Columbo was enjoying a little sojourn south of the border on 1st February 1976, hanging out with legendary matador Luis Montoya in A Matter of Honor.
Featuring no less a talent than Ricardo Montalban as the villainous bullfighter, how will the Lieutenant fare on foreign soil this time round, four years after the London-sized debacle that was Dagger of the Mind?
Or to put it another way, is this a prize bull of an episode, or a pathetic wannabe matador destined to be gored to death? Let’s wet our muleta, down a bottle of mescal and don our comedy sombreros to find out…
Lieutenant Columbo: Peter Falk
Luis Montoya: Ricardo Montalban
Comandante Emilio Sanchez: Pedro Armendariz Jr
Curro Rangel: A. Martinez
Hector Rangel: Robert Carricart
Nina Montoya: Maria Grimm
Miguel Hernandez: Emilio Fernandez
Jaime Delgado: Enrique Lucero
Directed by: Ted Post
Written by: Brad Ratnitz
Score by: Bernardo Segáll
Notable location: Montoya ranch, Hotel Hacienda Vista Hermosa, San Jose, Mexico
Episode synopsis: Columbo A Matter of Honor
Wannabe matador Curro Rangel lies in hospital after being badly gored by prize bull, Marinaro, the previous day. Back at the ranch where it all happened, legendary ex-matador Luis Montoya gives his workforce the day off and approaches Curro’s father, Hector (his long-time assistant), to let him know that he will kill the bull to prevent Curro risking his life against it in the ring again. To do so, he’ll need Hector’s help.
The relationship between the two is at odds since they dragged Curro (rhymes with ‘burro‘ – coincidence?) out of the bullring the day before. Hector has packed his bags and tells Montoya he’s leaving because ‘everything is different now’. We won’t find out what he means until the end of the episode, but the old boy seems to be bearing a grudge. He does, however, reluctantly agree to assist his boss one last time.
Now in the ring together, Montoya waits until Hector turns away, draws a dart gun and pops a cap, literally, in Hector’s ass. He’s only used a tiny drop of tranquilliser in it, though, leaving Hector woozy and shambling but just about operational. He’d need to be on his A Game for what’s coming though, as Montoya releases Marinaro from his pen. The giant bull makes short work of poor Hector.
Cut to a street scene in a Mexican town. A holidaying Columbo has a low-speed fender bender with a taxi cab causing commotion on the streets. The cabbie pretends to have broken his neck, and the by-standers are howling for Columbo to hand over ‘mucho dinero’ as a result. A bemused Lieutenant can’t believe it. “We were going four miles an hour,” he says in an attempt to defuse the situation.
The police get involved and before you know it Columbo’s car is impounded and he’s summoned to see Comandante Emilio Sanchez. Columbo fears he’s about to be arrested, but no. Sanchez just wants to meet the famous LA cop who solved the murder on the cruise ship a year before (in Troubled Waters). Columbo was in all the papers, and Sanchez is delighted to make his acquaintance.
As the two talk, Sanchez receives a radio call to check out the death of Rangel at the Montoya ranch. He asks Columbo to join him, and when the Lieutenant demurs hints that he’ll speed up the return of the car if he will help on the case. Needing the car to get back to LA for a family do, Columbo has little choice but to agree.
Montoya gives an icy reception to Columbo, barely acknowledging him until he starts to ask questions about Montoya’s version of events. According to Montoya, Hector was due to drive him to a speaking engagement in San Diego, only to pull out last minute to ‘work on the books’. Looks like he instead chose to face the bull, alone, for the sake of his son.
This confuses Columbo. Why would an employee of Montoya’s decide to try to kill such a valuable asset without permission? Marinaro was worth at least $8000 after all. He gets short shrift. “How can you judge the behaviour of a man who almost lost his only son,” Montoya coolly responds.
Sanchez and Montoya head off to see the body while Columbo looks around. True to form, he uncovers a clue when eyeing Montoya’s 1931 convertible Cadillac. Taking a seat behind the wheel he comments how much of a physical work out it would be to drive a car as large and heavy as this. The needlessly muscular car washer agrees.
Turns out that it requires too much muscle for Montoya since a bull gored his leg years before. Hector always drove it for him. Interesting, then, that Montoya had asked for his other car, a hard-top 1972 Ford LTD, to be washed and waxed the day before so he could drive himself to his speaking engagement.
Rejoining Sanchez and Montoya in the bullring, Columbo eyes the muleta found with Hector’s body. It’s in pristine condition and shows no sign of damage. This surprises Columbo given the gored state of Hector’s corpse. But there’s more, as the detective finds a shard of wood buried in the sand. It’s part of a pick, says Montoya, something used to wound bulls and test the bravery of cows (what?). It’s probably been there a couple of weeks.
Later that day, Columbo is dining with Sanchez and his wife. Mrs Columbo has been sent off to LA by bus while her husband waits for his car to be returned. Conversation naturally turns towards the death of Hector and Columbo raises the notion that it could have been a homicide with the bull used as a murder weapon. He even suggests that Montoya might have done it, much to the incredulity of Sanchez.
The Mexican officer has fallen for Montoya’s interpretation of events. Hector’s honour demanded he try to kill the bull to protect his son. That’s the matador’s way. But Columbo ain’t convinced. If the car washer was asked to prep the hard-top car for Montoya’s use at noon on the day of Hector’s death, how did Montoya know he’d need it? By his own admission, he was expecting Hector to drive him in the Cadillac until moments before they were due to leave.
Sanchez starts to wake up and smell the coffee. “If there’s a crime here I want to get to the bottom of it,” he says. “Better yet, I want you to get to the bottom of it.” Montoya is such a legend in Mexico that Sanchez wants Columbo to carry the can if the investigation goes awry. We can see that Sanchez is a wily one himself, and an excellent foil to the good Lieutenant.
In search of a motive for the killing, Columbo returns to Montoya HQ, where the matador is welcoming home his daughter. He questions walking stereotype Miguel, the only employee who remained on the ranch at the time of Hector’s death. Columbo learns that Montoya sent Miguel to a pasture far from the bullring, and also armed him with a bottle of mescal. As a result, the old rascal had a pleasant afternoon swigging in the sunshine. Convenient!
Columbo tails Miguel to the tack room, where he’s been assigned to clear Hector’s locker. There they find a suitcase of Hector’s that’s already been packed. But who packed it? No one knows. The Lieutenant also learns about picks. They’re big and heavy – not a bit like the shard of wood he found in the bullring. That’s because the wood Columbo has is from a lance, not a pick at all. And lances are used to herd cattle, not kill bulls, so they’re a lot lighter.
This is a key clue for Columbo and gives him further reason to suspect Montoya, who failed to identify the wood as a lance. This is accentuated when he notes that Hector’s lance is missing from its rack. Montoya, new on the scene, says it’s likely lost in a field and downplays its significance, but Columbo’s case is only getting stronger. Further damning evidence lies in Hector’s medical report, where doctors have noted a needle mark on his bum. Columbo recommends Sanchez request an autopsy because of it.
Columbo next goes to visit Curro at hospital, where he’s being fawned over by Montoya’s daughter, Nina. Columbo grills the fluffy haired hopeful about his goring by Marinaro. The lad was knocked out cold, co can’t confirm many details but believes what he’d been told that Montoya distracted the bull while Hector dragged him free.
Did Hector have his lance with him? Yes, he was on the way to check out the herd and always had his lance. But why did he use it on the bull if he was the one dragging Curro away? He doesn’t know. He also has no idea why his dad might have packed his belongings. He had no vacation planned. He’d only pack if he was fired or he quit, and those things would never happen. Would they…?
Anyway, Columbo is now staggering under weight of evidence and admits to Sanchez that he has a crazy notion as to why Montoya would murder Hector, but he doesn’t think anyone will believe him. Quite what this notion is remains secret for now as Columbo heads to Montoya’s place (again) to seek final clues.
For one thing, he finds that Montoya has ready access to tranquillisers, so could easily have drugged Hector to make him sluggish enough to be easily slain. Columbo also tricks Montoya into letting him cast an eye over his finance books, which Hector was supposedly working on on the day of his death. He uncovers the clincher: Hector finished work on the books for the month three days before he was killed – and Montoya signed them off.
“If Hector finished the books three days before he was killed, then why didn’t you question him when he said he wanted to stay behind to work on the books?” Columbo asks “You must have known he had no intention of working on the books.”
