Episode review: Columbo A Deadly State of Mind


Deadly State opening titles

Following five excellent episodes, Columbo‘s fourth season rounded out on 27 April 1975 in the suave form of A Deadly State of Mind.

Featuring heart-throb George Hamilton as unscrupulous psychiatrist Dr Mark Collier, a double homicide (including one of the most far-fetched in TV history) and the Lieutenant losing his rag, this Peter S. Fischer-penned outing certainly leaves an impression.

But is A Deadly State of Mind actually any good, or does it round out Season 4 like a wet lettuce? Or to put it another way, is it as steely-minded as Dr Mark Collier, or a helpless flounderer like Nadia Donner? Let’s take a look…

Dramatis personae

Columbo Deadly State of Mind cast

Lieutenant Columbo: Peter Falk
Dr Mark Collier: George Hamilton
Nadia Donner: Lesley Ann Warren
Karl Donner: Stephen Elliott
Dr Anita Borden: Karen Machon
Mr Morris: Fred Draper
Chuck Whelan: Ryan Macdonald
Sergeant Kramer: Bruce Kirby
Written by: Peter S. Fischer
Directed by: Harvey Hart
Score by: Bernardo Segáll

Episode synopsis: Columbo A Deadly State of Mind

A tearful Nadia Donner is recounting a ‘daddy’ moment from her youth, while her psychiatrist, Dr Mark Collier, prompts her with questions. It seems like he’s trying to uncover a traumatic event from Nadia’s past regarding her sister, but the info he’s after remains out of reach in Nadia’s mind. Disappointed, he brings her out of her hypnosis.

This ain’t no regular doctor/patient relationship, though folks. It’s quickly established that Nadia and Dr Collier are lovers, as she invites him to spend ‘quality time’ with her at her swanky beach house as her husband Karl is heading out of town. Collier agrees, and leaves Nadia to rest and recuperate.

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“Where the drugs at, bro?”

In the corridor he meets his subordinate, Dr Anita Borden. She has noticed that some hypnosis-inducing drugs have gone missing from the lab, and hints broadly that she believes Collier is using them on Nadia to deepen her hypnotic state so he can write another book about the secrets of the mind. Collier furiously denies the claim and sends Dr Borden scurrying away to do more testing on lab rats as part of his research project.

Cut to the aforementioned swanky beach house, which Collier screeches up to in his sweet Mercedes, very obviously driving through muddy gutter water in the process. If it’s sweet, sweet love on his mind he’s in for disappointment as Collier encounters not just Nadia, but her livid husband Karl in the sitting room.

Karl, as one might expect, isn’t best pleased to see Collier. He threatens to ruin him and let the world know about the drugs he’s using on Nadia, and the ‘carnal relations’ they’re indulging in on the side. Karl also lets Collier know that he’s not the first lover Nadia has taken, nor even the fifth! “I know my wife – and the trash she’s attracted to,” he says.

Collier, however, refuses to yield. In what seems to be an act of genuine affection, he appears to be willing to risk professional ruin by demanding Nadia leaves with him. It’s then that hell breaks loose. Karl grabs Nadia and delivers a colossal slap to her face. He’s about to repeat the act when Collier grabs a poker and clobbers Karl between the shoulder blades. It’s an act of defence, but Big Karl slumps down, dead as a doornail.

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Karl Donner: one of the series’ least-mourned victims

Nadia is in panic mode, but lighting a calming cigarette Collier maintains his presence of mind and concocts an explanation for Nadia to give the police. She and Karl were at home alone when two men forced their way in seeking jewellery and money. When Karl resisted, he was slain. While this seems pretty thin to me, Collier splits leaving the fragile Nadia to call in the crime to the police as he establishes his alibi back at the research lab.

Speeding up the driveway in his Merc, Collier is forced to veer into the gatepost when a blind man and his dog walk across the top of the drive. The blind man calls out, but Collier backs up and screeches around him to make good his escape. He creates his alibi in suitably charismatic fashion, cosying up to Dr Borden in the lab, apologising for his earlier shirtiness, and planting a smooch on her cherry lips. There’s clearly some history there, folks!

