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Columbo episode review – Caution: Murder Can Be Hazardous to Your Health

Columbo Caution: Murder Can Be Hazardous to Your Health opening titles

Following on from the reassuring presence of Robert Culp in Columbo Goes to College, the Lieutenant’s very next adventure pitted him against another of the 70s’ series leading antagonists: ‘Gorgeous’ George Hamilton.

Sixteen years after his debut in A Deadly State of Mind, Hamilton was back in Columbo colours in Caution: Murder Can Be Hazardous to Your Health – a tale of resentment, blackmail, pornography and murder set against the backdrop of hit network TV crime show Crime Alert.

Boasting the longest title of any Columbo episode (eclipsing The Bye-Bye Sky High IQ Murder Case from Season 6), Caution: Murder Can Be Hazardous to Your Health first aired on February 20, 1991. Is it a delicious slice of perma-tanned goodness, or a chain-smoking horror of an episode? Let’s take a look…

Columbo Caution: Murder Can Be Hazardous to Your Health cast

Dramatis personae

Lieutenant Columbo: Peter Falk
Wade Anders: George Hamilton
Budd Clarke: Peter Haskell
Maxine Jarrett: Penny Johnson
Arnie: Robert Donner
George: Steven Gilborn
Dog: As himself
Directed by: Daryl Duke
Written by: Sonia Wolf, Patricia Ford & April Raynell
Score by: John Cacavas

Episode overview – Caution: Murder Can Be Hazardous to Your Health

Popular TV anchor Wade Anders has a fight on his hands to keep hold of his dream job as presenter of ratings winner Crime Alert. If Anders won’t agree to quit and recommend him for the job, jealous nemesis Budd Clarke (himself a TV crime journalist) will shred Anders’ good guy reputation by revealing his early-career appearance alongside an underage co-star in porn flick Holly Does Houston.

Columbo Wade Anders
Why are chain smokers never the good guys?

Basking in his new-found success after many years as a mere security adviser, Anders isn’t willing to give up the limelight so quickly. And when the chain-smoking Clarke accidentally leaves a pack of cigarettes in Anders’ dressing room, the TV host puts a fiendishly clever scheme into action.

Racing to his business office, he drips highly toxic nicotine sulphate into three of the cigarettes, while burning several others down to the filter and tipping them (and the ash they create) into a zip-lock bag. He allows the office CCTV camera to record him entering the office twice wearing different outfits before heading home for the night. Quite why he does this won’t be revealed until the next day, when Anders returns to his office to be greeted by cheery Mexican gardener Juan (try harder, writers!), who informs him that he’ll be trimming all the hedgerows this week. HEAVY-HANDED CLUE KLAXON SOUNDS!

Anders then proceeds to edit footage from last night’s CCTV video into today’s tape of him entering the office in matching clothes, before pocketing a floppy disk of unused Crime Alert stories and vamoosing off to a date with destiny at Budd Clarke’s home, where he is immediately accosted by Clarke’s excitable dog leaping up at and scratching his car door (KLAXON sounds again).

Clarke, oozing nastiness and cigarette fumes, plays a snippet of Holly Does Houston to show Anders he means business. However, it’s the Crime Alert host that’s really in the driving seat as he switches Clarke’s current pack of smokes with the poison-laced ones from his jacket pocket – and looks on in quiet satisfaction as Clarke grabs one and starts puffing away.

Minutes later, Clarke’s heart and lungs pack in and he slumps dead at his home office desk. Anders puts his cover-up plan into action, placing a lit cigarette in Clarke’s cold, dead hand and switching the contents of the desk ashtray with the butts and ashes from the smokes he burnt in his own office the night before.

Columbo Budd Clarke
Smoking kills!

He then deletes the story about his porn star past from Clarke’s computer and replaces it with a story from his own floppy disk, which he subsequently prints out and places it in front of his former rival, covering the front of the printout with the dead man’s fingerprints before he beats his retreat to an alibi-establishing party at his producer’s home.

Clarke’s body is discovered the following morning, leading one Lieutenant Columbo to investigate. And guess what? As soon as he arrives he is also accosted by the same paint-scratching mutt that welcomed Anders the day before. It looks like an open-and-shut heart attack death, until Columbo instantly detects the discrepancies between the cigarette butts in the ashtray on Clarke’s death and one on a nearby coffee table. The ones in the desk ashtray were not smoked, as evidenced by the lack of nicotine stains on the filters. The ones everywhere else were very definitely smoked, as Columbo explains in great detail to the slack-jawed sergeant on the scene.

The eagle-eyed detective also instantly notices the difference in the headline styles used on the computer printouts on Clarke’s desk. The one under the dead man’s hand is entitled ‘Escape to death’ in lower case, while the other headlines are all in BLOCK CAPITALS. Columbo then shambles on his way, although not before a second encounter with the dog, at which point the importance of the dog claw scratches on his car’s paintwork is rammed down the viewer’s throat – just in case they were in a coma the first time round.

The sleuth’s next stop is the TV network HQ where Clarke worked. And, lo and behold, Columbo finds that there was no story under the title ‘Escape to death’ anywhere in the computer system, while a helpful secretary is able to point him towards Wade Anders, whom Clarke was said to have nipped out for a meeting with the previous Friday. Anders freely admits the meeting and that Clarke hated his guts after not getting the Crime Alert job, but there’s nothing to suggest he has a motive for murder at this stage. But murder it certainly was, as lab technician George reports to Columbo that Clarke died of massive nicotine poisoning after ingesting enough nicotine sulphate to kill him within minutes. Heart attack, schmart attack

Seeking expert help with his investigations, Columbo returns to see Anders. As well as the variance in headline styles, the Lieutenant also demonstrates a problem he has with the printout found on Clarke’s desk. There were only fingerprints on the front of the sheet, but if Clarke had torn it off the printer himself, his prints must necessarily also be on the back. The inference is crystal clear: someone else was with Budd Clarke at the time he died! Columbo has another poser for Anders a short while later. Producing some cigarette butts from the crime scene, he demonstrates that both were extinguished in different ways – one by twisting, the other by crushing. Clarke always crushed his smokes; further evidence of foul play and of third-party involvement.

Columbo Caution: Murder Can Be Hazardous to Your Health
The filthy mac never seemed more at home!

A search of Clarke’s car reveals a cassette with notes dictated by the man himself. A reference to checking in with Arnie in Hollywood about a porno film sends the Lieutenant to a sleazy adult store in the red-light district (ooooh-errrr) where shop proprietor Arnie spills the beans on Anders’ appearance in Holly Does Houston and Clarke’s interest in seeing it after being overlooked for the Crime Alert gig. All of a sudden, Columbo has a potential motive for Clarke’s murder.

His suspicions now start to mount fast. After being left unaccompanied in Anders’ office, Columbo finds print outs of Crime Alert news stories, which features headlines not in block capitals – a style match for the ‘Escape to death’ article found at Clarke’s house. Later, while seeking verification on Anders’ whereabouts at the time of Clarke’s killing, the Lieutenant is promised a copy of the CCTV tape from Anders’ office, which the killer hopes will clear his name. When Columbo goes to pick the tape up, though, he finds a different kind of clue on Anders’ driver-side car door – one that will require a police photographer to get to work on.

In the meantime, Columbo studies the CCTV tape showing Anders entering and leaving his office on the supposed day of the Budd Clarke killing, and on the millionth viewing he spots something out of place. And that something means the noose is now squarely around Wade Anders’ neck.

The Lieutenant waits until Crime Alert shooting has wrapped for the day to confront Anders. The pair view back the CCTV tape, which clearly shows Anders entering the office in daylight with a well-trimmed hedge visible behind him. The footage of him leaving at night, however, shows an untrimmed hedge in the background. Columbo knows the hedges were trimmed on the day Clarke was killed, ergo the tape has been doctored and Anders’ alibi ain’t worth tuppence ha’penny.

Columbo Caution: Murder Can Be Hazardous to Your Health
It was an untrimmed bush that did in for Wade Anders

It’s good police work, but not damning enough in its own right for an arrest. However, the clincher soon arrives in the form of Budd Clarke’s dog. Despite Anders’ angry denial that he has ever been to Clarke’s house, a forensic photo of the the dog’s claw marks scratched onto Anders’ car door proves that he was there, giving the crafty Lieutenant method, motive and opportunity against him. Comprehensively outmanoeuvred, Anders can only accept defeat as credits roll…

My memories of Hazardous to Your Health

It’s been the best part of a decade since I last watched Hazardous to Your Health, and it’s an episode I’d estimate I’ve seen only 3-4 times in total. Alas, and despite having a bit of a man crush on 70s’ George Hamilton, I don’t recall this episode terribly fondly.

