Episode Guide / Opinion / Season 4

Episode review: Columbo Negative Reaction

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Dick Van Dyke sporting a novelty beard isn’t necessarily the first thought when the words ‘Columbo killer’ are uttered. Nevertheless, the lovable man of comedy was cast as the prime antagonist in Negative Reaction, which aired on 15 October 1974.

Can the laugh-a-minute DVD play against type to convince as murderous photographer Paul Galesko? Or will his inherent harmlessness blunt the episode’s edge? Let’s whip out our ancient cameras and get ready to bellow ‘Were you a witness to what he just did?‘ as we find out…

Negative Reaction cast

Dramatis personae

Lieutenant Columbo: Peter Falk
Paul Galesko: Dick Van Dyke
Galesko’s beard: As himself
Frances Galesko: Antoinette Bower
Alvin Deschler: Don Gordon
Lorna McGrath: Joanna Cameron
Sergeant Hoffman: Michael Strong
Thomas Dolan: Vito Scotti
Sister of Mercy: Joyce Van Patten
Mr Weekly: Larry Storch
Ray: David Sheiner
MacGruder: John Ashton
Written by: Peter S. Fischer
Directed by: Alf Kjellin
Score by: Bernardo Segall

Episode synopsis: Columbo Negative Reaction

Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Paul Galesko (Dick Van Dyke, bearded) is hard at work in his darkroom, but he ain’t developing pictures! He’s actually putting the final touches to a sham ransom note that claims kidnappers have seized his wife, Frances.

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After years of nagging, Galesko finally sees red *chortle*

Why would he do this, you ask? We soon find out, as Galesko is summoned by the shrill cries of Frances, who is chiding him for messing around when she wants to be driven to Lilleby’s auction house, where she has her eye on a ‘divine’ tea set.

The gin-soaked nag further admonishes her husband when he pleads to be allowed to take her out to see the ‘ranch’ he’s just purchased. Frances isn’t interested in slumming it, but finally agrees after some earnest cringing from her cowed other half.

Her mood doesn’t improve when she sees the state of the ranch. Unable to hide her scorn for the place, she pours forth a torrent of abuse – only silenced when she turns to see Galesko flexing a length of rope with a murderous look on his face. Grappling with Frances, he forces her into a chair and securely ties her into place before taking photos of her on a Polaroid-style camera – a cheap clock placed on the mantelpiece setting the time at 2pm.

Galesko then gives Frances a lecture on how miserable she’s made him over the last few years. And as put-downs go, it’s a pretty juicy one. “I have this dream, Frances. I’m working and there’s a phone call and he says, “Terribly sorry, Mr Galesko, but your wife’s dead. Unfortunate accident’,”  he explains, his tone awfully even.

“And then I always wake up and I want to cry. Because you’re still alive, Frances. And I have nothing to face that day but another 24 hours with a domineering, nagging, suffocating woman who took all the joy out of my life.” He then produces a gun from his briefcase and slays Frances in cold blood. Problem solved!

Galesko then stops in at a gas station to establish his 2pm alibi, ringing his pretty assistant Lorna McGrath and telling her to pack her bags for a photographic trip to the Philippines with him that he claims Frances is completely in favour of! What a vivid imagination these creative types have!

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How many times do I have to tell you Al, NEVER trust a man in backless driving gloves…

From there he’s off to a lakeside rendezvous with treble-denimed, mild-mannered ex-con Alvin Deschler, who has been running a series of odd jobs for Galesko (including purchasing the ranch) for the last 3 weeks following release from prison. Galesko makes Deschler promise to ring him at home from his motel room at 10am the next day. Deschler gleefully accepts, before coming clean that a camera he’d bought at Galesko’s request has been stolen from his motel room. This was the camera Galesko used to photograph Frances at the ranch.

Cut to the next day and a distracted-looking Galesko lets his housekeeper, Mrs Moyland, in and evasively answers her questions as to the whereabouts of Mrs Galesko. As she dithers uncertainly in the background, Galesko fields the pre-planned call from Deschler, arranging to meet him at a junkyard at 5pm before cutting him off and pretending to engage in debate with kidnappers.

He then beats it in an agitated fashion, telling Mrs Moyland to pretend to have heard nothing. But the Irish dame’s curiosity has been piqued. Sidling over to the phone she finds a note written in Galesko’s own hand saying: ‘$20,000 in small bills.’ (click video below for suitable sound effect).

First Galesko jallops off to see his publisher, Ray, to secure a loan to pay the kidnappers. Then he heads to Deschler’s motel and watches the ex-con drive off for their rendezvous. Sneaking into the motel room, Galesko plants a cut-up newspaper, glue and the camera he’d used to photograph Frances at the ranch. Job done, he makes his date with destiny with Deschler at the abandoned junkyard.

Explaining his late arrival a result of the kidnapping panic, Galesko hands the ransom note to Deschler to get his prints on it. “You have any idea who took her?” the luckless sidekick asks. “I’m sorry, Al. It’s going to have to look like you did,” replies Galesko, before drawing a gun and getting his slay on again.

Of course such antics won’t be damning enough, so for good measure Galesko places the gun he used to kill Frances in Deschler’s dead hand and fires it into his own leg at point-blank rage. OOH-YAH! But a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do, amirite? As he hops painfully back to his car, however, Galesko is stunned to encounter a drunk bum who has been swigging booze with gay abandon in an old wrecked car before being startled by the gunshots, and who sends him off to a nearby gas station to make an emergency call. WHAT. A. DAY.

It’s only now that Columbo trundles on to the scene, being stopped from entering the junkyard by a uniformed officer who thought the detective was trying to sell his car for scrap! It’s a classic entrance from the crumpled Lieutenant.


Columbo’s old heap just can’t get no rezpek!

Sergeant Hoffman is in charge at the scene and explains to Columbo the particulars of the crime. Columbo is bothered immediately that Galesko would kill Deschler without first finding out where his wife was being detained. The pair then encounter the old bum, Thomas Dolan, who is adamant that he heard what happened and wants to make a statement down town. The other cops don’t take him seriously, but Columbo insists he’s treated with respect and sends him off with an officer to make a statement.

Columbo, meanwhile, heads off to see Galesko at the hospital to gets the photographer’s version of events. They are interrupted by a call from Hoffman, who reports that they’ve searched Deschler’s motel room and found all the incriminating evidence they need to pin the crime on him.

Yet Columbo remains unconvinced. He has a sleepless night and is found bleary-eyed at the office the next morning by Hoffman. After having checked up on Deschler’s background and his recent release from jail after a five-year stretch for extortion, Hoffman couldn’t be more certain that the case is solved. Columbo, however, sounds a note of caution. “Do you see anything in there that says that Deschler was stupid?” he asks Hoffman. “Because if he left that camera and that newspaper and that glue laying around like that, he’s stupid.”

As Columbo plots his next move, Hoffman receives a phone call. It’s the bad news they had been fearing: Frances Galesko has been found dead! (please refer to devilish sound effect above).

The law enforcers encounter a desperate (and limping) Galesko at the ranch, who wails his displeasure before pulling himself together and positively ID’ing the corpse. He avoids being questioned, though, by insisting on accompanying the body away in the ambulance. Columbo does glean some useful facts from realtor Mr McGruder, who confirms that he sold the ranch to Deschler, but that he suspects Deschler was buying for a third party.

McGruder also references that Deschler showed up every morning at his real estate office in a cab. Columbo doesn’t think anything of this now, but it’s a clue that will drive critical thinking later. He also finds a crumpled-up photo of ‘Frannie G’ (as no one calls her in the episode, more’s the pity) in the ranch’s empty fireplace and squirrels it away for future reference.

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A happy snap for the Galesko family album!

Keen to grab some more intel from noble bum Dolan, Columbo heads down town to St Mathew’s Mission to catch him in person. After being mistaken for a homeless derelict himself due to his dishevelled appearance, Columbo is given a bowl of beef stew by an over-eager nun and gets nattering to Dolan.

Although pleasant enough company, Dolan can’t help Columbo with his enquiries about how much of a gap there had been between the shots at the junkyard, as his statement had suggested. Why? Because he was blind drunk when he made the statement and can’t remember anything about the incident now. Columbo’s hit a brick wall.

When in doubt, harass the suspect! It’s a technique that has served Columbo well in the past and something he falls back on again here, visiting Galesko’s studio. After small talk about how his poor photography skillz ruined his nephew’s wedding a few weeks before, he cuts to the chase referencing Dolan’s statement about two gun shots being fired some moments apart.

“After being mistaken for a homeless derelict due to his dishevelled appearance, Columbo is given a bowl of beef stew by an over-eager nun.”

Galesko scorns the idea that the bum’s word can be considered viable evidence, but does offer an explanation. Deschler, he claims, pulled a gun on Galesko, who immediately grabbed for it. In the tussle, Galesko was shot in the leg and Deschler dropped the gun. The two continued to struggle, but Deschler got the upper hand and raced for the gun. At that stage, Galesko pulled his own gun and popped a cap in the aggressor’s heart. It’s not entirely convincing, but plausible enough to placate Columbo for now.

The investigation next takes him to a camera shop where Deschler bought the camera that was used to photograph Frances. The clerk remembers Deschler, and again references that he was travelling in a taxi. This time it strikes a chord with the detective. Why was he always travelling about in cabs instead of renting a car? But what a minute – he had rented a car and was using it on the day he supposedly kidnapped Frances. Things are not adding up…

Columbo’s next move is to gatecrash Frances’s funeral, where he conspicuously snaps photos of the attendees, claiming to be on the look out for Deschler’s accomplice. Galesko is unimpressed by the intrusion, but Columbo has some pertinent questions to ask. The housekeeper had overheard Galesko say he’d meet the kidnapper at 5pm, yet he didn’t arrive at the junkyard until 5.30pm. With his wife’s life at stake, how could this be?

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Being inconspicuous at social gatherings doesn’t appear to be Columbo’s strength

Now ever so slightly ratty, Galesko explains it by stating he in fact was sent to a random payphone booth in West LA at 5pm, and then ordered on to the junkyard from there. Columbo ain’t buying it. Why did Galesko make a note at the time of the phone call saying ‘$20,000 in small bills’, but not make any notes about how to find the location of a random phone booth he’d never been to before?

Rattled but just maintaining his composure, Galesko falls back on the Columbo killer’s staple of not being able to think clearly at a time of crisis. Yes, that old chestnut… The Lieutenant’s heard it all before, mate, and from people who’re currently behind bars!

Still, hard evidence is eluding Columbo until he puts two and two together about Deschler’s reliance on cabs. Searching through the dead man’s possessions he discovers that Deschler had a temporary driver’s licence, which was granted to him on the day Frances Galesko went missing. That explains why he was using cabs beforehand. It also raises the question of why Deschler would have planned the kidnapping, which absolutely needed a private vehicle, for a day when he might have flunked his driving test. Astute work, Lieutenant!

“Galesko falls back on the Columbo killer’s staple of not being able to think clearly at a time of crisis. Yes, that old chestnut…”

As a result of his rising suspicions, Columbo hounds Galesko further. At his studio he ‘accidentally’ slips Galesko the crumpled photo of Frances he found in the ranch fireplace. When Columbo wonders aloud why a perfectly good photo was flung away, Galesko is critical of the lighting and composition in a way that only a perfectionist would be. It’s another tiny reason to suspect Galesko.

More follows as Columbo becomes an uninvited guest at a photography exhibition of Galesko’s work that evening. The Lieutenant, you see, has bought one of Galesko’s books: a photographic study of life in San Quentin prison. And guess who appears in 9 of the photos? Big Al Deschler. The two knew each other, in some capacity at least.

Now livid, Galesko lets rip: “You believe that somehow I’m responsible for my wife’s death,” he gnashes. “Oh, don’t deny it, Lieutenant. You’re like a little shaggy-haired terrier that’s got a grip on my trousers, and won’t let go.”