Back at the beach house, the police investigation is underway, with our man Lieutenant Columbo in the thick of it. He quickly begins questioning Nadia, who trots out the pre-arranged spiele, but struggles with the detail (note to murderous duos – perhaps spend more than 30 seconds concocting your tall tales, mmmmkay?). The men had guns, she says. When one of them went upstairs, Karl tried to bash the other with the poker, before he was dispossessed and slain himself.

The men then grabbed some jewellery, ran out of the door and drove away. Nadia heard the car drive away, but – as Columbo is immediately puzzled by – she didn’t hear the car arrive. Things aren’t adding up from the get-go, so Columbo sits down to have a think after Nadia is led away to rest by her doctor.

As he lights a cigar, his eye falls upon a microscopic object on the carpet. While he doesn’t immediately recognise what it is, he pockets it for further examination before joining Sergeant Kramer out on the driveway. The cops have spotted a dent in the gatepost at the top of the drive. Columbo, meanwhile, notices thinner European tire tracks on the drive. He recognises them, of course, because he drives a European car – something that the dim-witted Kramer doesn’t appear to have ever noticed.

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The sofa pattern was suspected of inducing strokes in the infirm

It’s at this time Collier arrives along with Dr Borden, who is evidently the designated driver. Columbo introduces himself and notices Collier lighting a cigarette with a match. This is a fact he squirrels away for later, as the good doctor heads inside to minister to his patient.

The next morning we’re with Collier and Nadia again, this time at her sumptuous apartment. They’re plotting further, but are interrupted by Columbo who is surprised to find Collier making a house call so early in the morning. He double checks some facts with Nadia, but gleans a real nugget when he asks to borrow Collier’s lighter for his cigar. The lighter, you see, has an engraved message from Collier’s sister, and the Dr claims to ‘treasure it’. This will be important later on.

Nadia stumbles her way through some gentle questioning – again highlighting the flaw in Collier’s plan to entrust her with keeping them out of jail. If the men had guns, why didn’t the killer just shoot Karl, the detective asks. Umming and ahhing, Nadia says he’d put the gun in his belt to rifle through some drawers. How come there were no fingerprints on the drawers then, Columbo enquires. There’s more uncertainty from Nadia before she ‘recalls’ the man used a handkerchief to wipe the prints off.

“Collier starts to realise what a fool he’s been to leave his life and freedom in Nadia’s shaking hands.”

Satisfied enough for now, Columbo beetles away leaving a panicky Nadia ready to confess all. Only Collier’s promises to help her through it can quell her rising terror, but we sense the Doctor is starting to realise what a fool he’s been to leave his life and freedom in her shaking hands…

Still, you can’t keep a good man down and Collier is soon back at the lab showing his publisher, Chuck Whelan, around. He freezes, though, when he looks from the window and notices Columbo visibly checking the tires of his Mercedes. We even get an ominous musical cue to highlight the significance of this act. Nice!

Once his car-related snooping is done, Columbo attempts to navigate the bowels of the university to find Collier – at one point even eliciting a ‘comedy female scream’ sound effect after inadvertently entering a wrong door. He eventually finds Dr Borden, who confirms she was with Collier the night before during the time he was informed of the Donner death.

Collier then reappears, and wants to know why Columbo was looking at his tires. The Lieutenant says he simply wanted a good look at the tread – not because he thought Collier’s car was ever at the crime scene. It’s at this point Collier delivers one of the series’ best ever analyses of Columbo. “You know Lieutenant, you’re a marvelously deceptive man. You know, the way you get to the point, without really ever getting to the point. I really believe you think there’s something cock-eyed about Karl Donner’s death.”

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Dr Collier was unimpressed by Columbo’s ‘made you look!’ prank

Coming clean, Columbo admits that he’s having problems with the inconsistencies in Nadia’s story. If the car was right outside the house, why didn’t she see its lights as it drove down? The men allegedly claimed that their car was broken down on the highway. Why would they use that excuse if their car was right outside the front door?

Collier suggests Nadia be submitted to a lie detector test, just to assuage Columbo’s doubts so that he can go about trying to find the actual killers. “Do you think she’ll pass such a test?” Columbo asks. “I’d stake my reputation on it,” Collier cockily replies.