Montoya finally loses his cool. “I don’t appreciate this little war of nerves you are conducting, Columbo,” he seethes. “I am Luis Montoya! And you are in my country! If you understood the first thing about bullfighting, you would not question Hector’s death!”
Columbo keeps digging. How can Hector’s packed bags be explained? He was planning to move from his current room into the main house, Montoya responds. Gee isn’t it funny that nobody knew about that, Columbo wonders. Cue another Montoya down-dressing: “I’m sorry, Lieutenant. I have tried to be gracious. I have answered all your questions. My courtesy has been rewarded with accusation. I must ask you to leave my house and not return.” So there!
Knowing that he has to return to LA imminently, Columbo looks set to have leave the investigation in Sanchez’s hands. But a visit to the cop’s home creates his lightbulb moment. Sanchez’s children are playing at matador and bull. It’s windy, so they wet the muleta to stop it blowing in the wind – just like a real matador would.
Columbo remembers the weather report for the day of Hector’s death. Heavy winds came up around the ranch at 5pm – around the time Montoya said Hector must have fought Marinaro. An experienced fighter like Hector would therefore have wet the cape to prevent it blowing around and endangering his own life. But there were no watermarks on the cape!
So Columbo sets up his sting operation to outsmart Montoya for good. Drafting in Curro, he gets the young upstart to enter the bullring to kill Marinaro and avenge his father’s death. Montoya enters the ring to talk Curro out of his suicidal mission – only for the whelp to dash away and order the bull pen be opened!
Marinaro thunders out and makes a beeline for Curro, who bolts behind a partition. Montoya, meanwhile, caught out in the middle of the ring, is rooted to the spot with terror – stunning the onlookers, who revere him for his legendary courage and poise. As the angry bull charges towards the frozen Montoya, men leap out to distract the beast with fluttering capes and lure him away to be caged. His life is no longer in jeopardy, but Montoya’s legacy and legend is now in tatters.
Columbo enters the ring to confront Montoya, who is armed with his matador’s sword. It looks for a moment as if he’ll strike Columbo down with it, but instead he folds the muleta and hands it and the sword to the detective as a mark of respect before allowing himself to be driven away by the police.
Explaining it all to Sanchez, Columbo lets him know that Montoya had frozen just like that on the day Curro was gored. It was Hector who saved Curro, not Montoya, and the matador’s vanity and pride meant he couldn’t allow any man to know of his weakness and live. Columbo also delights Sanchez by revealing that it was his children playing matadors in the garden that essentially cracked the case.
Columbo hands over the muleta and sword to Sanchez and the two men share a warm, congratulatory handshake as credits roll…
A Matter of Honor‘s best moment: the police bromance
It’s not a single scene, but rather an episode-long love-in in which the bonds of respect and friendship between Columbo and Sanchez naturally and enjoyably grow.
Columbo is the more dominant figure throughout, mentoring Sanchez and providing the inspiration and guidance he needs to first accept Montoya’s guilt and then play an active support role in closing the case.
Instead of a lazy and corrupt stereotype, Sanchez is a good-natured, honest family man, who is keen to do his duty and learn from the best. He’s not unlike Columbo in many ways, and certainly wily enough to keep the Lieutenant around long enough to help him make the arrest that will have the whole of Mexico talking.
It’s an impressive performance from Pedro Armendáriz Jr, who gives us one of the most likable and believable support stars from the entire series. It’s a toss up between him and John Payne’s Ned Diamond from Forgotten Lady for the title of Season 5’s best non-killer guest star. And for once, Columbo interacts with a police counterpart who’s not a bungling oaf. Winning!
My opinion on A Matter of Honor
I’ve said it before and will say it again: Columbo as a show doesn’t fare well when trying to deal with foreign cultures. The cliche-tastic, stiff-upper-lipped Brits in Dagger of the Mind are a case in point. The shady traditionalist Arab baddie in A Case of Immunity is another. So could an episode set in Mexico and focusing on the honour of bullfighting buck the trend? Spoiler alert: No it couldn’t.
Awash with Mexican stereotypes (drunks, trumpet bands, fakers and cheats), anachronistic ideals and a primitive clash of cultures, A Matter of Honor feels more like it belongs in the 1920s than an era when man has walked on the moon. Its premise is too far fetched and poorly sketched out for even the late, great Ricardo Montalban to salvage. And that’s such a shame.
Since viewing the Wrath of Khan and Naked Gun in the 1980s I’ve been a big admirer of Montalban. Although galaxies apart in those two examples, one thing you get with him is intelligent, brooding menace and a sense that he would end an enemy’s life for two copper coins without feeling a shred of remorse.
Blessed with those qualities, Montalban should have been one of the series’ best ever killers. And while he’s still good in this, his battle of wills with Columbo never really ignites and his supposedly legendary matador goes out with a whimper in what is one of the 70s series’ most anti-climactic gotchas.
A Matter of Honor feels more like it belongs in the 1920s than an era when man has walked on the moon.
I’m aware of just how much pressure TV writers were (and still are) under to produce the goods in a timely manner. The viewer backlash to the final series of Game of Thrones is the most recent high-profile example. When it came to 70s’ Columbo, on many occasions scripts and story lines were still being polished and worked on when filming was already underway – something that drove Peter Falk crazy. Matter of Honor feels like just such an episode. Indeed I’d go so far as to say I think it should have had a major re-write and structural overhaul.
My chief bugbear is the finale. The reveal of Montoya’s frailty and fear is poorly done. I get that it’s supposed to be a jaw-dropping revelation for the on-lookers and audience at home, but my reaction to it has always been (and remains) ‘so what?’
The problem is that it wasn’t telegraphed. I honestly think that Montoya’s initial lapse on the day Curro was gored should have been shown to the viewer upfront to allow us to make sense of the grudge Hector is holding against him. And these scenes were filmed, because we see them in confused flashback from Curro’s hospital bed at the start.
Instead, it seems like the writers were trying to be too clever and contrive a means for Columbo to live up to his legendary status in Mexico by seeing into the very soul of the killer in a way that no one else could. Unfortunately none of it rings true – and the ridiculous set-piece conclusion, in which Columbo genuinely endangers the life of his chief suspect, has no grounding in reality and isn’t justified by the evidence.
Don’t get me wrong. Columbo is five steps ahead of Sanchez and has amassed enough circumstantial evidence to be confident that Montoya is guilty of murder by bull. But even with a splintered lance, a pin prick in the victim’s bum and holes galore in Montoya’s alibi, the deductive leap Columbo makes to be so certain that Montoya froze in the ring on the day Curro was injured is a massive stretch.
You know what it reminds me of? The flashy reveals made by Sherlock Holmes in such adventures as The Six Napoleons, The Valley of Fear and The Hound of the Baskervilles. A showman, Holmes is so confident in his mental acuity that he refuses to share crucial details of his case until the dramatic reveal. He then explains to gawking onlookers exactly how he reached his conclusions.
That works for Holmes, but it’s not Columbo’s way. And pitching Matter of Honor like this damages it. I watch Columbo to see how he cracks perfect murders based on what I myself see unfold on screen. Hiding Montoya’s critical weakness until the end seems like a bit of a cheat, as if the writers couldn’t find a plausible way of explaining Columbo’s deductive wizardry.
This fault is accentuated by the feebleness of the gotcha scene. Yes, Montoya freezes in the ring with and witnesses see it, but he could always say he was standing still to prevent attracting the bull’s attention because his leg had seized up due to the exertions of saving Curro days earlier. No one could dispute it. The spirit was willing, but the flesh was weak, etc, etc… His honour would remain intact.
And even if Montoya did freeze on that first occasion with only Hector to witness it, would a man of his stature allow it to happen again in front of so many others? I don’t buy it. The vain Don Luis Montoya would rather die than show such legacy-tarnishing weakness in public. It doesn’t ring true for who he is – similar to the way Bo Williamson meekly surrenders to Elliott Markham in Blueprint for Murder, when in reality such a character would fight tooth and nail to survive.
Looking at Season 5 as a whole, perhaps the writers justified the move by tying it in with the over-arching theme that there’s more going in each episode than initially meets the eye. Who could have predicted that Montoya would wimp out the way he did? What a stunner! On paper, maybe, but in reality the limp delivery means the gambit didn’t pay off. Ho-hum.
We ought also to discuss the crime itself, and Montoya’s avalanche of errors that made it so easy for Columbo to suspect him. Ordering his ‘other car’ to be prepared so he could drive himself to San Diego when Hector always drives him everywhere was surely the most basic oversight a killer’s made since Dr Cahill pointlessly left a burnt cigar match at the crime scene in Mind Over Mayhem.
