As Columbo killers go, Milo Janus is about as loathsome as they go. All credit, then, to Robert Conrad who helped make An Exercise in Fatality one of the most popular Columbo adventures of them all.
Conrad’s passing on 8th February, at the age of 84, will be felt keenly by fans of the good Lieutenant, who treasure his locking of horns with fitness franchise kingpin Janus in the opening episode of Columbo‘s 4th season.
The greatest success of the episode was in the mutual dislike between the two leads that was superbly acted out by Falk and Conrad. Indeed Janus’s callousness towards the widow of murder victim Gene Stafford even went so far as to cause the usually cool Lieutenant to blow his top and tirade against Janus in a very public setting in what is one of the best scenes of the entire Columbo saga. View it yourself below…
Aged just 39 at the time of filming, but cast as a character in his early 50s, Conrad’s hot physique and chiselled good looks, allied with an icy, arrogant streak, made him the perfect choice for Milo Janus – a killer who looks and acts like he could do you a lot of harm. Columbo’s dislike of Janus leads to one of the most satisfying gotchas of them all as the Lieutenant takes no small amount of pleasure in revealing the damning evidence. It’s great drama.
Conrad himself later remembered his Columbo experience fondly, telling author Mark Dawidziak: “I was thrilled with it.” He also vividly recalled having to drink glass after glass of carrot juice to satisfy Falk’s penchant for multiple takes – even though the drink gave him an almighty stomach ache.
An Exercise in Fatality is a perennial fan favourite, and currently sits in 8th place in the annual fans’ top 10 Columbo episodes poll conducted on this site.
Although Milo Janus will live long in the memory of the Columbo fan base, Conrad’s extensive body of work made him one of the most popular TV stars of the 60s and 70s in such shows as Wild, Wild West (with fellow Columbo alumnus Ross ‘Dale Kingston’ Martin), The DA and Black Sheep Squadron.
Away from the screen, Conrad was a longtime supporter of the Wounded Warriors Project, Paralyzed Veterans of America, the United States Marine Corps and the Jimmie Heuga Endowment. Conrad was a recipient of the Distinguished Service Award in Broadcasting and an inductee of the Stuntman’s Hall of Fame. He also enjoyed a career as a radio and podcast host well into his 80s – despite being partly paralysed in a serious car crash in 2003.
Born Conrad Robert Falk (no relation to Peter) on 1st March, 1935, Conrad died of heart failure in Malibu, California. He is survived by eight children and 18 grandchildren from two different marriages. Columbo fans will also remember his immortal quote from An Exercise in Fatality. “When I grow, you grow,” as well as the unforgettable Milo Janus jingle!
Rest in Peace, Robert. Thanks for the memories…
Fans of Robert Conrad will appreciate this “Pioneers of Television” interview of him. Of course, most of the interview is devoted to “The Wild Wild West,” co-starring Ross Martin, but the interviewer did briefly ask about working with Peter Falk in “Columbo.” The brief “Columbo” comments start at 16:02.
Even back when he co-starred in 77 Sunset Strip, you could tell he had star quality! He wasn’t my favorite Columbo villain (that would have been Dick Van Dyke or Patrick McGoohan) but was certainly one my top 5 most memorable ones. My big regret is I never watched ASSIGNMENT: VIENNA.
Despicable as Milo Janus was played by Robert Conrad even more lovely was the bikini-clad Gretchen Corbett. Sadly, women can’t remain beautiful forever as Ms. Corbett is now nearly 77 years old. RIP Jim West (Wild, Wild West). Say hello to Artie for me.
Gretchen isn’t young but remains beautiful.
Milo Janus was one of the more despicable guest star murderers in Columbo. But, then, most of them were similar to the extent they lacked even a modicum of sympathy or usual remorse for the victim’s death from an disinterested observer.
An exercise in fatality is aired again this Sunday 16th febuary on 5USA at
followed by murder by the book at 11 .50
1.25 Dead Weight
3.00 Murder Smoke and Shadows
And to round it all off Grand Deceptions at 5 pm
my choice pick there would easily be Murder by the book followed by An exercise in fatality then Murder smoke and shadows , Not sure between Grand deceptions and dead weight bearing in mind there from different eras but I might just prefer Grand deceptions as low ranking as it is than Dead weight as it has a little bit of charisma about it but Grand deceptions is not one Id Sacrifice my Sunday evening over .
yep every sunday columbo is on in the uk watch them all xx
Une grande perte d’un si grand acteur.
On en trouve plus pareil 🙁
J’ai pris ceci en son hommage https://www.redbubble.com/fr/i/t-shirt/RIP-Robert-Conrad-par-LollyShop/44811075.WFLAH
6 degrees of separation regarding Robert Conrad: Both he and Ross Martin (Columbo season 1, episode #4 – “Suitable for Framing”) appeared on one of the best television series ever, “The Wild, Wild West”, from 1965-1969, which was kind of a combination of James Bond and US westerns. Great show. They both played excellent bad guys on Columbo.
It’s a shame that the movie remake of “Wild, Wild West” was so pathetic and PC. During the television series, Ross Martin was stunning as a Lon Chaney-type character who could change costumes and accents on a dime, while Conrad was the straight man in the series who always got the girl, and performed most of the stunts, himself.