Although Columbo apologises for being a pest and says he won’t bother Galesko anymore, we know that the pieces of the puzzle are coming together nicely in his mind. His situation is improved when a highly strung driving instructor confirms that Deschler did indeed take his driving test on the morning of the kidnapping, and he’ll swear to it in court. It’s the confidence boost the Lieutenant needs to spring his final trap.


Sending Hoffman to summon Galesko to a meeting at police HQ, Columbo outlines his case very directly, accusing the photographer of perjuring his sworn statement that he left his wife at the auction house at around noon on the day of her disappearance. And he can prove it through photographic evidence.

You see, Columbo has created a blown-up image of Frances’s kidnap photo, and the clock on the mantelpiece behind her shows that it’s 10am in the morning – the time Galesko previously claimed to be at home alone with his wife.

The stern detective is therefore ‘surprised’ to see Galesko beaming at him in the face of such damning evidence. “You’re a gem. You’re a little flawed and you’re not too bright, but you’re one of a kind,” laughs Galesko before pointing out that Columbo has inadvertently reversed the print. The clock actually reads 2pm. If Columbo can produce the original print Galesko will prove it.

“You’re a gem. You’re a little flawed and you’re not too bright, but you’re one of a kind!”

Only Columbo can’t do that because he accidentally dropped the original in some hydrochloric acid. It’s gone for good. But he’ll testify that there was no mistake made when creating the image, and invites Hoffman to read Galesko his rights.

Now seriously worried, Galesko makes his fatal error. “You have proof of my innocence despite your clumsiness,” he says, while taking a camera off a shelf behind where Columbo has been sitting and slapping it on the desk. “Look at that negative in the back of the camera, Lieutenant. It proves I’m right,” he says.

But his action only proves one thing: his guilt. “Were you a witness to what he just did?” Columbo repeats to three eye witnesses in the room with them. And then realisation dawns on Galesko. Only the person who took the photo of Frances, who killed Frances, could have recognised the camera the photo was taken on.

As Galesko is led away Columbo reaches for his jacket, but slumps dejectedly on the desk with it only half on as credits roll…

Columbo Negative Reaction ending

An entertaining episode ends on a sombre note

Negative Reaction‘s best moment: livid Larry

Amidst red-hot competition, Columbo’s encounter with Larry Storch’s irate and irritable driving instructor, Mr Weekly, takes top honours because it never fails to delight.

When we meet Weekly, he’s standing furiously at the roadside after a driving test he was overseeing went horribly wrong, leaving the car in need of towing and Weekly in need of a lift back to his office. What he didn’t need was time in the car with Columbo – a man not known for his careful driving or the road worthiness of his vehicle.

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Weekly predictably finds fault with every aspect of the process and when Columbo nearly collides with a car pulling out from a side street, his shattered nerves can take it no longer. “Pull over!” he insists, dabbing his sweaty forehead with a handkerchief and deciding to walk back to the office to avoid spending another second in Columbo’s shabby Peugeot.

Even though the scene does little to push the plot forward it’s a wonderful and well-paced 5 minutes of screen time that I suspect was largely ad-libbed and that gives both stars the chance to flex their comedic muscles. View the scene in all its glory below!

My take on Negative Reaction

Regular readers (my favourite kind!) will be only too aware that I bleat on about how the longer-running 95-minute Columbo episodes are rarely as satisfying as the 75-minute outings. Negative Reaction doesn’t just buck that trend – it takes the entire concept, roughs it up, flings it to the floor and clip-clops its little hooves all over the trembling corpse in a mad dance of triumph.

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Paul Galesko: a bit more menacing than chipper chimney sweep Bert…

Sure, there are some scenes that aren’t technically necessary (including the driving test scene and the interaction with the nun), but they don’t outstay their welcome in a way that often occurs in less well structured episodes. Indeed, some of the incidental scenes really elevate this episode and I can only pay the highest of compliments to writer Peter S. Fischer and Director Alf Kjellin (who also helmed Mind Over Mayhem) for their superior treatment of the tale.

Credit, too, to Dick Van Dyke as Paul Galesko. Playing against type, he’s really very good in this, menacing when he needs to be, jovial enough when the going’s good and never threatening to take the edge off his performance with rubber-faced goonery. Indeed, ol’ DVD provides virtually none of the episode’s comic relief, of which there is more than a liberal sprinkling.

The rich vein of comedy that runs through the episode is what helps Negative Reaction stand proudly amongst the series’ finest efforts. Right from Columbo’s entrance, when a fellow officer mistakes him for someone trying to junk his car, the timing of the comic interludes is really first class.

I’ve already lavished praise on the irritable driving instructor scene, which tickles me every time, but we must also never forget what cracking entertainment we’re treated to at St Matthew’s Mission, when Columbo encounters Joyce Van Patten’s loony nun.

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Columbo finds sympathy, beef stew and empty platitudes in abundance at St Matthews Mission

After a sleepless night, Columbo is looking even scruffier than usual and is of course mistaken for a derelict by the nun, who welcomes him warmly, serves him up a dish of beef stew and shakes her head at the state of his appearance. “That coat, that coat, that coat…” she clucks before bustling off to find him a replacement.

She eventually returns with a warmer coat, at which point the Lieutenant has to politely explain that he’s very fond of his coat and has had it for seven years, a fact the nun laments, saying: “Oh you poor man, don’t be ashamed.” When Columbo subsequently reveals he’s from the police and is investigating a case, she looks at him as if he’s a master of disguise. “You mean you’re working undercover?” she asks wide-eyed. “How clever you are, Lieutenant. You know, you fooled even me!” It’s TV gold!

The scene is made better by the presence of series regular Vito Scotti, cast as Thomas Dolan, and on scintillating form. I’d go so far as to say this is Vito’s best Columbo outing, as he gives Dolan an air of pleasant nobility, almost aristocratic, as the Lieutenant attempts unsuccessfully to pick his hungover brain about the events of the day before.

This is what Columbo as a show does so well: bring in a character in a small role but make them terrifically human and interesting in their own right. I’d love to know Dolan’s story. How is this articulate and witty man so down on his luck? All credit to Scotti for doing so much with what could have been a forgettable role. I think I speak for fans everywhere when I scream: I LOVE VITO SCOTTI!

Columbo Vito Scotti Negative Reaction

I friggin’ love Vito and don’t care who knows it!

More fun is to be had during Columbo’s interactions with Galesko, never more so than during the detective’s nonsensical chat about Dog being lovesick after the cocker spaniel next door moved away. “I don’t suppose you have a picture of a cocker spaniel around, do you?” he asks the incredulous photographer, who really doesn’t know what to make of it all – a classic Columbo disarming manoeuvre.

While there are plenty of laughs to be had, Negative Reaction does hard drama just as well. The brutal manhandling of Frances by Galesko prior to her murder was pretty full-on by Columbo standards. Likewise Galesko’s heartless disposal of the affable Deschler, who at the last realised he’d simply been a pawn in a much bigger game. And better still, the conclusion of the episode is gritty, grimy and a rare of example of Columbo playing hardball to close out a case.

Let’s consider the ending in more detail. It’s certainly one of the series’ best ever gotcha moments and is so good because it gives us genuine insight into just what Columbo is willing to do in the line of duty – and how he subsequently feels about having done it. We’ve seen Columbo employ suspect tactics to trick his quarry into giving themselves away in the past – notably in Death Lends a Hand. But on this occasion, forcing Galesko’s hand and cracking the case seems to give him no pleasure. Quite the opposite, in fact.

“The conclusion of the episode is gritty, grimy and a rare of example of Columbo playing hardball to close out a case.”

I’ve debated the enigmatic, slump-shouldered freeze-frame ending with fellow fans on social media many times. Just what was going through Columbo’s head? Some say the Lieutenant was simply exhausted after a long, trying case. Others believe the presence of the photo of Frances Galesko was a sobering reminder of the waste of life.

I favour a different interpretation: internal conflict through knowing he’s had to stoop low to conquer. There are a couple of reasons why. After Galesko identifies the incriminating camera, Columbo can barely bring himself to look his adversary in the eye as he explains the significance of Galesko’s misjudgement. He even says “Sorry, sir” just before the aghast Galesko is read his rights and led away.

To me that’s a clear indication that his actions have crossed some sort of self-imposed moral boundary, leaving Columbo empty and jaded despite achieving his ultimate aim: a classic example of a Pyrrhic victory.

The grubby setting of the police ‘dungeon’ also sets this scene apart. We rarely see Columbo in his workplace. Indeed show creators Levinson and Link never liked to show the Lieutenant at the police station, believing it eroded the power of his visits to society’s elite. This has never bothered me in the least, though, as any time we get to see Columbo in his natural environment, freed from the bumbling act he puts on to fool his suspects, is to be treasured.

We even get to see Columbo in the real underbelly of LA society when he’s wandering the downtown LA streets looking for the Mission in his bid to find Dolan, and we can see that he’s equally at home in the presence of prince or pauper, in palace or slum.

Columbo Mike Lally Negative Reaction

This is a bit different to the mansions of Bel Air, innit Pops?

We’ve already covered the fine performances of Van Dyke, Van Patten, Storch and Scotti, but Negative Reaction is another prime example of a strong ensemble cast all bringing their A-Game to proceedings, and helping to believably flesh out their characters.

As Alvin Deschler, Don Gordon gives us a character we can root for, as he seems so well intentioned it’s impossible to not feel sympathy when he’s slain. However, the clever script gives us reason to question how far along the path to reform this ex-con really is.

The camera shop clerk describes Deschler as a ‘cheap bum’ and references the fact that he bought a $20 camera and asked for a receipt for $100. This isn’t the act of a sweet soul desperate to make his way in the world, it’s the sign of a dishonest crook taking advantage of his fellow man. Again we’re presented with a fully-realised character with depth beyond what we see on screen.

“Negative Reaction is a thoroughly enjoyable romp, which is wonderfully paced and which effortlessly treads the line between darkness and light.”

The same can be said of Antoinette Bower, who, as Frances, is as convincing a fishwife as we see in the series. She makes Galesko’s life a misery – even goading him right up to the moment he pulls the trigger. I’m interested in their relationship, too, as Galesko states that he has been ‘chained to her’ for three years. Have they only been married that long? Or is it only the last three years that have been miserable? I’m left wanting to know more about how their relationship reached the point where Galesko feels that murder is his only option.

Was the delectable Miss Lorna McGrath (played confidently by the stunning Joanna Cameron) the root cause of their unhappiness? Perhaps she came into Galesko’s life three years prior, stoking bitter jealousy in Frances who could see the mutual attraction between the two. Alas, we’ll never know.

Only one thing’s for sure. Lorna is H-to-the-O-to-the-T, and the sort of young lady that could turn many a middle-aged, grey-haired, bearded, loveless photographer’s head. One can only wonder what type of photos Galesko was planning to take on his trip to the Philippines with Miss McGrath. Ones unfit for publication if I’m any judge, the filthy beast!

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Joanna Cameron as Lorna McGrath is the apple of many a Columbo fan’s eye

This all sounds like an absolute love-in, doesn’t it? So are there any weaknesses? Well, sort of, but nothing to seriously dampen enthusiasm. Although I rate Van Dyke’s performance, I can’t help but feel that some of his angry exchanges with Columbo would have had more power if delivered by a more snarling, unsympathetic type like Robert Culp. But that’s a very minor niggle.

Slightly more troubling is the lack of clarity around motive. Is Galesko really so shallow that a bit of nagging and a longing to romp with Miss McGrath would drive him to murder? We’re not given any concrete reasons, so we have to assume that yes, he is! It places him a similar bracket to Tommy Brown from Swan Song, whose only motive in murdering Edna was to get rich and get laid. As inferred earlier, I’d like to know more about what was driving Galesko to commit murder, but I can live without knowing given how ruddy entertaining the whole episode is.