Montoya’s avalanche of errors made it so easy for Columbo to suspect him.
His carelessness in failing to identify the splintered lance (claiming it to be a pick) – one of the fundamental building blocks of his trade – was also a poor move, and reminiscent of Colonel Rumford’s inability to identify the cannon cleaning rag in By Dawn’s Early Light. Not only that, but his lies about Hector wanting to work on the books were so easily disproved that his cheeks ought to have been stinging with shame. In fact the way Montoya covered his tracks throughout was dismal.
In defence of Montoya (and the writers), much of this can be forgiven because the Don believed that his status, allied with presumed half-hearted police investigations, would cause him no trouble. His word is law, right? And in fairness, who could predict that a holidaying super sleuth would be drafted in to play the key role in solving the mystery?
What this ultimately means is that Montalban never got the killer his stature and abilities deserved. Sure, he has some good lines to deliver as he becomes increasingly weary of Columbo’s insinuations, but the confrontation never sizzles as it ought to. Personally I’d rather have seen Montalban cast as a less stereotypical killer based in LA.
Still, regular readers will know I’m a lover not a (bull) fighter when it comes to Columbo, so what positives can we take from A Matter of Honor? Well as detailed earlier, the relationship between Sanchez and Columbo is really strong. The way their camaraderie grows feels authentic – it’s very well written and the performances are top rate, making their burgeoning friendship the most compelling aspect of the episode.
Speaking of which, who’s noticed the Columbo character development we’re seeing in Season 5? In Identity Crisis, the Lieutenant was a much more dominant force with his fellow officers than we’ve seen in the past. He took control of the crime scene and was much less meandering than usual in his investigations. That trait is ramped up here as Columbo is the man in charge – even though he’s well outside his area of jurisdiction.
Here he’s a straight-talking mentor to Sanchez. He shares his insights freely (save for the ‘Montoya fear’ stuff) and directs his opposite number to the right courses of action that he’ll need to follow to crack the case. The bumbling cop that even his fellow officers in LA under-appreciate is nowhere to be seen. This Columbo has serious leadership credentials and is a far cry from the lone wolf we see in Seasons 1-4. And actually I don’t mind it at all, as Falk convincingly portrays another aspect of Columbo’s personality.
This Columbo we see here has serious leadership credentials and is a far cry from the lone wolf we know from Seasons 1-4.
Columbo is also far more direct with Montoya than he is with the average killer, being absolutely unphased by the matador’s reputation and absolutely unafraid to challenge him on his own turf. This will increasingly become the series norm, and it could well be that the last we’ve seen of the unassuming and seemingly inept Lieutenant was in Case of Immunity two episodes earlier. Time will tell.
Another success in the script is the way Columbo is drawn into the case. Having him investigating a murder while on holiday could have felt rather gratuitous, but I think it was handled well – especially the way Sanchez keeps him keen by promising to speed up the release of his impounded car. And it was nice to hear the events of Troubled Waters being referenced, and that the Lieutenant’s press coverage has made him a bit of a hero to the local law enforcers.
That aside, I’m struggling to come up with too many more positives. The supporting cast is adequate, but beyond the main trio of Falk, Montalban and Armendáriz there’s not much character depth. Even A Martinez (of Longmire and General Hospital fame) as Curro, the wronged party, isn’t at all interesting. And we have yet another episode in which there’s no significant female character. Montoya’s daughter, Nina, has almost no part to play – other than trilling ‘Currrrrrrrrrrrrro‘ over and over at increasing volume. It’s hardly inspiring viewing for the senoritas in the audience.
Who knows, maybe this episode resonates more strongly with bullfighting buffs? Frankly, with my own knowledge of the sport being non-existent, I found a lot of the terminology and clues hard to follow – particularly the picks and lances stuff, which became tedious. And would the heavy onus given to honour really have been so prevalent in the 1970s? If you know better than I do about such matters, please sing out in the comments section. Perhaps something’s been lost in translation.
In conclusion, A Matter of Honor could have been an interesting departure had it done a more plausible job of showing Columbo locking horns with (pun intended, I assure you) and getting inside the head of the killer. Instead it’s a misstep with one of the least satisfying pay-offs of the entire series, and an episode that proves – again – that nothing quite beats seeing the Lieutenant fighting crime in his own back yard.
Did you know?
Columbo investigated crimes on the high seas (Troubled Waters), in London (Dagger of the Mind) and here in Mexico – but if the network had had its way the good Lieutenant would also have had a Japanese passport stamp in order to cash in on his popularity in the far east.
Quite what the concepts were to make this happen are unknown, but the idea was flouted sometime in the early 70s. It was, however, quashed by Peter Falk himself who had been unhappy at the ‘gimmicky’ nature of Dagger of the Mind and wanted to avoid a repeat performance. It’s probably just as well…
How I rate ’em
A Matter of Honor is one of the least inspiring 70s episodes. I place it even below Short Fuse, due to that one’s superior gotcha. However, it’s certainly not the worst. While it’s nestling pretty low right now, if you’re a fan of it please take heart and be reassured that even below-average Columbo is still very much worth watching when compared to almost all other TV ever made.
Missed any of my other episode reviews? Then catch ’em via the links below.
- Suitable for Framing
- Publish or Perish
- Double Shock
- Murder by the Book
- Negative Reaction
- A Friend in Deed
- Death Lends a Hand
- A Stitch in Crime
- Double Exposure
- Lady in Waiting
- Troubled Waters
- Any Old Port in a Storm
- Prescription: Murder —– A-List ends here—
- A Deadly State of Mind
- An Exercise in Fatality
- Identity Crisis
- Swan Song
- The Most Crucial Game
- Etude in Black
- By Dawn’s Early Light
- Candidate for Crime
- Greenhouse Jungle
- Forgotten Lady
- Requiem for a Falling Star
- Blueprint for Murder
- Ransom for a Dead Man
- A Case of Immunity —– B-List ends here——
- Dead Weight
- The Most Dangerous Match
- Lovely but Lethal ———-C-List ends here—-
- Short Fuse
- A Matter of Honor
- Mind Over Mayhem
- Dagger of the Mind
That’s a wrap, muchachos. I’m going to have a lie down in the southern pasture with a bottle of mescal. Remember to let me know your views on A Matter of Honor below. Am I being too hard on it? Or have I hit the bullseye (pun, again, intentional)?
Season 5 heads to safer territory in our next outing – the truly magical Now You See Him, starring Jack Cassidy. You won’t want to miss it! Until then, adios…
For details on the locations used in this episode, visit the Ultimate Columbo Locations Map!
I just watched this episode today. At the scene of the bullring, right at the end, Curro Rangel rushes into the ring and everyone tries to stop him from fighting the bull, but why does the person controlling the gate open it to let the bull into the ring? IF there are other people present and they are all trying to stop him, surely the person controlling the gate would not open it? Secondly, I did not understand why Montoya gave himself up so easily. They said he was petrified by the bull, but that does not seem to be a good enough reason to give himself up? Can someone explain this please?
I recently saw “The Kissing Bandit”, a 1948 comedy set in old California, starring Frank Sinatra. It’s a good movie, but the best part (which has nothing to do with the rest of the story) is when the guests at the governors party are entertained by a trio of traditional Spanish dancers; Ann Miller, Cyd Charisse and . . a very young and handsome Ricardo Montalban! He’s terrific! I had no idea that he was also a dancer, let alone one good enough to perform with ladies of that renown.
Great episode columbo said my wife goes to the bus she must go.to my couisin vito 11 years marriage celebrate haha
Does anyvone knows location this episodes matter of honor?and town in mexico? tijuana?,
I loved Ricardo Montelban, the actor. But in this episode he was given an eh part. It just wasn’t well written. Very disappointing.
Yes i watched it today on 5 USA and its not as poor as i used to think but theres a lot wrong with it also about the supposed strong winds of 30 killomeres an hour that piked up wich are not paticulary strong and im no meteorologist but mexico is a very hot country and every other scene seems to depict very hot and settled weather it just dosen t sit with me plus its a little boring at times although its a better watch than old fashioned murder and dead weight in my view .
