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5 best moments from Columbo Double Exposure

Columbo Chuck McGann
SPOILER: Roger White’s open shirt is NOT an episode highlight

Few episodes in TV history are as entertaining as Double Exposure, which features some of the greatest cat-and-mouse interchanges between hero and villain ever written.

Bobby Culp’s 70s’ Columbo farewell (he would return in a small role in 1990’s Columbo Goes to College) is so good that it makes choosing only 5 episode highlights a blockbuster challenge. But after extensive consideration (and some subliminal messaging), I’ve given it my best shot – just like Mr Dr Keppell slaying damp lump Vic Norris.

So for your reading pleasure, here are my 5 best moments from Double Exposure. Yours may be quite different, so do let me know your thoughts on the episode’s greatest hits in the comments section below!

“Few episodes in TV history are as entertaining as Double Exposure.”

5. The supermarket style icon

Columbo Double Exposure Robert Culp yellow jacket
Sitting in pumpkins never seemed so SEXY!

I’ve never seen anyone in a supermarket who looks as effortlessly cool as Dr Bart Keppell does in Double Exposure. The motivational research specialist is testing some cameras out to examine shopper habits when Columbo comes to visit. While there are some great exchanges between the two, it’s Keppell’s rocking wardrobe that steals the scene.

The dark blue flared jeans and light blue collared shirt are rad enough in their own right, but throw in a sensational yellow jacket and you have a look that turns heads and stops hearts. Culp looks HOT as Hell in the smouldering item, which is believed to be an item from his own wardrobe that he also sported on-screen at other times – including on game show What’s My Line? in 1972, when he appeared as a Keppell / Hanlon / Brimmer hybrid!

Not convinced? Then how do you explain the picture below, hmmmmmm?

Robert Culp what's my line
It’s three Columbo killers in one!

4. A stunning realisation

Columbo Double Exposure

Right after Columbo catches Keppell red-handedly removing a calibrator converter from his office lamp, the detective starts explaining himself to the shell-shocked villain.

Admitting his admiration for the cleverness of using a converter, and for the method of hiding it, Columbo says: “Doc I would have sworn you had a gun hidden in here, and I was trying to smoke you out – but I never figured on this.” It’s then that the awful realisation dawns on Keppell. “Subliminal cut! You used a subliminal cut!” he gasps as he finally computes what drove him to his actions.

The sudden shock and awe is perfectly performed by Culp, while the viewer can revel in one of the biggest table-turns in the show’s proud history. Epic!

3. Who’s playing whom?

I’ve already mentioned how I heart the cat-and-mouse interplay between the leads, and it’s especially enjoyable because both are at it! That’s never better exemplified than in the scenes following Roger White’s killing, when Columbo tries to smoke out the dastardly Doc by asking him to accompany him to the scene of the crime.

We know and Keppel knows that Columbo is trying to catch him out. “Alright Lieutenant, I’ll play,” he says with a smirk a mile wide. More fun follows. Columbo doesn’t tell Keppel where the murder took place. So when the Doctor agrees to drive them both to the crime scene, he sits waiting at the foot of the car park ramp.

“Right or left? ” he asks, like butter wouldn’t melt! “You didn’t tell me where the murder was committed, Lieutenant, so I couldn’t possibly know how to get there, could I?” When Columbo indicates right, Keppel says: “Nice try, though,” to which a wry Columbo responds: “Can’t win ’em all.”

This is a battle of wits that both are taking pleasure from. It’s so enjoyable to watch. In fact it’s the best example of ‘we both know I did it but you’ll never prove it’ interplay since Prescription: Murder. View it yourself below!

2. The ice-cold killing

While a caviar-stuffed Vic Norris is a sweaty mess in the boiling cinema screening, Keppell is keeping his cool. He’s already slipped out of the theatre, leaving a TAPE RECORDER to narrate the motivational film in his lieu, and is watching monitors in his office with interest to see when thirsty Vic will gallop out for a cool drink.