Columbo George Hamilton
Has Gorgeous George still got it, 16 years after his Columbo debut?

Even more sadly, a lot of what I do remember are the lowlights of the episode: the idiotic nature of the car prang scene; the awful pervy guy in the mac in the porn shop winking at Columbo as if he were a kindred spirit; and Wade Anders’ implausible naivety about cigarette filters, which erodes the edge of what should have been a clever murder.

That aside, not a lot of this episode has stuck with me, so revisiting it again ought to be an interesting journey back down Memory Lane. And even if George is a lot longer in the tooth here than in his Columbo debut, I’m still expecting a few pleasant surprises in his performance and his interactions with the good Lieutenant.

Episode analysis

I’m a big fan of George Hamilton’s 1975 Columbo outing, A Deadly State of Mind. To my mind, Hamilton had all the qualities a Columbo killer should have: smooth good looks, diabolical assurance, heart of ice, fatal flaws. Sixteen years is a long time, though, and Wade Anders ain’t half the man Dr Mark Collier used to be. In fact, it’s a rather lifeless portrayal by Hamilton, making Anders one of the least interesting Columbo killers of any era.

Columbo Wade Anders
Wade Anders was famed for having the largest right hand in showbiz

The confrontation between Anders and Columbo rarely rises above the mundane, which is a great shame when you consider how much screen-time the two share. Indeed, given the episode’s small central cast, we likely haven’t seen the Lieutenant getting this much one-on-one time with a suspect since Fade in to Murder in 1976. Unfortunately, a lot of this time is of negligible relevance to the plot as Hazardous is one of the most padded Columbo episodes of them all.

Despite the nucleus of a decent mystery, there’s nowhere near enough story here to fill the 90-minute running time – something evidenced by the fact that the above episode synopsis is the shortest I’ve written in years. This problem is exacerbated by the heavy-handed nature of the clues that will lead to Anders’ downfall. It’s so screamingly obvious that the dog scratches and trimmed hedge will be of material importance to the case because there is no subtlety in how they are delivered to the viewer.

My 11-year-old daughter (prior to illness), watching this episode for the first time, immediately recognised that having the dog jump up on both Anders’ and Columbo’s cars would provide key evidence. Likewise, hearing gardener Juan so openly explain to Anders that he was trimming all the hedges that week made it impossible for her to miss the significance of the hedges on the CCTV tape in breaking Anders’ alibi.

“Despite the nucleus of a decent mystery, there’s nowhere near enough story here to fill the 90-minute running time.”

When an uninitiated child can so easily see the signposts to how the case will be wrapped up, that’s a pretty hollow mystery. It’s as if the production team believed this was too complex a case for viewers to comprehend, so felt the need to spell things out in minute detail. However, this isn’t a complicated mystery by the series’ standards, making the sledgehammer style of the clue reveals seem overly clunky. Credit the viewer with a little intelligence, please.

Wade Anders’ lack of of cigarette smoking know-how also stretches credibility. A middle-aged man with a broad social circle and who hosts a show about real-world crimes doesn’t grasp the need to have authentically smoked cigarette butts as part of his cover-up scheme? I don’t buy it. Anders leaving unsmoked butts in the ashtray on Budd Clarke’s desk is convenient for the plot, sure, but is such an amateurish error that it severely blunts what ought to have been a challenging crime to solve.

More than that, though, Anders’ meddling with the crime scene ashtrays serves no real purpose. All he needed to do was remove the poisoned cigarette from Clarke’s dead hand and the packet with the two other poisoned smokes in it, and leave all else as was. Emptying the desk ashtray into a bag and refilling it with pre-prepared ash and butts is simply a plot device that has no grounding in logic. I liken it to the Dr Marshall Cahill leaving a burnt match in an ashtray in Mind Over Mayhem. The very act of doing it serves only to make the investigation easier for Columbo to navigate. No one would ever actually do it.

Columbo Caution: Murder Can Be Hazardous to Your Health
This marked the first and last occasion whereby a human being was impressed by a dot matrix printer

But really, Anders made an absolute hash of the whole crime. As well as the above howlers, his neglecting to plant Clarke’s fingers on both sides of the computer print-out was a schoolboy error, as was his failure to spot the difference in headline styles between his planted news article and Budd Clarke’s. When you also consider that he drove to Clarke’s house to commit murder in a very recognisable car in broad daylight, this is the crime of a man who seems determined to get caught.

To quote Sherlock Holmes’ admonishment of the bungling Watson in The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax: “I cannot recall any possible blunder which you have omitted.” The same absolutely applies to Wade Anders – and it makes catching him a breeze. The LAPD didn’t need Columbo on this case. Sergeants Wilson and Grover could have coped just fine. It all means there’s a distinct lack of dramatic tension throughout that even actors as gifted and charismatic as Hamilton and Falk can’t make up for.

It seems to me that much more could have been done to make Anders a more interesting villain, too. He’s sympathetic to a point due to the harsh way that that wicked, cigarette-smoking man Budd Clarke is so beastly to him, but this avenue is never fully explored. There’s no vulnerability in Anders, and I think there should have been. This is a guy who has had fame thrust upon him relatively late in life, and who is relishing it, only for a vengeful toad to attempt to ruin him for poor choices made earlier in his career. We should really be rooting for him, but he’s just not a compelling enough presence to warrant it.

Much is made in the script of what a decent and squeaky clean guy Anders is, but he comes across as being conceited and insincere with few likeable qualities. There was more than enough time to devote to ramping up sympathy for him. How about him being married to the love of his life and desperately wanting to prevent her from finding out about his porn star past? Or how about her needing life-saving medical treatment that his new super-wage as Crime Alert host had enabled? That would give him a more selfless need to protect his career. As it is, he’s just another greedy and ambitious Columbo killer in a long line of greedy, ambitious Columbo killers. So much potential went untapped.

Columbo Caution: Murder Can Be Hazardous to Your Health
Oh, what could have been…

To my chagrin, there are also a number of dismally unfunny sequences in Hazardous that take us right back to some of the low moments of Season 8. There’s nothing quite as bad as the tuba and bin rummaging scenes from Sex and The Married Detective, or the celebrity poker match in Uneasy Lies the Crown, but some seriously cringey moments made the final cut – a big disappointment given how our previous episode, Columbo Goes to College, sidestepped such stupidity completely.

The car prang scene is painfully drawn out, but the worst moment is the Lieutenant’s awful confrontation in the adult store, which is, in my opinion, comfortably one of the worst Columbo scenes ever filmed. Having the hooker cat call to Columbo as he walked down the street to the store moments earlier was a good moment. Yes, he wears the sort of mac a flasher might have so it’s nice reference that fans can chuckle at. However, things plummet downhill fast when he enters the store itself and is winked at by a leering perv in an identikit raincoat, who evidently believes the Lieutenant is a sexual deviant like himself.

“There are several dismally unfunny sequences in Hazardous that take us right back to some of the low moments of Season 8.”

This overly knowing, hammily acted, nudge-nudge, wink-wink TOSH has no place in any serious detective drama. One might expect to see such nonsense in one of the Carry On films from the 1970s (Google ’em, non-British readers), but I hold Columbo to higher standards, making the scene agony to endure. Normally I’d blame the writers for this, but through Twitter correspondence with one of the episode scribes (I forget which one, sorry), I learned that this scene was much less clumsily presented in the original draft.

Yes, Columbo still encountered the mac man in the porn store, but their interaction was little more than each looking the other up and down before the stranger left the building. This would have worked 1000 times better, and been an understated Easter Egg for fans. However, I was informed that Falk and the producers were the ones responsible for stretching the scene out and making a dog’s dinner of a supposed comic interlude. Frankly, it’s hideous. Revisit it yourself below, if you dare…

A further criticism of the episode (and one that can also be labelled at numerous ‘new’ Columbo adventures) is the repetitive nature of several aspects of it that almost play out like a retread of some of the greatest hits of the original series. I think the odd nod to the past is fine and dandy, but there seems to be a lot of them going on in a single episode here. Consider:-

  • Poisoned cigarette murder weapon as seen in Lovely but Lethal in 1973
  • Antagonist caught on film leaving an office at different time than claimed (variation on Identity Crisis gotcha from 1975)
  • Unnecessary manipulation of crime scene (Mind Over Mayhem, 1974)
  • Columbo earning crucial evidence through close study of CCTV tape (see also Playback from 1975)
  • Columbo bamboozled by new technology (computers, printers) echoing classic episodes including Fade in to Murder, Bye-Bye Sky High, Playback etc)
  • Killer driving to crime scene in conspicuous car in broad daylight (Etude in Black, 1972)
  • Dog nominally helps solve the crime (Mind Over Mayhem, 1974)

We had another example of this in the previous outing, where the conclusion of Columbo Goes to College was a reworking of that from A Friend in Deed. However, given the theme of that episode, placing Columbo as an educator to would-be criminologists, the ending still satisfied. Here, both the key elements of the murder and its solving are rehashes on what we’ve seen before, hinting at a disappointing lack of original thinking.

