columbo as something very rare and special among tv shows, and probably among all types of entertainment. Just a hunch.
Very well written commentary, as usual. I agree with you about this episode. I found it to be more farce than drama, more a comedy than a tragedy. The English characters were all caricatures and stereotypes. This episode was very disappointing.
There was scene-chewing aplenty between Honor Blackman and Richard Basehart.
I know most would disagree but Basehart and Blackman chewing the scenary was part of the episode’s charm! That and getting to see Columbo enjoying the sights of London back in the 70s. I only wish we could have seen more of the voluputous Ms. Dudley…
BTW, why do fish and chips have to be so freaking greasy?!
They don’t have to be. It depends on how they are cooked.
I can handle Miss Dudley.
I’m from the UK and although Dagger of the Mind, of course, plays into stereotypes and silly exaggerations of cockney accents, I loved this episode! Columbo is in his element here with some really funny moments. The murder itself isn’t too creative or out there, but still an interesting premise. I like the accidental murder cases seen so far. While I thought Etudé in Black didn’t warrant a 90 minute runtime, this episode held my attention the whole way through.
It’s my first time watching the show and I’m loving it so far.