He doesn’t have long to wait. As tubby Vic quenches his thirst Keppell enters stage left, guns his foe down and sweeps out of the lobby without losing a beat. Remind yourself of the excellence of the scene below.

Culp looks movie-star cool when pulling the trigger! It’s excellent work from director Richard Quine, who’s helming his third Columbo episode here after previously heading up Requiem for a Falling Star and Dagger of the Mind. This is his finest Columbo hour by a distance.

1. A good walk spoiled?

As can be seen, there’s a lot of competition in this episode but my personal highlight plays out on the fairways of the golf club, where Columbo repeatedly puts Keppell off his game with a series of revelations.

Columbo doesn’t just annoy Keppell – he properly rattles him for the first time when he tells him that none of Norris’s entourage can positively confirm that Keppell was plainly visible at the front of the auditorium when Norris was slain.

As he chops the ball all over the course, Keppel shows his true colours by openly cheating, flinging his ball out from beside a tree to play it more easily. Anyone who plays golf will know that those who break the game’s moral code absolutely cannot be trusted. For all his sense of superiority, Keppell is amongst the lowest of the low.

Recovering from his shock, Keppell finally hits a good one up to the green. “For a while there I thought I was going to spoil your game,” says Columbo. “Not a chance Lieutenant,” the now-chipper Keppell clucks as he turns his heel on the detective.

It’s been a high-stakes game between Columbo and Keppel all the way and despite a wobble here it looks like Keppell firmly has the upper hand once again. His downfall, when it comes, will be extra sweet because of it.

As an aside, Culp’s rather jerky swing suggests he’s not much of a golfer in real life, although compared to John Cassavetes’ robotic conducting skillz in Etude in Black, he’s friggin’ Tiger Woods.

“Anyone who plays golf will know that those who break the moral code of the game absolutely cannot be trusted.”

What, no gotcha?

Some readers actually wept when I didn’t include Double Exposure‘s gotcha in my list of top 10 Columbo gotchas, but it’s a decision I stand by.

How Columbo outsmarts Keppell is masterful, using his subliminal cuts technique to outfox his foe. But the actual reveal, with the police photographer snapping the guilty Keppell with calibrator converter in hand, has always bothered me.

My beef is that they’e so poorly hidden, beside rather than behind a potted plant. Keppell is on high alert, so there’s no way he wouldn’t have seen or sensed Columbo and his buddy when he blew into his office.

Worst. Hiding place. Everrrrrr…

So it’s not a massive bugbear, but enough to dock an otherwise superb ending a few points!

I’d love to hear your hot takes on the episode highlights, so bust me a comment below. You can also discuss this episode (and any other) on the new Columbo forum on this site.

And finally, if you want to dissect this episode in greater depth, visit my full episode review right here!

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Columbo Roger White
Roger White’s hair is also NOT an episode highlight…
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33 thoughts on “5 best moments from Columbo Double Exposure

  1. I have to say, I love just about every episode of Columbo, but this one is my favorite. Columbo has him pegged from basically the beginning. But in a twist, Keppel KNOWS that Columbo knows it’s him. Every exchange from the supermarket scene on is a verbal one-upsmanship between the two. The music is great, Culp really gets to show off his character’s intelligence and smarmy charm.

    The dialogue between the two is brilliant. Never has a murder been so openly brazen. Ray Flemming is in second place. While both characters shared interplay, Flemming attempted to get Columbo removed from the case. Keppel never bothered, so sure was he that Columbo would never prove he did it. Even at the end, when Keppel admits defeat, He can’t stop gloating over the fact that Columbo had to use Keppel’s own methods against him.

    I also like that we do see a second layer to Keppel. After Roger White blackmails him, you do see Keppel drop his mask just slightly, and tip off the audience that while he may not want to, he’s going to have to kill Roger to make sure his secret stays safe.