Still, I hate to come across as too much of a Negative Nelly, despite the disappointments coming thick and fast. Hazardous to Your Health does have its strengths and for me, its main appeal for today’s viewer lies in the relevance of its central theme. Here we have Wade Anders’ hard-earned success under threat due to iffy decisions he made years earlier at a different time and place in his career. It’s cancel culture, 1990s style, with Budd Clarke attempting to ruin Anders’ reputation and livelihood through revealing his shameful past. How often have we seen that happen in the past few years across all areas of society?

Columbo Caution: Murder Can Be Hazardous to Your Health
“Imma gon cancel you, brah,” quoth Budd Clarke

In what might be the highlight of the whole episode, there’s a nice moment when Anders is prepping for a TV interview, all smugness and sham grins before he notices Columbo waiting in the wings and his face falls a country mile. The episode’s opening scene is also a nice bait-and-switch moment, suggesting that the episode will be focussing on a slimy, murderous young couple who are in fact incidental characters about to be busted on live national TV for Anders’ Crime Alert show. First-time viewers were surely fooled by this clever staging.

Should some viewers still need convincing, Hazardous is another episode to provide strong proof of Mrs Columbo being a real person and not some figment of the Lieutenant’s imagination. Although we tantalisingly don’t see her when she’s allegedly accompanying her husband to the policeman’s dinner, the dog groomer at the salon near the end of the episode references having received instructions from her on Dog’s desired pedicure. If she only exists in Columbo’s head, how could the dog groomer have met her? CASE CLOSED, DOUBTERS (**runs imaginary lap of honour, high-fiving fellow believers**).

Elsewhere, keen viewers will appreciate seeing Steven Gilborn pop up as Columbo’s forensics sidekick George in his third of four appearances, all as the same character. It places George as one of the show’s most recurring secondary characters behind only (I believe) Dog and Bruce Kirby’s beloved Sergeant Kramer. That’s good going, Stevie G!

Finally, I give kudos to the casting of Penny Johnson as Crime Alert producer Maxine Jarrett. A black woman in a prominent role is, sadly, a major rarity for Columbo across its 35-year lifespan. Her role is hardly a massive one, but Johnson (perhaps best known to TV viewers as Sherry Palmer in 24, and Kassidy Yates Sisko in Deep Space Nine) puts in a strong turn and believable turn.

Columbo Penny Johnson
Don’t mess with PJ!

Sad to say, though, there just aren’t enough highlights in Hazardous to Your Health to get excited about. It’s not dreadful, just entirely average and can perhaps best be described as a Columbo-by-numbers. After the excellence of Columbo Goes to College, the lackadaisical nature of Hazardous is a rather bitter pill to take and proves once again that when it comes to new Columbo, you just don’t know what you’re going to get.

Did you know?

Caution: Murder Can Be Hazardous to Your Health is the only Columbo episode penned by female writers, namely the trio of Sonia Wolf, Patricia Ford and April Raynell. For all three, this episode was the sole writing credit in their careers. Ms Raynell served as Peter Falk’s executive assistant for many years.

How I rate ’em

A discouraging effort after the enjoyable romp that was Columbo Goes to College, Hazardous is nevertheless an above-average episode by the standards of the comeback series. The cast doesn’t do much wrong, but the story, the padding and the spoon-feeding of clues don’t live up to the hype surrounding George Hamilton’s casting. Ho hum…

If you missed any of my earlier ‘new Columbo‘ reviews, access them via the links below.

  1. Columbo Goes to College
  2. Agenda for Murder
  3. Columbo Cries Wolf
  4. Rest in Peace, Mrs Columbo
  5. Columbo Goes to the Guillotine
  6. Sex & The Married Detective
  7. Caution: Murder Can Be Hazardous to Your Health
  8. Murder, A Self Portrait
  9. Murder, Smoke & Shadows
  10. Uneasy Lies the Crown
  11. Grand Deceptions
  12. Murder in Malibu

I haven’t yet started to slot the new episodes in amongst the classics in an overall rankings list, but you can see how I rate the 70s’ run of episodes right here.

Columbo Caution: Murder Can Be Hazardous to Your Health
Hazardous narrowly avoids being a car wreck of an episode!

That’s all for today, gang. Regular readers will know that my daughter’s illness and on-going treatment are going to severely curtail my blogging efforts for the rest of the year but I’m happy be able to publish this review after largely completing it before her diagnosis. My sincere thanks to you all for your patience and well wishes.

The next stop on our Columbo marathon is the dubiously titled Columbo and the Murder of a Rock Star, starring a moustached Dabney Coleman and featuring a cameo by Little Richard. A return to form, or another lesser light? Time will tell…

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Use of lethal force against this perp would have been entirely justified
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118 thoughts on “Columbo episode review – Caution: Murder Can Be Hazardous to Your Health

  1. There is a nice touch with the twisted cigarette clue, that’s how Dr. Mark Collier put out his smokes in deadly state of mind.

  2. “The LAPD didn’t need Columbo on this case. Sergeants Wilson and Grover could have coped just fine.”

    Not quite true. The detectives on-scene before Columbo arrived were all-too-ready to write off the death as a heart attack. And, the coroner would have signed off on that had Columbo not requested a blood test. Without Columbo, Anders would have easily gotten away with it.

    Now, once somebody declared it to be a murder and it was investigated that way, Anders could have been caught by any old fan of, “Murder She Wrote.” I agree.

  3. MCBHTYH is passable but hardly memorable for me. Columbo quickly verifies the death is a homicide via toxicology report and there are no other suspects, so it becomes a one-trick detection (disproving Enders’ alibi). This case would have been harder to crack — and potentially more interesting — if the victim had not smoked the poisoned cigarettes in the presence of the murderer, thereby removing any need for a fake alibi.

    As it stands, the gimmick is too reminiscent of Lovely But Lethal.

    • Hi G4. I take your point about Lovely But Lethal, but there it was some sort of sedative in the cigarette, rather than a fatal poison. And it might well be because of that earlier case that Columbo first suspects Budd’s death was not due to natural causes?

      • Eh, I’ll grant that your viewing the cigarette plot point as an Easter-eggy callout (as opposed to a lazy rip-off) is a fair, if forgiving, take. (To wit, if a 90s killer used a dissolving stent instead of sutures and Columbo showed up on scene and said, “Oh, I’ve seen this before, the physician’s protege did it,” would that not be unsatisfying?)

        But I digress. To be clear, the repeat use of poisoned cigarettes is no more than a minor ding to the ep. The real rub is that one of the (storytelling) benefits of death by poison is that, if well-planned, one can kill secretly from a distance. With how easily Columbo discovers the method of foul play in this case, Wade might as well have just shot Buzz in the face.

        • If a ‘90’s killer used essentially the same method as a ‘70’s killer, for example by surgically implanting a pacemaker with an almost flat battery, that would indeed be unsatisfying.

          But the circumstances are quite different in the two episodes that we are discussing. I’m always wary of SPOILERS for readers who have not seen “the other episode”, so I won’t go into too much detail, but in LBL it is an earlier murder by a totally different method that Columbo is investigating. That is obviously a murder, but the second one is made to look like an accident.

          And Wade wants Budd’s death to be attributed to poisoning, but by self-inflicted “death by natural causes” nicotine poisoning as a result of years of heavy smoking. In LBL strictly speaking it’s not even the cigarette that actually kills the victim.

          I don’t think we are ever going to agree about this episode, but it’s nice talking to you about it!

  4. I loved this episode and for me it’s one of the better episodes or any of the Columbo’s.

    Anders is dull and uninteresting and that’s the point!! He has no interest but his ‘work’ and using Hamilton for this, is actually a masterstroke.

