Episode Guide / Opinion / Season 3

Episode review: Columbo Any Old Port in a Storm

Columbo Any Old Port in a Storm opening titles

Columbo was in exulted company on 7 October 1973, as the second episode of Season 3 pitted him against his most highbrow opponent yet: wine connoisseur Adrian Carsini.

It’s a true fans’ favourite, but under critical analysis is Any Old Port in a Storm truly a vintage episode, or is it comparative swill? To put it another way, is it a Ferrier Port, or a Marino Brothers carbonated rosé? I can’t wait to find out…

Columbo Any Old Port in a Storm cast

Dramatis personae

Lieutenant Columbo: Peter Falk
Adrian Carsini: Donald Pleasence
Ric Carsini: Gary Conway
Karen Fielding: Julie Harris
Joan Stacey: Joyce Jillson
Maitre D‘: Vito Scotti
Billy Fine: Robert Walden
Directed by: Leo Penn
Written by: Stanley Ross and Larry Cohen
Score by: Dick De Benedictis

Episode synopsis: Columbo Any Old Port in a Storm

Winemaker extraordinaire Adrian Carsini is hosting an intimate Sunday shindig at the family winery for three highbrow cohorts. After some pleasantries, Adrian ducks out to fetch a bottle of fine claret from his office. Ear-wigging in via intercom, he overhears his fellow connoisseurs confirming that they’re about to name Carsini as the Wine Society’s ‘Man of the Year’.

The wind is taken out of his sails, however, when he’s confronted in his office by hedonistic half-brother Ric. Polar opposites in every way, Ric is sick of Adrian’s pursuit of wine perfection over financial gain. He’s come to Adrian seeking a $5000 loan so he can jet to Acapulco to get married for the fourth time.

Port 12

There’s no love lost between the Carsini kids…

Adrian is unimpressed and the two trade barbs before Ric slips in the sucker punch: he’s planning to sell the land the winery is built on to mass-market wine producers, the Marino Brothers!

Adrian is livid! The prospect of losing the one thing that has meaning for him stings him into action. He snatches up a heavy object and smashes Ric over the head. Ric is out cold, but alive. Showing remarkable composure, Adrian gathers the claret and heads back to his guests.

He receives another surprise, though, as officious secretary Karen Fielding is outside his office prepping for the pair’s looming wine-buying trip to New York. She’s seen Ric’s car outside, but before she can ask too many questions Adrian shoos her off home to pack some ‘splendid gowns’ for the trip. He then finally returns to his guests who ‘surprise’ him with news of his impending accolade.

“Adrian and co are soon chilling in the cabin of the airliner as a comely hostess delights onlookers with a fine performance on an electric piano.”

The happy quartet then engage in the most mean-spirited toast in televisual history, as Adrian says: “May our enemies never be as happy as we are at this moment.” Ummmm, cheers…?

After all this frivolity, Adrian has to deal with the aftermath of his spat with Ric. And by ‘aftermath’ I mean dragging Ric’s beefcake body to the wine cellar and trussing him up like a spring chicken. Switching off the air conditioning unit that regulates the temperature of the precious wines, Adrian leaves Ric to his fate.

The next thing we see is Adrian, Karen and co chilling in the cabin of the airliner as a comely hostess delights onlookers with a fine performance on an electric piano. It’s first-class travel 70s style, and is utterly fabulous.

To prove to Karen how pally he and Ric are, Adrian asks her to send a cheque for $5000 to the newlyweds in Acapulco – a sum Adrian promptly spends on a single bottle of wine for himself at one of the auctions. His justification? “No one really needs a $5000 bottle of wine, Karen. I just don’t want anybody else to have it.” We’ve all been there, ammirite?

Back in LA, meanwhile, the should-be Mrs Ric Carsini is worried. Her fiancé never arrived in Acapulco and there’s no sign of him here either. She tries to report him to missing persons, but the department is empty. Instead she finds Lieutenant Columbo, who promises to do what he can.

Port 2

Congratulations, it’s a… $5000 bottle of wine!

Some days later, Adrian is back home and ready to complete his cunning plan. Somehow squeezing Ric’s bloated corpse into a wetsuit and then into the Ferrari, Adrian drives out to a remote cliffside location and tips Ric’s body into the ocean. He then cycles back to the winery on a silly little fold-up bike.