This episode I always have mixed feelings on. On one hand there are a stereotypes that are appearing and letting a bull into the same ring as an injured man (no matter how old the wound) I totally disagree with. On the other hand after some research about Ricardo Gonzalo Pedro Montalbán I kind of understood why he took the role. Back on the 1970 there was a lot of prejudice. against Latin actors (shocking I know). Ricardo Montalbán was trying to fight this by creating a voice for them through founding the organization “Nostros”. He was tried of the roles that he was given (I don’t know where this episode lies, before or after). The reason I bring this up is because the episode is put in Mexico and lies around bullfighting, which most USA citizens find distasteful. Even though there are a few things we morden viewers go “oh boy” and cringe at this is a pretty big step for the 1970, from what I understand.
Plus the comment that Ricardo Montalbán makes (when I first heard it I felt like I got a slap in the face) about bullfighting being no more violent then: boxing, hunting, fishing, etc kind of makes me look at the sport in a different way.
Oh the episode was written after the creation of the foundation
Oh yea and the “testing of the cows” this is to determine which females to breed. It is believed that the fighting qualities of a bull are mainly influenced by the cow not the bull.
The “prejudice”, if it did indeed actually exist—as opposed to existing only or primarily in agenda-pushing revisionist-history fabrications—had to have originated from those who owned, ran, controlled, and oversaw the hiring for Hollywood.
So, in the 20th century, who owned, ran, controlled, and oversaw the hiring for Hollywood?
Whoever that may be, there’s your answer.
White people indeed. No question about it.
It isn’t that much of prejudice at all, I am latin american and I assure you on the 70’s that was very common. It is not prejudice, stereotypical, yes; but stereotypes are not lies, they are just reducing and limiting someone to that.
The historical revisionism and lack of representation is happening right now and by the ones that once were victims of it, right here in the era or visibility: a Netflix “docu-series” affirming that Cleopatra VII was black, contradicting all the proof and evidences that she was caucasian. Viola davis and other black AMERICAN actors playing African characters.
What was the purpose of the packed suitcase?
It indicated that Hector was moving out of his lodgings; a relatively unimportant clue, but picked up on by Columbo as something he needed an answer to.
Thanks, but I am still struggling to see any clue at all with a packed suitcase. Hector was going to go on a road show to disclose Montoya’s failings as a matador?
It was more of a way for Columbo to figure out that there was more to Hectors death. Why would a faithful friend all of sudden have his bags packed and no one knowing why, expect for the matador? Why would he go to the bullring to fight the bull if his bags were packed and ready to go (with the matador saying he was moving into the main house not that he was fleeing after killing an expensive bull).
Interesting trivia: Pedro Armendáriz Jr., who wonderfully plays Commandante Sanchez, first appeared in the movies, working alongside with his father, Pedro Armendáriz, in one of the best James Bond films (with Sean Connery in the title role), From Russia With Love (1963), playing son and father. Pedro Sr. appeared in that film as Ali Kerim Bey, James Bond’s friend. During that production Pedro Sr. found out that he had terminal cancer and the schedule of production was altered so he could finish his scenes before his death. He wanted to complete the movie so his family could receive his salary. Pedro Armendáriz Jr. would also later play a role in a James Bond movie, appearing as President Hector Lopez in License to Kill (1989).
Oh, I loved Ali Kerim Bey. I remember the girl saved his life from a limpet mine by whining his name over and over for him to join her.
I love your articles. However I do disagree with you on the closing Montoya/ Columbo scene. It is clear that Montoya, finally realises his stupidity to maintain his honor by conniving such a revolting crime (well he is also a torturer of animals) so at the time of the offence he applied the same pitiless actions to a human? I buy that bit equally when freezing a second time, the penny drops, Montoya appears to realise his wanton crime as acajous vanity — and now so wants to be arrested? Fine acting.
Columbo is comfort food for the senses serious at times but less than a Marple or a Poirot but shines above the Murder she wrote and Diagnosis Murder nonsense.
Keep writing it’s a great website.
Out of all the “traditional” Columbo’s, is this the episode where Falk and the murderer share the LEAST screen time together?
I would say it sis certainly up there , as it is a “short” episode and there are several scenes without Montaban.
It would be fun to do a “murderer screen time with Columbo” stopwatch for each episode.
I replied thusly to a similar observation in the “Agenda For Murder” comments:
“I think the question is not just how much screen time they’ve shared, but how often Columbo meets up with the killer. They could share a lot of screen time over a minimal number of meets, but if Columbo is “running into” the killer on multiple occasions, even with short meet times, that’s a sign that Columbo is deliberately bugging his antagonist by constantly bumping into him/her. It also helps when Columbo finds the killer at various different locations, as if the lieutenant is “following” the killer around his daily routine. Best are times when Columbo crashes parties, workspaces, intimate lunches, testimonials, funerals, etc. The formula: More meets = more aggravation.”
Since that comment, I’ve been casually researching the psychological techniques that Columbo utilizes, and this is one way that he uses an invasion of personal space/privacy to destabilize the villain. This is the science of proxemics, studying the effect of our interrelationships with the use of space. In fact, just go back to our very first introduction to the Columbo character in “Prescription: Murder” as he meets the killer. He appears to Dr. Flemming almost literally out of thin air, emerging from the villain’s bedroom – itself a symbol of privacy – and deftly makes it seem as if the doc is intruding upon Columbo’s own space, instantly unsettling Flemming using proxemics.
The psychology that Columbo employs in conversations, drop-ins, personal appearance, status-checks, and other elements of his approach is real and fascinating.
One small great moment that’s easy to overlook: when Columbo is doing the typical gringo thing where he says that bullfighting is too cruel, brutal, etc. Montoya explains it beautifully in saying it’s no worse than hunting, boxing, or any other “sport”. What a lot of people also don’t understand is that the bulls killed are not just discarded, their bodies are sent to restaurants for preparation. The animal is killed, but they respect it enough to eat it afterwards. You could still say it’s cruelty to animals, but it’s really not any worse than going fishing.
The motive was a little unbelievable – even if Montoya was an exceptionally prideful man, it’s hard to believe he would kill his right hand man of so many years like that. But taking it at face value, it was still entertaining. The ending felt like a sweeps week stunt; get Ricardo Montalban in the ring with a live bull for a big dramatic moment! Wasn’t really a “gotcha” in the sense that it proved anything about the murder though.
I also didn’t mind the “stereotypes” in this episode. OK, there was a guy who liked alcohol. There have been drunks in other Columbo episodes too. I’ll leave it to actual Mexican people to decide if it’s offensive or not.
Oh, the title of this episode is a pun, right? Please tell me it is (a “matador honor”).
I don’t think it’s comparable. Fishing is more straightforward and isn’t done in front of a jeering crowd. There are better ways of getting a beefburger.
You think the bull cares about the crowd? Talk about anthropomorphizing. Crowd or alone, it’s basically stabbing a bull to death over some time.
Fact is that hunting kills, fishing kills (by “drowning” them in air for quite some time at that!), boxing kills (by slowly causing brain damage over the course of years), as do numerous human endeavors, usually in what we would consider “torturous ways”.
Ever see a lion kill a gazelle? Not pretty either. Death is never “fun” or “nice” whether by sport or by nature.
Point it, it IS comparable, and all hunting and violent sport has to be seen through a similar lens as the human (and animal) nature to be cruel and vicious. Not that ANY of it is great, but bullfighting IS comparable to other hunting “sports”.
I dimly remembered this from seeing it in the 70s and wasn’t really looking forward to watching it again, but actually thought it was pretty good. Falk on great form. A bit disconcerting to see crowds of people gawping at the filming ! Emilio Fernandez’s ’walking stereotype’ here is a far cry from the unpleasant general he plays in the brilliant Wild Bunch. A couple of your photo captions had me laughing out loud.
You’re exactly right. I came to this blog to make sure I hadn’t missed something as the leap in logic and its concealment seemed too out-of-character for Columbo. Still enjoyable, and with some solid performances, but a weak part of the story arc for our beloved character.
Agreed: Columbo’s friendship with Sanchez is the best part of the episode. Sanchez reminds me of a cross between Tom Selleck and Father Guido Sarducci.
I’d classify this as a medium episode, because the setting is a little boring, and (as you point out) Montalbán is under-used. The man who played Khan could have been a much flashier villain here.
Montoya could have explained Rangel’s wanting to work on the books even though they had already finished them as Rangel wanting to re-check his work, or examine the recent numbers to look for trends.
I completely missed that Montoya couldn’t drive the Cadillac because of his leg. I thought he just liked to have a chauffeur for the Cadillac for his image, or didn’t want to take his best car on a cross-border road trip.