    I get the howlers, but let’s be honest – every episode has them

  5. This is sadly not a very carefully written episode. The central problem is the futility of the alibi. Anders smuggles a pack of cigarettes with three of them poisened into the victim’s house. Budd Clarke grabs the pack immediately,in the presence of Anders, and smokes one of the poisoned cigarettes. But this only happens because it suits the screenwriters’ purposes. He could do so hours or days later, because Anders could not in any way foist them on him. As a matter of fact, anybody might have placed the pack in Budd’s house or pocket or bag at any time, and he might have consumed them whenever he wanted. There would be hardly any way to prove who did it. Poisoning the cigarettes was a foolish thing to do anyhow for who on earth would assume the cigarettes would contain such highly toxic stuff?
    Another question: Why did Anders stop his car in broad daylight in front of Clarke’s house?. Indeed it was just out of sheer luck that only a dog came along and not e.g. the kid or half the street’s population.

    • Hi Nick. This is only from memory, but as Budd smokes constantly, I think that Wade substitutes his poisoned pack for the pack already on Budd’s desk, assuming (correctly) that this would be the next pack Budd got a cigarette from. And he increased the chances of Budd dying sooner rather than later by putting 3 poisoned cigarettes in the pack instead of just one.

      I agree about Wade parking his own car outside Budd’s house in broad daylight being a pretty dumb thing to do. (Compare this with the murderer in Ashes To Ashes, who walks to his victim’s house in the middle of the night). But perhaps Wade did not want to do anything to arouse Budd’s suspicions?

  6. Interesting that the actors recreating the crime on TV at the beginning of the episode are the same as the ACTUAL! murderers caught at 50 minutes in.

    • Hi Wayne. Are you sure about that? From memory, I thought the closing credits say something like “Real Duke DiMarco” and “TV reconstruction Duke DiMarco”?

      The “actors” in the reconstruction would of course look a lot like the “real” criminals. but I’m pretty sure that they are actually two different sets of people?

    • You are right, Chris! I just checked the end credits since your comment, and two sets of actors are listed. They sure looked alike to me; you only get to see the real criminals briefly.

      • Thanks Wayne.

        Just goes to show what a good show Crime Alert was. Shame about the presenter.

        For Columbo casting purposes, my guess is that the “real” murderers were cast due to their resemblance to the “actors” playing them, who get a decent amount of screen time.

  7. Not a great story, but I chuckled seeing the increasingly angry and irritated expressions on George Hamilton’s face. He did a decent John Walsh rip-off.

    Penny Johnson is also on the recent sci-fi show The Orville.

    Musical notes: Two instances of Columbo humming “This Old Man.”

  8. Glenn, thanks for the head’s up! I did get a chance to see it before it was taken down. Anything related to our fav detective deserves to be seen by everybody, at any time. Life is too short to mess around. This is the only way to keep his spirit alive!

    • Just to clarify, the program is still posted on youtube and embedded into CP’s “Origin Story” thread for all to see as of 7/28/21, but if/when it gets flagged and removed from youtube, I believe the embed will cease also.

      • Glenn, you helped me out of a jam recently and I am very grateful. But as much as I would like to see “Enough Rope”, I don’t think we should view it if it is a YouTube “violation” and it’s viewing elsewhere is ”explicitly forbade” as it kind of goes against the spirit of the Columbo character. But I agree with you and A.A that we should all be allowed to view it.

        • Chris, I hear what you’re saying. I don’t have 100% certainty that the youtube posting was a violation, but I’m just going by what I know about the history of “Enough Rope” and the screening’s disclaimer. Whether or not UCLA acts upon that disclaimer and contacts youtube for removal is another story.

          As to whether or not to view based on your own moral compass, I would just say that for me, the distinction is between just watching it and actively downloading and redistributing elsewhere. When Michael of our Columbophile community embedded “Enough Rope” into CP’s Origin Story thread, the only youtube guideline from “joe andolina” was “Educational Purposes Only”, so Michael wouldn’t know about redistributing the program elsewhere (such as to CP’s blog). But that was not “joe’s” decision to make – UCLA already made that call when they screened the program in April and said not to copy it.

          If the copyright holders don’t object, it will probably stay on youtube for viewing, whether we approve of that or not. It might get flagged today, or 6 months from now, perhaps never. But it’s there to watch, if you’re willing. For us Columbo fans, surely, our viewing it is for “Educational Purposes”!

          • Thanks Glenn. You do make a valid distinction between just watching the version that is already out there and downloading and redistributing it.

            I think it’s a shame that we even need to debate this. As far as I am concerned, “Enough Rope” should have been included as an extra with the Columbo DVDs. I mean, if they can include “Mrs Columbo” . . .

  9. Just so this doesn’t get lost in the Columbophile blog archives…….

    A heads-up that CP’s Columbo: An Origin Story thread (https://columbophile.com/2018/02/17/columbo-an-origin-story/comment-page-1/#comment-53578) now has a post courtesy of Michael of the Columbophile community, where he has embedded a youtube posting of the original 1960 production of “Enough Rope”, the birthplace of the Columbo character.

    I strongly suggest Columbo fans watch this asap, as I’m pretty sure this June 2021 youtube posting is in violation and will some day be flagged and removed. Its a direct copy of a screening of the show from April 1 2021 by the UCLA Film and Television Archive. This is a TV rarity that was – until the youtube posting – available only for special viewings. I was lucky enough to be part of that UCLA screening, and it explicitly forbade reproducing the event for use elsewhere.

    But hey, since its out there, Columbo fans should watch it! In light of the break from regular CP articles, perhaps we could add comments and get discussion going on that 2018 thread. Trust me, the show is well worth viewing, if only to compare and contrast it with Classic Columbo. And, to get a load of host Walter Slezak’s suit, someplace on the color wheel between lavender and lilac…..did I mention that this is in glorious 1960 color?

    Hopefully, CP will be able to check in and view this curio with us!

  10. I watched this film about 2 weeks ago. I’ve been very critical of the ABC era in my comments on Columbophile, so while back I got curious and decided to watch them again to see if they were really as terrible as I remember. The car scene with Columbo and Anders is absolutely a waste of time. That was the lowest part of the episode for me. And it wasn’t that it was generally terrible aside from that, it just wasn’t a memorable episode or up to the standards of the NBC era. And it could have been an excellent outing. At the time of the airing, cable tv was exploding, more channels were available for original content and a show like Wade Anders program, that was central to this story, had the potential to be a gold mine of material. But it just wasn’t exploited well. The car scene is very much, typical of the problem with the ABC episodes. Too much emphasis on music and too much emphasis on silly comedy bits like this one. The college students in Columbo goes to college were not believable as college students, and as far as the comedy, Columbo playing the tuba at the music center in one of the earliest ABC episodes was really bad, pretty much appalling. And not funny, entertaining and it added nothing to the episode. It was a time waster in what was actually a pretty good episode by the standards of the ABC era. But… for what they are, these episodes aren’t as bad as I had remembered them to be. They just aren’t up to the standards of the NBC era, and that is the essence of “classic Columbo”, the greatest detective/mystery show of all time.

  11. I didnt even get that much opportunity with my mum , mam
    Mother , but u seem to have time with ur sick daughter so im glad u have that opportunity and u got there before the cancer set in, so thank u but 5 usa will televise tomorow to everyone.

    • Steve, I am sure that we are all very sorry to hear about your mother, and you are clearly a big Columbo fan, but this isn’t a contest. Please give CP a break. His family is more important to him than this blog, which is how it should be. It’s not as if this pays for his daughter’s care.

  12. I dont even know what is like to have s famil,,,y but what i fo know is undercover is on tomorow on ,5 usa and its a stinker

  13. I never lost a daughter or even had a relative who had a cancer but i did come into this world motherless as she died of cancer but with a pocketless dad who did like columbo but coulld never keep a job , and we made end s meet and through brikclaying ,carpenrtyetc and i turned out ok its such a shame cp cant write a few lines , i hope ur daughter is ok

  14. And also in under the gulllotine
    Which im nota big fan of the fact that the victim bought corned beef and cabbge intending to eat it , just prior to his suicide clearly mirrors dr willis purchasing and reading the comical book shortly before shooting himself , so i dont think caution muder can be hazardous is too guilty of lifting ideas , It was also done in likes the nightlife with the mouthwash and pedicure before jumping out the window so its not the only episode that borrowed ideas .

  15. While not much is happening latley on CP understandably and as i just watched england throw away a major trophy after 55 years , im also depressed

    I would just like to make 2 points CP points out about columbo being wowed and astonished by modern equipment and that is negative in cmcbhtyh ,but this was also blatantly done in agenda for murder( which is a far superior episode) when columbo was astonished by staplins fax machine and its uses ,

    And secondly i dont remember how Dog nominally solved the case in mind over mayhem 1974
    The closest i can recall was the most dangerous match 1973 when lifeless dog sudennly ran up the steps to the mouth of thecompractor .