It’s not long before the body is found. It looks like a diving accident, where Ric’s dashed his swede underwater and passed out before running out of air. Columbo is amongst the crime scene investigators and when the body is identified as Ric Carsini, he remembers it’s the missing person the mystery blonde reported to him some days ago.

Heading out to the lakeside club where Ms Stacey hangs out with her cool cat pals, the Lieutenant delivers the bad news. The hipsters receives it surprisingly well – even furnishing Columbo with useful background info that Ric and half-brother Adrian didn’t get on and that Ric was planning to sell the winery. It’s reason enough for Columbo to immediately suspect Adrian of foul play.

columbo hipsters any old port in a storm

Fashion Goals Part 1

The case throws up its usual puzzles for Columbo. Medical examiners reveal that Ric hadn’t eaten for 2 days before his death. For a guy with such a healthy appetite this seems odd. Also suspicious is that Ric’s treasured Ferrari 330 GTS seems to have been left with its top down on a rainy day (Columbo checked with the weather bureau to find out) – and there’s not so much as a watermark on the paintwork. How can that be?

Columbo gathers a good amount of circumstantial evidence, but with Adrian known to have been on the East Coast on the presumed day of Rick’s death, his chances of securing an arrest seem slim. Even a nosy around Adrian’s wine cellar appears to lead to a dead end. Columbo is desperate to find out whether someone could be locked in the cellar and suffocate, but he discovers that getting out from within is child’s play as the door can’t be locked from the outside.

He does find out something useful, though. The air conditioner for the cellar is vital in keeping the wine at the right temperature and humidity. Without it, very hot days could cause the wine to reach high temperatures and spoil.

Port 4

No known reason for Carsini’s tie design is known to science

Columbo’s policeman’s nose tells him that Carsini is his man. But a visit to see Karen at her home seems to put paid to that. She confirms that on the day of hers and Adrian’s trip to New York, she saw Ric both arrive and leave the winery. If that’s true, Adrian is definitely innocent. To apologise for suspecting Adrian, Columbo offers to take both he and Karen to dinner the next evening.

The three meet at one of LA’s most exclusive eateries, although Adrian is initially disgusted that Columbo has been seated near the kitchen. His temper turns to delight, though, as he finds the Lieutenant to have swiftly honed his wine appreciation skills to perfectly select wines to match their meals.

The best is saved till last as Columbo summons the sommelier to order a bottle of 1945 vintage Ferrier Port – one of the finest ports known to man. Adrian is giddy with joy at the prospect of rounding out a fine dining experience with such a venerated drop.

“An exciting meal has been ruined by the presence of this… LIQUID FILTH!”

His smile soon dies on his lips, however. Although Columbo and Karen near swoon with how good the port it is, Adrian’s superior palate identifies a problem. “This…is…dreadful,” he softly fumes to the sommelier. “Don’t you realise that a great wine is like a great work of art? Such disdain cannot and will not be tolerated!”

Adrian can tell that the wine has been exposed to temperatures in excess of 150 degrees, oxidising and spoiling it. His rage at this poor treatment cannot be masked: “Is there something wrong? Everything is wrong,” he bellows to the Maitre d’. “An exciting meal has been ruined by the presence of this… LIQUID FILTH!”

The flustered Maitre d’ insists that they don’t pay for the meal as Adrian storms off in Timmy temper. Columbo catches his guests outside, and Adrian reiterates that the wine was definitely bad due to overheating.

This reminds Columbo of the super-hot day LA experienced when Carsini was away in New York, and how the Columbo family fridge packed in leaving him with only warm beer to drink. That day had seen the mercury hit 109 degrees in the shade, which means that indoors without air conditioning the temperatures were even higher. He then thanks Karen again for confirming that she’d seen Ric drive away on the fateful Sunday, and bids the couple farewell.

Adrian is most displeased to hear that Karen has lied for him. On the drive home, he expresses his resentment that she now has a hold over him. In response Karen tells him that she wants to be more than an employee: she wants to become Mrs Carsini! Stunned, Adrian tells her they’ll talk about it in the morning and leaves her without a backwards glance.

Any Old Port in a storm carsini and karen

The spin-off series At Home with the Carsinis was a short-lived, humourless affair

We next find him in his cellar filling baskets with wines, which he drives to a clifftop to fling into the churning Pacific. When returning to his car he finds Lieutenant Columbo lying in wait.

