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.

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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.

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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.

port-6.jpg

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.

Port2

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…

adrian-carsini.jpg

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!

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

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

  1. There’s one glaring problem with the denouement (SPOILER):

    Would any sensible winery mogul (or person in general) get rid of a cellar full of ruined wine by taking the time & trouble of carting ALL THAT WINE to an ocean-side cliff and smashing the bottles on the rocks below? Wouldn’t it be easier and less conspicuous (for a suspected murderer) to simply pour the wine down a drain in the cellar itself and recycle the bottles? It would be much less time-consuming as well, not to mention protect the environment. And why would Columbo (who obviously had the shore staked out) assume Carsini would go to the cliff to discard the bad wine, and in the middle of the night at that?

    It was a good, unique setting for the denouement, but it wasn’t believable at all.

     
  2. Plus Ric in that cellar had wine to drink So he may not have died from dehydration.As for why Adrian turned off the air-conditioning in the wine cellar, maybe he wanted to kill Ric but maybe he also wanted to keep Ric oxygen deprived and keep him unconscious.As for Adrian got rid of the spoiled wine, he knew it would show the air conditioning was off.However Adrian could have claimed the hot weather caused the air-conditioning to stop in the wine cellar

     
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  7. this was never one of my favourite colombos and it will stay that way it sits between 20th and 30th place in my table 70s run

     
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  10. “Any Old Port in a Storm” was my second favourite episode for many years, but in the last three years, the Carsini case slowly moved downwards in my ranking, because it didn’t please me that it takes almost half of the running time before Columbo and Carsini first meet, and they only meet four times during the whole movie. But since yesterday, the old port fell out of the 5 stars masterpiece group for the very first time. It’s now place 28. Your blog pointed out some new solid arguments against the script and after having read them, it affected my perception of Peter Falk’s favourite episode. It’s strange that I never thought about how stupid Carsini is not to finish the job, not to completely kill Ric and to risk the destruction of his lifework in the wine vault. Even if it hadn’t been that hot, Ric could still have crawled to a wine shelf, make it fall over, use the broken glass to cut his shackles and free himself. Adrian could have made the diving accident look a lot more credible if he had beaten Ric to death instead of letting him suffocate. And the suffocation is incredible, too: At these hot temperatures in this big cellar, Ric would have died of thirst first. So thank you for the inspiration – it makes room for other episodes in the top region.

     
    • That’s what the blog is for, to drive debate and stimulate the grey matter. Glad it has had the desired effect, although I hope you’re not mourning the loss of a once-favourite episode too much!

       
      • No tears at all! I always wished there was room enough for at least 10 episodes in my Top 5, but unfortunately and naturally there’s only room for 5. Let each episode be ranked where it belongs to fully honor the gold and silver pieces.

         
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  13. it is highly incredible that a forensic investigation could not discover that the body has been in the salty seawater for only a day or two (in contrast to the several days according to the alibi). Columbo notices the clean car, but not the lack of skark-bites and the maceration of the corpse…

     
  14. I just re-watched this today (I recently bought the DVDs). The performances are, as you say, just superb. A couple of things stood out to me. The first was when Adrien comes back to the cellar to get rid of Ric’s body and we see a shocked and disturbed look on his face and the camera pans out and you can see that Ric had thrashed around on the floor before he died. That was really shocking to me; I don’t recall off-hand seeing a death on Columbo showing that a murder victim really suffered before dying. It’s usually over very quickly.

    The other thing was that Adrien does, indeed, smash a bottle in the cellar in his pain at having ruined his wine through overheating. By the time he gets to the ocean, I guess he’s accepted the loss, and making plans to start again. But I really don’t understand why he didn’t just hit Ric again, or even tie a bag around his face to suffocate him instead of leaving him on the floor and turning off the air conditioning. It’s really the biggest plot hole.

    In the end, the performances, especially Pleasance and Falk make it worthwhile. And also, Vito Scotti, my favorite recurring actor. It was so funny when he and the sommelier both sip the port and the slurp in air through their puckered lips simultaneously. Perfect comedic timing. Thanks for the fun review!

     
    • The storyline in which Adrien leaves Ric to suffocate to death was inspired by the murder in Edgar Allen Poe’s classic short story, “The Cask of Amontillado,” which is itself referenced in the dialog between Columbo and Adrien. Poe’s story, however, describes an act of vengeance and the murderer gets away with his crime.

       
      • How does the murderer in “The Cask of Amontillado” get away with his crime as you claim? I watched the short story again after having read this yesterday (the version with Vincent Price as the victim). In the end the police tear down the wall the killer built in his cellar and find the two corpses.

         
        • I love Vincent Price and Roger Corman, but the original Poe stories are very different. In Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado,” Montresor buries Fortunato alive, chaining his body to a wall in a damp crypt and seals the wall with bricks. At the end of the story, Montresor, the first-person narrator, tells the reader that he hears Fortunato’s cries of anguish as he places the last brick in place. Montresor then puts the bones from another body in the crypt near the brick wall. Here’s the closing lines:

          “I forced the last stone into its position; I plastered it up. Against the new masonry I re-erected the old rampart of bones. For the half of a century no mortal has disturbed them. In pace requiescat [rest in peace]!