    • With the exception of the small TV cameras in “Columbo Goes to College”, I don’t think that Columbo is actually all that astonished by modern equipment at all.

      I think this is part of his “dumb cop” routine, either to put somebody at the ease, as with Staplin’s secretary, or to put them off guard, as with Wade Anders.

    • In Mind Over Mayhem, Columbo asks the boy genius Steven to look after Dog for a while. Steven replies that it’s the second time that week someone has treated him like a regular kid, which gives Columbo an important clue about his suspect getting him out the way on the evening of the murder.

  16. I loved this episode. It’s one of my favourites. I never thought about just removing the poisoned cigarette but still, the episode is still a great one. And yes, it was possible to undelete files back then, Norton Utilities helped with that.

    • I liked this episode, largely due to the underlying irony and schaudenfraude of the killer: a man who makes a living exposing and chastising criminals is himself a criminal. I also liked how the hedge inconsistency foiled his seemingly perfect alibi.

      That being said, I don’t see the motive for the murder. Even in the 1990s — probably more so in the 1990s than today — a long-ago role in a porn film by a struggling actor could have passed on as a youthful indiscretion. I think Anders killed Clarke because he thought Clarke was a cockroach.

      • It wasn’t just that he did a porn film. It was that he had sex with an underage girl. That’s rape.

      • I suspect it wasn’t so much the porn film (Stallone got away with it!), but that the co-star was underage at the time. I don’t know what the statute of limitations was for statutory rape in those days, but I think the professional fallout would have been harsher than the legal one (although Rob Lowe got away with it!).

        On the other hand, all he would have to say is “I had no idea she was underage. I assumed the producer/director/whomever made sure she was over 18.”

        So you are right, the motive maybe isn’t the best, but I get the impression that both the killer and the victim REALLY hate each other.

        Not to psychoanalyze a fictional character too much, but maybe Anders just felt that Clarke pushed too hard, went too far and it was time for him to go.

        • It was that his show was a “law and order” show and he was the hero saving society. Doing porn was just something unacceptable for his image. That show that Wade Anders had was probably modeled on John Walsh’s “America’s Most Wanted” and his image was all about being Mr. Clean. Just like Anders.

    • The episode was just rebroadcast on Cozi-TV and I realize why I did not pick up on the threat of exposure of an underage liaison: because the episode itself did not emphasize that. Clarke said he’d seen the film and researched that the female was underage, but his specific threat was to expose that Anders had been in “skin flicks” and porno; neither he nor the episode mentioned the underage element again. Odd too that the film store manager who had uncovered the film told Columbo that it was Anders’ only porn film. That means Clarke was wrong about films plural and begs the question why Anders couldn’t have passed it off as a one-time starving actor mistake (unless Anders knew there was more dirt than Clarke or his store owner friend knew).

      • I also watched it last night (Aug 22). I thought many other people could have this video and recognize Wade Anders.

        What I liked about George Hamilton was his heavy-lidded, glazed-over expression that made him look sinister.

  17. It’s already been mentioned but I have to pile on: what is the deal with the cigarettes in the ashtray? I think the rationale was to make it appear that the victim’s fatal cigarette was not a unique one-off. As CP correctly points out, simply remove the poison cig. I don’t know that the incriminating butt even needs to be replaced. For all anyone would know, Clarke had a smoke, snuffed out the cigarette in his ashtray and keeled over immediately thereafter. Or minutes later. Or hours.

    As for the computer, I would have just deleted the story and been done with it. If there was no suspicion of foul play, there would be no reason to “undelete” the story. (I don’t know if anyone would or could do that in those days, but I imagine it was possible)

    All that aside, Clarke has to one of the least sympathetic victims in the entire series. For all this episode’s flaws, his death is extremely satisfying. I think Clarke ranks with Frances Galesko (Negative Reaction) in being totally insufferable, utterly repulsive and easily hated. Perhaps not *deserving* of murder, he is certainly asking for it.

    Even Edmund Galvin (Try and Catch Me) had his boyish charm. Whether or not he actually murdered his wife, as Abigail Mitchell believed, is another matter.

    With a victim like Milton Schaeffer (Old Fashioned Murder), who is a slob, a crook, and an idiot, I also don’t have a lot of sympathy, but I don’t find that I cheer as his death either. With Clarke? I want to high-five Anders and help him get away with it.

    • Totally agree about Clarke being an unsympathetic victim.
      And for all the talk about “obvious” clues, right away I noticed that capital letters in the headline vs. the lower case letters in the other one. Bad gaffe by the killer.

    • “I think the rationale was to make it appear that the victim’s fatal cigarette was not a unique one-off. ” Yes, I think the idea was to make it look like Budd had OD’d on nicotine by rapidly smoking a lot of cigarettes in one sitting.

      Wade makes some silly mistakes in this story, but as Columbo explains in Prescription Murder, the killer may be very clever, but they are an amateur with only one chance to get it right, whereas the police are professionals who do this a hundred times a year.

      There used to be a comedy show on BBC radio called “It’s Been a Bad Week” with a regular feature on “Dumb American Criminals”, relating unlikely but true crime stories. One was of the man at home in his apartment, who ordered a pizza from a local restaurant.

      When the pizza was delivered, the man held up the boy and took all the cash he was carrying. Clever eh? Get the victim to bring the cash to you. The man was happily counting the cash and eating his free pizza when the police knocked on his door . . .

    • In those days Kevin, smoking was allowed in restaurants and offices and it was nothing surprising to see a gross ashtray, piled high with nasty cigarettes. Most smokers actually had a gross ashtray that looked just like this one.

      • I remember those days quite well. I wish I was young enough to having not experienced them. But the point is to remove the one offending cigarette, not replace all the others in the ashtray with the same brand as the fatal smoke. All he would have to do is take it. What’s the coroner going to say? “Wait, he *didn’t die with a cigarette IN HIS HAND? Well it MUST have been murder then.”

  18. Made a few notes on this one:

    1- A gaffe by production: after Clarke is dead his thumb clearly moves when Colombo points out to the police officer that there is no nicotine stain on the cigarette.

    2- With commercials on COZI t.v., it isn’t until the 50th minute until Lieutenant Columbo finally meets the killer!
    (I’m a nerd for these things, I know)

    3- When Columbo does finally meet the killer, the killer immediately makes the foolish mistake of telling him that Bud Clarke didn’t like him very much.

    • “3- When Columbo does finally meet the killer, the killer immediately makes the foolish mistake of telling him that Bud Clarke didn’t like him very much.”

      I think it was common knowledge that Bud and Wade didn’t get along, so it would have looked suspicious if Wade had said otherwise. And at this point he’s probably still hoping that Bud’s death will be treated as due to natural causes.

  19. I dont hate or dislike short fuse (dagger of the mind and last salute fall into that bracket) prehaps I wasnt being clear , the storyline itself, ie misplaced , lost ,cigar boxes , empty cigar boxes,roger deliberatley being collared , firing of employees , etc make it a tricky formula and for me the episode dosent come together nicely, for a more detailed and indepth analysis read cps full episode review if u havent done so already

    • I almost forgot as much as i like collumbo , im not a big fan of any old port in A storm and donald pleacence i dont find any thing specal about it and think its generally overated

      • Negative reaction aired dick van dyvk on 5 usa out of the blue and can o say what a nice surprise , top quality episode always enjoy it lots in it great mystery ,twists ,central core,sergant hoffman acting , gotcha , dick van dyke very good falk good , bower , good ,great californian settings , 5, ,star epispode i rate it very higjly and its alwayswelcome and memorable nice when it comes our way , top 5 seventies easily right up there

      • I think that Any Old Port In A storm is special because Columbo and Adrian Carsini become genuine friends. This is not unique, but it is rare.

        You might prefer Donald Pleasance’s excellent turn as a visiting fireman Scotland Yard detective in “Mrs Columbo”. (This series is rather good If you forget it is supposed to be anything to do with Lt Columbo).

    • As with Dale Kingston’s plan in Suitable For framing, Roger’s plan in Short Fuse is revealed gradually. This format does not only rely on Columbo finding clues that the killer (and maybe the viewer overlooked) but also on the viewer trying to work out what the killer’s true motive is, and their plan is to get away with murder.