“They were all spoiled, weren’t they?” the detective asks. Adrian spins a yarn that he’s just getting rid of some inferior wines but Columbo doesn’t buy it. He’s learnt his stuff, and recognises that the bottles Adrian is discarding represent a great personal and financial sacrifice.

“Adrian’s one of the few men in the world with a palate delicate enough to have discerned that the wine had been overheated. His own ego does him in.”

Columbo then reveals all: on the day Adrian left him in the wine cellar to try and find a way out, the Lieutenant had pocketed a bottle from Adrian’s collection. That bottle was the very same Ferrier Port they drank in the restaurant, and that Adrian had himself identified as having been subjected to a temperature of more than 150 degrees.

The irony isn’t lost on Adrian. He’s one of the few men in the world with a palate delicate enough to have discerned that the wine had been overheated. His own excellence and ego have done him in.

A resigned Adrian gives himself up. He’ll be glad to confess to a crime he feels no remorse for. Besides, what’s his other option? A loveless marriage to Karen? Hardly. “I suppose freedom is purely relative,” he sighs as Columbo leads him to his battered Peugeot to be driven downtown.

There’s time for one last stop off at the winery, though. Cutting off the engine, Columbo produces a bottle of Montefiascone dessert wine and two glasses. The men drink a toast before we see Adrian drain a glass at a gulp and clutch the bottle to his chest as credits roll…

Any Old Port‘s best moment: the bittersweet farewell

Adrian Carsini

The final scene – a mutually respectful exchange in Columbo’s car as he drives Adrian away from his winery to a life behind bars – is a beautiful thing. Two perfectionists, from completely different sides of the tracks, have found a genuine understanding and appreciation of the other. It’s the sort of TV moment that almost doesn’t exist any more and is all the more poignant because of it.

And you know what that means, don’t you? Yes, it’s an even better scene than LIQUID FILTH and easily one of the best ever Columbo moments.

My views on Any Old Port in a Storm

From its opening moments, where our gracious host references Titian, Any Old Port in a Storm has a lexicon and style all of its own.

Regular readers of this blog may be aware that Any Old Port leads the way in the fans’ favourite episode poll by a mile (see the top 10 here). Donald Pleasence’s performance as Adrian Carsini is a huge part of why this episode has captured fans’ imaginations for decades.

Columbo fashion carsini

Fashion Goals Part 2

Rather like a Carsini label claret, Pleasence is absolutely superb. Every line he delivers is an event in itself, and he’s the beneficiary of a truly vintage script that makes the most of his English accent and exceptional range. He exhibits charm, aloofness, surprise, fury and pomposity effortlessly over the course of the episode, giving the audience a fully-rounded character to root for.

And root for him they do. Despite his lack of remorse for the killing of his brother, Pleasence makes Carsini one of the most interesting, sympathetic and complex killers we ever see on Columbo. Love for the winery and the art of wine-making – something that he has devoted his life to – drives him to murder. In doing so, he’s protecting what he loves most from his villainous brother.

But back to that line delivery! What a show Pleasence puts on. Some personal faves come in the opening scenes where Adrian quarrels with Ric, calling him ‘remarkably gauche‘, an ‘adolescent imbecile‘ and a ‘muscle-bound hedonist‘ in quick succession. If you love words and highbrow put-downs, you can’t help but love Adrian Carsini.

All this aural pleasure culminates in Carsini’s explosion of rage in the restaurant near the conclusion of the episode, where he berates the luckless wine waiter for delivering a bottle of LIQUID FILTH. It’s a scene that belongs in the pantheons of TV greatness and you can view it in all its glory below.

How Carsini interacts with every character is a joy to behold, whether that be affability with his wine-loving cohorts to his cold indifference to long-time secretary Karen. Pleasence’s biggest success is in giving Carsini genuine depth. It’s as if he’s played the role for years, not just one episode.

Another strength of Any Old Port is the burgeoning relationship between the two leads. Naturally Adrian initially underestimates Columbo. Why not? He’s an outrageous snob, after all, and Columbo’s a comparative slob, a beer-drinker no less. But respect quickly follows as Columbo’s wine know-how increases.