I’ll always remember the Exercise in Fatality episode as the one where Gretchen Corbett wore the bikini that made Columbo forget what he was talking about when he first meets her. Priceless.
Interesting to hear about the carrot juice – because this is one my favourite bits.
This episode seem so authentic, not least because franchising was the “hot” new thing in the early seventies, and frauds like this must no doubt have occurred in reality.
I don’t think we need to bother about the somewhat tenuous/ridiculous “shoelace thing” not holding up in court, because Janus would probably have been just as concerned about the SEC – and likely disgorgement of his ill-gotten gains, combined with a nice fat civil law suit.
By the way, it would be great to know where the writer (Larry Cohen) lifted the fantastic phrase “when I grow, you grow” – presumably a popular business guru of the day !
Hi Very Sad to hear about another columbo stars death , Although I dont count An Exercise in fatality among my favorite episodes not even my top 20 seventies , There was Nothing wrong with his performance and the gotcha was memorable , 84 is not even that old when you look at Kirk Douglas who died recently at 103 .
One of my favorite actors on Columbo watch almost weekly..Great actor R.I.P.
Robert Conrad was among the best Columbo villains ever. He literally raised the bar. R.I.P.
“An Exercise in Fatality” originally aired on September 16, 1974 – Peter Falk’s birthday & my own.
P S JOHAL
Robert Conrad oozed a lot of charisma and charm in this episode he played it well
REST IN PEACE.MR.ROBERT CONRAD
Episodes in which Falk drops his ‘act’ in order to show his true disdain for the killer are amongst the most satisfying and refreshing since they offer a subtle distinction from the formula. I thought such displays of enmity placed more suspense on the outcome since the killer was sure to deduce that Columbo would spare no expense to expose him. Obviously, I am also referring to a similar such confrontation in A Stitch in Time. However, the cold-blooded nature of Janus had more bite to him as he seemed especially conniving than did the antagonist in A Stitch in Time which seemed more a cr ime born of desperation.
A true tough guy. A vanishing breed. Thank you for all you gave us. R.I.P. Mr. Conrad.
His last name was actually Polish and shortened from Falkowski, I believe.
How did I miss his passing?? An exercise in Fatality is a fave of mine for many reasons. One being my 7th grade glass went on an overnight school trip to Washington DC. A few of us students didn’t go (for various reasons), so a couple of teachers played AEIF for us, and we had to guess the mistakes Milo Janis made in covering up his murder. None of us guessed any of them. lol But it was fun to do and a way to pass the time during the school day when the majority of the class wasn’t there. RIP Robert Conrad.
Played his part to perfection. Always sad to here of the passing of people associated with our favourite series.
Thank you for posting this.
On a side note , it appears that anyone threatening exposure or indulging in blackmail ends up a fatality. I am aware of a few real life examples.
The first was someone associated with horse racing who announced over the radio he was going to expose race fixing. He was found dead the next day.
The second was a group of tax consultants brought in to investigate certain wealthy people in Zimbabwe. They had to leave because of death threats.
Third was the poor guy who went to collect slot revenue from a casino in an African country who was refused his due and told if he didn’t leave, he would be sent home in a tomato box.
There are others but I won’t bore you with the details.
Ok , not all fatalities but close.
Thanks again for the post.
Had no clue he died until I saw this article. I’m happy that he lived as long and as well as he did. Going through the horribly tragic loss of Kobe Bryant, his daughter and the other passengers on the helicopter it’s at least better that someone passed at an age that’s lived a full and very long life… though it can still be too short for those that love said person. R.I.P. Robert Conrad and I definitely am lucky that I just so happen to have An Exercise in Fatality in my DVR available for viewing.
With all that exercise and drinking so many cups of carrot juice, is it any wonder he lived a healthy long life?
Always loved Robert Conrad, even the Baa Baa Black Sheep.
Milo Janus will go down as an all-time great evil Columbo killer. Although I don’t rank this episode as high as many others, there’s a lot of great moments. And the guy is totally jacked!!!
I do not rate the episode that high, though I definitely like it, as well as Conrad’s performance. But that one minute clip was certainly worth its weight in gold. 14-karat gold!
Milo was like a package of pure ogre and Conrad wrapped him in that despicable frat-boy drawl like it was a bow. He was a fun sociopath and the villain I love best to hate after Jesse Jerome and Dr. Mayfield. Or maybe he’s second after Jerome. I’m so sad he’s gone.
R.I.P. Robert Conrad. Thanks for the memories.
Great job to put this well written piece out so quickly, I read the news yesterday and put season 4 episode 1 in the DVD player shortly after…..
So grateful to the Columbophile for posting a heartfelt farewell to Robert Conrad. He ranks high on our Columbo list of top villains.
Peter Falk and Robert Conrad bristling at each other…Good things come in small packages was never so true….!!
We need a convention
good gods, even *I* would come to that.
How fitting that the episode An Exercise In Fatality is being shown today on 5USA at 13:35.
R.I.P. Robert Conrad.
Yes! I’m just settling down to watch now.
“you tried to create the perfect alibi, sir. And it’s your perfect alibi that’s gonna hang you” Always one of my favourite Columbo lines.
R.I.P. Robert Conrad
Ŕaise a glass of carrot juice and knock a battery off our shoulder for Robert Conrad.