          In the closing, Poe lets us know for the first time that the events described in the story actually happened 50 years ago and, apparently, nobody has been the wiser.

           
          • Interesting variation for the cinema audience, where Montresor has accidently immured his cat. Its noise gives away the hiding place to the police.
            How do you know that the Poe story inspired the Columbo writer to let Ric Carsini suffocate, which would not be a credible cause of death. Rather Ric would have died of thirst, especially at these hot temperatures inside the vault. Under these circumstances a diving accident wouldn’t seem plausible to the investigator. So the writer could have plotted the killing a little more clever. Carsini should have hit his half brother a second time to kill him right now and not have risked Ric’s possible survival and his own lifework in the wine cellar.

             
        • This was from Roger Corman’s film, Tales of Terror (1962). Even at that late date the ghost of Hayes Code still influenced Hollywood: No crime may go unpunished. (That’s why the 1940 version of “The Letter” ends with a flashlight in the face of Gale Sondergaard.)

          Here is the full text of the actual story:

          http://archive.org/stream/thecaskofamontil01063gut/1063.txt

          In 1970, there was a TV show, An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe, in which Price read several Poe stories. This included the Cask of Amontillado (as written). Watching a man read may not seem like riveting TV, but those who have seen it (unfortunately, not I) say it was very good. I think this is also available in as an audio CD.

           
          • CTT&F–We know that Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado” played a part in the inspiration for “Any Old Port in a Storm” from the script in this excerpt below:
            —————————-
            Columbo: Tell you, I’d sure hate to get accidentally trapped in here. It reminds me of that Edgar Allan Poe short story, The Cask of I know what it is.

            Adrian Carsini: It begins with an “A.”

            Columbo: I just can’t pronounce it.

            Adrian Carsini: Amontillado.

            Columbo: Of course, if somebody did get trapped in here, they’d sure have plenty to drink.
            —————————–
            Also, in the movie you reference where the cat is walled in with the body, that idea comes from a different Poe story, “The Black Cat.” Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado, “The Black Cat,” and “The Tell-Tale Heart” have the common concept that the murderer’s story is told in the first-person.
            ——————————

            WM–You’re right about the Hollywood morality theme that a murder must not go unpunished. That’s why I’ve always enjoyed so many of the excellent stories from the TV show Alfred Hitchcock Presents from the 1950s and 1960s. Many of the stories were filmed in such a way that the murderer almost certainly got away with committing his/her crime, but when the show returned to Hitchcock he’d explain that, of course, the murderer was caught, in his sardonic tongue-in-cheek style.

             
          • JAMESCFELDMAN I know the lines, but isn’t that an assumption? Columbo is often referring to something, but this hardly indicates that the author must have based his script upon it. Columbo also refers to “This Gun for Hire” in the same episode, but this doesn’t mean that Carsini had a broken wrist like Alan Ladd and therefore trembled while he decanted the wine right after the murder.

             
          • CTT&F–Nobody said that the Columbo script was “based” on the Poe story. I said that the particular storyline in which Adrian leaves Ric to suffocate to death “was inspired by” the Poe story. If you choose not to accept my assessment, you’re entitled to believe that it was merely a wild coincidence that (1) both stories focus on wine, (2) both involve murders in which the victims were trapped and suffocated to death and (3) the fact is that Poe invented the detective story genre in which the detective has a keen sense of observation and draws inferences from evidence overlooked by others. Also, Columbo doesn’t refer to “This Gun for Hire.” Karen is the character in “Any Old Port in a Storm” that references this movie, saying she’s looking forward to watching it on TV. This is said only in passing and is irrelevant to my point, although there is a commonality in that the Michael Crane character played by Robert Preston is an LAPD Lieutenant.

             
          • JCF. Couldn’t agree more about AH. We all knew we were supposed to ignore the tag at the end of the episode. (The perp DID get away with it!)

             
  15. Pingback: Episode review: Columbo A Friend in Deed | The columbophile

  16. Yes, yes you were too hard on this episode.

    I didn’t get the idea that Adrian was chucking his wines into the ocean because he thought they’d tie him to a murder. I thought he was throwing them away because they’d all been ruined, his life’s work.

     
    • I agree with you. I was thinking the same thing. Even Columbo mentioned how his refrigeration went down that one hot day when he went for a beer and it was warm, so how does Carsini’s refrigerated wine cellar, getting that hot while he’s away, prove he killed his brother? That didn’t make sense to me. All he was doing was getting rid of spoiled wine. Didn’t prove he committed the crime at all.

       
      • Yes. Thank you. I have searched around on google on multiple occasions because I feel like I have always missed something.

        From the very first time I watched this I thought, “okay. So the cellar overheated and the wine was ruined. How does that prove that the brother died there.”