When this suggestion is put to Nadia, however, she’s predictably aghast but Collier calms her nerves. Through hypnosis, he can prep her to breeze through the lie detector test. So drugging her up, he begins the process, but the subject matter he’ll be covering is stunningly different to what he discussed with his patient.

Instead of cementing the particulars of the crime into her subconscious, Collier instead preys on the weaknesses and recollections of her past. She has spoken to him about her love of swimming and diving as a girl, and how it so impressed her daddy. So Collier uses this info to program her to take her own life. How? He’ll call her apartment at 10pm and utter the name ‘Charles Whelan’. Upon hearing this, Nadia will become so hot that the only thing she’ll be able to do is to leap off her balcony into the apartment pool – five storeys below! Yes readers, if audacity has a name it must be Dr Mark Collier

“Columbo admits that he’s having problems with the inconsistencies in Nadia’s story.”

The audacity goes a step further in that Collier makes the crucial call to Nadia in the presence of Columbo, who drops round to his house that night to ask some questions as the doctor throws a jolly shindig with pals. As Collier fixes him a drink, Columbo fields questions from the party guests. His latest problem he needs to answer is who the smoker at the house that night was. Neither Karl nor Nadia smoked, and the ‘intruders’ were wearing stocking masks, so it can’t have been them.

But how does he know there was a smoker there at all, someone asks. It’s then that Columbo reveals the tiny item he took from the floor of the Donner house on the night of the crime. He’s figured out that it’s the nub of a flint from a lighter that has popped out. And it can’t have been there before because the fatal night was the first time the house was used since Thanksgiving, and the place was professionally cleaned right after that.

Columbo has deduced that whoever was there is now having to light cigarettes with matches, or has a new flint in the lighter. And guess what – when he looks at Collier’s lighter he spots a brand new flint in it. The smug Doctor laughs it off, of course, and as Columbo continues to chat with guests Collier calls Nadia, drops the code word and pretends he’s dialled a wrong number before going on to make an actual call to Chuck Whelan to arrange a meeting the next day. Clever boy!

Nadia, meanwhile, does exactly what the doctor ordered. She’s overcome with a sensation of heat, so throwing off every stitch of clothing she takes a leap off the balcony in a failed attempt to hit the refreshing, cool water below. Yowch!

Columbo Nadia Donner death

Is it a bird? Is it a plane…?

Columbo and Co. are now investigating another death, and this one is also causing the Lieutenant some confusion. Nadia’s apartment door was bolted from the inside, so no one threw her over the balcony. She must have jumped. But why did she take off all her clothes first? And why did she place her valuables in the toe of her shoe, as if she was going swimming? And her phone receiver been found on the coffee table – had she got up in the middle of a conversation and flung herself to a grisly demise?

It’s a puzzle alright, but not an impossible one to crack for a mind as sharp as Columbo’s. He’s read up on Collier’s books on hypnosis techniques and knows the doctor has the skillz required to plant suggestions in the minds of his patients. But could someone be convinced to commit suicide? That he ain’t clear on.

So Columbo lies in wait for Dr Borden in the research facility car park after a sleepless night. He’s dishevelled, impatient and wants answers, so he takes the direct route. “Is it possible to hypnotise Mrs. Donner so that with the use of suggestion you could make her jump over that balcony to her death?” he asks. No, she replies. A person won’t do anything in a hypnotic state that they wouldn’t do normally.

He outlines his case that she appears to have believed she was going swimming, but it’s all too uncertain for Dr Borden to be able to give much help. But what is certain is that amobarbitol and zilothin were found in Nadia’s blood, and they can be used to break down somebody’s will. It’s starting to look a lot like foul play – could Collier have prescribed these drugs for Nadia?

Borden fails to recognise the urgency behind Columbo’s request for details. “You’re just going to have to ask Dr Collier,” she breezes back, but it’s the straw that breaks the camel’s back. “No, I’m asking you!” the Lieutenant snaps. “I’m asking you about a murder!