    Culp has played fantastic killers, but Bart Keppel, and this episode in its entirety, is my favorite of them all. Are there better episodes? Yes. But we all have that favorite one. One that we pick above all others. This is mine. My only regret is it’s one of the shorter run-time episodes. Would have loved to have seen this episode as one of the longer format ones.

  2. I would nominate as top-5 moment this exchange between Columbo and the victim’s wife:

    Can anyone confirm that?
    No one at all?
    Nobody at all, which means that I don’t have what you call an alibi.
    Yes, you do, Mrs. Norris. You were at the corner of Valley and Magnolia.
    With nobody to prove it.
    I didn’t say you had a good alibi, but you do have an alibi.
    Lieutenant, I didn’t kill my husband.
    I believe that.
    You do?
    Yes, ma’am.
    My wife’s got no head for crime. We go to those whodunit movies, she always picks the wrong murderer. I want to tell you something. If my wife decided to murder me, she could come up with a better alibi than you got.

  3. Does anyone remember the early 70’s (1973 to be exact) Mad Magazine Columbo parody “Clodumbo”….it portrayed Robert Culp as Dr. Robert Culpable. I remember me and my friends (age 12 at the time) having it. Wish I had it still, would have been a great keepsake.

  4. I wish I had a recording of the production music from that film. It hustles and bustles well, goes dry and parched, then comes crashing through the screen on a rocket. Anything you say to that music would sound impressive, and Culp has some talent as a…narrator.

  5. Great post Columbophile Double Exposure is jam packed with goodness ,a Double murder , A repeat killer in culp along with a great cast good alibi and a few funny moments thrown in also definetley one of the best overall .

    Old Fashioned murders review will be out soon and I just cant compare these 2 episodes in terms of quality , Its not that I hate OFM but its just so plodding , Killer is so dull , it drags and just lacks memorable scenes funny and stand out moments all the things that made dead weight such a forgettable episode , I would put dead weight 1 or 2 places above this . What the house really needs is a big hitter a heavyweight , an episode that will go right up the current table as we haven’t had one since now you see him was reviewed but were expecting the Bye- Bye sky high IQ Murder to just that which as we all Know is Columbophile s Absolute favorite , my own is Try And Catch me ,
    Not too long to wait now creeping closer to having all of the seventies fully reviewed.

  6. Yes. All the photos shown taken by Milt and Columbo were in the main part of the room. Culp was on a mission/ a bee-line to one of those locations, as the subliminal cuts were having the intended effect. To pick on the lack of concealment of Columbo and Milt totally misses this critical point. That they were not well-hidden only underscores how badly Keppel was had.

  7. About the gotcha — Were we expected to believe that Columbo’s subliminal cuts so affected Dr. Keppell’s subconscious mind that he was rendered oblivious to anything else? That Columbo and the photographer could have been standing in open view and Keppell, propelled by his subconscious, would have paid no attention to them? That’s the only explanation I can imagine for the way the final scene was shot (particularly as it would have been relatively easy to conceal the two men more carefully).

  8. Double Exposure is a great episode. Who can resist the fake, phony movie Culp narrates? It’s just like the real to reel films we watched in class as kids back in gradeschool. But the ending is especially revealing for me. I’ve seen the episode numerous times. It wasn’t until the incredibly sharp picture of an HD tv that I notice something. When Keppell takes the slide and turns to the camera laughing to himself, the smallest little tear rolls down his cheek. It was probably more than 20 years before I actually saw that tear. The old tv sets just don’t have the clarity.

  9. I loved this episodes cat and mouse foreplay with Robert Culp as all his appearances in the Columbo series. He along with Patrick McGoohan and Jack Cassidy are my favorite reappearing villains. Honorable mention to Abigail Mitchell character and George Hamilton. I can watch and re-watch over and over. I know, lame but they’re so entertaining.