        I have watched it multiple times very closely to see what I have missed. And I can’t figure it out.

        He was suffocated elsewhere.
        The wine was spoiled in the heat on a hot day so the AC must have been off or malfunctioned on that day.
        But how does that prove it was where he was killed?

        I still don’t think it does and I don’t think Carsini would follow that line of logic either. Oh bummer, the wine is ruined. That’s it. It doesn’t make sense.

        My 2nd favorite episode (to Dawn’s Early Light) despite this (and other) plot holes that bug me. Because Columbo and Carsini are so outstanding. But the solution has always confused me because I still can’t figure out how it was a solution in the first place.

         
        • Let me also add that I enjoyed this article a ton. Wonderful and colorful analysis that also had me chuckling a few times. I’m glad that my quest to “figure out what the heck I’m missing about this episode” led me to this site and I look forward to reading the other articles and reviews.

           
        • My thoughts exactly. And Carsini being “3,000 miles away” is even more of a reason that he couldn’t do anything about the overheating wine on the hot day. I can’t make any connection between the hot day, the ruined port and Carsini being the one who killed his half brother. Perhaps Carsini is also thinking that Karen is going to admit that she lied about his whereabouts, so he just confesses.

           
      • You are 100% right on the money! My husband and I are still trying to figure out how Columbo came to the conclusion that Adrian killed his half-brother. This one did not do it for us. We are still Columbo fans tho.

         
  17. I love this episode, it’s definitely in my top five. My plot quibble points: (1) A muscle-bound hedonist would not be able to secretly compile the accounts books that reveals the winery is losing oodles of money, or even know to try to. He could certainly guess it, so that’s not fatal to the plot. (2) Although to my eyes there’s an unexplained age gap between the brothers, Ric seems a bit old to (still?) be into all that car racing, skydiving, underwater rubbish. (3) This a tad psychological: If your life revolves around wine, then your wine cellar is your playpen and most precious place. Would you in essence use it as a murder weapon, leaving the body in it to slowly die (and maybe rot)?

    p.s. Re Ric the terrific athlete possibly being able to free himself. If you know what you’re doing it’s not that difficult to secure a body just with ropes and knots. Plus it’s possible Adrian spent time in the military (and/or was a boy scout), where he learned how.

     
    • Remember, they were only half brothers. One brother from the first wife and another, two decades younger, by the second, trophy wife is all too familiar. As I write this, Donald Trump, Jr is 40 years old and Barron Trump only 12.

       
      • William, that’s right. The writers incorporated all that information through natural conversational exposition between the brothers. And I too agree that the writers were indicating, without specifically saying, that Enrico’s mom was the younger trophy wife of Adrian’s father. And I’d also like to point out that so much of the estate going to the younger son from the second wife, rather than to Adrian from the father’s first marriage, is an all too common set of circumstances. Children from the first marriage often essentially get shut out of the estates of wealthy parents. Consider the estate cases of such celebrities as John Lennon, Jerry Lewis, and Peter Falk himself.

        And Alistair, regarding Enrico purportedly being unable to “secretly compile the accounts books” to reveal that “the winery is losing oodles of money,” Enrico needn’t be a forensic accountant to figure out that Adrian was spending a large amount to indulge his own lifestyle. That would have been evident just by looking at the charges and checks from Adrian’s business accounts. Adrian was way too into his passion for wine to be engaging in any attempts to hide his transactions by using, for example, such relatively sophisticated schemes as bogus accounts. Moreover, Enrico could well have engaged a forensic accountant to actually go over the business records and the dialogue didn’t necessarily rule that out. (For an episode where the killer can and did have the time to siphon off cash in a concealed manner, consider Milo Janus (Robert Conrad), the sleazy gym franchise owner in “An Exercise in Fatality.”)

         
        • And from a purely evidentiary point of view, Columbo succeeded in proving that Carsini threw out his own wine. Nothing more. Nothing to connect him to the murder. Without Carsini agreeing to confess, the DA would not have even brought charges.

           
  18. One minor joy for Pittsburgers is the presence of Rege Cordic as one of Adrian’s wino pals. He’s in the last row of the airplane in the triumphant return with Adrian’s $5000 prize and leaning on the piano from the right in the pic from the outbound flight. Cordic was a Pittsburgh drive-time radio personality in 50’s and 60’s who had an 85 share(!!) at one point. Yup, 85% of all active Pittsburgh radios were tuned to his show. It was characterized by a lot of wacky bits. (“Olde Frothingslosh: The Pale, Stale Ale With The Foam On The Bottom.” … I guess you hadda be there.)

    He left Pittsburgh in the mid ’60’s to replace Bob Crane who had left his own hit LA radio show for Hogan’s Heroes. Unfortunately, the schtick that wowed the rubes in Pittsburgh fell flat in Tinseltown (like Olde Froth itself), and the show was canceled after 18 months. He even killed the entire station, which switched to an all-news format.