In conclusion, Negative Reaction is a thoroughly enjoyable romp from go to woah, which is wonderfully paced and which effortlessly treads the line between darkness and light, playfulness and pathos. I can pay it fewer higher compliments than that.

Did you know?

Dick Van Dyke and Peter Falk became very good friends off-screen and Van Dyke even had the honour of unveiling Falk’s posthumous Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in July 2013, Lord love ‘im!

Peter Falk Hollywood Walk of Fame

How I rate ’em

A superior outing in every regard, Negative Reaction is definitely at Columbo‘s top table and sits shoulder to shoulder with any of the Lieutenant’s greatest adventures. Read any of my past episode reviews via the links below.

  1. Suitable for Framing
  2. Publish or Perish
  3. Double Shock
  4. Murder by the Book
  5. Negative Reaction
  6. A Friend in Deed
  7. Death Lends a Hand
  8. A Stitch in Crime
  9. Double Exposure
  10. Lady in Waiting
  11. Any Old Port in a Storm
  12. Prescription: Murder ————– A-List ends here——
  13. An Exercise in Fatality
  14. Swan Song
  15. The Most Crucial Game
  16. Etude in Black
  17. Candidate for Crime
  18. Greenhouse Jungle
  19. Requiem for a Falling Star
  20. Blueprint for Murder
  21. Ransom for a Dead Man
  22. Dead Weight
  23. The Most Dangerous Match
  24. Lovely but Lethal ————– B-List ends here————
  25. Short Fuse
  26. Mind Over Mayhem
  27. Dagger of the Mind

How do you rate Negative Reaction? Let me know in the comments section below, and if you hold it dear consider giving it a vote in the Columbo fans’ favourite episode poll.

If you’ve got a hankering to view it now, Negative Reaction is available to watch in full online here (depending on which jurisdiction you’re in, but have a go, eh?).

And of course I’ll be back in a few weeks with a review of By Dawn’s Early Light, notable for being Patrick McGoohan’s introduction to the series. See you then!

Read my episode highlights from Negative Reaction here

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240 thoughts on “Episode review: Columbo Negative Reaction

  1. Surprised not to see any reference to the dual casting of Vito Scotti as Dolan and the publisher, a nice touch I thought. Also confused by the gotcha – apart from being unconvinced that Galesko would grab the camera like he did, weren’t there two other “duff” photos of his wife tied to the chair as found in the fireplace?

    • Galesko will walk away from the courtroom unscathed; enough for him to say: “I knew everything about all the cameras on the shelf, and I was able to tell only the one I took could hold a negative large enough to make such a big blow-up without an all-grainy resolution. I didn´t “recognise” the camera; I just know my business! By the way, your honour, talking about framing suspects with forged evidence, there´s a certain lieutenant whose devious and wily techniques I would like you to know about, and take away his badge at the very least…..”

      • Sorry, but the shelf contained a mix of vintage Polaroid cameras, all of which used “peel-apart” roll/pack film (type 30 series, I think). All Polaroid cameras of that era (the 60’s) used the same kind of film, though, like standard 35 mm film, it came in a variety of ASA speeds. All were inter-compatible (if that’s even a word). All could have taken the photo in question, and all Polaroid photos using Series 30 film were at best mediocre.

        It is true that these cameras were obsolescent even in 1974 because Polaroid had introduced its “color pack” cameras (e.g. SR 70’s) around 1971, but the company continued to produce film for these older models into the 1990’s. (I believe that a Dutch company still makes compatible film today.) The Columbo script even makes a point about the obsolete nature of the camera.

        I saw this as a deliberate choice on the part of Galseko. Everyone was dumping these cameras, so the one he used would be essentially untraceable (or so he thought). However, that level of awareness doesn’t really jibe with his reaction to Columbo’s feigned slipshod handling of the evidence. (In an earlier post, I suggested that Galesko would maintain that he planned to open all the cameras and just got lucky with the first one.)

        A bigger problem for me is the high-quality reprocessing of the Polaroid positive to produce a sharp image of the (reversed) alarm clock. This is more than a little doubtful.

        We’ve seen this before. In the Jimmy Stewart/Henry Hathaway movie, “Call Northside 777”, a newspaper photo was successively enlarged until the date on a newspaper held up by a newsboy in the background could be legibly read! (This move is supposedly based on a real-life incident. I suspect that, in the real case, it had been sufficient to show that the front-page layout of the newspaper was not compatible with the date the prosecution was asserting for the photo.)

        In the 1991 episode, “Columbo and the Murder of a Rock Star”, the same issue will arise as Columbo directs a series of enlargements to show shadows under the noses of drivers. I hope I’m still around when we get to that episode because I have personal experience with the poor film quality of traffic cams.

        In the end, though, I agree with you. Galesko walks. The gotcha isn’t definitive.

        It’s a great episode anyway.

        • Thanks for the very detailed info. A pleasure to see how this forum is shared by so many intelligent people!

        • @William Madden What about “Playback” and Columbo’s blow up of Harold van Wyck’s surveillance tape in order to read his name on the invitation card? Would that be possible, at Ieast if the inventor of this equipment is supposed to be a technical genius and pioneer like van Wyck is meant to be?

          • I forgot about that one! Video tapes of that day would have the worst resolution of all. If van Wyck had invented a version with the resolution Columbo needed, he could write his own ticket at any electronics firm in the world–or start a competing company of his own.

        • Thanks. However, I suspect it’s probably a case of being unexpectedly old rather than unusually intelligent.

    • Yes, there were. A very good point. It wasn’t too smart from Columbo to mix one of the other two photos among the cemetery snapshots. Galesko should have remembered that he explained to Columbo why it wasn’t a good photo, and with his back against the wall Galesko should have yelled: “Look at the photo you found in the fireplace and compare it to the mess you made of the original!”

  2. That bit at the end– I always laugh at Columbo’s line about his klutziness destroying the original photo. Galesko’s all set to believe it & panic. It’s like the cherry on the sundae of their weird relationship. Frankly, he’s been bugged by the guy ever since that conversation about the doggie pin-up. And now this blatant ineptitude!

    And over the side he goes. You gotta say, the Lt knows how to read people.

  3. This episode barely misses my top ten which shows how strong this show was. Great scenes with the driving instructor and in the homeless shelter with Joyce Van Patten and the great Vito Scotti. Very enjoyable episode with a nice ending.

  4. On the Galesko marriage, Paul says they have been married for three years but it’s the last three that have been particularly hellish. My assumption has been that Frances insisted on him ‘settling down and making some real money’ instead of taking himself on location for weeks at a time so he could come up with another book of art photography – just flatter some seen-their-day Beverly Hills matrons, make them look good, and rake in the shekels. And being at home with Frances wouldn’t exactly be a bed of roses, would it?

    I’ve made this observation before, but Columbo episodes seem to have more than their share of tipsy wives (Frances is slurring slightly before noon): Frances Galesko, Vicky Hayward (Candidate for Crime), Joanna Clay (Last Salute to the Commodore), and Ruth Stafford (Exercise in Fatality).

  5. Pingback: Season 4: have we reached ‘peak Columbo’? | The Columbophile

  6. Pingback: Episode review: Columbo A Deadly State of Mind | The Columbophile

  7. I’m not sure I’d call this one of my favourite episodes but every time I watch it I find myself wishing that Dick Van Dyke had played more villains. He is so good in this.

    • You got that straight. Both Dick Van Dyke and Andy Griffith can play chilling killers. I hate to say it, but Galesko’s wife is such a shrew that she makes him sympathetic. I mean come on….

      • Come on, premeditated murderers are not sympathetic. Properly, in social relationships, the use of physical force should only take place in the context of self-defense. There are any number of less drastic actions to take because someone is a ‘shrew’.

  8. Pingback: Episode review: Columbo Playback | The Columbophile

  9. I think that Columbo’s “slump” at the end of the episode is simply because he is exhausted and can finally allow himself some rest. He explains to the friendly nun that he hasn’t slept and when his sergeant suggests he goes home, he says that he grabbed a few hours on the couch. I don’t see why this particular case should be any more taxing than the others, but I don’t think there is any significance to the ending other than that he’s beat. BTW, I like the way that the obvious-when-you-think-about-it clue of the bits of newspaper is left until the final scene.

  10. Pingback: Episode review: Columbo Troubled Waters | The Columbophile

  11. This for me shoots to the top of the ratings like a NASA rocket on top of an Esso station , one of my all time funniest by a country mile two murders a fake ransom and kidnapping dick van dyke , great performance by him great storyline clear motive excellent clues and a memorable ending great Colombo.

  12. As David Shows said earlier, viewers who swoon over the lovely Joanna Cameron in this episode may be interested in her mid 1970’s TV series “isis” aka “The Secrets of Isis”, in which she played a Wonder Woman type super hero.

    A young American high school teacher goes to Egypt on an archaeology trip and is given the magical powers of the Egyptian goddess Isis to fight evil. As in the Lynda Carter TV series, the magic extends to nobody recognising her in her secret identity.

    Her costume consists mainly of a short, sleeveless white dress. When she appeared on the Spider Man TV show, her character is first seen on the tennis court. I have always assumed that the tennis outfit and the white bikini she wears later are subtle reminders to the viewer of her own earlier super hero career. Of course, there could be other reasons.

  13. I really, really, really enjoy your reviews. I find nothing to complain about.

    Except, the word is spelled W-H-O-A, not W-O-A-H. It’s a pet peeve that weirdly compels me to correct it whenever I see it happen. I’m guessing you are under the age of 40, maybe even under 35. In my very unscientific observation of the misspellings of the word, it appears to be an error common to people under the age of 35.

    Anyway, I look forward to each new review. Thanks.

    • Have you also noticed in general that many people spell “oops” as “opps”? That error seems to span generations, as does the trend toward using nouns that end with “ist” as both singular and plural, i.e. one artist, two artist. The language is evolving.

      I, too, fully enjoy the reviews on this website. I only just discovered it last week, and I’m so glad I did!

      • In that case, I’d say that the language and people are devolving. I can’t stand, for instance, people who don’t know the difference between ‘it’s’ and ‘its’.

    • I’m in my 40s and your post has only just now made made me realise that I’ve been seeing whoa/woah spelled both ways my whole life. Of course some of that has to have been in “Tintin” comic books in which “woah” is the onomatopoeia of Snowy’s barking!

  14. Pingback: Episode review: Columbo By Dawn’s Early Light | The Columbophile

  15. please mr columbophile without sounding rude when are u going to review by dawns early light ? still 42 episodes to go , some of the best ones comning up , in particular the bye bye sky high iq murder and try and catch me .

  16. Pingback: Columbo top 10 as voted by the fans: 2018 edition | The Columbophile

  17. Pingback: Columbo full episode: Negative Reaction | The Columbophile

  18. Much as I like this episode, there’s something that bothers me (to borrow one of our beloved Lieutenant’s catch phrases). Although I never owned a camera like the one used by Galesko for his snapshots of his wife, it seems to me that it is some kind of Polaroid system, possibly one of the oldest models. Now, from what I’ve seen in presumably later models, there was no negative to be kept inside the camera. Is the camera picked by Deschler and used by Galesko that odd that it should keep a “negative” inside that looks amazingly “positive” to me? I don’t think so, particularly such a positive “negative”.

    There’s a somewhat similar technological goof in “Columbo Goes To College”, another episode I always enjoy watching. In that episode we learn that some anonymous viewer, thanks to his satellite dish, was capable of tuning to the VHF or UHF short-range signal that can only be picked by a regular aerial! Well, that must have been some miracle!

    • Funny! I’m always amused by Columbo’s bafflement at then-current-day technology, such as his discovery of the answering machine in “Exercise in Fatality” and his utter confusion as to what a fax machine can do in “Agenda for Murder.” Which makes his aside to Lee Grant about how one can order tickets to the ball game via a computer in “Ransom for a Dead man” all the more remarkable.