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Columbo’s patience wears thin with Dr Borden in thrilling fashion

Whether he gleans any more info out of the shocked doctor is unclear as we next cut to the LA docks, where Collier has just returned from an enjoyable morning with Chuck Whelan on his yacht. Columbo greets him on his return, but the atmosphere soon turns icier as the Lieutenant informs Collier of Nadia’s death and essentially accuses him of killing Karl.

Columbo has good reason to believe Collier was in on it with Nadia, because a police doctor has suggested that the killing of Karl could have happened much earlier that the 7pm time-slot suggested by Nadia – and in that case Collier’s alibi is decidedly dodgy.

“Am I to presume that I’m currently your chief suspect?” Collier asks casually. “I’m not sure that suspect is a strong enough word,” Columbo replies, but it doesn’t shake Collier a jot. “In that case, I should be locked up. Course, I’m not. Therefore, I presume that you have no proof,” he taunts before exiting stage left.

Columbo doesn’t have to wait long for that elusive proof, however. Sergeant Kramer is in touch to inform him that there’s a witness who can attest that a car left the Donner place in a hurry at 5.30pm. The witness can’t ID the car and driver, though, because he’s BLIND, but the wily Lieutenant finds a way to make it count nonetheless.

Summoning Collier to the Donner beach house, Columbo lays it all out. He believes Collier programmed Nadia to take her own life, but he knows he’ll never be able to prove it. He can, however, prove that Collier killed Karl Donner – because he has an eyewitness.

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If his Columbo experience taught Mr Morris anything it was to always pack a bulky sweater and heavy underwear when visiting the mountains in spring

At a signal from Columbo, Mr Morris, the eyewitness, is summoned from the hallway beyond. Morris, wearing sunglasses indoors, treads carefully down some steps, sits on the coach and offers Columbo some matches to light a cigar. Columbo asks him if he’s ever seen anyone in the room before, and Morris answers in the affirmative. He saw a driver screech out of the Donner driveway at 5.30pm on the day of the killing – and the man behind the wheel was Dr Collier.

Rather than alarm the doctor, Collier is emboldened. He thinks he’s got the measure of Columbo alright. “Beautiful, Lieutenant, it’s a gallant effort,” he says, the Smug-O-Meter reading off the scale. “That man couldn’t see me or my car. He didn’t see anything. He’s blind.”

Columbo wonders why Collier would assume Morris was blind, and the smug doctor can’t resist taking the bait. His medical training allows him to spot a blind man a mile off, he says, and he’ll prove it through a little experiment of his own.

Collier steps forward and hands Morris a magazine, inviting him to read a few pages aloud. He then stands back, an avalanche of SMUGNESS, to watch Morris blow his lines. Only he doesn’t. Instead Morris reads an article about the warm clothes required for a trip to the mountains as easily as drawing breath.

Now flustered, Collier snatches the mag back, flips a few pages and demands Morris reads again. Same result. “The man is blind! He’s blind!” crows a now-desperate Collier. Columbo then calls out “Mr Morris!” and an identikit gentleman appears from the hallway, this time being led by a large Alsatian guide dog. And this, Columbo informs Collier, is the man he saw when he left Donner HQ in such a hurry on the night of the killing.

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Could he be any more smug in this scene?

“There is no way in the world that you could have assumed that this man was blind unless you had seen this man that day,” Columbo concludes. “I have an eyewitness, Dr Collier, an eyewitness that will place you at the head of the Donner driveway at 5.30 Monday afternoon. But the eyewitness is not Mr Morris. The eyewitness is you.”

A thoroughly outsmarted Collier can only wilt under Columbo’s steely gaze as credits roll…

Best moment –  the double bluff

The take-down of Dr Collier is easily one of the greatest hits of the entire Columbo opus. Like some of the other very best gotcha moments, notably Suitable for Framing, A Friend in Deed and Candidate for Crime, it’s so good because the reveal is such a stunning revelation to Collier, who until that moment has believed himself to be in total control.

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The killer’s emotional descent from mild irritation and complete self-satisfaction through to panic and despair is wonderfully portrayed by Hamilton, and it’s a scene that just leaves the viewer wanting to jump to their feet and roar their approval. It’s one of the top 5 Columbo gotchas, ergo one of the greatest TV scenes ever recorded!