    Hooked on the glamor (or is it “glamour” on this site), Cordic remained in LA, where made a good living in bit parts like this one, in voice acting (a preposterously rich baritone), and in commercials. He was also featured as “The Deputy Commissioner” in the very next Columbo episode, “Candidate for Crime”.

     
  19. Pingback: Columbo full episode: Any Old Port in a Storm | The columbophile

  20. I greatly enjoyed this review, thank you. Nice to see so many people still taking interest in this fine television program.

     
  21. I’m 58 and I remember this episode of Columbo (I’m Italian, they translated “Colombo”) as one of the best, or The best of all (such a Great Donald Pleasence!). More than 40 years later I’ve seen it again, and, searching for more infos, I found your blog.
    Thank you so much for your brilliant analysis of this episode. Your “Encyclopedia of Columbo” is astonishing, great job!

     
      • Thank you so much – I love the blog. I am surprised “Murder Under Glass” was not mentioned in your list of favorites. I do have to agree ” Any Port in a Storm” is a true classic. Keep up the great work !

         
        • I enjoy Murder Under Glass, but I’m not sure it will ultimately make my personal top 20. I really like the antagonism between the leads, but I find the whole premise of the episode to be pretty shaky, which I’ll (eventually) discuss in greater detail when I get round to reviewing it!

           
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      • This is one my my favorite episodes, too. As a retired lawyer, I do, however, need to suspend my knowledge of the law and courtroom. Not many of the Columbo episodes would end with a conviction, let alone an indictment. The show remedies this by having many of the perpetrators confess at the end. In this episode, the clever catching of Carsini tossing the wine proves nothing regarding the murder. It is a tangential, ALMOST irrelevant distraction. It only proves that the wine’s are believed to have been ruined, but does not go to the question of actual murder.

         
          • Cook, I will check that site out. It is a very interesting hallmark of the show that many of the “ah-ha!” moments are on some very tangential, even irrelevant points. If we ask ourselves “what does that really prove”, the answer is “not much.” Remember “Murder by the Book”, with Jack Cassidy. In the final analysis, Columbo’s “proof” is that the idea for the murder plot was written out as a plot proposal. That case is going nowhere. With all that said, we own the complete DVD set for all seasons, and I watch a Columbo episode at least 3 to 5 times a week. I adore it.

             
    • Couldn’t figure out how to leave a comment so I just clicked “Reply” to this comment. Sorry! What I wanted to say was: great writeup! Who knew that there would be someone around to write up every single Columbo episode in existence.

      I remember only 8 or 9 years ago that you could actually find a lot of full Columbos on YouChewed; that’s all over now, of course. I got this one on something called Vision TV up here in Canuckistan.

      I just wanted to remark on one thing: you know the poolside scene with the mustachioed actor who’s a friend of the blonde girl? Didn’t he go on to star in his own TV series? I can’t remember what it was but it was very popular—something like Hill Street Blues or Mary Tyler Moore.

      I must admit that I was watching TV in the late 70s when all these actors were in residence in a lot of TV shows and Columbo was always at the top of the list for high-class fare, although strangely, I didn’t particularly like it until much later, in the 90s when it was in heavy rotation on the A&E channel—before it became the Ice Road Bounty Hunter Channel.

      Great stuff . . . good job and if they actually play another Columbo on the Vision channel I’ll be returning to this page!

      Cheers

      Nick

       
      • The actor with a moustache you mention is Robert Walden, and he starred as a reporter on Lou Grant (’77-’82).

        Also appearing in this episode:
        George Gaynes (as wine shop owner) – future star of Police Academy movie franchise
        Monte Landis (as restaurant sommelier) – appeared as villain in numerous Monkees episodes

         
  23. Pingback: Episode review: Columbo Mind Over Mayhem | The columbophile

  24. Pingback: Episode review: Columbo Publish or Perish | The columbophile

  25. I like this episode, but I can’t for the life of me see why anyone, Columbo included, would have any sympathy for Adrian. Donald Pleasance plays him perfectly as an incredibly smug, vicious, asshole. I always like to think that, despite all of his outward conviviality towards them, Columbo truly has nothing but contempt for most of the people he puts away. I mean they are murderers. But the final scene of this episode shows us that he does truly seem to like Adrian. I cannot imagine why.

     
    • I think they mutually appreciate the perfectionism of the other, giving them common ground. Columbo tends to see the good in people, so even though Adrian is obnoxious to a lot of other people in the episode, he swiftly respects Columbo’s assiduousness and pretty much always treats him well. I imagine Columbo would visit Carsini in jail once in a while to check in on him.

       
  26. Pingback: Columbo: a year in review | The columbophile

  27. Pingback: Episode review: Columbo Double Exposure | The columbophile

  28. Think of Columbo’s career arc – he’s gone from taking down a Bond Girl in “Dagger of the Mind” to an actual Bond villain here. That’s quite a progression. True, didn’t have to lead a Ninja Army in to a hollowed out volcano lair this time, but to each their own.