    • One other thing bothers me about “Columbo goes to College”: It is unlikely that a TV station would impiously broadcast the shooting of the professor. Which news programme would be so disrespectful? And one more technical thing bothers me as well. I don’t think that the signals to unlock the car’s central locking system could reach from the classroom through the floor and through the walls into the garage. I once tried to unlock my car on the parking lot from a hundred feet distance and it didn’t work.

      • CTT&F, the vehicle’s remote operated by a radio transmitter and the signal could have passed through walls. The remote works best from at most 60 feet away, but sometimes still function at a greater distance. Presumably, Justin and Gary did some dry-run tests that included checking to see if the remote still worked from the classroom location.

        As for showing a homicide on TV, this has been done before, so you should not underestimate what a TV station might do for higher ratings, and put whatever standards you may have about this aside. I recall many years ago seeing a politician, Budd Dwyer, blowing his brains out on TV. Although this was originally aired “live” on TV, “live” TV is never truly live and the broadcasters always had the option to black-out or censor any portion of a “live” broadcast. And, in any event, the TV station replayed it as news and other stations also aired it as well.

        Here’s the clip, but, be forewarned, it’s gruesome! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eVm88MX2Gw4&bpctr=1531262154

        • Considering that the murder of the professor, like most TV murders, was not graphic at all, that wouldn’t be an issue. I ‘saw’ the Budd Dwyer suicide, but they blacked it out before he pulled the trigger. I have no desire to see anything so graphic, but thanks anyway for providing the link, as I don’t think that such things should be censored, for those who want to see it. Most people have probably seen the JFK assassination multiple times, like in the movie, JFK, “back and to the left, back and to the left…”.

        • JAMESCFELDMAN With the first information in mind, I can gladly put “Columbo Goes to College” back onto a spot in the top half. I choose place 34. The live suicide of Budd Dwyer is indeed shocking, but I guess he wanted the world to see this. He wanted to sign off in a spectacular, memorable way. Professor Rusk was not asked whether the footage of his killing may be aired, and I guess neither would his widow have given her permission. Are murders really shown in the news just to raise the ratings?

    • PH, according to those familiar with the Polaroid camera used in “Negative Reaction,” the film for this model was on a roll, so there was a negative image retained on the roll and you could peel the film from a door on the back of the camera.

      • That could be true, but it doesn’t explain how on earth such a “negative” would turn out to be so outstandingly “positive”!

  19. Great review. However, I disagree on the “enigmatic, slump-shouldered freeze-frame ending”. There is no need for Columbo to feel internal conflict, as he did nothing morally wrong or even dubious. He merely tricked the suspect into self-incrimination. (I’d argue he should save his self-doubts for when he framed Jose Ferrer’s son in Mind Over Mayhem; here his trickery is no more problematic than when he fooled George Hamilton in A Deadly State of Mind.) I think Columbo’s “sorry, sir” is intended to convey ‘that was a great plan, but now you’re going to have to live with the fact that you gave yourself away’.

    • Without going through all of the episodes, in both of the pilot episodes, Columbo deceives the suspects. In Prescription: Murder, he makes the suspect think that his girlfriend committed suicide and in Ransom for a Dead Man, he makes the suspect think that her stepdaughter has taken a bribe to say nothing and leave the country.

    • Another example is A Friend in Deed, in which Columbo doctors the files to make it look like Artie Jessup lives at Columbo’s room, but such a room doesn’t square with Columbo being married.

      • I’ve always thought that Columbo hired the place purely for the sting operation and kitted it out with personal items for authenticity, but never actually lived there. It doesn’t seem right that we would ever see his residence – and I’d hope he had a cheerier homestead than this place.

        • In Rest in Peace, Mrs. Columbo, Columbo’s feigned residence is a regular house, with the further deception of the suspect being that she thinks that she has murdered Columbo’s wife and is poisoning Columbo.

  20. Joanna Cameron sported a bikini clad figure on a memorable 2-part SPIDER-MAN, reminding me of Gretchen Corbett in the previous COLUMBO. Nice to see future killer Joyce Van Patten as a sympathetic nun, because she was totally different as the calculatingly cool murderess who practically breathes a sigh of relief once the jig is up.

    • I saw those photos of Spider-Man while seeking images of Joanna for the article. That’s what Galesko was hoping for in the Philippines I’m sure!

      • All this fuss over Joanna Cameron reminds me of a scene from a 1973 episode of Hawaii Five-0, Murder Is A Taxing Affair. Internal Revenue Service investigator Jonathan Cavel (Don Porter), travelling under the alias of Henry Marsh, wants to grab $600,000 from a guy he is following to Hawaii, but the money goes astray, picked off the airport baggage carousel by two tourists, and the guy ends up dead in the airplane washroom, murdered by Cavel. Cavel’s methods to get the money back range from trashing the room of some other tourists to murder. After the stewardess gets the money from the two tourists, she suggests to Cavel that they should run away together and “have a wonderful time,” but he coldly tells her, “The commodity you’re selling is not very rare … about $10 on the average American street” before he strangles her with his belt.

  21. Thanks for the excellent review. I just noticed for the first time in your ratings an ‘end of list A’ and an end of list B. What do you mean by that, is that a quality rating as well?

    • Actually, I think dividing these episodes into an A list, B list, and C list brings our differing views on different episodes into clearer focus than a numerical ranking. Personally, my C list of episodes reviewed thus far includes (in chronological order): “Dead Weight”; “Lady in Waiting”; “Short Fuse”; “Lovely But Lethal”: and “Mind Over Mayhem.” I would knock “Double Shock,” “Double Exposure,” and “Publish or Perish” down to my B list (along with “Dagger of the Mind”), and move “Candidate for Crime” and “Swan Song” onto my A list. “Requiem for a Falling Star” is on my A/B bubble.

      • Of the ones reviewed by Columbophile so far, I’d only put Suitable For Framing, Negative Reaction, A Stitch in Crime, Any Old Port in a Storm and Double Exposure, on my A-list.

      • I agree. Always have had a hard time choosing between my favourites, or the ones coming 5th to 10th etc.

    • Yes, those are the quality thresholds. I’ll need to add an explainer, I think. And will probably add a C-list divider for the lower mid-tier episodes, too. There’s very little to choose between episodes 13-21 in the standings, so probably advisable to give a bit more clarity around those.

      • I see, good idea. Will there be a D category as well for Undercover and No time to die? Kidding.

      • I have always divided the episodes in five categories: 5 stars, 4 stars, 3 stars, 2 stars, 1 star. The 5 stars masterpiece group contains 25 cases, more than 1/3 of the complete series. The 4 stars group contains 15 very good cases. The 3 stars group contains another 15 good cases. The 2 stars group contains the 10 average cases and only my small 1 star failure group punishes the 4 weak episodes, in my view: “Murder in Malibu”, “Murder With Too Many Notes”, “Last Salute to the Commodore” and “The Murder of a Rock Star”.
        “Negative Reaction” has its place in the 5 stars masterpiece group.

        • Although I am critical, mostly of the new Columbo, I can’t see rating any episodes below C or C-. The three episodes that you cited from the new series, I would not say are among the worst, and I’ve never understood the apparent widespread dislike of Last Salute to the Commodore, other than the fact that it went against the formula of showing the murder(s).

        • For me Undercover and No time do die would be in your 1 star category. For me they stand out as the absolute worst. Or didn’t you count them in and put them in the 0 star category?

          • There is not one Columbo episode that bores me or makes me suffer. I can enjoy each one, but some are below average in writing or directing. What makes “Last Salute” so bad isn’t only the Agatha Christie formula twist, it’s mostly the slow pacing, the unnecessary two Sergeants surrounding Columbo wherever he goes and a relaxing lieutenant who repeats every second thing he says.
            I currently rank “Undercover” and “No Time to Die” on places 59 and 53; they both just made it into the 3 star category. Although the formula is not typical, the main actor is still Peter Falk and the character he plays is still my beloved Columbo, only from another, less ingenious and more entertaining point of view.

        • Fair enough. I’d love to see your whole ranking list 1-69, including the categories 5-1 stars.

        • would have undercover instead of rock star and a matter of honour should be there as well as murder a self portrait and no time to die

          • its all in the game and murder with too many notes , terrible episodes.
            some of the new columbos started well such as murder with too many notes strange bedfellows , murder with too many notes 3 examples but after about half an hour turn into complete dross have you ever noticed that trend.

            • No, I don’t think that any of the episodes are ‘terrible’ and does your Shift key not work?!

              • I will never understand how it is possible that Columbo fans have so very different opinions about the single episodes. For example I never disliked “A Matter of Honor” (my current place 41); it delivers an enjoyable setting and clever detections that lead Columbo (lovable and curious like a child) onto the right track. And I never understood what can be found boring about “Murder, a Self Portrait”. The Italian music combined with that amusing hardcore artist with three women (of which he loses each one during the movie) and Columbo’s interpretations of the creepy dream sequences – I just love it.

                • columbo docent travel well, same as in dagger of the mind , and yes a matter of honour might have clever detections but the setting doesn’t suit and the episode is slow , dreary and un funny , columbo is at his best when he’s in the suburbs of LA in his home ground , Troubled waters was set entirely on a cruise ship but was an exception to this as it was colourful funny , good script and interesting clues and Robert Vaughn was brilliant.

                  • as for murder a self portrait it starts off quite well and the music is ok and his wives are nice but the script descends into dross and it turns into a non columbo like episode much like a lot of new episodes , you cannot have dreams as clues this is so far removed from the classic 70s run.

        • I use the same 5 star system when rating columbos 5 for absolute Classic 4- very good 3 -good 2- just watchable and 1 for poor and New episodes put aside
          my 5 stars are try and catch me , suitable for framing A stitch in crime , swansong ,Negative Reaction , make me a perfect murder and the bye – bye sky high I Q murder.
          the majority are made up of 4/5 and 3/5 only 4 are 1 star they are a matter of Honor murder under glass , last salute to the commodore and dagger of the mind.

          • Mr Steve I cannot see why “Murder Under Glass” would deserve this bad rating, but although “Try and Catch Me” is one of my 5 star classics as well, I have one problem with it: When Edmund steps into the safe for the first time, Abigail already has her hands on the door, ready to lock Edmund in. Only the interrupting arrival of her lawyer stops her from doing it. But why would Abigail inclose Edmund so early? The testament was not yet signed and Abi wouldn’t have secured her alibi about Edmund having already driven off. Can’t this be regarded as a weak element in the seemingly flawless movie?

            • I always thought that Abigail was just assessing the likelihood that she would be able to catch Edmund inside the safe when push came to shove. Could she really get the door closed in time? Her plan was always a little iffy, and I don’t think she really settled it in her own mind.

              • Great psychological explanation, William! That’s something I can live with from now on.

            • firstly yes I agree I have noticed this flaw and it does damage it slightly , also how could she receive the call from veronica 30 000feet up in a 747 as the mobile phone hadent even been invented then , but the episode is so good on the whole and the chemistry between Abigail and columbo overpower this.
              as for murder under glass I give it one star as its dull , unfunny dosent have any memorable scenes , has a poor script a unmemorable killer poor lighting and a poor script . however I still like it more than a matter of honour though which was all of the above x2

    • Maybe Galesko had no motive; maybe he could claim insanity; and a lack of premeditation; he just ‘snapped’, and took a picture!

      • I think Galesko did it for the good of humanity. Maybe he felt that an entity as evil and detestable as Frances should not have been allowed to exist on this planet anymore, certainly not in his world. Same with Tommy Brown’s beloved Edna. Like dear, sweet Edna, maybe Frances had dirt on Paul and threatened him if he filed for divorce, or maybe Frances’ wealth was astronomical and he’d never have to take photos again after the inheritance. Too many unknowns to pass judgement on Galesko, except for the gunning down of the ex-con Deshler, who he viewed as collateral damage in his mission. That alone made him a naughty boy and worthy of incarceration.

