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5 best moments from Columbo Lovely but Lethal

Columbo Lovely but Lethal

Viveca and Columbo had a contest to see who could wear the most shades of brown in a single sitting

Lovely but Lethal is a lesser light of the Columbo opus. It’s not terrible, but, rather like Viveca’s doomed attempts to secure the vaunted miracle face cream, the formula just ain’t quite right.

Of course, even average Columbo is better than almost all other TV ever made, which means Lovely but Lethal is still rammed with enjoyable moments. But what are its very best scenes? Here’s my hot take…

5. Death by microscope

Lethal 3

Enraged by former lover Carl Lessing spitefully denying her access to the miracle cream’s secret formula, Viveca lashes out at her ‘hairy little teddy bear’ (guh-rosssss) with the nearest weapon to hand – which just happens to be an anvil-like microscope!

Viveca – displaying the sort of one-armed strength that would make a pro arm wrestler envious – shatters Lessing’s skull, but seals her own fate when she kneels beside him on the living room rug as she inadvertently places her hand in the shards of the broken microscope slide.

She contracts a deadly nightshade rash in the process, and the resulting itch eventually turns Columbo’s suspicions firmly in her direction. Eat defeat, Vivi!

4. Shades of Dr Frankenstein

Columbo Merch Lovely but Lethal

The ‘Mad Scientist’ opening credits with Dr Murcheson’s tense face filling the screen as he appears to be conducting experiments on helpless women are wonderfully atmospheric.

With horror legend Vincent Price in the line-up, and Dick De Benedictis’s screeching horror score used throughout, the shades of Universal Monsters’ Dr Frankenstein are unmistakable, and entirely deliberate. Murcheson even references Frankenstein during the scene. That he’s ultimately conducting make-up experiments on live women rather than reassembling corpse’s body parts really doesn’t matter.

3. The non-clandestine rendezvous

Lethal2

Careful Shirley! One spark and the place will go up like a tinder box!

When Viveca meets up with creepy Shirley (her plant within rival David Lang’s company) at the boutique we’re subjected to a 70s’ horror show of off-the-rack fashions as the two women plot their next move.

Shirley has her eye on joining Viveca’s company in a well-paid job. Viveca just wants her grubby mitts on the magic formula and will say whatever Shirley wants to hear to gain as much info as possible. And all this pans out as the two inspect an array of spectacularly awful dresses that Viveca clearly wouldn’t be seen dead in.

The funniest part of it all? Shirley lights up a cigarette while surrounded by an ocean of highly flammable polyester. Thank goodness she had a steady hand, or the episode could have gone up in smoke well before the running time was out.

2. How to shake Lieutenant Columbo in one easy lesson

Columbo Viveca Scott

Viveca certainly discovered the formula to keep prying Lieutenants at arm’s length

Just as she’s about to head out to kill, errr… meet Shirley, Viveca is interrupted by Columbo, who has driven out to the fat farm to ask a few more questions. He pesters her for a time until she artfully sidesteps him by entering the nude-sunbathing area. The bashful Lieutenant is far too shy to follow and is left dithering at the gate. It’s advantage Viveca – for now.

1. Cat fight at the cat walk

DAvid Lang Viveca Scott

The episode’s delicious encounter early on between catty rivals David Lang and Viveca at the fashion show is terrific entertainment. It’s exposition heavy, but in a very good way as the audience is succinctly and plausibly introduced to the troubles facing Viveca’s company through Lang’s snide comments at her expense.

Viveca gives as good as she gets, as you’d expect, and the foundations are laid for a mouth-watering battle between the two which, sadly, never entirely eventuates. Still, combined with the outrageous and opulent fashions of the early 1970s – including Viveca’s unbelievable fashion turban – and you have an eye-opening scene that holds the promise of untold delights to come. What a shame, then, that Vincent Price – so joyous to behold – simply disappears halfway through the episode.

“The episode’s delicious encounter early on between catty rivals David Lang and Viveca at the fashion show is terrific entertainment.”

That’s all, folks. But as always I’d love to hear own personal  episode highlights or your views in general on this episode.

And, of course, if you’ve got a hankering to revisit the episode in more detail you can read my full-length review right here! Until next time, adieu…


Read where Viveca ranks  in the Columbo fashion stakes here.

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Bagsy me Viveca Scott in the Columbo cosplay competition!

16 thoughts on “5 best moments from Columbo Lovely but Lethal

  1. The smoking scenes are all hilarious as Shirley in real life is obviously not a real smoker. It’s just a device for Viveca’s scheme

    • Great comment. A classic example of “Chekhov’s Gun.” (Chekhov allegedly said: “If in Act I you have a pistol hanging on the wall, then it must fire in the last act.”) Here it’s: if you see an actress smoke who doesn’t ordinarily, then her cigarettes are essential to the plot.

  2. Lovely but leathal wouldnt make my top 30 overall , but i would chose it over these 5 episodes last Salute , Requiem for a falling star, Dagger of the mind , Murder under glass , A mattwer of honor and possibly the conspirators

  3. I really like this episode. Mainly because it’s centered around the cosmetics industry and a little campy. lol I would have loved to see David Lang’s reaction in seeing Viveca charged with murder.

    • Yeah…. this episode is very enjoyable, kind of a Columbo “light”. It’s not one of the classic or best Columbo episodes but it entertains and that’s what counts.

    • Yes, you’re right. There was no dramatic reveal in this one, so was rather anticlimactic. When combined with an overall lacklustre story, it really isn’t one of the series’ finest hours. I still wonder why they opened the season with this one when Any Old Port in a Storm was surely available?

  4. My favorite line from Viveca in this episode- ” I like young men, Lieutenant, lots of them, and if that shocks your ancient masculine double standard, I’m sorry!

  5. I am going to be honest I haven’t seen lovely but lethal for a long time and even when I did watch it i was not glued to the screen . I am sure these are great moments and very serviceable but Lovely but lethal is one of the last episodes I would choose to watch either on DVD , online or Give up a pleasant warm Sunday afternoon if it was aired on 5 USA .
    I honestly cant remember these scenes for the named reasons , the ending wasnt Bad but Lovely but lethal which I dont quite call poor but it is barely Average and one of if not the most Forgettable episodes of the seventies Run .

  6. The underuse of Vincent Price is such a great shame. Why he was never brought back as a villain is a mystery. A long joust between Price and Falk would have made for classic television.

    • Most definitely! Think Vincent Price-in-Laura–oily, snide, superior, fragile ego–and you’d have an excellent adversary for the Lieutenant.

  7. Pingback: Episode review: Columbo Lovely but Lethal | The Columbophile

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