     
  29. One more thing about “Any Old Port in a Storm.” Some readers may be surprised to learn that this episode also happens to have been one of Peter Falk’s personal favorites. His reason? It was one of the first episodes in which Columbo developed a sincere fondness for the murderer. Peter said of the relationship between Columbo and Donald Pleasence’s Adrian Carsini character that “the two men shared something in common — an admiration for excellence.”

    The episode was unusual in that as the story developed there was no underlying animosity between Columbo and Adrian. On the contrary, they grew closer together and improved over time like the flavor of a fine aged wine. There was actually greater conflict between Julie Harris’s Karen Fielding character and Columbo as she sought to protect and shield Adrian from him.

     
    • Falk loved this episode from the get-go. He went on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson (a legendary American talk-show host, for you Aussies) and positively gushed over Donald Pleasance’ acting–before the episode actually aired.

       
  30. I just re-watched this episode and I’m getting very curious about the origin of the Karen Fielding character. Was she even mentioned in Larry Cohen’s initial story, or did she emerge later in the Ross/Cohen writing process? The reason I ask is this: It is clear, at least to me, that Karen’s principal story function is ultimately to push Adrian Carsini into confessing. The story needed this additional complication because the so-called “gotcha,” however dramatically strong, proves very little about the death of Ric Carsini. Would a Carsini confession be credible based solely on the revelation that his vault’s air conditioner had failed while Carsini was in New York? After all, Karen still hasn’t recanted her statement that she saw Ric leave the winery. No, Karen’s hold over Adrian is essential to Columbo’s ability to resolve this case. Was she created for this reason?

    It’s also notable that prior Karen Fielding-type characters have all ended up dead. Lily LaSanka (“Murder by the Book”) and Tracy O’Connor (“Suitable for Framing”) both covered for (and fawned over) their murderers, and it cost them everything, Sharon Martin (“A Stitch in Crime”), Tanner (“Dagger of the Mind”), and Jean Davis (“Requiem for a Falling Star”) all knew too much to survive. Did the writers attempt to distinguish Adrian Carsini from prior Columbo murderers by letting Karen live?

    Oh, to have been a fly on the wall while the “Any Old Port in a Storm” story and script were being written.

     
    • Richard, the odds are good that Karen Fielding was part of Larry Cohen’s initial story. She not only ultimately serves to make Carsini confess, but because of her loyalty to him and her understanding of his character, she humanizes Carsini and makes him one of the most sympathetic of the killers in the Columbo series. Thus, because Karen is a well-rounded character and is much more than a plot device, she likely was part of Cohen’s original story conception.

      Another reason she was likely Cohen’s creation has to do with his experience and interests in drama, relative to co-writer Stanley Ross. Cohen was a fan of the writings of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammet and was interested in film noir. Ross, on the other hand, wrote scripts for the Batman TV show, The Monkees, and All in the Family, and he also wrote and directed the famous opening segment to ABC’s Wide World of Sports, shown here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7frGJf77AA.

      You also make reference to one my “general rules of Columbo.” And the general rule is that if a character has knowledge of the original crime, is a loose end that could threaten exposure of the murderer, could serve as a convenient patsy for the murderer, or somehow acquires knowledge that could expose the murderer, then the murderer will usually also kill off that character. In addition to the characters and episodes you’ve mentioned, others following this general rule include John Davis Chandler’s Eddie Kane in “Publish or Perish,” Sian Barbara Allen’s Shirley Blaine in “Lovely But Lethal,” Chuck McCann’s Roger White in “Double Exposure,” Lesley Ann Warren’s Nadia Donner in “A Deadly State of Mind,” and Don Gordon’s Alvin Deschler in “Negative Reaction.”

      There are, of course, exceptions to the general rule, and the Karen Fielding character in “Any Old Port in a Storm” is one of them. She’s one of the reasons that this episode works well dramatically and makes Carsini a more complex and interesting character than would otherwise be the case.

       
      • But look at the scene in Karen’s apartment. Columbo shows up to ask Karen one question: “Did you see Ric Carsini leave the winery on that Sunday?” To this point, no one had seen him leave. But suddenly she says she did — and without a moment’s hesitation, Columbo “closes” the case and rushes to Karen’s phone to call Adrian to invite him to the apology dinner. The entire scene is as a plot device, something to trigger the restaurant scene. Likewise, Karen’s answer is a plot device.

        Indeed, until Carsini picks Karen up for the dinner, I did not find her a “well-rounded character” at all. In fact, I’ve always been saddened by how little use was made (until her final two scenes in Carsini’s Rolls) of 5-time Tony winner (and 10-time nominee) Julie Harris in this episode.

        She triggers the dinner and she triggers Carsini’s confession. And I strongly suspect that she appears earlier in the episode (in rather inconsequential ways) only because she will be needed later.

         
      • Richard, we’ll have to disagree on Julie Harris’s Karen Fielding character. Karen is not flat, two-dimensional, or static because she changes as the story unfolds. She starts out as a “dutiful, quiet secretary” who is “sterile and passionless.” But when she realizes the trouble that Adrien is in, she becomes a more well-rounded character and she not only risks being an accessory after the fact but she admits to him that she cares deeply about him. And when Adrien makes clear that the feelings aren’t mutual, she transforms further, demanding a quid pro quo.