The growing cordiality between Carsini and Columbo is a highlight of the episode

This cordiality is an aspect of the episode that nicely blossoms. Suspicion gives way to admiration on both sides and even if Columbo is up to his usual tricks to get his man, by the end of the episode we see genuine appreciation between the two. Theirs is a Columbo relationship like few others.

Falk takes something of a backseat to Pleasence but still has several moments to treasure. It’s such fun to see him interacting with the hipsters, for one. The opening of the scene, featuring couples rock and roll dancing in swimsuits, cracks me up every time.

The scene pitting the Lieutenant against the drunk in the bar is another enjoyable romp. A fed-up Columbo has to repeatedly shush his drinking partner as he listens to a news report about Ric’s death. The drunk eventually gives up, using one of Columbo’s famous lines against him: “I’m sorry that I bothered you.” Very nicely done.


Columbo, for once, is on the receiving end of a series of irritating interruptions

Any Old Port also gives us Columbo’s first use of the This Old Man theme, which he whistles while waiting for information on the telephone. It’s lovely to hear it in this episode before over-use in later series dulled its appeal.

Aside from our leading stars, Any Old Port‘s cast boasts typical strength in depth. Julie Harris convinces as plain Jane secretary Karen, all diligent and impassive until she senses the opportunity to get more from Adrian than ‘$700 per month and 2 weeks’ paid vacation’ per year. There’s no light in her heart, though. Even her act of providing an alibi for Adrian is cold and loveless.

“Pleasence’s biggest success is in giving Carsini genuine depth. It’s as if he’s played the role for years, not just one episode.”

Gary Conway’s Ric Carsini is on-screen for just a few minutes but he does enough to get the audience off-side, taunting Adrian and delivering the stinging put down that ultimately leads to his death: “I’m sure the Marino Brothers will let you lick the labels on their new carbonated rosé.” He knew how to hit big brother where it hurt, alright (and vice versa).

Any Old Port is also notable in that it marks the first appearance of one of Columbo’s most-loved regulars – Vito Scotti. The versatile character actor was a long-time friend of Falk’s and graced six episodes between 1973 and 1989. Always good value, Vito’s simpering Maitre d’ oozes humour.

Columbo Any Old Port in a Storm Vito Scotti

Vito Scotti’s Columbo debut satisfies on every level

If it was just about the performances, Any Old Port would trounce almost all the opposition hands-down. That’s why I believe it rates so highly with fans. It’s a hoot to simply sit back and drink in (pun 1 jillion per cent intended). But I’m looking to cast a critical eye over proceedings here, and in doing so can’t help but highlight some shortcomings.

As with almost all the longer episodes, Any Old Port could have easily lost 15 minutes without harming the storytelling. A case in point? The real-time car manouevering, where Adrian first moves his Rolls Royce out of the garage, then moves Ric’s Ferrari in. You can’t tell me that would’ve been left in a 75-minute version. Several other scenes trundle along at a snail’s pace, and offer no pay-off or plot advancement. It’s mostly quality filler, but filler nonetheless.

“If it was just about the performances, Any Old Port would trounce almost all the opposition hands-down.”

There are several question marks regarding the crime, too. For one thing, Adrian leaves Ric alive, albeit unconscious, in his wine cellar as he jets off to New York. He’s taking an outrageous chance! Ric is a terrific athlete. Is it not conceivable that he could shake off a clash to the head and wriggle to freedom?

Adrian also switches off the air-con in the wine cellar as he leaves Ric. We must take it that the intention is to shut off the fresh air so that Ric will suffocate. But wait! The wine cellar is sufficiently large to have enough air in it to keep a man alive for an age. He’d die of dehydration first. So why flip the switch? It’s not a logical action.

It all adds up to the air conditioning switch-off being simply a convenient mechanism for the wine to become oxidised on the roasting hot day.  Adrian would have been better off finishing Ric with another blow to the head in the cellar, just to be sure. Think about it: he loves his wines enough to kill for them. So why wouldn’t he finish the job to guarantee their survival? It’s a plot hole that would doom a lesser episode.

Carsini brothers

If Adrian had just killed Ric before flying to New York, he could still be merrily sitting amongst his wines to this day

I have problems with the restaurant scene, too. Not the performances, which are world-class, but the concept behind it. How could Adrian accept that a lowly-paid police officer could afford to pay for the meal at such a high-priced establishment? And that’s even before Columbo ‘orders’ the 1945 vintage Ferrier Port.