  20. Am I the only person who thought the guy on supposed porn video looks absolutely nothing like George Hamilton. They could’ve shown the video to the whole world and no one would’ve believed him. However, as it was mentioned before, Peter Haskell is a dopple ganger for Peter Graves imho. Thanks for taking the time to post this review CP. I think it is very kind of you to do.

      • LOL! I’m sure thats why Columbophile picked that shot. Not to mention that the perv also has the exact same raincoat that Columbo has. Ewww!

        • As I understand it, the famous Columbo raincoat was Peter Falk’s personal property, already being in his hall closet when he was cast in “Prescription Murder”.

          But as Columbo is rarely seen without his raincoat, I am assuming that the studio wardrobe department ran up a couple of spares, in case of accidents with hot dog mustard or a bowl of chili.

          In other words, I think the “video store perv” is wearing an actual Columbo raincoat, worn by Peter Falk in other episodes.

          • I don’t think it’s the same raincoat. In Prescription, he is wearing a smart/newish coat – similar to Richard Bradford in Man in A Suitcase (1967/8) . Personally, I think they went a bit too far in making the later versions look as battered as possible.

            • Hi Mark. As I understand it, sometime in the early 1960”s, Peter Falk got caught in heavy rain and quickly went into a shop to buy a cheap raincoat, which he then kept in his hall closet. I think the coat was still practically new when he made Prescription Murder, and he thought it would suit the character better than the smart looking outfits provided by the wardrobe department.

              As far as I know, he wore the same coat right up until “Columbo Likes The Nightlife”, but as I say, I expect the studio provided a few “spares”, as Lt Columbo was rather like the Irwin Allen characters, always being seen in the same outfit. (There were probably spare Columbo suits too).

              • hi Chris,
                I don’t think it looks cheap in Prescription. Possibly a Baracuta or Acquascutum.

                • Hi Mark. I’m not familiar with those particular brands, but perhaps “inexpensive” would be a better description than “cheap”?

                  Do you know where I could get something that looks like a Baracuta or an Acquascutum, but only costs about $20 or $30?

                  It certainly does look pretty new in Prescription Murder, which makes it all the funnier if he really was wearing the same coat all the way up to Likes the Nightlife.

                  • On the subject of slipping into Columbo-speak, I also often find myself doing this. For instance, it’s a great way of dealing with bureaucratic officialdom !

                    • Thanks Mark. I expect it works great, except for when you have a pile you want dug up.

  21. Theres quite a lot of filler in this one but i quite like the episode
    And bear in mind all the new episodes have a much longer feel to them than the seventies although i dont mind the blue video store scene i find it quite funny , there was also some nice moments too including columbo walking round a tv studio set with stage dancers doing some 90s mixing , a joke about the difference between a hairdrseer and a barber being 50 dollars a reference to grace kelly being inclufed on a postage stamp and columbo in a tuxedo which mirrored classics such a forgotton lady and a case of immunity , i think theres plenty to
    Cherish and a little bit of simplicity isnt always a bad thing take short fuse they overcomplicated that one and it turned into a complete mess.

    • Gee, isn’t it funny how people are different/? Take me for instance. I liked Short Fuse and had no trouble following it.

      In CMCBHTYH I agree that the reference to Grace Kelly being the first movie star on a postage stamp is a fun fact. I keep waiting for it to come up in a quiz.

  22. Im so sad to hear about your daughterd illness. She sounds like an intelligent fighter !! I hope she gets better.

  23. A fairly entertaining episode despite it’s flaws. The scene with the matching raincoat guy in the adult shop was corny yet funny. middle of the road later years episode.

  24. I have to admit I missed the heavy-handed clues, so I guess that means that I’m not smarter than a fifth grader. I think I tend to watch Columbo the way I enjoy a meal – I tend not to think too much about the ingredients – I just want to enjoy my meal and at this stage of my life I tend to go back to the tried and true over and over again. I don’t have a finely developed palate and tend to appreciate mass-produced run of the meal of a decent chain restaurant as much as a fine dish prepared by a gourmet chef. And so, in that sense, I admit that I not qualified either to comment on this episode missing the quality standards set by the original Columbo series.

    As I see reruns from other TV series that I grew up with, I find no finer one than Columbo. I can keep coming back to it again and again and the higher standards the original series set itself to become more evident as compared to some of my other favorite TV shows from that time which have definitely not aged as well. In that spirit I understand your critiques of New Columbo. Each of the original Columbo shows were considered movies and were produced with higher production values than a weekly episodic TV series cranked out week after week after week. You help me to appreciate that this is what made Columbo a great show worthy of the fan following it has as opposed to just a good show.

    The long list of recycled Columbo plot devices from previous episodes combined with the comfortable familiarity of George Hamilton as the villain are probably why I am still able to enjoy this episode so much. But I get your point – the production crew here seem to be leaning just on these supports and cruising on the Columbo name for success. Not to mention padding the series with an extra 30 minutes in order to trade on the name to sell more commercials… It is interesting to think that if the original Columbo mystery TV movies had been made with the same kind of production values as New Columbo whether or not there ever would have been a New Columbo or even a demand for Columbo fan clubs and blogs today.

    I love your blog and it has helped me to appreciate and enjoy watching the Columbo reruns as the years go on. Still, there are enough things going on in the world right now to complain about that I am not going to feel too guilty about enjoying my escape into this show. All the while reminding myself that even a world with only the bad Columbo reruns would be better than one with only ‘Murder She Wrote’ or ‘Matlock’ mysteries to watch.

    Wishing the best for you and your daughter in these difficult times. Take care. I will be here hoping that you will be able to come back sooner rather than later.

    • I also missed the heavy handed clues, I think columbophile is a more careful viewer than the average and probably taught his daughter the attention to detail she also seems to have, especially the noticing that in the first time watching is impressive, I watched a handful of times and never noticed it.

      Also not one of my favourite episodes, I probably would’ve ranked it even lower, good to see a new review and hope the daughter is better.

    • I, too, missed the heavy-handed clues.
      I really enjoyed the printer scene where Columbo declares that it was impossible for Clarke to pull the paper out. That was good detective work.

      • Yes, as I have said before, I keep expecting it to apply to the newspaper clipping clue in “Agenda For Murder”.

    • I didn’t miss the dog jumping up on the car as I knew that would leave scratches and I was cringing as the Mercedes was damaged.

  25. By 90’s Columbo standards, this comes across as a solid, mildly entertaining entry. Unworthy of the top rank, for sure, but also far from being a lowlight.

    • I think its a solid entry to the new batch , Not as vintage as Agenda for Murder , Goes to college or Death Hits The jackpot but much better than the likes of Grand deceptions , Murder a self portrait , murder in Malibu of course and and I prefer caution any day to RIP Mrs Columbo and certainly goes under the guillotine which I just never liked Much despite being placed higher in the current standings

      • While I hold RIP Mrs. Columbo in much higher regard than you, being one of my favourite entries from the ABC batch, I also rate Guillotine rather lowly in my 90’s ranking.

  26. Given Columbophile’s well-known dislike of all the revival shows this review was hardly a surprise. I disagree with much of the review, and in particular I’d like to say that I was 46 when I watched this episode and, until that day, I did not know that one could tell a difference between a cigarette that was smoked and one that was left to burn. I did however also wonder why George Hamilton didn’t just flush the tainted cigarettes down the toilet.

    I think we could all understand if, given what’s going on at home, Columbophile didn’t update this blog for a very long time. Wonder what Columbophile thinks about the next episode being titled “Columbo and the Murder of a Rock Star” for no reason other than to justify a Little Richard cameo.

    Meanwhile, supposedly the government of Romania once appealed to Peter Falk himself to promise that more “Columbo” episodes were on the way.


    • Yes, I remember reading the Romania story in “Just One More Thing”. Peter Falk wasn’t keen on helping the Romanian government at first, until it was explained to him that people would get hurt in protests over the non showing of Columbo episodes.

      I think there was an assumption that there were at least 26 episodes of Columbo a year, as the Romanians did not realise that it was part of the “Sunday Mystery Movie” wheel show format, and they actually only made 6 or 7 episodes a year.

  27. Good to see a review again after such a long long time all be it much more negative than i expected , id place this higher any night of the week than guillitouine and sex and the married detective which have more unessecary baloney in themand more ridiculed endings , although i admit its not in agenda, for murder , goes to college or death hits the jackpot leauge , however i find i t entertaining and worth watching any time it comes on which is every now and again and i have seen it aired live about 200 times in the last 20 years.