My friends and I were discussing how most “Columbo” villains pretend to be nice to Columbo in order to not look guilty, and even when they start to lose their patience with him, they can only get so mad at him because Columbo is a policeman with the authority of society behind him. But Montoya has little patience for Columbo, I think because he doesn’t believe in Columbo’s authority in Mexico; my friends think because Montoya comes from a more passionate culture than Columbo’s usual opponents.
I’m not offended by Miguel, who is an enjoyably crusty old rascal, but the folks involved in the accident pretending to have whiplash to swindle Columbo was depressing.
I was interested to see that “Columbo” was written in Japanese as “Koronbo” in that screenshot; I would have guessed “Koranbo” would be the spelling used. I think it would have been neat to see Columbo in Japan. This being the 1970s, it might have been stereotypical, with lame attempts at comedy involving excessive bowing, honour, and photography, but then again, it might have been cool and sophisticated, full of neon lights and motorcycles and cigarette-smoking yakuzas, like in “Black Rain” (1989).
When Montoya is wearing the dark brown shirt with the white pants his costume reminds me of James Burke in the original “Connections” series!
I found the stereotyping in Honor worse than in Immunity or Dagger but not unforgivably bad (for the 70s, at least) in any case. I do shudder to think what lines of poor taste a Japan-based episode might have crossed. Perhaps Hollywood would have been ready to properly tackle that setting in a 90s episode … but then that would require an actual budget.
At around 25:50 when Montoya demonstrates to Columbo how a bullfighter performs in the ring, you can see Montalban’s inexperience with the sword show when he doesn’t know how to handle the sword smoothly and stumbles towards the end Montoya doesn’t even finish his line.. that scene needed some seroius editing.
Savage review! I thought this was one of the best episodes in the entire of Columbo so far. The relationship with the very honest officer, the brilliant hiding of the motive until the end, and the unusual theme has made this one of my favourites.
I watched A matter of honor for the first in full last sunday for the first time in ages and thought it was a lot better than I previously considered there is a decent police investigation here and a solid cast I find it more preferable than dagger of the mind , last salute , Dead weight Murder under glass and miles better than Old fashioned murder which is very Dull and I even like it better than Requiem for a falling star Short fuse and Mind over mayhem, and the conspirators , but I wouldnt rate it near the top 20 seventies.
It’s hard not to look at these old shows through our current, 21st century “informed” lens. In the early 70’s, certain things weren’t acceptable by society: PTSD, impotence, fluid gender roles…so for a big reveal of Montoya’s inadequacies, this would have been very shocking from a cultural/societal perspective. I would even go so far to say that Montalban would have endorsed this at the time.
Not a fan of TV show episodes were a person is on vacation or out of their normal area of living (out of the country, on a cruise, etc.) and a murder happens that they just ‘happen’ to somehow get involved in to solve. Seems extremely unlikely a detective or murder mystery writer or anyone would be on vacation and while site-seeing they somehow solve a murder. Because of this… it is a good episode (although I didn’t really understand the motive), but this “vacation murder” was an issue with me.
Agree a lot with Duane Travis. What gets me is that Columbo is
way out of his jurisdiction yet Sanchez the Mexican policeman
lets Columbo wander off and conduct the murder investigation
alone without an escort. Surely Montalban as the suspect, could
have refused talking to Columbo and lodged a complaint.
It makes no sense.
It seems to me that the motive of a given murder is in direct proportion to how weak/compelling an episode is. In this episode, the motive is a man’s honor. Sorry, guys, that’s not an interesting enough reason. In Short Fuse, Uncle DL is going to squeal on weirdo Roger, so he’s gotta die. Again, meh. Conversely, when the motive is revenge on a rival, spouse or other family member…now that’s when I pop the corn and shut off my phone! It’s why the kinds of shows like Dateline and 48 hours are so popular. In the U.S. there are channels devoted to these real life crimes.
To me, what makes a good Columbo recipe is; Peter Falk, an intriguing crime, a deliciously diabolical bad guy, dripping with evil narcissism who can match wits and exchange veiled barbs with Columbo, a “gotcha” ending, and, of course, the delightful distraction of comedic extras (Vito Scotti, Larry Storch, Richard Stahl, Nina Talbot, Joyce Van Patton, etc. So, I guess as long as Peter Falk is in the show, I’ll watch it. The rest is gravy.
Sorry, I don’t understand why honor shouldn’t be an excellent motive for a murder in a television series. In real life, honor is a frequent motive for murder (not a good one! cause not any motive is good, and honor is the worst). It’s why some men kill the women who left them (and even their children), considering that being left dishonors them (and that the murder can restore their honor…). Also, it has taken centuries before European and American societies stopped having duels between men, for honor. (Some countries accepted duels until the beginning of the 20th century.) In international politics “eye-for-eye” is still today (and will still be tomorrow) an important motive for military action, to restore the honor of the country. Recent incidents between Iran and the U.S.A. showed how both countries, or their governments, looked how to restore their honor without escalation of the conflict.
In the Columbo TV-series, we have good and bad episodes in which the murderers kill for honor. In “Murder by the book”, Ken Franklin kills Jim Ferris because he doesn’t want to be discovered he cannot write. His status, his honor depends on it. In “Mind over Mayhem”, Dr Marshall Cahill kills Professor Howard Nicholson to protect the honor of his son, and his own (!). And what’s the motive in “The Most Dangerous Match”? Why does Emmett Clayton lie about the match they played at the restaurant? Why doesn’t he want it to be known? Honor is a bad motive, it’s the worst, but it’s a good one for a book or an episode in a TV-series.
Sounds like you haven’t seen many Westerns – unlike Columbo – or you wouldn’t be so upset over stereotypes, which leads to some serious 20/20 hindsight SJWism “When MAN walked on the moon” is a howler, at the time, Mexico didn’t even know how to build a car! This was also long before “identity” roles that have ruined modern movies. They didn’t need token females or blacks or homosexuals to soothe fragile snowflake egos, if they needlessly had to involve a love affair or female Mexican police woman, it would have made this episode EVEN LONGER, and God knows how much you hate that 😉
Looks like we smoked out a fragile white male.
What is wrong with the sound on this episode? In almost every scene, especially the outdoors ones, the background noises practically overwhelm the dialogue.
That’s like a columbo staple though, to have scenes with ridiculous background noise. Like on a boat with the engine going BRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR super loud the entire time, columbo shouting over the top of the railway construction crews, etc etc
The scene where Columbo and Sanchez share a coffee in the café
the background noise is too loud and ruins this scene which was one of the better scenes and there are some good interactions outdoor settings and solid performance’s and its no stinker but iIdon’t place anywhere near the top half of the seventies run.
I must agree with you, the reviewer/critic is clearly American with no Latin American roots.
I am Latin American, and on the 70’s that is pretty much how things were; it is stereotypical, but true! And the car insurance scene is very good in showing the real comparison btw the 2 countries; car in Latin American countries is a luxury goods, and insurances are very expensive and became popular and more affordable just on the past 15 to 20 years.
I found very superficial and even anachronistic to the reviewer to say that this episode has no strong female character to inspire the young latinas. But the reviewer don’t have knowledge even 101 on Latin American culture to know that it was very patriarchal with roles very well defined; and it is quite is still.
At least this episode has all actors with a hispanic background, contrary to the Case of Immunity middle eastern-ish episode. Although basically all the hispanic-descent cast has a quite perfect American accent.
it feels very anachronistic the way they criticize the episodes not having in mind it was other times and that was the norm and even the marginalized people would view and relate to themselves in a similar way.
For ex, if the reviewer is white, what I think they are, if they were alive in the 1700’s, they most likely would be slave owners and would have no guilty conscience at all!
I know you’re new to this site, but we stay away from personal judgements and speculations of those who are expressing their Columbo opinions. I also know that you have said that English is not your first language. Perhaps you expressed yourself inelegantly in your last paragraph, which likely comes across as insulting to many readers here.
I would prefer Short fuse and lovely but lethal to this any day even though they are poor episodes .
I retract my statement , I prefer it to Short fuse Not sure about lovely but lethal as its centuries since I scene it in full and Vera miles was both beautiful and good acting along with a top cast but a matter of honour is a tonne better than Old fashioned murder which I watched last Sunday and i never enjoy it its plain dull and the ending is weak .
And one other thing troubled me, just as an outsider. The first question I would have asked is why an old man like Hector would even fight a bull. If he wanted to protect his son, why not just shoot the bull with a rifle. Bullfighting when pushing 60 doesn’t seem like something any prudent man would do. Now there might be reasonable rebuttals, given a different culture, but I thought Columbo should have raised this issue being he was an outsider like myself.