Adrian admits that the price of the bottle would be prohibitive. We must therefore assume it would cost, at a minimum, several hundred dollars at early 70s prices. Columbo could never afford this luxury, so Adrian should smell a rat.

I also query whether Columbo would choose to jeopardise the prestige of the restaurant the way he does. The commotion Adrian made would have caused some serious reputational damage, while making monkeys of innocent employees. That’s out of character for Columbo.

This scene only makes sense if the Lieutenant has had the full backing of his superiors, who have agreed to foot the bill in its entirety and fill the place with plain-clothed officers. Even for a guy with Columbo’s arrest record, that’s a helluva lot of trust (and taxpayers’ money).

“The restaurant scene only makes sense if the LAPD has agreed to foot the bill in its entirety and fill the place with plain-clothed officers.”

Finally I even have some quibbles with the clifftop encounter that seals Adrian’s fate. He’s evidently flinging the wine away to avoid it being used to incriminate him. But if he’s already decided he can’t let the blackmailing Karen into his life, then why would he? Remember, he loves his wine collection above all things. I can only attribute it it to the old Columbo adage that people do strange things when under duress.

Speaking of which, oughtn’t Carsini be more visibly emotional at the act of destroying his wines? As he lobs bottle after bottle off the cliff, it merely seems like it’s an inconvenience to have to do it rather than a personal tragedy, which it undoubtedly would have been. I’d have preferred to see tears coursing down his cheeks with every agonising hurl. Still, what it all leads to is the glorious finale in Columbo’s car – a scene so good that any faults with the episode can almost be forgotten.

So all in all Any Old Port in a Storm is compelling viewing and a barrel load of fun, but is by no means perfect. As Carsini says, a great label doesn’t always equate to a great wine. I feel the same about this episode. The slight imperfections, perhaps noticeable only to those invested enough to look for them, take the edge off what is for all intents and purposes one of TV’s greatest hits. The pity is that all these failings could have been effectively and succinctly addressed in the script.

So much of Any Old Port is great, exceptional even, but I never quite savour it as much as I hope to. Perhaps, ultimately, I’m too much like Carsini. And in this instance maybe that’s not such a good thing…


Did you know?

Ric CarsiniYou’d think that being a murder victim in a wine-themed episode of Columbo might have put Gary Conway (Ric Carsini) off the grape for life – but not a bit of it! Gary and wife Marion actually own a vineyard of their own – the Carmody McKnight Estate in Paso Robles, California!

Regardless of whether the quality of the wine is Carsini-esque or more like the Marino Brothers, you just couldn’t make this up…

How I rate ’em

I can understand why Any Old Port is so revered by so many fans, but it wouldn’t do for us all to like the same things, would it? I certainly consider it amongst Columbo‘s top tier of episodes, but overall I admire rather than love it. Controversial? I hope not… Check out my other reviews using the links below!

  1. Suitable for Framing
  2. Double Shock
  3. Murder by the Book
  4. Death Lends a Hand
  5. A Stitch in Crime
  6. Lady in Waiting
  7. Any Old Port in a Storm
  8. Prescription: Murder
  9. The Most Crucial Game
  10. Etude in Black
  11. Greenhouse Jungle
  12. Requiem for a Falling Star
  13. Blueprint for Murder
  14. Ransom for a Dead Man
  15. Dead Weight
  16. The Most Dangerous Match
  17. Lovely but Lethal
  18. Short Fuse
  19. Dagger of the Mind

Am I being too hard on this televisual gem? Or will my insights cause you to throw your Any Old Port DVD over a cliff after seeing it in a new light? Let me know below.

As always, thanks so much for taking the time to visit the site. Next up on the episodic expedition is Candidate for Crime, so keep ’em peeled! For now, santé!

Contribute to this site’s upkeep from just $3


Gotta run, I’m hosting a soiree with this gang shortly. See you soon!

How did you like this article?

274 thoughts on “Episode review: Columbo Any Old Port in a Storm

  1. I just watched S1 Ep8 of The Rockford Files (The Case is Closed) and at about 30 min into the episode there is footage at the same club of the same young people dancing in swimsuits that was used in this Columbo episode

  2. Things I notice that aren’t really important.
    When Adrian meets Columbo for the first time he’s wearing a gray suit with a gorgeous red lining. You only see it for a flash. The tie is beautiful too. Great costuming.
    Adrian always has the same handkerchief. Looks like tie or ice dyed silk.
    I didn’t realize Columbo had children.
    Karen’s hair was bright red at the beginning then goes to a strawberry blonde when it’s down.