    • My thoughts exactly. I’m not really a fan of 90s Columbo but this episode wasn’t too bad and I still watch it any time it airs. And Columbophile’s hilarious analysis had me rolling on the floor! So glad to have you back and best wishes to you and your family.

  28. Your captions to all the photos are pure gold! Thank you for an entertaining read (much shorter than the 90 minute runtime) and I am thinking of your daughter at this time.

  29. Good to have you back CP.

    I take your point about the hedge trimming and dog scratching clues, but I always liked the clue about the victims fingerprints only being on one side of the print out. So much so, that I keep expecting it to turn up in Agenda for Murder.

    I remember that when this episode was shown on BBC2 it became obvious that the clip from “Holly Does Huston” was OK for an evening slot, but a bit too racy for a Saturday afternoon. I think this scene is now largely left to the imagination when shown in the UK.

    And I agree that Mrs Columbo must exist, otherwise how would Patrick McGoohan know that Madam Butterfly is her favourite music?

    • The shortage of fingerprints, especially on planted guns, is a persistent problem in movies and TV shows. The killer always frames the victim by carefully putting the gun in his hand to put prints on the grips and trigger, right? But if someone owned a gun there should be prints all over it – on the barrel, on the main body, on the magazine (if an automatic), on individual cartridges (in the magazine if an automatic, or in chambered rounds in a revolver), perhaps on spent shell casings. Not to mention there should be prints within the gun from when the owner disassembled the piece for maintenance (for instance the only Lee Harvey Oswald print on the JKF rifle was a palm-print on the on underside of the barrel, on a spot reachable only upon disassembly; real or planted, that example serves my point). All this is doubly true if the set-up is a suicide, as the supposed self-killer has no reason to clean off prints. A gun containing ONLY an index finger print on the trigger is a sure tip-off that something is off.

      • That’s an excellent point. In tv shows (CSI comes to mind) so often the investigator comes up with *a* fingerprint, or *a* hair or fiber. But if you’ve ever cleaned a window or a mirror or owned a dog or cat, you know that fingerprints, hairs and fibers are EVERYWHERE. I’ve always wondered what investigators do if there is a murder, say, in the lobby of a busy hotel or bank and the perpetrator touched a door handle barehanded.

        In any case, I would be very suspicious of a single print in an obvious spot, particularly if the weapon was used in an alleged suicide where, presumably, the victim wouldn’t have bothered to use gloves while loading the gun.

        But this is a recurring event in Columbo. Not lack of evidence, but an abundance of evidence that’s too convenient, and an absence of supporting conditions.

        -The cigar ash and glasses in Mind over Mayhem, but using a match instead of the victim’s lighter.
        – The gloves in Troubled Waters, why not simply toss the offending items overboard as Columbo notes?
        -Dressing the victim in a nightgown in A Friend in Deed. Wholly unnecessary and leads Columbo to discover a lack of fingerprints where they ought to be.
        -The ransom note in Negative Reaction but apparent lack of newspaper clippings anywhere.

        And so on.

        • Hi Kevin,

          I take the points that have been made about fingerprints, but I think you are being a little harsh about some of the other clues.

          In Mind Over Mayhem and A Friend in Deed, these are simply silly mistakes made by a person who is clever, but not a professional killer, which is the basic premise of Columbo.

          The same can be said for the ransom note in Negative Reaction, which I think is a terrific clue, i.e. the detective spotting the absence of something that should be there, but t’isn’t.

          As for Troubled Waters (SPOILER ALERT!) this is just from memory, but I think that the original latex gloves were tossed overboard. The gloves that Columbo examines were planted by the real killer to incriminate someone else. Columbo knows that the original gloves would have been disposed of, and sets up the killer to provide a second pair to be found.

          Which brings us back to Michaelmagnus’s original comments about fingerprints. It occurs to me that a person putting on rubber gloves would leave their fingerprints on the outside surfaces, most certainly on the first glove they put on, and the last glove they took off?

  30. I’m not sure that we were supposed to take seriously the contention that Anders was “squeaky clean”. It seems to me that the writers expected the audience to see that the image was just that: a facade. The Anders character is intentionally all veneer and no substance. He is, to put it unkindly, a George Hamilton type.

    (Clearly, no man crush here, though Love At First Bite was genuinely funny precisely because it was a knowing self parody.)

  31. I’ve always enjoyed this episode. Maybe it the familiarity of George Hamilton that helps this episode stand our for me, but it is also one the first Columbo episodes I remember watching as a kid, probably as an 11 year old.

    I guess the clues are convenient and very easy to follow but for me it works. Sometimes things can get overly complex for no apparent reason yet this is one of the easier episodes to follow, especially if you have it on in the back ground.

    Haven’t watched it for a good long while, so will be digging out my Season 10 DVD over the coming weeks. As applies to any Columbo episode, I’d rather watch this on a continuous loop than any episode from a modern detective show.

    Best wishes for your daughters recovery.

  32. This is a splendid review (although I don’t think this episode is QUITE as bad as you do, just as I don’t think “Columbo Goes to College” is quite as GOOD as you do), and I’m so glad to see a new one!

    I hope hope hope your daughter is getting better.

    I just want to add that Penny Johnson, in addition to the roles you mention, is an absolute SCREAM as the jaded secretary on “The Larry Sanders Show” starring Gary Shandling.

  33. “Wade Anders was famed for having the largest right hand in showbiz.”

    omg did I laugh at this! You still got it, brother! I hope your daughter is doing well.

  34. Welcome back, CP. I’m sure we all share the hope that your return coincides with positive news about your daughter. It was also very nice to read how her reaction to C:MCBHTYH helped to crystallize your opinion of the episode. We look forward to future reviews in which her take helps you form yours.

    I look at this episode against the model of a classic Columbo. There is a method to the classic Columbo plot structure. Regardless of the character of the murderer or the nature of the murder, the clues Columbo traditionally encountered fit neatly into a sequence of three distinct types. First came the initial clue (which Columbo may acknowledge at the time or never even mention until the end) that tells Columbo whom to pursue. Second came a series of intermediate clues that point in the murderer’s general direction, but usually yield innocent explanations Columbo cannot disprove. Third is the final “pop,” the “gotcha,” that cannot be explained away.

    As importantly, in the best Columbos, the final clue is the most memorable. It’s often how we identify the episode (along with the setting or occupation of the murderer). “Any Old Port in a Storm” is “the one with the winemaker” but also “the one where the wine spoiled in the heat.” “By Dawn’s Early Light” is “the one with the military academy” as well as “the one with the cider in the window.” The initial clue is often memorable, too, but less so. The feather in “Troubled Waters”; the cigar match in “Mind Over Mayhem.” The intermediate clues are the ones we’re most likely to forget until we’ve seen the episode repeatedly.

    C:MCBHTYH doesn’t follow this pattern — and, I believe, suffers as a result. For years, I remembered the “pop” clue as the height of the hedge on the videotape. Maybe I remembered it most because it reminded me of a similar clue in Hitchcock’s “Rear Window.” When rewatching the episode, the other clues I recalled were the clean cigarette filter tips and the fingerprints on only one side of the printer paper. None of these are the “gotcha.” Honestly, I had absolutely no recollection of the actual “pop”: the dog with the missing claw that scratched the car.

    Perhaps that’s because it’s not very memorable. It’s also not especially clever. Why not? Because it has nothing to do with the nature of the murder or the character of the murderer. That, more than anything, is the hallmark of a great “gotcha.” Rather, the claw marks are an entirely coincidental clue.

    More clues don’t mean better clues. You don’t need a cascade of clues if the ones you have are good ones. There are a lot of clues in C:MCBHTYH. If only the writers (who, as CP’s review notes, were novices) had prioritized finding a memorable “gotcha.” One that sticks. How do you find that? Generally, it starts with looking at the character of Wade Anders. What defines him? What flaws motivate his actions? When a murderer is done in by something central to his or her character, we remember.

    • Good to once again read the episode takes from Columbophile regulars! Richard, I would just add a fourth type of clue to your list, and those are the clues that don’t point to a specific person to pursue, but simply point to a glitch in the seemingly obvious account of the victim’s death. In “Etude in Black”, the initial explanation of Jennifer Welles’ death looks like a clear suicide. But little things immediately disrupt this model: the lack of a clear motive; the gassing of her beloved pet cockatoo; the typed – not written – suicide note. Columbo doubts that Clifford Paris died of a heart attack in “Double Shock” after realizing that he took a bath before exercising, and knows that Gene Stafford was fleeing from someone by the shoe marks on the gym floor in “Exercise in Fatality”. In such cases, Columbo has to figure out that the death scene is not what it appears before then training his sights on who the killer is.