That was one of the first things that bothered me. It’s as if the only way to kill a bull is to fight it in the ring under bullfighting rules. And as if the only way to get rid of it is to kill it. Like they couldn’t have just sold ol’ Marinaro for mucho dinero and shipped him off to stud somewhere, far away.
Hey Rgarella,that’s a great point. They should have immediately sold Marinaro to prevent Curro from fighting him again.
Thinking on this episode, it still seems to me that most are downplaying too much the impact of Hector saying Montoya was brave in the original incident. That has to totally undercut the fear motive argument. Who else was there?
Hector’s motivation for leaving also seems opaque to me. Keeping the fact of Montoya’s freezing a secret until the ending didn’t allow any exploration of what Hector was really thinking, and so it becomes fill in the blank guesswork.
There was an easier way out for Montoya. Why not wait until everyone is gone and then kill the bull in the ring. Montoya could tranquilize it and then kill it matador style with a sword. Who would know? There would be no autopsy on a bull. His stated reason would be to make certain the bull wasn’t around for Curro to challenge when he got back on his feet. The upside is this isn’t even a crime.
I admit I don’t know anything really about the macho pride of this culture, and some who do know more than I find Montoya’s motivation plausible. Okay. Granting that, I can understand that killing a bull without giving it a fighting chance might be viewed as dishonorable, but for an outsider it is still difficult to understand why this wouldn’t be preferable to the cold-blooded murder of an old friend.
I’ve never considered that, but you’re right. Killing Marinaro in front of no witnesses would have worked well. He could then have buried the hatchet with Hector, retain his honour and all could be best pals again!
Ricardo Montalban was so frustrated by the plight of Latino actors in Hollywood that he founded the Nostrosos Foundation in 1970 to advocate for Latino actors and to challenge the portrayals of Mexicans as caricatures. His foundation also provided support for Latino theater in LA. The Foundation bought a movie palace in that city where the are stage productions, awards ceremonies, and film festivals devoted to work by Latinos. That venue is now named the Ricardo Montalban theater.
I highly recommend two films starring Montalban, Border Incident (1949) directed by Anthony Mann and Mystery Street (1950) directed by John Sturges. Both are highly-regarded films in the noir oeuvre, especially for their cinematography by the noir master John Alton. They’re low budget but that never stopped Alton from making them look great.
Brush with fame: I once engineered a radio commercial recording featuring his brother Carlos Montalban. Carlos wasn’t as successful but he had a steady career in film and TV. Americans of a certain age may recall him in coffee commercials playing the character “El Exigente.”
I don’t think you understand what’s going on, when did Hector say Montoya was brave? The reason Hector was leaving, was because he SEEN Montoya’s fear, and Montoya couldn’t have another man knowing that, what in the world of Haystack Colhoun was have killing been the point of killing the bull, this is about Hector, not the bull!
Bill S–The first scene has Montoya watching the old bull ring footage when, a ranch hand comes in and asks about Curro. After Montoya explains that he will be all right, the ranch hand says “Hector told us what you did Matador. It was a brave thing.”
I think this made the important point that Hector was going to cover for Montoya about this incident. Montoya himself brought up killing the bull with Hector which is why Hector was in the ring to be murdered.
So the murder is of someone who saw Montoya’s fear but was not going to talk. So why the murder? Was Montoya worried that Hector might change his mind and talk in the future? It had to be to protect a public image because Montoya would always know he froze.
I think the idea is his ego couldn’t handle someone seeing him as less then he believed himself to be.
I watched the episode again, and while I still have lots of issues with it, I think the review is a little harsh in labeling Columbo’s conclusion that Montoya froze facing the bull a “deductive leap.” First, the importance to Montoya of his reputation for unwavering courage in the bullring is brought up throughout the episode:
Sanchez: “[Y]ou don’t understand the temperament of a matador. You see, they must be proud, brave, they must have honor. It’s called ‘puro honor.’ Without it, you’re nothing.”
On Montoya’s choice of car for his trip to San Diego: “Is Montoya a vain man?” “Oh, yes.” “Is he concerned with his public image?” “Absolutely.”
On Montoya’s legendary status in Mexico: “He’s known throughout the country as the bravest of the brave, and this man likes the glory that surrounds him.”
Even his possible loss of courage is mentioned. After Montoya describes his “last fight”: “Well, that must’ve taken a lot of courage, sir.” “Well, it would be a difficult thing to do now, with this leg.”
And Columbo foreshadows his conclusion with: “I’ll tell you the truth, I got a crazy notion I know why Rangel was killed. … Trouble is, I don’t think anybody’s gonna believe me.” Why not? Because everyone in Mexico accepts that Montoya remains the “bravest of the brave.”
Then there’s the evidence of the splintered lance in the practice ring. We’re told that a lance is used in the field, not in the bullring. (“No one uses a lance in the ring.”) And we know Hector was carrying it on the day Curro fought the bull — but never would have brought it into the ring if, in fact, Montoya was diverting the bull while Hector dragged Curro out. He only would have brought it in if his role and Montoya’s were reversed. So something must have prevented Montoya from facing the bull himself.
Nor do I think the script was suggesting that Columbo was “seeing into the very soul of the killer in a way that no one else could.” If anything, it was suggesting that Columbo, because he was not blinded by the local aura surrounding a matador, was willing to see what the others simply (and perhaps irrationally) refused to believe.
Finally, Montoya’s freezing in the ring at the episode’s end, in my view, cannot be so easily explained away as the review suggests (“he could always say he was standing still to prevent attracting the bull’s attention”). Even after the bull has been diverted out of the ring, Montoya remains frozen. He’s almost catatonic as the two men try to lead him from the ring. Obviously, this was no strategic ruse.
I agree 100% that even this is not proof of murder — and am equally amazed that Montoya would submit to arrest on this basis. Perhaps he was surrendering less to a murder charge and more to the loss of his legendary status.
Richard, you’ve curiously omitted one of the most dramatic and telling moments in “A Matter of Honor” that led Columbo to deduce Montoya’s motive for the murder of Hector Rangel in your otherwise thorough analysis. During one of Columbo’s visits to Montoya’s ranch, Columbo inquires how Montoya sustained his permanent leg injury. Montoya tells Columbo about one of the most important and career defining events in his life. It happened at a bullfight at the Plaza de Toros, Mexico and it was there that Montoya sustained the injury that ended his career. Ironically, it was not even Montoya’s bullfight. He received his injury from the bull while rescuing a young matador who was gored during the bullfight. Montoya tells Columbo: “The people loved it. They stood up and gave me an electrifying ovation.” This supreme event in Montoya’s life was, in a way, replayed at the start of this episode, when the opportunity came to rescue Curro, who was gored by Marinaro—but this time with humiliating results, in a stunning reversal of fortune.
I agree that this was one of the weaker episodes. The motive for murder was pretty weak, the whole gotcha was pretty weak, the ranch hand deciding he had to quit and leave because Ricardo Montalban flinched was just silly. I’d rank this with “A Case of Immunity” as one of the weaker episodes.
A case of immunity is far from a top tier columbo , but its twice as enjoyable as this episode , Murder under glass , Old fashioned murder, Dagger of the mind , requiem for a Falling star and mind over mayhem and of course last salute to the commodore I consider the weakest of the 70s .
I find this perhaps the poorest written of any episode. It is entertaining for me because of the cast and the colorful Mexican setting. Aside-I had no problem with Emilio Fernandez’s character. Seemed realistic for an old ranch hand to drink on down time.
One big issue for me would be how Montoya could calibrate exactly that the drug would render Hector woozy enough to be lurching helplessly about, but not in enough control to simply drop to the ground and play dead. Off what they said about bulls (and I have no personal knowledge), the bull would probably have then left him alone.
And Montoya’s motive was certainly a stretch. The opening scene showed a hired hand telling Montoya “Hector told us what you did. It was very brave.” which indicates Hector was not going to expose his old friend. So why the murder? Does it make that much difference if one person who won’t talk knows?
And then they top it off by never proving a murder. Was any evidence given which put Montoya at the scene? A needle prick might raise suspicions but is not proof of anything. Montoya “freezing” at the climax could be explained away by him as just not wanting to kill a valuable bull, and so electing not to move until the bull was diverted. But anyway, freezing then didn’t prove he froze earlier. Why would be the proof that he behaved bravely when another person’s life was in danger? Well, Hector’s statement. How would Columbo’s speculation stand up against testimony from the hired hands that Hector himself told a different story.