  10. Hello columbophile , great post ,
    I like double exposure its for me culp s best ahead of Death lends a Hand and The most crucial game in third , coincidentally it was on 5 USA yesterday.

    I have noticed columbo and snapper jumping out from behind the plant pot is just a bit too flimsily done and could have been improved as a cool and clever killer like Dr keppell would have sensed danger so I tend to agree on it being outside the top 10 gotchas , great episode though , as good as it is it still falls just outside my top 10 seventies but its definitely in my top 20.

  11. I would have guessed that Columbophile would have included the scene where Columbo accepts Mrs. Norris’s alibi. The warmth and humor of Columbo coming forth in one brief exchange.

  12. I love the way that Dr Keppel refuses to shake the hand of Roger the projectionist, showing his complete disdain for him. I also love this blog – keep up the good work!

    • For me it’s the humor of Roger believing that Keppel would want to shake the hand of his blackmailer. It was a nice touch.

    • Cornelius I Agree, pathetic Roger is so far out of his league on all levels, trying to blackmail someone he knows is a murderer. It could only end badly, but the poor sap didn’t understand, although he should have.

  13. My favorite episode maybe because it was the first one i remember watching way back when… Culp (just like Cassidy) had such a great chemistry with Falk. And yes that yellow jacket just screamed 70’s……

  14. Roger was played by Chuck McCann, I remember coming home from school and he would be hosting a children’s TV show, and he also was on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In. It was a funny surprise to see him in Columbo. So I shed a tear for Roger, the blackmailing creep.

  15. I always enjoyed the interaction between Roger the Projectionist and Dr. Keppell in Keppel’s office. Roger nebbishly telling Keppell his lame blackmailing eyewitness verification of Keppel’s dastardly deed and his demand for shekels for some future real estate purchase, then expecting Keppell to shake his hand signifying a business transaction and expecting mutual respect, was both utterly comical and uncomfortable to watch. Keppell should have dropped him right then and there. In a strange way, Roger’s extortion attempt was much worse than Keppel’s murder(s). In the end, Roger got what he so richly deserved. His choice of clothing and too-far opened button shirt alone was significant justification for his demise, as well as his moonlighting at another job.

    There were too many ballistic issues with this one for me. Using a .45/.22 converter (which would still leave powder residue on the weapon and the shooter’s hand) at that distance, a .22LR is hardly the effective caliber to use at 20+ feet. A .22 magnum, maybe. Even the wimpy-ness of a .22 round being fired without a suppressor in an non-acoustically treated hallway, everyone seated in the screening room still would have heard the shot.

    I’ve sometimes fantasized what Tanya Baker must have looked like. I don’t remember seeing her in this episode, but IMDB says she was portrayed by Arlene Martel, a voluptuous Ashkenazi of European ancestry. Martel appeared in several other Columbo episodes (Greenhouse Jungle/Friend in Deed) but I don’t recall actually seeing the elusive Tanya Baker in this one.

    Another comical exchange was Kulp calling Vic Norris’ wife and disguising his voice as the despondent boyfriend of Tanya Baker.

    Culp and Columbo had great chemistry, on par with Cassidy and McGoohan’s interactions with Columbo.

    • Roger White should have known better. Didn’t he see what happened to Lily LaSanka in “Murder by the Book”? She tried to be reasonable in her blackmail demand, too. She also was contrite when dealing with her prey. All for naught. In Columbo, blackmail only ends one way. Just ask Sir Roger’s butler Tanner (“Dagger of the Mind”). He’s hanging around somewhere.

  16. This was such a great episode, Robert Culp was outstanding as always.
    I love that the yellow jacket made the list!

    • Vivian absolutely, Robert Culp was such an attractive man – tall and lean and handsome, great head of hair, and he could carry off a yellow jacket like no one else! Very hot for his day.

  17. It’s definitely one of the best! He’s at the top for me with Jack Cassidy! George hamilton is good too with William shatner.! Best of the best!


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