My take on A Deadly State of Mind

A Deadly State of Mind is one of the first Columbo episodes I ever remember watching, doubtless sometime in the late 80s / early 90s. And I don’t mind admitting I’ve always had a soft spot for it.

While far-fetched, the hypnosis murder has always been one of the most memorable Columbo killings, and George Hamilton is a supremely good baddie – vital ingredients that help this episode stand out from the crowd. But under closer cross-examination, does it still cut the mustard? Well, spoiler alert, yes it does!

“Gorgeous George Hamilton is everything I want in a Columbo killer.”

Fan polls of favourite Columbo episodes are quite unflattering to Deadly State. A poll on the Ultimate Columbo website places it amongst the lowest polling of all episodes – less popular than Strange Bedfellows and A Bird in the Hand, for Pete’s sake! Similarly, at time of writing, the episode ranks only 55th out of 69 in the fans’ favourite episode poll on this very site!

That is damning it with faint praise indeed, because Deadly State has some huge plus points, not least the excellent George Hamilton. Gorgeous George is everything I want in a Columbo killer. Handsome, smooth, charismatic, assured, intelligent and arrogant, he ticks every box there is and I rate him in the top tier of villains.

George Hamilton Columbo

Phwooooar! Gorgeous George Hamilton is an A Grade Columbo villain

Admittedly Oskar Werner – our chief antagonist last time out in Playback – can out-act Hamilton any day of the week, but he’s not nearly as charismatic, and therefore not nearly as memorable a Columbo killer. Indeed, Hamilton is so watchable that a second 70s’ outing would have been welcome, as he was arguably past his prime when he returned in 1991’s Murder Can Be Hazardous to Your Health.

That said, Hamilton’s excellence can’t disguise a huge gulf in the heart of Peter S. Fischer’s otherwise splendid mystery – that of Collier’s outrageous faith in the bag of nerves that was Nadia Donner. By his own admission, Collier knows everything about Nadia through their hypnotherapy sessions. Yet he didn’t seem to know her well enough to realise that asking her to spin a cock-and-bull yarn to police officers, while under extreme pressure, was a bad idea.

Put simply, Nadia is far too emotionally fragile to be relied on at the best of times – let alone at a time of crisis. No wonder Columbo saw through her story in a heartbeat. Even a first-day rookie wouldn’t have swallowed the tosh Nadia was ladling out, so it doesn’t say much for Collier’s judgement that he would entrust her with such a weight of responsibility knowing that any wrong move could spell disaster for them both.

We can only assume that Collier’s decision to appoint Nadia as the mouth piece for his half-baked explanation for Karl’s death was due to that old Columbo chestnut of people making strange decisions while under duress. It’s not a flaw fatal enough to scupper the entire episode, but Collier’s credibility is certainly diminished through it.

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I wouldn’t trust Nadia Donner to open a packet of crisps without bungling it, so why does Collier entrust her with his freedom?

He evidently suffers from another Columbo killer foible – pride in his own reputation. Collier has a book he wants to publish, but it’s not going well. He cares about how he is perceived in the field of psychiatric research and this ruthlessly ambitious streak is what ultimately leads him to making the bad decisions that will bring about his downfall. We’ve seen it before (Barry Mayfield) and we’ll see it again (Kay Freestone). Won’t these arrogant killers ever learn?

Collier’s decisions exacerbate a bad situation. If he and Nadia had come clean about the killing of Karl, it’s likely that they could have avoided jail time. Collier’s book deal would be gone, though, and being romantically linked to his patient would jeopardise his professional future. I can see why he’d want to protect that, but boy he made a mess of the cover-up plan.

Careful scrutiny of the episode reveals further plot holes that tighter storytelling could have addressed, too. Namely the standards of police procedural work, with even the good Lieutenant falling short of his usual standards on some occasions.

“Careful scrutiny of the episode reveals further plot holes that tighter storytelling could have addressed.”