So an interesting watch due to Montalban and the others, but a flop script.
I can’t entirely agree that until this season Columbo was not a ‘dominant force with his fellow officers.’ I particularly remember Season 2’s ‘The Most Crucial Game’. When Columbo arrives at Eric Wagner’s house he fires off a stream of orders: “I want photographs, prints, the works. The decking, all round here. What’s your name? I’ll leave you in charge of that.” And you can damn well bet all that stuff would have to be on Columbo’s desk first thing the next morning or there would be trouble, Sunday or not.
I think your dismissal of Montoya’s motive is also a bit mistaken. I’ve lived in Portugal for nearly 15 years. I know it’s not Spain or Mexico but believe me, keeping your dignity, outward appearances and personal reputation are deeply important here. It’s what the ancient Romans called ‘gravitas’ and ‘dignitas’. I can quite believe why Montoya had to prevent Hector from leaving him after so many years – people would be bound to wonder why, and the truth would have come out.
I am wondering…
Do you think Montoya might actually have slipped into insanity? Perhaps because of the injury? Or because he was “old”?
Ricardo Montalban was 54 or 55 at the time of filming, which is listed as the compulsory retirement age for matador in Spain. (I don’t know about Mexico.) I think it is possible that Montoya, approaching the end of his career, started doubting himself. That could be literally the kiss of death for a matador as he obsessed on the loss of his skills.
The freezing up in the ring was hid own final proof. He could no longer live with himself unless he destroyed the witness to.it.
He could still be a functional person, but the madness in his head would eventually take over.
I would not be surprised if Montoya was acquitted in court because of insanity (he might just be sitting in a prison cell, refusing to eat or drink, until it was forced on him) and confined to a mental institution.
I actually saw a bullfighting afternoon in Mexico City a ew months before A Matter of Honor aired. My impression is that bullfighting enthusiasts regard having the bull die in the ring is a matter of significant honor–for the bull. He goes down fighting and, you never know, might take out the matador in the fight. The last bull killed that afternoon was a very fine fighter. When the horses dragged his carcass from the ring, someone in the ring held up a sign which translated as “Slowly,” giving the crowd more time to salute the bull.
Its been a long time since I watched a matter of honor in Full, I have watched the ending on You tube 4 or 5 times , If I was to watch it again which seems something I never willingly do I think it might be better than from what I recall , but while I enjoyed the review I Just cant say the same for the episode , sorry I just dont enjoy this episode, me and my dad love columbo but often have avoided this one , some of the clues I cant understand , the chemistry of the murderer and lack of humor and i cant truthfully say its a great ending sorry I just dont like this one ,however I would rate it ahead of Last salute to the commodore and Dagger of the mind , that is all I say on it , Looking forward to a much more enjoyable outing ( for me anyhow ) in next review Now you see him .
Another fantastic analysis by Columbophile, of a somewhat mediocre episode. Kudos, again!
I adore stories that highlight ethnic or gender related stereotypical behavior. The “mucho dinero” scene was priceless, when the occupants of the car he hit saw that Columbo was a “gringo”, while they acted like they had whiplash or even broken necks. The local caballeros’ penchant for guzzling free Mezcal was also spot on.
Most people brought up during the classic Columbo-era remember Ricardo Montalban as the curiously non-stereotypically named “Mr. Roarke” from the truly dreadful “Fantasy Island” television series (where aging, washed up actors found a second chance for face time on Friday nights)…..as well as those glorious car commercials for the Chrysler Cordoba, most notably his warm regard for the fine “Corinthian leather” that graced the car’s interior…pronounced “Ko-reen-thee-uhn leah-thorr”. Classic!
Nowadays Columbo would never have made it out of Old Mexico (…you mean there’s a “New” Mexico?). The cartels/gangs that inhabit that 3rd world haven would have disemboweled and dismembered him immediately after robbing him post-fender bender, and under no circumstances would he ever have made it to a corrupt, rich land owner like Sr. Montoya’s ranch alive. No, indeed. It would have been adios, Columbo!
I would suggest that people are not naturally predisposed to murder, and the traditional Columbo “cream of the crop” killer would be inclined to self sabotage. This concept would allow the producers all kinds of leeway in closing the case.
Please let me mention that Columbo is playing every morning in the United States on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, and they have cycled to the beginning today. This might draw people to the Columbophile, and the investment in early season reviews should pay off.
A word about the old vaquero with the mescal, Emilio Fernandez. Known to Sam Peckinpah fans as General Mapache in The Wild Bunch. An prolific filmmaker, director, writer and actor, regarded as “Mexico’s John Huston.” He also used to claim he was the original model of the Oscar statue, having originally come to Hollywood in the 1920’s as a bodybuilder.
What a fun fact! Thanks for the comment. I must admit that I didn’t do any background reading on dear Emilio.
He also played a role in Peckinpahs’ “Bring me the Head of Alfredo García”
I am not seeing “Murder Under Glass” on this list?! Why not?
I haven’t reviewed it yet. I’m working through them chronologically.
I think you’re doing well on reviewing the “ Columbo “ Series. It’s my absolute favourite show; as he wears the exact same suit and shirt + the trademark “ rumbled rain coat”
Thank you :).
Yes, please write them in a chronological order, please:).
We certainly enjoy reviewing your episodes. :).
Your, opinion of “ Matter if Honour “ on Colombo Series, is outlandish!
I find this “ out of the USA, to be most interesting in many ways.
Colombo used his same spiel in his episodes to make certain that the true killer will indeed show himself at the end; in which the conclusion of Matter of Honour “ was performed !
With gaiety, and in a bit of a “ fender bender”; there upon meeting the Chief of Police as Colombo shows his LAPD Badge .. All is now on better terms.
Then, as he is being taken to his Hotel, a call on the Police Radio comes in & Colombo comes along to view the tragedy.
This is when “ The Great Colombo “ comes into play !
Par excellence, indeed.
I don’t quite think you truly appreciate the curiosity of Colombo. My Opinion !
I very much agree with you. I thought the mystery of the murder and the clues uncovered by Columbo were superb. I like a good mystery presentation as opposed to a great “gotcha.”
I also don’t understand how a movie buff of the intelligence of the writer of Columbophile could miss the presence of Emilio Fernandez.
But the again I disagree with Columbophile on Blueprint for Murder, Identity Crisis, and By Dawn’s Early Light also.
I am more attracted to the mystery and the unraveling of it than the final scene.
I am not, and do not claim to be, a movie buff, so am unfamiliar with Emilio’s work. I, too, like to see a mystery unravelled well, but Columbo deducing Montoya froze in the ring isn’t an example of him unpicking the evidence – it’s a massive leap, and none of the evidence he’s amassed warrants him reaching that conclusion.
Because Columbo is an inverted mystery, there is never a “mystery of the murder.” Likewise, because Columbo is all about how the murderer gets caught, the “gotcha” will always have principal importance. The amassing of clues prior to the “gotcha” is interesting and leads to some terrific exchanges between Columbo and the murderer, but these clues are never of primary interest — because these clues can always be explained away (some more easily than others). What makes the “gotcha” special is that it can’t be explained away. It defies an innocent explanation. Hence, it traps the murderer conclusively.
Granted, some Columbo “gotchas” are better than others. But to discount the importance of the “gotcha” is to reject the essential structure of almost every Columbo.
My friends and I were talking about episodes where Columbo doesn’t necessarily prove that the murderer did it.
(For example, in the gotcha of “The Most Dangerous Match,” he only proves that the killer had to be deaf or hard of hearing to not notice the garburator had turned itself off—but not that it was Clayton.)
And we concluded that there are two answers to that:
1. It’s the final clue plus the weight of all the other clues combined that make it hard for the murderer to stick to his story. (In “Match,” there’s the toothbrush, the mismatching stationery for the note, Clayton’s pen, his probable memorisation of the medications, the game at the restaurant that Dudek recorded in his log and Clayton lied about winning, and the trash compactor.)
2. The show isn’t really about proving the crime so much as it is a psychological battle between Columbo and the murderer. In that sense, it doesn’t matter whether Columbo proves anything, only whether he breaks down his opponent’s spirit. (In this regard it’s different from “Murder, She Wrote,” in that when the murderer tries to tell Mrs. Fletcher “OK, so I lied about stuff. That still doesn’t prove I was the killer!” she always has an answer, some final proof that it had to be that person.)