        None of these changes feel jarring or out of place because the groundwork for those changes was subtly conveyed in earlier scenes. Certainly, Julie Harris’s acting greatly helps to make the changes credible, but the script’s dialog includes the necessary character development.

        Compare, for example, Julie Harris’s Karen Fielding to Shera Danese’s Trish Fairbanks in “Murder of a Rock Star.” (Peter Falk married Shera years before this episode was first aired.) Trish is another of the exceptions that I wrote about earlier that is not killed off by the murderer even though she acquired knowledge of Hugh Creighton’s crime (with Hugh played by Dabney Coleman). However, Trish does not undergo the changes that Karen does. Although Trish wanted a quid pro quo, including career advancement, that’s all she really wanted, and Karen does not feel the same way about Adrien as Trish feels about Hugh. Thus, Trish’s character, as written, is relatively static.

        Here’s the scene from “Any Old Port in a Storm” where Karen’s character develops and changes:

        ADRIEN
        Why did you lie, Karen?

        KAREN
        I thought I was helping you.

        ADRIEN
        Thank you.

        KAREN
        Come again?

        ADRIEN
        There was no need for you to endanger yourself. After all, you are only an employee.

        KAREN
        I wanted to help you. I thought you would be in trouble if I didn’t say anything. And I care about you, Adrian, don’t you see? I don’t have anything else. I care about you.

        ADRIEN
        Dutiful, quiet secretary. Sterile and passionless. Then, in the face of danger, the truth emerges. Remarkable.

        KAREN
        Do you feel anything towards me?

        ADRIEN
        I don’t know, Karen. I really don’t know.

        KAREN
        You did have something to do with Mr. Ric’s death, didn’t you? Is that why you lied? Because you thought I killed him? I wouldn’t blame you for it. He wanted to take away the only thing you ever loved.

        ADRIEN
        We’ll discuss this in the morning, Karen.

        KAREN
        Nobody would blame you for it. You could always say it was an accident.

        ADRIEN
        There was no need for you to lie, Karen. Columbo had no proof whatsoever. Now you have a hold over me. And I don’t like being in that position.

        KAREN
        Why, why don’t we take a vacation, Adrian? Just the two of us. Go away somewhere, get to know each other.

        ADRIEN
        I have a better idea. You go to Paris. There’s another wine convention in the offing. You could work out the itineraries for us. ‘ll join you shortly.

        KAREN
        You’re Trying to get rid of me.

        ADRIEN
        Karen, it’s, it’s very late and I have a number of things to do.

        KAREN
        You’re trying to turn me back into an employee.

        ADRIEN
        You were never anything but an employee.

        KAREN
        Not anymore, Adrian. Not anymore. I’m your partner now. And I intend getting a great deal more from you than $700 a month and two weeks’ paid vacation. I gave you. Now it’s your turn to give me something.

        ADRIEN
        You can’t force me into loving you, Karen.

        KAREN
        Maybe not. But you don’t have to love me to marry me. Lots of marriages have been built on much less.

        ADRIEN
        We’ll talk about it in the morning.

         
  31. Pingback: Episode review: Columbo Candidate for Crime | The columbophile

  32. in dont agree entirley with these blogs i just dont know why people love this episode so much, i like it yes and i agree th performances were great espeically by the mureder but that dosnt make it great the stopryline is good funny scenes but the clues and the ending dont do it for me and theres a lot of boring wine crap in the middle i like it but i do not put it into the top 10

     
  33. Hello,
    there is no interactive link from the episode list to this truly great review. Please give that a fix.
    Cheers,
    Sergey

     
  34. Pingback: 10 great booze-fuelled Columbo moments | The columbophile

    • I thoroughly enjoy your blog I agree all time great episode Donald pleasant was fantastic the restaurant scene unforgettable and Vito Scotti is getting his due for his work in the series the ham and tart line in daggers of the mind was almost as funny as the liquid filth line

       
  35. Great stuff as always. Why no emotion by Carsini as he threw his beloved bottles over the cliffs into the ocean? I always thought that he was just emotionally burned out; he was thinking he lost his life to his secretary, the freedom of his bachelorhood, and now everyday was going to be like the next. Furthermore, it’s obvious he killed his brother in a fit of anger. I think there was regret for killing, the anxiety of getting caught, and the morose future of escaping the clutches of Columbo and in the cold embrace of Karen.

     
  36. Another terrific review, Columbophile. You’ve nailed his episode’s strengths and weaknesses spot on. If anything, I might have been even harsher on the crime itself. After all, this supposedly was a spontaneous crime. Nothing suggests that Carsini had a plot to kill his brother up his sleeve prior to his brother’s gleeful announcement that he was about to destroy everything Carsini held dear. And nothing suggests that Carsini was equally a murder aficionado as a wine aficionado. Yet his murder plan was layered with such complexities — the sort of thing you see in a premeditated crime but not an improvisation, and/or from a murderer well versed in the field.