Consider: the police have noticed the dent on the gatepost at the head of the Donner driveway. They’ve also noticed the thin tire treads of a European car on the driveway. Yet when Columbo later examines Collier’s tires, he fails to take the obvious step of also checking the fender, which must have been marked in some way due to the gatepost collision. The case could have effectively been closed right there!

And how about the failure to trace Collier’s phone call from his home to Nadia Donner’s prior to her balcony plunge? Phone records are inconsistently used in Columbo, but surely a man with Columbo’s pedigree would have checked to see whether Collier had actually rung Nadia’s home rather than merely surmising it.

Of course I get it, tying up the case in those ways would have been far less satisfying for the viewer. But my point is more that these plot holes could have been addressed easily and succinctly in the script without bogging the episode down in minutiae.

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Check the fender while you’re there, Lieutenant!

The first clue that Columbo finds at the crime scene is also a bit of a dud, in this correspondent’s opinion at least. Echoing the feather-in-the-hospital find in Troubled Waters, the Lieutenant somehow hones in on a microscopic lighter flint nub on the carpet and that leads his thought process (eventually) to concluding that there was definitely a third party in the house aside from the Donners and the supposed felons – and that that person was Dr Collier.

A dozen or more officers have tramped through the place, so for Columbo to first see the nub and then deduce it must be pivotal to the case is a bit of a stretch. As was the case in Troubled Waters this clue’s a bit too convenient for my liking, but at least the script doesn’t make the mistake of making more of this find than is necessary and having it as the single most damning piece of evidence that puts Columbo on to his man.

For Columbo’s investigations in A Deadly State of Mind really do present him with a smorgasbord of reasons to suspect the dastardly doc, well beyond the lighter flint. Detractors of this episode (my own dear dad amongst them) bleat on about the ludicrousness of Columbo ever reasoning that Nadia was hypnotised to kill herself, but it’s really not a big leap when you examine the evidence.

“Columbo raging at Dr Borden is secretly one of the best scenes of the entire 70s’ run.”

Columbo has read up on Collier’s books about hypnosis. He has found drugs in Nadia’s bloodstream known to be able to break a subject’s will, and the way she removed and folded her clothes, and hid valuables in the toe of her shoe all point to someone who believed they were going swimming. It’s a natural step, then, to deduce that Collier had been able to plant just such a suggestion in her mind.

The concept of the second killing itself is massively far-fetched, though, and one that requires a heavy suspension of disbelief to accept. Those that simply accept it for what it is – an audacious act of mental manipulation by a master in his field – are likely to gain the most pleasure from this episode. I liken it to the subliminal cuts killing in Double Exposure – a preposterous crime that made for brilliant viewing!

Speaking of brilliant viewing, how good was the flash of Columbo rage we saw when the weary Lieutenant cut through the crap to scold Dr Borden for her casual attitude to his questions? As with all examples of Columbo unleashing his fury, I love this scene! It’s only very brief, but it has great power because it shows us a hint of the real Columbo – the one that is usually hidden behind a veil of obsequiousness and absent-mindedness.

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This version of Columbo is not to be trifled with…

Here, after investigating the gruesome Nadia Donner killing and going a night without sleep, Columbo is in absolutely no mood to be trifled with and when Dr Borden treats him like an office junior she gets the roasting she deserves. I rate this scene second only to the gotcha in the whole episode. It’s the Columbo rage moment that most fans forget, but to me is secretly one of the best scenes of the entire 70s’ run.

As is typical with 70s’ Columbo outings, everyone in the cast does a good job. Falk lives up to the usual standards we expect of him, Hamilton is ace as discussed earlier, and the female foils don’t put a foot wrong. Lesley Ann Warren, in particular, convincingly portrays the nervous fragility of Nadia Donner. Nadia is actually rather an annoying character (frankly I was pleased when she was bumped off), but one can’t blame Warren for that, as she delivers the character the script puts forward.

As an aside, am I the only viewer that would love to know more about Nadia’s backstory? She appears to have daddy issues and a great jealousy of her sister. I wonder if she actually caused the death of her sister in her early years, has locked the memories away and it is those dark secrets that Collier is so desperate to uncover. Certainly it’s an intriguing mystery within the mystery.

Deadly State gives us a barnstorming finale to what has been a staggeringly good season of television.”