        Maybe even Columbo knew this, which explained his non-jubilation at the conclusion of the episode. The task (arrest) had to be done, but he didn’t enjoy it, like Adrian Carsini, with the exception that he liked Carsini and wasn’t fond of Galesko (I guess it’s an Italian thing). Food for thought. Great episode.

  22. I, too, am puzzled by Galesko’s motive. It seems that he married Frances for her money, but then, he strikes me as the kind of guy who would rather rough it in the Philippines than sit at home in a mansion and earn his living taking society portraits. If the money was hers, he would have nothing to lose by leaving her. He’d still have his camera and his hot young girlfriend, and wouldn’t that be enough?

    About Joyce van Patten as the nun — it’s a cute scene, but I’m always amused by the way TV nuns talk. They always have a sort of wide-eyed, angelic look, and they sound as though they’re speaking to children. It’s a stereotype. I was taught by nuns, and I can tell you they’re just like everyone else. Some are actually kind of tough.

    • The nun in this episode is younger, perhaps a “Vatican-II-era guitar-strumming nun” as my friend likes to say. Also she’s working at a mission helping homeless people, so she’s high on idealism and doing good in the world, whereas your classic ruler-thwapping Catholic school nun is more sadistic. 🙂

  23. Excellent review. Someone experienced in social media should make sure Dick Van Dyke sees this. I’m sure he would appreciate it. And wouldn’t it be great if he gave the Columbophile an interview? I believe he’s on Twitter.

  24. You really nailed the reasons for this episode’s superiority: Great characterization, well-paced story, deft comedy. The driving instructor scene was magnificent. Thanks for pointing out the complexity of the characters, which were superbly written and well acted.

  25. Two takeaways that this episode made me notice. I noticed that Galesko used what looks like a S&W .38sp or .357mag revolver on Deschler, and a .9mm Luger on Frances and also to self-inflict his leg wound. My question is: is there a list of the methods of murder used during the 69 episodes?…like 1) firearms, 2) poison, 3) strangulation 4) drowning, etc? And what specific firearms were used? This is the kind of trivia that some anal retentive types (like myself) enjoy.

    Also in regard to this episode….when they first show the interior of the St. Matthew Mission, there is a gentleman seated, eating the mission stew in a Fedora-style black hat with the brim raised up. He looks strangely familiar, like an actor from the 40’s-50’s gangster or film noir genres. Does anyone recognize him? The IMDB link for this episode lists 4 – “Derelicts” as uncredited, in addition to an uncredited Mike Lally as the “Old Man in the Alley”. Thanks again for a great review.

    • One detail raises a bit my eybrows and it could have been used for fostering the suspicion and for thickening the plot a bit: Granted, as an Austrian I have little idea about the gun collector’s market in the USA (especially in the 70’s) but would it not been a bit suspicious if an ex-thug, who is low on money, uses an ostensibly rare and expensive collector’s piece like a Luger pistol? “How was he capable to acquire that?” would I have wondered if I would investigate such a case. Galesko on the other hand, who is very wealthy in contrast to Deschler, wields an average revolver, perhaps .357 or .38, which you can find plenty at every Average Joe gun store.

      • Let me be Paul Galesko and explain this:
        “Well, Lieutenant, I’d think that every ex-con has his connections to other ex-cons. If I got out of jail, the first thing I would do is visit someone who was doing time with me. And why would a good companion not offer Deschler one of his guns for self protection?”

      • Good observation, Bruder. In the 1970s, the Luger was already a collector’s item and very valuable, depending on its origin and ownership circumstances, age, and condition. (Some Lugers were even manufactured in Switzerland.) This was not the sort of weapon that ex-criminals in Alvin Deschler’s circle (assuming he had one) would have had their possession. Since “Negative Reaction” was written by Peter S. Fischer, one of the best writers of the Columbo series, I’d guess that he didn’t make the decision to select a Luger as the gun that Galesko uses to shoot his own leg. I believe that if Fischer had made that decision that it would have been integrated into the script and Columbo would have identified the Luger as yet another red flag that Deschler was getting help for every step he took along the way since his release from jail.

  26. This raises an issue that I wish were discussed more fully in these pages. Is it plausible that Columbo has jurisdiction in this case? There are a number of episodes in which this is doubtful or downright contradicted by the evidence.

    I am not talking about the episodes in which Columbo is physically outside of Los Angeles and acting only in a purely advisory role. I count three: Dagger of the Mind (England), Troubled Waters (on the open sea), and A Matter of Honor (Mexico). In addition, Columbo is only an interdepartmental liaison in Ransom for a Dead Man because of preemptive federal jurisdiction. All of these cases were handled well, with Columbo’s diminished role fully acknowledged in the script.

    True, the junkyard shooting in Negative Reaction could easily have taken place within the city limits, but how many multiacre dilapidated ranches existed in LA proper, even in the mid-70’s? I venture none. And remember, Deschler was taken on a tour of multiple ranches, much to the frustration of the real estate agent. I guess that all of these other ranches could have been outside the city limits, but my objection still stands. Even if the Deschler murder occurred within the city limits, the evidence from the ranch would have been held in another police jurisdiction, most likely the LA County Sheriff’s department. (By the way, this organization is comparable in size and capability to the LAPD: more employees, but slightly fewer officers).

    This could easily have been handled with a throwaway line or two: “You know, most of these old ranches were sold off for development long ago. This just a remnant of the original and may be the last of it’s kind in the city.” It wouldn’t have changed the underlying facts but would have at least acknowledged the credibility problem. However, the ranch would have cost a fortune, even then, because of the development value of the land. One doubts that Galesko could have afforded it. He was well off, but my impression is that his wife had the real money. (‘Phile: This, I think, was his real motive. Otherwise, he would have simply divorced her.)

    The old Perry Mason series was very careful about these issues, with Ham Burger nowhere to be seen when Perry was defending someone in a deeply rural area (except once when he was defending Burger himself and another time when Burger asks Mason to help an old friend). Unlike Columbo, however, Burger’s jurisdiction extended to all of LA County, which did include some fairly rural areas back then. This is why you occasionally see him in an unfamiliar courthouse.

    A similar credibility problem arises in Any Old Port in a Storm. How many vast wineries existed within the LA city limits in the ’70’s? Remember the rolling acres of vines showing through the window of Carsini’s office? Perhaps the winery building itself was just inside the city limits and the vineyards in another jurisdiction, but I still don’t buy it. (The actual winery building used in the episode was way up near San Jose and did not have adjacent vineyards at the time the episode was filmed.)

    And don’t get me going on Short Fuse. Yes, there are craggy areas within the city limits, but a mountaintop so remote that it would require a two-hour drive to get to the top? Now, Columbo could have a role in such a case, even if the mountain were in, say, Palm Springs (where the aerial tramway is physically located) because the bomb itself was constructed and planted within the LA chemical plant. However, our man would never have been called to the scene of the accident. Nor would he have been drawn in at a later date, since no one but Columbo even suspected foul play.

    Don’t get me wrong. I have no problem with the use of locations physically outside of LA. The Carsini Winery is gorgeous and the Palm Springs Tramway spectacular, but such locations should at least be plausibly within the city limits or Columbo should plausibly have a reason to be outside his bailiwick, perhaps assisting other officers.

    Then there are the episodes from the post-1989 run where there was no longer any pretense of proper jurisdiction. Murder in Malibu? C’mon. Malibu was an unincorporated area until 1992 and, even now, is policed by the LA County Sheriff’s Department. Columbo had no business anywhere near that investigation. End of discussion.

    The opening shot of Columbo Cries Wolf is that of a “Welcome To Beverly Hills” placard. Beverly Hills is an independent city surrounded by Los Angeles proper and has its own, very competent police department. The sole cinematic purpose of an “establishing shot” is to fix the place (and sometimes the time period) of the action. Absent any indication otherwise, the viewer should take this as gospel to fix the location of The Chateau. (Ironically, the actual Playboy Mansion was in the Holmby Hills section of LA.)

    Columbo might well be involved in the investigation if the restaurant where the murder was thought to occur were in LA, but he could never have supervised the search of the Chateau or its grounds. The political agony over the search would have taken place in the corridors of the BH city hall, not in LA. Columbo’s bona fides would probably have carried less weight there (and the setting would have been much diminished in an architectural sense).

    Once again, the issue could have been easily resolved with a couple of additional lines:

    Nymph: “I never thought I would be living in Beverly Hills.”

    Sean: “Actually, my love, you still don’t. The Chateau is really across the city line in Los Angeles, but we don’t like to acknowledge that troublesome fact.”

    P.S. If memory serves, that self-same “Beverly Hills” sign (maybe even the exact shot) was used to establish the location of the bookstore in Murder in Malibu. However, the locations bounced around so much in that episode that there was no implication that the crime occurred there. Anyway, the episode title and nearby ocean said otherwise.

    • I’m pretty sure that the bookstore was one in Santa Monica that I used to go to. How did having a Los Angeles jury for that murder in Brentwood work out?

    • It just occurred to me that I left out any discussion of A Case of Immunity. A consulate has a lesser status than an embassy, with lower immunity protections. Police would not normally enter either without invitation, except possibly in an emergency like a fire, a bombing or an active shooter. I have never had a problem with A Case of Immunity in this regard. The cooperative attitude expressed by Hasan Salah in the early stages of the investigations strongly suggests that such an invitation had been extended, probably at the direction of the Ambassador in Washington.

    • William, the legal jurisdiction inconsistencies you raise seem to have occurred in a number of Columbo episodes, and is one of those matters that requires a suspension of disbelief. In addition to the numerous examples you’ve provided, the jurisdiction problem arises in one of the earliest episodes, “Murder By the Book.” According to this story, both murders (Jim Ferris and then Lilly La Sanka) occurred in a lakeside area near San Diego, so the LAPD would not have had legal authority over the case since the location of the murders governs police jurisdiction.

      Somewhat confusing the issue is that the actual home which was used as the filming location where Jim Ferris’s character was murdered was at 933 Deer Trail Lane in Fawnskin, California, which is in San Bernardino, some 80 miles north of Los Angeles. Either location was outside Columbo’s jurisdiction.

      But even suspending disbelief about locational jurisdiction isn’t sufficient to resolve the location discrepancies in this particular story. According to this story, Columbo considers the fact that Ken Franklin drove from “San Diego” to Los Angeles, rather than taking a plane to get there, to be a flaw in Franklin’s alibi. But this wasn’t really a flaw at all. At the time this episode was filmed, it would have been very difficult to buy and board a flight from “San Diego” to LA on the same day. And when you factor in the time between taking a cab to and from each airport, taking a place would take significantly more time than simply driving. Even today, driving from San Diego to LA would be the faster option, despite the LA traffic mess.

      Although I think these legal and location issues are interesting and helpful to know, they have to be put aside momentarily if you’re going to enjoy the episodes

      • Thanks. I think in Murder By the Book, Columbo would have been legitimately in the investigation, since Jim’s body was moved to LA and it remained to be determined exactly where the murder occurred. As to the excuse for driving back to LA…BINGO! I always thought that Ken’s explanation was dead on and that Columbo’s objection was downright obtuse. If I were Ken, I would not have backed down with an excuse of being confused and in shock. I would have said, “Try it sometime, Lieutenant.”

        As I said in my original post, I have no objection to using locations outside of LA if they are in any way interesting, but they should plausibly fit into that city. It is a physically rich and varied place, but some locations are nevertheless out of bounds. Columbo investigating a murder at a ski resort would be more than a tad disconcerting unless he were on vacation. (What a thought! Columbo on skis.) I even grit my teeth and accept establishing shots of beachfront property that are clearly of the Malibu area. The only section of LA shoreline where there is a significant stretch of houses actually on a beach (rather than across a paved road) is in the San Pedro area.