  3. Just watched Any Port in a Storm and noticed Gary Conway heavily made up also plays the fisherman who finds his body! Anyone know the backstory?

  4. Carsini, whose palate is so sensitive he’s one of the few men in the world who can tell his wine is off, has no issues dragging out a dead body that’s been baking in his wine cellar for five days!

    It would have been hilarious if Carsini had been stuck with a wine cellar that permanently smelled like death and had to come up with lame excuses to keep everyone (especially the Lieutenant) away from it.

    • Carsini probably turned the air conditioning back on in the wine cellar after he dealt with his brother’s body and the air conditioning probably got rid of any smells.

  5. One of the things that serious Columbo fans often do (and I’m no exception) is to try to identify flaws in the stories, which are often attributed to “bad writing.” However, if you look close enough, even the best and most beloved Columbo episodes may have some story flaws.

    “Any Old Port in a Storm” is no exception. Take the “Pop,” as Peter Falk referred to the final clue. After Columbo orders the 1945 Ferrier Port as the after dinner wine, Adrian remarks that he doubts the restaurant would carry such a comparatively rare wine. But when the wine steward “finds” that exact vintage wine (stolen by Columbo from Adrian’s own wine cellar collection), presents the wine, and Adrian tastes it, Columbo successfully tricks him into revealing that the wine was ruined by excessive heat and oxidation. So far, so good.

    Next, outside the restaurant, Columbo tells Adrian that during the exact time frame that Adrian knows his brother Ric was trapped in the Carsini wine cellar that the temperature rose to 109 degrees, a level sufficient to plant the seeds of anxiety deep in Adrian that his own wine collection may have been destroyed by the heat because of the means by which he killed his brother.

    After this, Karen and Adrian talk privately, in what must be one of the gentlest blackmail scenes in TV history, as Karen expresses her feelings for Adrian and her desire to protect him from prosecution for murdering his brother. In Adrian’s mind, though, he sees Karen’s offer of marriage as a threat and a Hobson’s choice.

    Finally, just before the ending “Pop” with Columbo on the ocean cliff, the scene cuts to Adrian, distraught and disgusted as he rummages through his damaged wine collection. This culminates with a final burst of anger as Adrians throws one of his formerly precious bottles of wine against the wall, shattering the glass.

    Did you catch the flaw? In the many times I’ve seen this episode years ago, I didn’t until today, after viewing the pristine “print” available on Peacock video. When Adrian returned to his wine cellar after meeting with Karen, Adrian would have needed to select a bottle of wine to test if his collection had been destroyed by the heat. So, what bottle would Adrian select for this test? Even though Adrian was filled with anxiety, his obvious choice would have been his bottle of the 1945 Ferrier Port, the very same wine he found to be ruined from heat at the restaurant. Why open up a bunch of random bottles to test for oxidation? Adrian was too methodical and logical for that. But then, if he had done that, Adrian would have discovered that this bottle of Port was missing, and he would have easily put two and two together, recognizing that the events weren’t a wild coincidence. Adrian would have uncovered Columbo’s trick.

    Sure, Adrian would have then opened another bottle as a sample to test for oxidation damage, but with Columbo’s trick revealed, Adrian would have just left all the other bottles intact and there would have been no cliffside encounter with Columbo and no “Pop” ending.

    Does this story flaw in any way detract from the otherwise well written story and terrific episode? No. Life isn’t perfect. Columbo isn’t perfect. And even great stories aren’t necessarily perfect.

  6. I know I’m in the minority, but this episode left me flat. I didn’t think there was anything special or riveting about this particular show. I also struggled to see the greatness in Donald Pleasence’s performance. Although I thought his overall performance was good, I couldn’t help myself from laughing out loud whenever DP displayed anger; he was so over the top. And, I was really annoyed with Julie Harris’s character. I couldn’t imagine any female being in love with, much less throwing herself at, such a self-absorbed, uncaring, and violent guy. What was up with that?!