That’s why you have to have a good guest star, someone you want to see butt heads with Columbo.
I’m intrigued by your observation about the feel of the writing. Brad Radnitz joins the list of Columbo writers with one script to his credit. That’s always a warning sign (although there are some notable exceptions). Was a Mexican bullfighting story Brad’s idea? Did he have a special affinity for this subject matter? Or was this something that, as the saying goes, “seemed like a good idea at the time”? I’d be more forgiving if the episode’s creator was writing about a world he knew well.
And why was Hector so unforgiving of Montoya’s sudden fright? Montoya didn’t cause Curro’s injury; Montoya froze trying to rescue him. Is this a reason for Hector to pack up and leave? The shattered stereotype of the fearless matador seems as much Hector’s meshugas as it was Montoya’s.
Finally, are certain cars really harder on the legs than others? Is it power brakes versus pneumatic brakes? It’s all very vague here. They should have made it clear that Montoya’s left leg was the one injured, and that the Ford had an automatic transmission. No left leg needed. That would have made more sense.
I agree that this is one of the worst endings in all of Columbo, but surprisingly, not for the reasons you suggest. Given all the circumstantial evidence Columbo had amassed that Montoya killed Hector, and having it come on the heels of Curro’s wounding, I don’t think it was such a stretch for Columbo to reach the conclusion he reached, once he learned about the whole “matter of honor” with bullfighters. I also don’t think it is a stretch to think it would happen again, because I believe they mention in the episode that he froze because of his leg injury and the realization that he no longer was qualified to fight and escape a bull’s wrath. Who the audience was mattered little, as this was a physical reality-based fear, not a psychological one.
What makes the ending ridiculous to me is Montoya’s reaction. Number one, how could Montoya be such a genius as to figure out instantaneously what Columbo was trying to prove with this incident and how it was supposed to prove that he killed Hector. Even more mind-boggling is the fact that he would meekly show Columbo respect and walk to the arrest car. Not only did he read Columbo’s mind, but even before he explained his “proof” to Sanchez, let alone proved his case in court, this life-long heroic fighter would just give up and admit his guilt, without even attempting to argue his innocence and that all this proves nothing? THAT is nonsensical to me. Having a gotcha ending that has to be explained for 5 minutes, and having the murderer admit and give up before the police explanation against him was even laid out is beyond preposterous to me.
The inexplicable surrender is all too frequent. Is it supposed to convince the audience that a tepid “Gotcha” is much more clever than it appears? “Well, if it was good enough for the killer, who am I to complain?” I don’t fault the script if the killer fails to invoke a remote flaw in Columbo’s solution (that took us several viewings to notice). But sometimes the hole is gaping, and the murderer submits (or, worse still, confesses) nonetheless.
The one that comes to mind immediately is “Murder with Too Many Notes.” The Gotcha-less Columbo.
Read the review , I haven’t watched it in full for about 15 years ( probably because I just dont like this episode ) but i remember the majority of it , relieved to see it right down there because this is for me the most boring and unenjoyable episodes of the seventies , i would even place it lower than the awful mind over mayhem , whether or not its worse than Dagger i will have to sleep on it , I Know next to nothing about bullfighting or never been to mexico so maybe that could be some of the reason , I just dont think the nature of a matter of honor suits most people certainly , certainly not me .
No mention of Jorge Rivero (RIO LOBO) as the muscular car washer, thrown away on one scene. I agree it’s never been a favorite but like “A Case of Immunity” I found it far more agreeable this time. Yes, if Hector was supposed to drive the convertible in the afternoon then why did Montoya order the hardtop in the morning? This item never came up in the climax, and despite the wordless exchange between killer and cop I still enjoyed it.
The most boring episode of the 70’s series.
I think the likes of Old Fashioned Murder and Dead Weight are more tedious, but given the bullfighting backdrop you’d think this would be a bit more exciting, certainly.
Yes. Old Fashioned was also quite dull, but for some reason i (kind of) liked Dead Weight. I don’t know if it’s the super corny dinner date scene or the fact Eddie Albert was on the fantastic Green Acres series. Anyway great job on this website.
For the record I should add that I don’t dislike Dead Weight, but it’s rather pedestrian by Columbo standards with no really exciting or memorable moments. Pleshette was excellent, though.
Old fashioned Murder Is Very Dull and boring , I dont Dislike dead weight, but I place very low in the 70s , Given choice i would still watch either episode ahead of A matter of Honor as for dagger of the mind I dont know it such a silly episode its hard to compare it with other poor episodes. I liked the review , I know mind over mayhem was poor and I IDont rate it by any means but I would prefer to a matter of honor . were anticipating Next review Now you See him with Jack cassidy to Fair much better .
Much better indeed, Cassidy & Culp are the perfect Columbo murderers….
“Old Fashioned Murder” is coming up next (this) weekend on MeTV. I remember it being a little on the dry and boring side the first time I saw it, but that was before I got as excited about “Columbo” as I am now. I’m looking forward to giving it another chance, especially knowing in advance what to expect and how much I’ll have to look for things to like about it. 🙂
What has been lost in time, IMO, is that the NBC Mystery Movie series was originally a five year commitment. Although I have no knowledge about McCloud, I have read that Rock Hudson wasn’t thrilled about continuing beyond season 5, and Universal was running a hard line regarding renewal payments. This is part of why Susan Saint James, John Shuck and Nancy Walker left, and season 6 was titled “McMillan”.
The effect on Columbo season 5 was, again IMO, the Columbo “brain trust” becoming more self indulgent on their “final season”. This let them make sure they got a paid for Mexican vacation, and made episodes that they wanted to make. If you picture “Last Salute To The Commodore” as a series finale, then that helps explain the Ten Little Indians conclusion, the This Old Man musical overload, and Columbo rowing across the harbor at the conclusion.
I think you’re right. Season 5 was initially intended to be the Columbo finale, with him rowing off into the ‘sunset’ at the end. Sometime before Last Salute was filmed they evidently secured Peter for a sixth season, so could alter the script to include the ‘not quitting yet’ dialogue. I’ve heard that there was much speculation in the press that this would be the end, with Falk’s agent even saying that the star was definitely quitting. I’m guessing a hefty pay rise convinced him otherwise!
This is another one of the Columbo must be psychic episodes. There was no reason for him to suspect anything was fishy. In the well written episodes there was usually a huge red flag at the murder scene.
It’s the loose ends, as usual. One tiny loose end leads to another, and Columbo doesn’t stop until he reaches the end.
RE-posted on twitter @trefology
Very enjoyable review. However, your opinion regarding the cliche-tastic emulation are, well, cliche-tastic. Anyone who has been involved in Latin American culture, I.e they’ve engaged the locals outside of Sandals Resorts or Princess Cruise Lines, what easily recognized why stereotypes and cliches exist– they portray a reality even if that reality is a bit hyperbolized. Sorry, a matter of Honor doesn’t fit the stereotypes of your liberal, history-rewriting textbooks.
I haven’t read any liberal, history-rewriting textbooks. The cliches here are as heavy-handed as the British ones in Dagger of the Mind. Hyperbolised or not, they still grate with me.
Superb analysis, thank you Columbophile. It’s no coincidence that this episode is ranked lowly by many Columbo fans, the many reasons for which you outline in detail here. The ‘deductive leap’ you reference is a case in point. Yes, Columbo is perceptive and has the measure of his quarry time and again, but there’s nothing in Montoya’s actions that would suggest for a moment that he’d freeze in fear in the ring and no evidence to suggest so either, other than a hunch, so it’s deeply unsatisfying. Like you, I’d have rather seen the amazing talent of Montalban put to better, less clichéd, use. A missed opportunity.
Thank you Columbophile,for your eloborate review again. As always I read it with great interest. This time however I disagree with you on so many points that it will take almost an entirely new review to point them all out. When I have some more time I’ll try to elaborate. No offense, because you know how much I appreciate your work (!) but for me you’re doing this episode a great injustice. Hopefully to be continued.
Hi David, please email me to discuss further email@example.com. There could be mileage in a ‘second opinion’ article here.
I’m sorry I didn’t get to mail you, but I simply can’t seem to find the time to write such a second opnion. But would have loved to, so thank you for the offer!
I would have it above Short Fuse and Lovely But Lethal, but I agree with most aspects of your review. This could have been a decent episode but the conclusion is terrible. … Also, hate to play the role of grammar guy, but it’s unfazed. Unphased would be more like not going through a phase.