    • Although I don’t practice law in California, there are usually three things to keep in mind in these “jurisdiction” discussions:

      First, generally speaking, a police officer is a police officer anywhere in the state. The California Penal Code (Section 830.1) states that his authority “extends to any place in the state,” except that, when outside “the political subdivision that employs the peace officer or in which the peace officer serves,” the officer must have the permission of the local police chief. That is not hard to get.

      Second, you must view these cases from the apparent facts at the beginning of the investigation. “Negative Reaction” started as a shootout in an L.A. junkyard, and the purported abduction of an L.A. resident. “Murder by the Book” was originally thought to be a shooting in an L.A. office. “Any Old Port in a Storm” began as a missing persons report to the LAPD. Once the LAPD is legitimately in the case, the LAPD is likely to keep the case, wherever in California it leads (and get the requisite consent when necessary).

      Third, a crime is “committed” wherever any element of that crime takes place. In a murder case, one element is always intent. If the intent to kill was formed in Los Angeles, the LAPD has jurisdiction. That provides enough of a jurisdictional hook in most of these case.

      • I fully agree with you concerning Columbo’s legitimate “involvement” in many of these cases. I made that point myself for several of what I considered questionable episodes. I do not question the ability of Columbo to make an arrest outside of LA in suitable circumstances but only the plausibility that his superiors would give him the free rein he frequently assumes.

        I think that once the physical setting of the crime is established to be outside of LA proper, ordinary police procedure would require that a local officer join Columbo and probably even take charge of the investigation. That officer, not Columbo, would ultimately make the arrest. Remember, Columbo doggedly plods along in his investigations, much to the frustration of his suspects. There is rarely a time element in a Columbo case that would justify a “hot-pursuit” deviation from established procedure. If Columbo were to routinely ignore this, he would be the most hated officer in the LAPD by other law enforcement departments. (Heck, maybe he is.)

        • I forgot to mention that Columbo does it exactly right in Murder By The Book, announcing himself as a fish-out-of-water cop to the local authorities at the lake. (Pun intended.) He makes clear that his only purpose is to gather information on an LA case.

          • Although by then he knew that neither murder was physically committed in Los Angeles.

        • As I said, the “the physical setting of the crime” does not necessarily control where that crime may be prosecuted, let alone which police department may investigate it; where the crime was planned provides an equal jurisdictional basis. It’s quite true that when a police officer is physically outside his ordinary jurisdiction, the local police will be notified. That’s both a matter of courtesy and safety. If local police get a call that suspicious people are lurking in a location, and don’t know this is where outside police are conducting an investigation, the situation could become dangerous. But the investigating department is not likely to share more information than necessary with the local department, or let them take charge. Even if local assistance is requested, the police agency that began the investigation will likely remain in charge.

          • Thanks for the clarifications on police jurisdictional issues. And I somehow completely forgot about the fact that in “Murder by the Book” Ken moved Jim’s body from the “San Diego area” (really San Bernardino area)–-where the actus reus, mens rea, concurrence, and causation elements of that crime initially occurred–to LA to stage Ken’s bogus mob hit scenario.

          • I will bow to your obvious legal expertise as to possible claims of jurisdiction, but I still do not think that the San Francisco police would cede ACTUAL control of an investigation of an ACTUAL murder in SF to the LAPD just because the planning occurred in Los Angeles and an LAPD officer was already on the trail. I think it would be even less likely that the Beverly Hills Police Department would do so in similar circumstances for purely local and parochial reasons.

          • This interesting discussion reminds me of one my favorite movies from the 1980s, “Beverly Hills Cop,” which is actually about a Detroit police officer Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy) who is investigating the murder of his best friend. His investigation takes him to Beverly Hills.

            Although I’ve seen “Negative Reaction” a number of times, only recently have I seen a clear digital version (obviously transferred from a clean film print). For the first time, I recognized a young John Ashton, who plays the real estate agent at the beginning of Columbo’s investigation, and who guesses correctly that Alvin Deschler wasn’t buying the dilapidated ranch property for himself. John Ashton later memorably played Sergeant Taggart in “Beverly Hills Cop.” Ashton also performed in the sequel and had another great role in one of the best “buddy” films of all time, “Midnight Run,” also from 1980s, as a foil to Robert De Niro’s character. John Ashton further expands Columbophile’s “41 megastars you never knew graced Columbo.” https://columbophile.wordpress.com/2016/04/30/25-megastars-you-never-knew-graced-columbo/

  27. Great episode and a great review. Hard to decide who I dislike more between Edna and Francis.

    A few things for me: First, there doesn’t appear to be any sort of hanky panky between Paul and Lorna, not that I’d blame him. I think the motive is he just hates Francis that much and is that evil. Second, the scene with Larry Storch is indeed funny and takes nothing away even if adds time. However, Storch does some very good subtle acting. By the time he asks Columbo to let him out, he says he’ll sign a statement that will place Deschler with him the morning of the murder. Watch closely and you’ll see his character is showing all due respect for Columbo, and even kids with him about going “downtown” himself to sign the statement. The kidding about it shows he actually likes Columbo, and respects him, the wild ride notwithstanding. Finally, Joyce Van Patten as the nun is classic. It’s some of the best couple of minutes of the entire series.

    As for Columbo’s reaction at the end, I think it’s all of the above. He’s tired, it’s been a difficult case, and he wishes he could have solved it another way.

    • Everyone agrees that Larry Storch is excellent in “Negative Reaction” and that his scene adds to the overall show, even though it is there mainly for laughs. Many today don’t know it, but Storch, who turned age 95 in January, is a fine actor and a terrific stand-up comic, though he became mainly known for the character he played in a TV show called “F-Troop.” (Another star of F-Troop, Forrest Tucker, would play a victim in the Columbo episode “Blueprint for Murder.”) Storch was also a celebrated impressionist, and his take on Cary Grant’s voice became the gold standard that every comic since has imitated, sometimes using Storch’s invented “Judy, Judy, Judy” line, which Grant never actually said. About a couple years ago, I saw the great comic Dana Carvey perform at the Ice House in California and he did a funny bit using Cary Grant’s voice, but it was actually based on Storch’s style.

      Here’s a fun clip of Peter Falk and Larry Storch together doing some book and photo signings for fans that includes the great comic Jonathan Winters stopping by to chat with them. (Falk and Winters appeared together along with an incredible cast of comics in “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World,” where Winters kept everyone laughing off-camera as well as on.) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j0DU7YcQAMQ

      And here’s a sound clip of Cary Grant, where he credits Larry Storch for his terrific impression of him: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l6qPnjcZKC8&list=PL17XhMlhA8ORj5lLRTZjS-Ok087EDzorB

  28. That was a very enjoyable review that captures the strong points of “Negative Reaction”—and there are many. The motives for the murders were old ones: estate/insurance proceeds, an “escape” from a unwanted spouse, and a chance for a new life with a new spouse or partner. And since husbands are immediately suspected in the homicide of a wife, Paul Galesko’s scheme necessarily had to be a complex one. “You’ll never get away with it,” wife Frances remind him. But Galesko, who was 100% committed, responded, “And if not, it’s a chance I’m going to take.”

    Real life murderer Justin Barber played a Guns and Roses song on his computer some hours before the evening he murdered his wife April that would echo Galesko’s spousal complaint:

    “I used to love her/ But I had to kill her/ I had to put her/ Six feet under/ And I can still hear her complain.”

    And in another instance of life imitating art, when Justin Barber staged the murder to look like a robbery gone bad on a beach, Barber shot himself several times in non-vital areas of his body (in his hand and his upper torso below his shoulders), to make himself also appear to be a victim and a sympathetic person, much like Galesko. (The Forensic Files TV show would document the Barber murder case in the episode “As the Tide Turns.”)

    At the time that Barber murdered his wife, he was old enough to have seen “Negative Reaction” in reruns when Columbo was still a highly rated program on broadcast TV. I believe that Barber got the idea for shooting himself for part of his alibi, either consciously or unconsciously, from watching “Negative Reaction.” This is not to say that the Columbo show is to blame in any way whatsoever for any such heinous acts. If anything, shows such as Columbo alert the police to the need for investigators to think outside of the box, instead of within the boxes that the murderers create for them. And that is precisely what happened in Barber’s case, where he remains behind bars.

  29. I Have Every Columbo, On DVD. I Enjoy Every One Of Columbo Shows. This Is One Of My Favorites.

  30. Actually in a court of law he probably will be found not guilty. Entrapment with the picture

    • How do you figure that’s entrapment?

      I thought entrapment comes up if a guy can say “but I only committed the crime because that official talked me into it.” So if an undercover cop says he’ll give you lots of cash if you’ll kill someone, and you then get busted for attempted murder because of a law you broke *after* replying “okay, I hereby accept that offer,” then, sure, cry “entrapment”.

      But, here, Columbo *doesn’t* entrap Galesko into committing some new crime that’ll then get prosecuted.

      • What Columbo did was not entrapment. Entrapment is when a law enforcement official originates the idea of a crime and induces the perpetrator do it. In this case. Galesko never had to pick out the camera himself. He could just as easily have asked an officer to pull the correct camera off the shelf. Walking into an avoidable trap due to impatience is not the same as being forced into one.

  31. Galesko bricked it. “You’ve reversed the negative” “No that is the photo” “It can’t be. Francis always wore that flower on the left side, not the right side. Will there be anything else?”

    • That wouldn’t cut it. Galasko would be testifying on behalf a dead victim, he’d need other witnesses and evidence to corroborate his claim.

      • David, JPS is providing a funny alternative ending in which Galesko doesn’t incriminate himself by identifying the camera he used. Columbo needed to trick Galesko into incriminating himself because he knew that the evidence obtained so far wasn’t sufficient to obtain a conviction. If all he had was the blown-up print, a good defense attorney could readily invalidate Columbo’s “claim” that the image wasn’t flipped because Columbo would have had a tough time explaining how such important original evidence was destroyed. Moreover, Columbo couldn’t lie under oath. It’s too bad there are no Columbo out-take or gag reels that we know of. Maybe such endings might actually have been filmed.

        • Based on the suspect’s own statement, “If… if I hadn’t taken that camera. You were counting on that. You didn’t accidentally reverse that film, you did that deliberately.”, the original evidence wasn’t destroyed, the image was reversed on purpose, although that is not entrapment, and so Columbo wouldn’t have to lie under oath.

        • He could prove the blow-up was reversed by reference to either the second photo (the discarded one) or by having a look at the room itself and picking out features which had transposed themselves.

          • Yeah. It was a gotcha that relied on a very dumb perp. (Don’t get me started on Theodore Bikel in Bye-Bye!) I have always felt that most Columbo suspects would get off if only they kept their traps shut. So would most Perry Mason murderers.

            Roddy McDowell in had a good reason to lose his cool in Short Fuse. He thought he was going to die. Jose Ferrer (Mind over Mayhem) and Faye Dunaway (It’s All in the Game) had good reasons not to clam up. They both thought their children were in danger, and neither confessed flustered or in panic. There may be a few others, but, by and large, your best bet as a Columbo suspect is to shut up and hire F. Lee Bailey* as your attorney.

            *For non-Americans, Bailey is an American litigator who got quite a few accused murderers, widely assumed to be guilty by the general public, off scot-free (or at least with minimal sentences). His clients included Sam Shepard, Patty Hearst and O.J. Simpson. He gained prominence in the Columbo era. Some might argue that an even better choice would be Robert Shapiro, one of his co-counsels in the O.J. matter. Shapiro got Bailey himself off on a drunk driving charge.

        • Well, when the prosecution presents a preponderance of evidence of guilt, will the defense say that they don’t have to prove innocence.