I also wonder if anyone has noticed that Columbo really doesn’t seem to like rogue medical men? He hated Dr Mayfield in Stitch in Crime and took a grim pleasure in bringing down Dr Flemming in Prescription: Murder. The same goes for Dr Collier here. Columbo gains a good deal of pleasure in ‘taking out the trash’ at episode’s end, and he seems to reserve a special dislike for those who fall from their duties of preserving life.

As a final observation, much as I enjoy Deadly State, there’s little overt humour in it, and regular readers will know that I do like my Columbo episodes to mix lashings of comedic action in amongst the unfolding drama. Negative Reaction, Double Shock and Publish or Perish are perhaps the best examples of this.

There’s not much mirth in this outing compared to those, although Chuck Whelan’s robust response of “Sorry, I don’t have a Willie!” while referencing the name of one of Dr Borden’s lab rats raises unintentional titters – for the low-brow British viewers at least! Despite that, Deadly State works well because I never feel it takes itself too seriously, with Hamilton especially smirking his way throughout and clearly enjoying the opportunity to playfully taunt Columbo as he goes.

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Collier clearly enjoyed taunting Columbo as their relationship soured

Director Harvey Hart has a strong Columbo pedigree, with By Dawn’s Early Light, Forgotten Lady and Now You See Him also under his belt, so if you’re one of those who haven’t previously held Deadly State of Mind in the highest regard, perhaps now’s the time to give it a second chance.

In my opinion, this episode gives us a barnstorming finale to what has been a staggeringly good season of television. There’s not one weak episode in the Season 4 line-up and Deadly State holds its own against any of the others that have come before it. I enjoy it a great deal and suspect I always shall, although I feel its conclusion marks something of a high water mark for the series.

After four stellar seasons, can the sky-high standards be maintained so consistently in future, or have we hit ‘peak Columbo‘? From my perspective, I rather believe it’s the latter. Columbo was never this good again on a series-by-series basis.

That’s why A Deadly State of Mind remains an episode to be treasured as an indication of the series’ refusal to lower its standards, while remaining as fresh as ever – more than 7 years after Falk first pulled on the fabled raincoat.

Did you know?

Deadly novel

A Deadly State of Mind was one of several 70s’ episodes to be novelised in the 1970s, along with Murder by the Book, Any Old Port in a Storm and By Dawn’s Early Light.

Penned by Lee Hays, the tie-in novels represent excellent reading for nostalgic fans and provide a richer narrative and additional scenes not televised. As such, they’re well worth digging up. Check out Amazon and eBay for the best options, although be warned, they don’t always come cheap.

Still, for the fan who eats, breathes and sleeps Columbo, these books are a sound investment that help take classic outings to a whole new level.

How I rate ’em

A thoroughly enjoyable romp, I have no hesitation in recommending A Deadly State of Mind. It’s not quite top, top tier Columbo but is very close and an episode I can watch time and again and still find plenty to enjoy.

Missed any of my other episode reviews? Then view them 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. Troubled Waters
  12. Any Old Port in a Storm
  13. Prescription: Murder ——– A-List ends here—
  14. A Deadly State of Mind
  15. An Exercise in Fatality
  16. Swan Song
  17. The Most Crucial Game
  18. Etude in Black
  19. By Dawn’s Early Light
  20. Candidate for Crime
  21. Greenhouse Jungle
  22. Playback
  23. Requiem for a Falling Star
  24. Blueprint for Murder
  25. Ransom for a Dead Man —– B-List ends here—
  26. Dead Weight
  27. The Most Dangerous Match
  28. Lovely but Lethal ———— C-List ends here—-
  29. Short Fuse
  30. Mind Over Mayhem
  31. Dagger of the Mind

That concludes our journey through Columbo‘s epic fourth season. Our next episode review will be Forgotten Lady, the tear-jerking Janet Leigh vehicle that Peter Falk himself rated as one of his very favourite episodes. Don’t miss it!

A big thanks, as always, for your visit to the site. Hit me up with your thoughts on A Deadly State of Mind in the comments section below.

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Dr Collier took the secret of his beautifully manicured hair and hands to the grave