    Could Carsini decide in mere moments (1) to simulate a diving accident, (2) to do so by asphyxiation rather than drowning, (3) how long it would take an unconscious man to suffocate in his wine cellar, (4) how to rig the diving equipment in such a case, etc., etc.? I cannot believe that a winemaker with no knowledge of much else, e.g., scuba diving, could have devised such an elaborate scheme, let alone in the time this story allotted him to do so.

     
    • Perhaps another article might address the logistical flaws in the Columbo episodes. “Any Old Port in a Storm” isn’t the only one with such flaws. And while it’s true that this episode may have a greater number of such flaws, I don’t believe that they outweigh its many strong points.

      We could, for example, point to many more flaws in the story, in addition to those already mentioned:

      -The Carsini wine cellar’s air-conditioning system would likely not be air-tight and would likely have vents for air flow.

      -Even in the hottest California days, a few days of record high temperatures would still be unlikely to raise the wine cellar’s room temperature to 150 degrees Fahrenheit.

      -Adrien would have had an exceedingly difficult time fitting his brother’s body into his wetsuit on such a hot day.

      However, I disagree with the idea that Adrien’s crime was supposedly a spontaneous crime and that there was nothing in the story to suggest that Adrien had a plot in mind to kill his brother. I believe that the writers of “Any Old Port in a Storm” thought of the crime as follows:

      Adrien and Ric have been feuding for a long time over what should be done with the Carsini Winery and the conflict has grown greater and greater up until the point that this story officially begins. Adrien has long recognized that Ric held the upper hand legally over the fate of the estate, and could pull the rug out from under Adrien’s feet at any time, taking away “the only thing [he] ever loved,” as, Karen (Adrien’s secretary) put it. The conflict isn’t about money, but the fate of the winery, since Ric later tells Adriene that he’ll be well “taken care of.” The winery is far more emotional to Adrien than mere money.

      Since Ric really controlled the fate of the family winery, and Adrien could well imagine the possibility that Ric might one day decide to sell the winery, Adrien likely already imagined ways to get Ric out of the way, even going so far as to kill him. The fact that Ric had zero interest in wines or the family business only further enraged Adrien. In short, Adrien was ready to explode by the time Ric gave Adrien the ultimate bad news. And the way Ric taunted Adrien with the bad news only made the insult and injury even more outrageous to Adrien.

      Thus, there are really two parts to the crime. In the first part, where Adrien’s strikes Ric in the head with a heavy object, Adrien’s actions were the result of a spontaneous rage to the crushing emotional blow that Ric finally dealt him. Adrien’s initial actions were not premeditated. However, the second part, where Adrien dragged Ric to the cellar to arrange for his death, was obviously premeditated.

      There is sufficient storyline exposition to support that Adrien had already imagined ways of killing Ric well before he acted on those impulses. Most writers know that exposition should be minimized to the extent possible in a screenplay, but the writers did use some exposition here as necessary to lay the foundation for Adrien’s murder of Ric. To add more exposition to directly indicate that Adrien had in the past already imagined and conceived of ways to kill Ric would be heavy-handed.

       
      • Actually, “to directly indicate that Adrian had in the past already imagined and conceived of ways to kill Ric” would have made Adrian a far less sympathetic character than the one Donald Pleasance played. As portrayed, Adrian’s murder of Ric is almost an act of self-defense; Ric is threatening to destroy Adrian’s entire world and Adrian strikes back. To change that moment alters the core of Adrian’s character and makes it far less likely that Columbo and he ever would have reached any point of mutual respect.

         
      • The wine “cellar” would never have reached 140 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s thick stone walls and arches (which suggest that it is supporting a stone floor above) would give it a HUGE thermal mass. This is not some tin shed. The temperature would remain stable over a period of weeks or months and would settle in at the average daily temperature–not the average high temperature. If the air conditioner failed, it would be days before there was even a modest increase in temperature inside and weeks before it rose to the summertime average. Even in the relatively hot “Valley” region of LA, the average temperature in that robust room would be in the mid-seventies without air conditioning, even in the summer. If it were in the basement (where it should have been, but this is California, a basement-free state), the average temperature would have been even lower. Adrian’s wine was quite safe.

         
  37. Is this is the one and only time we see Columbo in his office?

    Once again a highly enjoyable piece! And I share your sentiments right down to snickering at the sweater-and-bathing-suit clad hipsters. You make an excellent observation regarding the oxygen capacity in the cellar, and I too have always questioned Adrian’s risky move by leaving Ric still alive, albeit hog-tied.

    That said, and to be fair, you do see the anguish Adrian is feeling when he’s about to destroy his wine collection. Not only is there a sharp grimace upon his face at the cliff, but in the scene before we see him break a bottle of wine across a post in his cellar as he cries out.

     
    • I don’t even recall the scene where he smashes the bottle. I must have been interrupted when making my notes at that stage, so I stand corrected.