          • Maybe it depends on the meaning of the word “evidence” in a trial. Is “evidence” merely a hint that the accused person is guilty, or actual proof of guilt? Columbo had a series of hunches and a doctored picture, but no hard proof. In that case, I don´t think Galesko is forced to prove innocence

            • Based on your reasoning, no one could ever be convicted, unless you had a film of the crime, and even then you might invoke some kind of Cartesian doubt as to whether we even exist. Aside from the aforementioned incriminating statement by the suspect, “If… if I hadn’t taken that camera. You were counting on that. You didn’t accidentally reverse that film, you did that deliberately.”, there is not just direct evidence but circumstantial evidence, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circumstantial_evidence

          • Unless there is an eyewitness or photographic evidence of the perpetrator committing the crime, almost all convictions hinge on circumstantial evidence. A few pieces of circumstantial evidence are rarely sufficient to convict. \The prosecution must build a framework of such evidence–or a net if you will–such that it becomes impossible for the jury to harbor “reasonable doubt”.

            If I were Galeskco, I would have said that I planned to open each and every camera and just happened to pick the right one first. Columbo would have objected that the particular camera was in the back, but I am not sure that would have been sufficient to counter Galesko’s defense. He might have said that his experience as a world-renown photographer instinctively led him to the most likely camera. Even if that is ultimately silly, it is exactly the kind of weeds a defense attorney likes to get into.

            I do wonder why, however, Galesko expected the partly-used Polaroid film to be in the camera at all. Surely police procedure would be to remove it, bag it and tag it separately.

    • All Columbo had was supposition and theory. He had no solid evidence. Even as the episode sits, as others have suggested, any competent lawyer gets him off. If he does what I suggest, he walks away, because he will undoubtedly have other photos showing her with the flower on the left. Even as written its still a good chance he walks. “I was guessing. All of my time as a photographer led me to think with the composition of the photograph that it was probably taken with that camera.”

      • I reiterate, there was not only plenty of circumstantial evidence but his incriminating statement and actions in front of multiple witnesses. There is no closing the barn door after the horse has escaped. It is not so common to have a ‘Dream Team’ argue in front of a biased jury and get a murderous client off.

        • This is why Perry Mason almost always ended with a perp confession on the witness stand. Perry’s work was always sufficient to introduce reasonable doubt and pointed to the actual murderer. Absent the aforesaid confession, however, Perry’s evidence would not be sufficient for a conviction of the murderer. Columbo’s approach falls into the same category. We don’t always get to see the confession, but the suspect’s reaction leads us to believe that he or she will fold like a cheap suit when back at headquarters. In one or two cases, the murderer keeps his or her cool. Columbo just looks on smugly (or maybe just archly) while he/she is led away. (I’d have to think for a while to give examples.) I would not want to be the prosecutor who has to pursue such cases based solely on Columbo’s evidence.

          P.S. Absent the on-the-stand confessions by the true murderers, Perry Mason’s clients would usually not go free immediately. Most Perry Mason episodes involved only a preliminary hearing (to save the producers the cost of the 12 extras needed for a jury trial). There is a very low standard to hold a suspect over in such a proceeding (Probable Cause), and the judge would likely deny Perry’s motion to dismiss in order to let a jury judge the conflicting evidence. (Remember, this is all predicated on no confession.) Perry would still have to pursue and win a jury trial to win his client’s freedom. There, the standard is “beyond a reasonable doubt”, and his newly introduced evidence would likely lead to a verdict of Not Guilty. Of course, Hamilton Burger, recognizing his probable humiliation at trial, could himself fold and drop all charges on the spot. Unfortunately for him, Perry’s evidence, like Columbo’s, is often unlikely to convict the actual murderer.

          • It seems to me that in most Perry Mason episodes, the originally accused murderer, in the final scene, is released and talking to Perry Mason, or some such scenario. They are even released upon motion by Mason, after the open court confession, and the taking into custody by the bailiff of the confessed murderer. So it is certainly not the case that Mason still has to win a trial as the judge has already dismissed the charges against the defendant.

            • I meant in the real world, without any confession.

              Of course, a suspect would be released if there is a credible confession by another party, though even then, Burger would insist on a corroborating investigation. Both Columbo and Mason live in a TV world where the bad guy (almost) always confesses. They rely on this. My point is how similar the endings are in the two series, even though they are very different in tone, setting, and style. (The attempts at humor in PM are especially lame. Perry could do better by picking up a tuba.)

              Without the confessions, a successful prosecution on the basis of Columbo’s evidence would be a dubious endeavor in most cases. (But Ross Martin would definitely go down.) Similarly, Mason’s clients–absent the confession–would not usually go free until the wheels of justice had a chance to turn more fully.

              Someone elsewhere in this thread noted that Columbo elicited a confession in Murder With Too Many Notes with little more than what law enforcement professionals would call a “theory of the case”. This is what Mason does as well. He develops additional evidence that makes his own theory of the case more compelling than Burger’s. That should be enough to secure his client’s acquittal at trial but is usually not nearly enough to nail a perp who can keep his or her composure.

          • Below is an excerpt from Ayn Rand’s article, “Perry Mason Finally Loses,” published in The Ayn Rand Letter, dated July 30, 1973.

            The Perry Mason article describes the original TV series, ending in 1966, and the striking contrast to the “new” version (which was very short lived). Near the end, the article observes:

            “By some ineffable osmosis of their own, the makers of the new “Perry Mason” sensed which human characteristics their masters — today’s intellectuals — want men to lose: firmness, self-confidence, and any trace of a moral tone, as well as any touch of dignity. To say that the new Perry Mason is an anti-hero, would be to flatter the show: he is just a slob. It is the image of the real Perry Mason that today’s cultural leaders want to eliminate from people’s consciousness, as a vision, a hope, an inspiration, or even a possibility. So much for their view of man and for their concern with education, the enlightenment, the happiness of “the people.”

            • Yikes! Are we sure that Gerry was complimenting Vicky when he said she was “another Ayn Rand trying to bust loose from her cocoon” in “Butterfly in Shades of Grey”?

          • Interesting comments on Perry Mason and I didn’t know about Ayn Rand’s views on the “new” Perry Mason show. For me, Raymond Burr is the signature Perry Mason actor the way that Peter Falk is the signature actor as Columbo. And Burr is, I think, the only actor who has played major roles covering three sides of the law: as a murderer (“Rear Window”), a prosecutor (“A Place in the Sun”), and a defense attorney (“Perry Mason”). (Peter Falk played just two sides: as a murderer in “Murder, Inc.” and as Lieutenant in his signature role aiding the prosecution.)

            And speaking of Perry Mason, in contrast to Columbo, the Perry Mason show had a great memorable theme song called “Park Avenue Beat” by Fred Steiner that perfectly captured the essence of the series. And for fans of music, as I am, it’s interesting to note that the opening to “Park Avenue Beat,” though original, was, in my opinion, likely inspired by the opening bars of Beethoven Corliolan Overture.

            It’s curious that Columbo’s creators, Levinson and Link, never gave much consideration to commissioning a great musical theme for Columbo from one of the great screen/tv composers of the day to better capture the essence of the iconic show.

            • You neglected that Raymond Burr was also a judge in Airplane II: The Sequel. Thanks for the idea of a connection between Park Avenue Beat and Beethoven; I’ll look into it.

          • Gary, you’ll just have to take my word for it that the opening bars of Steiner’s Perry Mason theme and the opening bars of Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture have musical similarities. If you know someone with expertise in music, especially classical music, I’m sure he or she would agree with me. I’m not saying they’re the same; just that they have similarities. To test your ability to recognize musical similarities, listen to the Elvis Presley song “It’s Now or Never.” Then listen to Pavarotti singing the classic Italian song “Oh Solo Mio.” Do they sound similar to you? In fact, the melodies are identical. And for another test, listen to “Goodnight My Someone” from the great musical “The Music Man.” Then compare to “76 Trombones from the same musical. Do they sound similar to you? Again, in fact, the melodies are identical.

            • I don’t have to take your word for it; I listened to it and I didn’t hear that much of a similarity. Perhaps you’ll say that you have a better musical ear, or some such thing, but whatever. I listened to your two pairs of examples, and of course there, the similarity is obvious. So it is like the difference between Columbo having overwhelming evidence and having a mere inference. I recently completed a 4 week online course, Mad About Musicals, which was associated with 24 hour programming of musicals on TCM on Tuesdays and Thursdays for the 4 weeks. I watched part of The Music Man again, and I did notice your mentioned similarity then. Although I like The Music Man, I can think of a number of musicals that I much prefer, such as Fiddler on the Roof, The Sound of Music, The Wizard of Oz, Camelot and My Fair Lady. On a related note, there have been some cases of alleged music plagiarism that I’ve never understood, such as with George Harrison’s My Sweet Lord.

  32. Definitely a top 5 or 6 episode in the original run. The writing is stellar (“You’ve just incriminated yourself…you’ve identified the camera”). Brilliant casting of Dick Van Dyke (& Larry Storch). In my opinion, the 1974-75 season is the last excellent season. Columbo’s character was changed after this season, and for the worse. Anyway, great website. Thank you! -C. Wilmot, Pittsford, NY

    • While I consider several episodes after Season 4 excellent, I do agree that Falk’s Columbo did change in the latter years of the original series. He began exaggerating Columbo’s signature phrases and gestures, making the character somewhat of a caricature of his original portrayal. Why? I think, with changes in personnel, Richard Levinson’s advice to Steven Bochco in Season 1 got lost. If you scroll down to Columbophile’s tribute to Bochco, find the Bochco interview video embedded there, and advance to the 7:00 mark, you will hear Bochco recount Levinson’s advice himself. It’s quite telling on this point.

    • I tend to agree that this is the last really excellent season across the board. It may even be the highest quality series of all, as there’s not a dud to be found. Some characteristics did become rather forced and tiresome in subsequent seasons, although a bigger issue for me was that the quality of the stories wasn’t as high on average after S4. Still some gems, but a higher proportion of average outings.

  33. I’m more inclined to think Columbo was simply exhausted rather than remorseful. Not only had he used questionable techniques in “Death Lends a Hand” but in “Prescription: Murder”, “Short Fuse”, “Dagger of The Mind” & “A Friend in Deed”. Why would he be suddenly bothered by his own behavior with a jerk like Galesko?

  34. Great episode and review, as usual. This one is in my Top 10. Vito Scotti is amazingly believable and hilarious as the “Wino”, and Columbo looking like a regular at the skid-row Catholic Mission is probably the best few comical minutes of the entire series (“that coat…that poor coat.”).

    Paul Galesko was a superb “bad guy” who I sympathized with, and I desperately wanted to see him get away with it, as far as justifiably knocking off the detestable Frances, then jet off to the Philippines with his nubile assistant….but not so much after he waxed the poor ex-con.

    The Larry Storch portion was epic. I wonder if they wrote the great comedy bits into this episode because Van Dyke was the star. His beard was world class and perfectly coiffed. Both Van Dyke and Storch are now in their ’90’s and show no signs of slowing down. A 6 – degree of separation useless trivia fact: Both Storch and Forrest Tucker (Blueprint for Murder” victim), were co-stars of the 1960’s sitcom “F-Troop”.

    Joanna Cameron was obvious a looker, but Antoinette Bower (Frances) was no slouch herself (with the exception of this role). She had several memorable roles in Twilight Zone, Hitchcock Presents, Perry Mason, and even though she was 20 years older than Cameron, she’s aged more ‘gracefully’ throughout the years.

    I liked the “gotcha” in this one. Definitely a top tier episode. But I agree the Rolls Royce was a ridiculous vehicle to be “covert” in.

    • With regards to Antoinette Bower, I’d also mention episodes of Hogan’s Heroes, including one as Berlin Betty, and an episode each of Hawaii Five-0 and Star Trek, Catspaw.

      • Another Star Trek sighting: Michael Strong (Sgt. Hoffmann) played Roger Corby in “What Are Little Girls Made Of.”