    • Well, I don’t think she was all that much “in love” (whatever love means, to quote the Prince of Wales) with him. She was fast becoming an elderly spinster who had no live of her own and that is a condition most women abhor. And as for the character of her intended – do you think Melania married The Donald for his tender, emphatic and altruistic qualities? A lot of women marry for status and wealth. (Not that there is anything wrong with that, as long as she keeps her part of the contract, support him, is faithful, bear him children who are his, for example. By the way, those marriages tend to be much more stable than those based on “love”.) What I was asking myself is, why wasn’t she afraid that he, a murderer, might knock her off as well.

    • Please, call her a woman. Or a person. Not “a female.” You’re not talking about a horse. And notice how you didn’t call him a “male” but a “guy.” This usage is honestly disturbing, and sadly lots of people do it.

      Other than that, I agree completely. While the happy or enthusiastic Adrian was perfectly fine, the furious Adrian was pretty much a caricature of an emotional Italian as seen through the eyes of emotion-phobic Brit. Makes you think of all the times Agatha Christie described pretty awful Italian stereotypes instead of actual people. Oh well.

      And yes, the secretary makes no sense start to finish. She’s worked with him for years, she should be well aware that he only has the heart for wine, and certainly not her. And while people are able to idealise those they have a crush on, this wears off with time unless you’re a moron, and she’s not presented as a moron at all. More importantly, I can’t accept how she seems to jump offscreen to a conclusion that Adrian is guilty and decides to “save him.” She is neither immoral enough to condone murder, stupid and sentimental enough to “put love above it all” (nor to love him in the first place, like you say) or cunningly-cynical enough to crack the case based on the scant clues she knows about. She’s not even desperate for money. No, I can’t and never will buy Karen wanting to marry Adrian, or doing anything else she does in this script.

      Another great weakness of this episode lies in the murder itself, which a) can’t possibly work b) couldn’t be disguised as a drowning accident c) would be cracked open by cursory forensic examination, even in the ’70s. And while normally I don’t expect “Columbo” to dwell on such matters as corpse decomposition, bodily secretions etc., this particular case goes so far that this stuff just can’t be ignored. And if you do – like the episode does – then you’re left with absolutely nothing but a suspiciously clean car as the reason to harass a recently bereaved man and mooch drinks off him. Meh.

  7. as an avid Colombo fan, i agree that this episode, while still enjoyable, was not one of the best in terms of plots – the whole switching off the air conditioner to kill the brother in the wine cellar thing – i just didnt get it…..the fact that the wines were ruined because the ac was turned off, and then that being the evidence that the brother must have been murdered in there – just seems like quite a stretch and not up to the high standards of other Colombo episodes. As the author of this site mentioned – he would have been able to survive in there for a long long time, even just by drinking the wine! oh well, they cant all be great story-lines (though still enjoyed watching it nonetheless!)

  8. How I wish this was the only time we ever heard “This Old Man”.

    Was this a different car than in later episodes? It looked like a much darker paint color.

  9. Hmm – for those of you who are pro-Rick – the young lady would have been his *fourth* marriage….

  10. Let’s face it, if there is any one murderer in the history of the show who we’re all rooting for, it’s Adrian. Ric had it coming to him, and I only regret that Adrian couldn’t have killed him a couple of more times.

    • I’m not so sure. We all like Adrian because of his pursuit of excellence in wine and because it’s the very charming yet unassuming Donald Pleasence. But let’s not kid ourselves: while Ric might be (or rather was) a spendthrift playboy, Adrian is an egotistical elitist who also spends money irresponsibly, frequently buying expensive wine not as an investment, but that “no one else will have them”.

      And while the winery produces a good product, it’s implied that the operation isn’t very profitable. Adrian says the cost would be “prohibitive” to sell his most excellent wine, but he doesn’t really say why. Producing it is the hard and expensive part. Adrian’s hoity toity wine buddies seem to think there would be eager willing buyers for just such a product. “I would rather serve it to my friends” Adrian says, demonstrating that it’s about ego, not running a successful business.

      Whether or not one agrees with his business practices, at the end of the day it *is* Ric’s winery, not Adrian’s. Ric allowed Adrian to run it for years but the gains (if any) have been minuscule thus far. We have no reason to believe Ric lied when he said he looked over the books. Given Adrian’s habit of purchasing expensive wine it’s not unlikely that Adrian is siphoning profits from the Winery (profits that should either be reinvested into the winery or given to Ric) or the winery is actually losing money and Adrian is keeping it afloat with his sizeable inheritance. For all we know, the place could be heavily in debt. Ric has a solution, insensitive as it may be. But Adrian doesn’t seem to concerned with the employees’ futures (though at least some would likely be hired on by the new owners), but rather concerned about the fate of the wine itself.