      In other news, this isn’t the only time we see him in his office (also do in Negative Reaction and Now You See Him, among others).

       
      • Indeed, but as far as his actual office beyond various precinct sets. He also shared Duffy’s office in A Friend in Deed but I don’t think we see his own in any other episode.

         
  38. Absolutely delightful read, and you’ve highlighted some of the issues I have with this episode, too – particularly the restaurant scene. Columbo would have effectively been spending his kids’ inheritance (if he really has any) on one meal…? The line ‘If it was just about the performances, Any Old Port would trounce almost all the opposition hands-down’ absolutely nails it.

     
  39. The story holes in “Any Old Port in the Storm” have never bothered me. And that says a lot in my case because as a long-time crime fiction reader and literature student, I’m sensitive to such story holes and recognize that they can spoil an otherwise good story. But that’s not the case with this episode. The dialogue, the well developed characters, the superb acting, and the authentic details about wine incorporated into the script more than compensate for its flaws.

    This episode is also one of the rare ones–and I think the first–in which we empathize to a considerable degree under the circumstances with the murderer. Thus, in contrast to such murderers played by favorites Jack Cassidy, Robert Culp, and Patrick McGoohan–who we “love to hate”–we don’t despise Donald Pleasence’s character. We can actually relate to Adrian Carsini’s predicament and his moment of rage that leads to murder. This is all the more remarkable because Pleasence’s character isn’t particularly likable and is a prime reason why Pleasence’s final scene with Columbo is so magical.

    Subsequent writers, inspired by this groundbreaking episode, would attempt to capture this magic. Johnny Cash’s Tommy Brown, Ruth Gordon’s Abigail Mitchell, and Faye Dunaway’s Lauren Staton would follow. (And, interestingly, Peter himself wrote the episode “It’s All in the Game” with Faye.)

    Another reason that “Any Old Port in the Storm” holds a special place for Columbo fans is that it incorporates an idea from Edgar Allen Poe’s ‘The Cask of Amontillado’ and makes specific reference to it, linking the past with the present. (All serious students of crime fiction know that Poe invented the detective story–or tale of ratiocination, as it was subsequently called–in which the detective solves the crime through analysis and reasoning, particularly by focusing on details ignored by others.) So, just as Montresor used Fortunato’s knowledge of wine to lure him to his death in Poe’s story, Columbo used Adrien’s knowledge of wine to lure him to his defeat in Larry Cohen and Stanley Ross’s story.

     
  40. I have the entire series of the sad short-lived “Life with the Carsinis” on VHS tapes. Adrian refers to Karen as “quite the Iron Maiden” in every episode.
    I love your blog, Columbophile, and look forward to each of your keen insights. Thank you! 👍

     
  41. Thanks for another thorough and thoughtful review. I can’t argue with your top picks, but certainly this one ranks above “Lady in Waiting,” which has it’s own plot problems, as well as a less engaging cast.

    It never occurred to me that Adrian threw away his wine to prevent its being used to incriminate him. I always thought it was because he realized it had been spoiled by the heat and he would never be able to enjoy it. He’s such a perfectionist that the very idea that his collection had been ruined would stick in his throat — to the point that he had to destroy it immediately. He wouldn’t have been able to sleep that night knowing that liquid filth was down in his cellar, mocking him.

    I can’t see how the wine would incriminate him anyway. As he tells Columbo, he’s one of the few men in the world could tell that the port had gone bad. No one else would be able to, and I doubt the “boys in the lab” have a way to test for oxidation.

     
    • Interesting perspective, and you may be right. I’m sure the lab boys could test for oxidised wine but I really like the idea of the ‘liquid filth’ mocking him. The writers could perhaps have made this easier for the viewer to interpret. After Carsini got back from the restaurant I’d have liked to see him open one of his precious bottles for a taste, and react with horror (perhaps smashing the bottle) at the realisation that his precious collection was indeed spoiled and that he’s devastated about it.

       
  42. Oops, I’m referring to Kevin here. He’s right: waaay too hard by the web owner. How can he be picky with this one and yet love plot-dreck such as “Murder by the Book”?

     
    • I guess it always all boils down to how much you enjoy an individual episode despite its flaws. There’s loads to love about Any Old Port, but its imperfections personally bother me more than those in Murder by the Book, etc. Interestingly, my absolute favourite episode, Bye-Bye Sky High, also has a large number of plot holes but they don’t reduce my enjoyment of it. Each to their own, I suppose, but always good to debate the merits of different episodes.

       
  43. A little too hard. Obvious plot shortcomings mentioned are more than overcome by fantastic acting and overall entertainment. Seems Pleasance had the time of his life making this episode. Definitely a top 5 episode.

     
    • Agreed. Almost all Columbo episodes have plot holes you could drive a semi through. My brother-in-law can’t watch a Columbo because of them. He doesn’t get that tight plotting was never the point on Columbo.

       
  44. Pingback: Episode review: Columbo Lovely but Lethal | The columbophile

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