        • I recently wrote a fan letter to Joanne Linville, the wife on the Columbo episode, Candidate for Crime, the Romulan commander on Star Trek’s The Enterprise Incident, and she appeared on several episodes of Hawaii Five-0, but the main reason that I wrote was because of her moving performance on The Twilight Zone episode, The Passersby, https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x5roosl

  35. A great episode, and another great review.

    Personally, I’m perfectly willing to accept Galesko’s motive. It’s fairly clear that Galesko is chained economically to his shrewish wife. She made him give up his meaningful (but probably unprofitable) work, and turn to mind-numbing studio photos (in a studio which, no doubt, she owns). How do we know that Galesko has little income in his own name? Because his publisher doesn’t bat an eye when Galesko needs to borrow the $20,000 ransom money. As long as his wife ostensibly is alive, Galesko must beg for $20,000. That’s why divorce was not an option.

    But one thing really does bothers me about this episode: Galesko driving his Rolls-Royce in places (a seedy motel; a run-down ranch) where such a car could be spotted, would stick out and be memorable, and where Galesko wasn’t supposed to be. That was taking a huge risk.

  36. Once again, a winning, amusing piece!
    Random thoughts:
    I too have always been thrown by DVD referencing both “the last three years” in conjunction with being pleased that Frances had finally found something of merit with DVD after 15 years. Frances is the inverse of Mrs. Fleming in “Prescription Murder,” as Mrs. Fleming appreciates her husband and only wants to be happy, but like with Mr. Galesko, Dr. Fleming endures years of seemingly going through the motions before ridding himself of his wife.
    Like Mrs. Halperin’s four-second drowning, DVD certainly employs some fast rope work binding Frances, replete with intricate knots!
    Funny that you mention how Columbo is being of sharper mind when in the comfortable confines of the precinct, because the following season in “Case of Immunity” he’s being addressed by the same Captain in “Negative Reaction.” While the Captain informs him of the crimes at the Suarian embassy, Columbo is fixated upon his losing money again in the coffee machine. Yes, he comes to when murder is mentioned, and that’s the point, but it always rang false to me that Columbo would be so single-minded and addled while being spoken to by a superior. But I digress…
    Mike Lally with a speaking role never fails to delight!
    Great work! Always a pleasure to see a new Columbophile piece in my Inbox!

  37. Mrs. Galesko may have been a harpy; but she’s not lacking in courage, is she? Even when her husband holds her at gunpoint, she keeps on nagging him and even makes a jibe about his “new-found masculinity.” Like one of the finest espressos, she’s bitter to the last drop. Bower did this role admirably IMHO.

    The lack of substantive motive is a bit troubling. Why should Galesko go to the trouble of murdering a woman he can easily divorce? One can infer that Galesko married for money and that Mrs. Galesko holds the purse strings. There are vague hints to this effect, but it’s never made explicit. Besides, as an internationally famous photographer with nine publications to his credit, he probably has a fair amount of money of his own. Maybe he’s just greedy?

    But it’s a great episode all the same. Dick Van Dyke’s performance was the real surprise here. I’m sure he had to resist the temptation to indulge in comic byplay (of which he is a master), but he plays it completely straight and it was the right decision to make.

    Thanks for a great review!

  38. I don’t know whether to be excited or scared for the next review, By Dawn’s Early Light is my most favorite episode (for reasons I don’t even know myself somehow).

  39. DVD was (is) such a nice guy and usually played ‘goodies’ it was hard to take him seriously as a murderer but he certainly nailed it and proved what a versatile actor he is. This episode ended up, against my initial expectations, one of the classics, definitely in the top 10.

  40. Excellent episode, brilliant comment, and a lot of fun to see and read, but I´ve always felt the “gotcha” is really weak and bound to see Galesko flying to the Phillippines with his bimbo crush after all…. and the lieutenant having a very rough ride with his superiors! Indeed, Galesko may well argue that, being the professional and photograph-loving type he is, the first thing he did when he stepped into the dungeon was scan the cameras, assessing their quality and technical specifications. Later on, when shown the big, big picture, one you could have hardly blown up from an ordinary small negative back in the seventies, he immediately thought said pic must have been made with one of the cameras on the shelf. But what camera? Obviously the one with the largest negatives, and that happened to be the one he picked. Galesko might pretty well contend that he did not “recognise” the camera, but reckoned, with his professional eye, that it was precisely that camera the one with which the picture was likely to have been taken. Once this point was made, he might even counter-attack and put a lot of pressure on Columbo and his cronies for setting up a false accusation scheme! All in all, a very, very strong episode with a very, very weak ending. But then again, this is Columbo, and it´s not complete coherence or forensic best practices what you are after when watching this lovely show.

    • That is completely far-fetched, and doesn’t take into account his incriminating statement and reaction, “If… if I hadn’t taken that camera. You were counting on that. You didn’t accidentally reverse that film, you did that deliberately.”

      • I don´t think my reasoning is that far-fetched. Such a large print would have called for a correspondingly large negative, and an expert could always surmise the camera Galesko picked was as likely as any other to be the one employed for taking the picture. The words “If… if I hadn’t taken that camera. You were counting on that. You didn’t accidentally reverse that film, you did that deliberately.” prove nothing but that Galesko was in a mix of utter surprise and rage at the cheek of the lieutenant and his companions. Many, many times in the presence of outrageous things done or said we fall short of words. If anything, Galesko´s utterance can be used in trial to express how upset he was at such a blatant manipulation. And remember: it was Galesko´s word against Columbo´s. The lieutenant´s cronies do not count as impartial witnesses.
        Just one more thing (sorry!): Imagine the first half an hour is edited out of each episode, so you don´t know who the actual murderer is. Then many a Columbo story could be interpreted as the tale of how an unscrupulous, crafty LAPD cop forges a story to invent a “culprit” he can sell his superiors in order to claim yet another “solved” case. Seen in that light, Columbo would immediately appear as a con artist marvelously gifted to disguise his failures and always come up with a handy scapegoat!

        • Sorry but I just wrote something similar below before I saw your response. I think we were typing around the same time.

          It just occurred to me that one of the dreaded new Columbos has an ending very much like this. In “Murder, Smoke and Shadows” the gotcha involves Columbo gets a bunch of actors to pretend to be wait staff so they can listen in to the murderer offering someone a bribe. Presumably his case would have revolved around them all testifying to hearing something at trial. One of the actresses pretending to be a waitress though was actually the guy’s ex-girlfriend! How well would that testimony have held up in court? “Your honor, not only did I hear the defendant incriminating himself at lunch but that S.O.B. never remembered my birthdays!”.

          • As I said before, based on your type of reasoning, no one could ever be convicted. They could just make arbitrary claims, and use Cartesian doubt to impugn all testimony against them. The stated L.A. jury also didn’t believe in the facts of reality.

          • If she was his girlfriend, the greater tendency would be to think that she was biased in his favor.

        • Let me guess, you are a disciple of Rene Descartes and even doubt your own existence.

          • No I don´t doubt my own existence. I just doubt the validity of many of Columbo´s indictments. They seem to be less of a howler because we know Columbo is right since we saw the baddie do the deed. In a previous post you wrote “As I said before, based on your type of reasoning, no one could ever be convicted. They could just make arbitrary claims, and use Cartesian doubt to impugn all testimony against them.” That is too much for me to answer, since I do not have the technical preparation or detailed knowledge of actual criminal prosecutions. I am an ignorant of law, let alone of the specific law of the USA (which, if I am not wrong, changes from state to state). I can only circumscribe my humble arguments to the machanics of Columbo´s reasonings, methods and conclusions. And, no matter how much I like the series, can not fail to perceive they too often have holes large enough to sink a battleship. In this particular episode, I still believe Galesko could easily get away with discussing the technical features of the camera and their relationship to the large print. Another typical Columbian phallacy is this: on checking the jailhouse picture book, he recognises Deschler, and correctly concludes that Galesko recruited him as an involuntary pawn in his criminal scheme. But the opposite conclusion was equally likely: that Deschler met Galesko then, befriended him, assessed his vulnerabilities and decided his wife was a handy kidnap victim. We marvel at Columbo´s deductive power and attention to detail simply because we know Galesko is guilty. Without that knowledge, Columbo´s deductions are far-fetched indeed!

            • I am not an expert on cameras but aside from the fact that Galesko said nothing at the time about how he could allegedly tell which camera had to have taken that picture, that would just be an after the fact rationalization, I doubt that it is even possible to make such a correlation, especially at a glance, among dozens of cameras. You and he would be grasping at straws. Like he did, why don’t you just graciously accept defeat.

    • Sorry. I hadn’t read your post when I replied to another arguing almost exactly the same point. Couldn’t agree more.

    • Notice that the negative at the back of the camera really isn’t a negative. The black and white portions are not fully reversed.

    • I’ve always felt the same way about this one as well – very good episode with a deviously planned murder leading up to a very disappointing “gotcha”. I’ve always wondered about how well the testimony of a couple of cops would have held up in court. Here’s Galesko and he’s been invited to a basement room where a couple of cops present him with a demonstrably doctored photo and then tell him that some exculpatory evidence has been destroyed though “clumsiness”. Next the cops are testifying in open court about how they were the only witnesses to him doing such and such. He wouldn’t even have to argue that his expertise led him to picking a particular camera. He could just deny that he picked it up at all or say that he was told to pick it up or that one of the cops gestured to the camera as being the one the picture was taken with. It would have been his word against theirs and Galesko’s lawyer would have had a field day calling the honesty of the testifying officers into question. And as history has shown, L.A. juries aren’t big believers in the honesty of cops anyway.

      • Those are valid points, although for me the entertainment value is solid. Now, the costume pearl in the umbrella and subsequent meltdown in “Dagger of the Mind” has to be the weakest “gotcha” in any Columbo.

        • That might be a good idea for a future posting by our esteemed host – “The 5 Weakest Columbo Gotchas”. There’s a good case to be made for the new Columbo episode “Murder with Too Many Notes”. There is literally no gotcha. Columbo just recounts his theory of the case at the end and has the killer arrested. I saw it the other day and had to rewind because I thought I had missed something.

          • “The 5 Weakest Columbo Gotchas”… Brilliant idea! I propose this one, from arguably the best episode with the greatest baddie, Jack Cassidy (Sorry Robert, but don´t worry: you´re not far behind!): “Now You See Him”. In fact, evidence is very strong against Columbo and Wilson, who may end up in jail for planting evidence and forging indicting proofs!

  41. I will check out his mistress’ gams next time. For now, I am beyond delighted with your hilarious review of one of my favorite episodes. Nuanced, dark, compelling & funny. I laughed so hard that my husband popped his head in the room to see why the hell I was so convulsed. Bravo! 🙂

  42. Joanna Cameron (Ms. McGrath) gave all us young men (then, anyway) a reason to get up on a Saturday morning in the 70s (along with Star Trek The Animated Series) when she starred as Isis in “The Secrets of Isis”.

  43. This is also one of my favorites. But BY FAR the best thing about this episode is JOANNA CAMERON’S LEGS!!!!!

  44. the really good stuff is coming these fewc years saw the really classical episodes , try and catch me the bye bye sky high , troubled waters , by dawns early light , playback, make me a perfect murder and so on

  45. hello mr columbophile I ha ve looked forward to negative reactions review for agesa and I knew you would soeak well of it ,its a blast from start to finish , definitely the funniest columbo ever , dick van dyke very good also the storyline is almost perfect , 2 murders a false ransom and kidnapping not a great motive , might be the only weak point but its made up for in terrific ending. I just love this episode and I will be critical of the columbophile and say it should be top of the ratings at this point it is miles better than murder by the book , and publish or perish which ending is poor. negative reactions ending is much better I look forward to by dawns early light which is also top tier

  46. Pingback: Episode review: Columbo An Exercise in Fatality | The Columbophile

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