      For Adrian, it’s not a business, it’s a passion project. Everyone admires that kind of passion, but not when it leads to brutal murder.

      Can you really blame Ric? A jerk to be certain, but why is it acceptable that Adrian gets to indulge in his very expensive, frankly wasteful, hobbies but not for Ric do to the same?

      It’s fitting that they are (half) brothers. They are opposites of the same coin. Both egotists, both wasteful, both lack compassion. The difference is one is a murderer.

      • Agreed. I find it easy enough to adore Pleasance’s portrayal of Adrian (the Merino brothers?!!!) while simultaneously not finding the character all that sympathetic. Even Columbo showing the killer a more-than-normal degree of respect after the bust does not sway me into thinking the homicide was in any way justifiable.

        Viewers perhaps can empathize with Adrian as a man facing the loss of the thing he holds most dear, or drawing the short straw to a sibling in the physical genetics lottery, or that his crime of passion was committed without forethought. But he is not a nice or morally upright person and probably even less so than Ric, whose friends openly lauded his value. (Meanwhile, Adrian repeatedly maligned his long-time industrious secretary.)

        I reserve sympathy for those who are truly wronged by another or who demonstrate remorse. Adrian Carsini fits neither bill.

      • Great comment. In essence, we have sympathy for Adrian because of what a freak he is. In his elitist world, damaging a bottle of wine may be a worse crime than killing someone. It is because his priorities and perspectives are so warped by his wine mania, that we mitigate the cruelty of the murder. “After all, he had no choice but to kill Ric!. I it was killing him, or letting an elite wine producer be taken over by the Merino Brothers!”

  11. Thank God for Peter Falk and his performance in Columbo, IMO the second most irreplaceable character actor in TV history which is still very high considering the hundreds of character actors over the past 75+ years. Easily in the Top 5..

        • Nope. All fine actors and guesses but the answer is Carroll O’Connor as Archie Bunker. Without turning this political, there was no character actor ever who was more irreplaceable or who created a more indelible mark in television than Carroll O’Connor. No one. Undoubtedly this might ruffle some feathers and create some disagreement but that’s my choice and I’m sticking with it..

          • My guess was a joke although I would seriously put Inger Nilsson as Pippi Långstrump (1969) into the Top 5 of irreplaceable series actors, while Kate Mulgrew as Mrs Columbo probably marks the top spot in most viewers’ miscast list, because she was way too young to be the lieutenant’s wife in 1979 – she must have been an elementary school girl on the date of her marriage someday in the 1960’s – and she didn’t suit her husband’s description in “An Exercise in Fatality”.
            (Carroll O’Connor is unknown to me; I can’t place her.)

            • “(Carroll O’Connor is unknown to me; I can’t place her.)”

              –Are you joking??? You seriously have no idea who HE was??? With all due respect I’m a bit shocked and wasn’t expecting to read that. Carroll O’Connor was a male. If you’ve never heard of the TV sitcom “All in the Family” then I can only assume that you don’t know who he was. If you were alive in the 1970’s then practically *every* person in the U.S. who watched TV knows who Carroll O’Connor and “All in the Family” was. He was undoubtedly THE most iconic irreplaceable character actor in TV sitcom history..

              • Carroll was a male? I was thinking of Carol Flemming in “Prescription: Murder”. This has to be proof that I know neither him nor his name. But before you explode again, I think I can explain it: I am born in the late 70’s in Germany and I am not into sitcoms that deep. It has always been hard for TV shows to make me laugh, yet Columbo found a way.

                • Okay, that’s what I thought. It was an age thing. I should have added before that if you were born in the 1980’s then you would not know who Carroll O’Connor was. But if you want to laugh the sitcom “All in the Family” will accomplish that. Hilarious show..

                  Back to Columbo.. an absolutely fantastic TV series and ranks in my All-time Top 3 of anything ever made..

        • I’ll agree with your assessment of Carrol O’Connor. As great a TV moment as Colombo sharing a glass of dessert wine with Adrian Carsini is Archie clutching Edith’s slipper after her death.


Leave a Reply