      Of course, oftentimes these clues aren’t so distinct, and clues that point to a faulty explanation of death can also help finger the villain, like Luis Montoya in “A Matter of Honor”. In “Hazardous”, Columbo deduces that the heart attack scenario is faulty, then realizes that the killer isn’t familiar with smoking. Hello, Wade!

      • A good point, Glenn. Although often these not-how-it-appears clues do point the finger of suspicion at the person most invested in the obvious. For example, in “Double Shock,” Dexter’s reaction to the bath-before-exercise clue — protesting Columbo wanting an autopsy on this basis — makes him look awfully suspicious. (One of the terrific elements of this episode is that twin brother Norman reacts exactly the opposite, agreeing with Columbo.) In “Exercise in Fatality,” by doubting that Gene died while exercising, Milo (who maintained that this is what Gene told him he was doing) became the principal suspect. (Two murders disguised as exercise fatalities. Interesting.)

    • I havent seen this episode for a while, but maybe the reason the official “pop” isn’t memorable to you Richard is that it doesn’t really prove that Wade is the killer?

      It does prove that he was lying when he said he had never been to Budd’s house, but there are probably a lot of cars in LA (including Columbo’s) with the same claw marks on the door?

      I think that the real “pop” is, as you thought, the height of the hedges on the security videotape

  35. I would like to add a list item to yours, Columbophile, from older episodes’ recycled moments.

    You mention it already in your great article, and that’s the magazine interview of the antagonist disturbed by Columbo. This scene is already present in Murder by the Book, when Ken Franklin flirts with the journalist woman. 😀

  36. “Red beans and demon rum? ‘Victory’ brand cigarettes…..indeed…….

    This is my favorite episode by far, of the “newer” Columbo’s. I even prefer it to several of the original series (Conspirators and Commodore come to mind).

    G.H.IV nailed this one as Wade Anders. He’s got such a descriptive face, and a smoldering evil under the surface of that fluorescent brown melanin. Wade is another killer who I rooted for, along with Tommy Brown, The Great Santini, Adrian Carsini, Col. Rumford, Alex Benedict, Abigail Mitchell, and Paul Galesko, since their victims were so despicable as to warrant their own demise.

    The scene at Bud’s house was one of the best, as Wade calmly wraps on his latex gloves, smiles, and says “told ya those things were gonna kill ya” while Bud violently coughs his last breaths. Wade then methodically plants the cigarette butts, but doesn’t pay attention to the details, namely leaving butts that had no tar/nicotene residue, and of course, the all CAPS on the document.

    Then he confidently exits Bud’s house, saying…..”news at 11″. That warmed my sinister heart to this villain, and his $%*t eating grin at the company party added points to his cool-killer score in my book. The actress who portrayed Wade’s party host/work administrator also played secretary to Garry Shandling on The Larry Sander’s Show.

    The perv in the ‘adult’ book store, (“hope we both have fun tonight, pal”) must have sensed a kinship with the other ruffled trench coat wearing patron. And the biker-chick outside the XXX store saying “hey cutie, want to show me what’s under the raincoat?” and Columbo’s reaction to her, were priceless. The proprietor of the porn store (Robert Donner) also played an inebriated barfly who kept bothering Columbo in “Any old port in a storm”, as well as the alien Exidor, on the Mork & Mindy sitcom.

    While checking on IMDB, I see they have their own favorites listing of all 69 episodes. Needless to say, it has flaws:


    Also found another Youtube channels with some interesting episode reviews:


    Thoughts, hopes, and prayers for you and your family

    • Regarding Robert Donner… he also appeared in the Columbo episode “Undercover” from 1994 as Zeke Rivers, the parking cop. I always enjoy seeing him. Such a character!

    • Actually, I thought Paul Galesko’s wife was quite funny if somewhat argumentative – and certainly didn’t deserve to be ignominiously tied up and shot – so Galesko could run off with his nubile assistant.

  37. I like George Hamilton as a villain. He plays smooth and confident characters very well. And I like this episode better than Deadly State of Mind, since it doesn’t include hypnosis, which always works vastly better on television shows than in real life.

    I agree with most of the review, but I thought it was absolutely brilliant of Columbo to check the back of the paper for fingerprints and realize the victim didn’t remove the page from the printer. That was Columbo at his best, finding a small, easy to overlook detail that indicates the murder scene was staged.

  38. First, great to see CP back in form. As a confirmed New Columbo skeptic, I had never gotten around to watching “Hazardous”, so I gave it a spin recently and for me, it’s not nearly as bad as the bulk of the 90s product. Sure, it’s got the flaws noted by CP, but IMHO they’re not total dealbreakers (and I give it some leeway because the Gotcha dog is named Sheba, as is mine).

    The Good:
    • As a non-smoker, I like that Anders doesn’t get the details quite precisely correct, which tips Columbo both to the murder and murderer. I don’t smoke either, so I don’t quite share CP’s skepticism on this, and I would definitely have made similar errors. If I was a murderer. Which I am not. No sir.
    • The script pays attention to the psychology behind Columbo’s questions, his “need” for Anders’ help, ingratiating himself to the killer, treating Anders as an equal….in short, many of the underpinnings of Classic Columbo that are often ignored in New Columbo. I’ve wondered why the 90s writers had such a hard time understanding what made Classic Columbo tick, but this comes closer than other eps of the era.
    • George Hamilton, and lots of screen time with Columbo.
    • A corny James Bond-esque wisecrack after killing Bud!

    The Not-So-Good:
    • A second corny James Bond-esque wisecrack after killing Bud! Too much!
    • Yes, there’s Clue Overkill. Not just the ashtrays, but having Anders use one of his old stories to replace Bud’s porno expose. Why was that necessary? Why not just print out one of Bud’s old stories that had the proper use of caps in the title?
    • As usual for the 90s, the Gotcha is pretty tepid and anti-climactic, which dulls the final impact. It’d been better if the dog paw wasn’t so unique, and the scratches could simply have been an early indicator to Columbo that something was amiss with Anders’ story. Getting a Gotcha that was equal parts crowd-pleasing, logically incriminating, and original was certainly a terrible struggle for New Columbo.
    • If producers would just skip using the freakin’ whimsical jokey music the “comedy” scenes invariably attract, they might not be quite so bad.

    The Trivia:
    • Bud’s taste in music sucks, proven conclusively by a 1987 cassette in his car from The Thompson Twins when they were well past their 15-minutes prime. When they pulled that cassette for use from the 7-11 bargain bin, did the producers realize that the Thompson Twins were actually named after the bumbling detectives of a popular European comic strip, and perhaps their inclusion here is just being ironic? Yeah, probably not.
    • The only other female writer of Columbo? Shirl Hendrix from “A Stitch in Crime”.

    So I suppose that “Hazardous” is…..rewatchable (unlike most 90s eps). It’s interesting that the 3 no-name writers (Pseudonym Alert) obviously cribbed from better episodes, and labored with the heavy-handed clues, but I was impressed that they understood the “psychological” dynamics of the back-and-forth between Columbo and Anders. Hardly stellar, but a serviceable episode for the 90s.

      • And Lee you are, in fact, correct [*Glenn slaps palm to forehead*]!

        This highlights even more the lack of female writers in Hollywood, another thread I might pursue at another time. But more immediately, it has me wondering again about the three “Hazardous” scribes. We know one was Falk’s executive assistant, and the others are mysteries, as nobody wrote anything before or since. Seems suspicious for a heralded show like Columbo. As an assistant to the star, Raynell would have his ear and the inside track to getting an idea greenlit. Did she have an idea and co-write or get contributions from some friends?

        Let me speculate that perhaps Raynell did have some assist….from her boss Peter Falk. We know that he would later script an episode (“Its All In The Game”), and that he would totally steal the electric blanket gambit in that outing from “Suitable For Framing”. This episode seems a pastiche of various Classic Columbo elements, and, furthermore, gets the interaction between Columbo and killer better than most other 90s efforts. I was impressed by that, as I noted in my first post, but what if that element was so well-done because Falk himself handled it? It seems at least a possibility, and then perhaps he let his assistant get the primary credit. Hmmm…..

        • Shirl Hendryx was indeed (and still is, at the vibrant age of 97!) a man. The female Columbo writers were Gerry Day (Undercover), Tina Pine (story on Short Fuse and rewrites on a never-produced circus episode), and Elaine May (uncredited rewrites on Fade In to Murder and Old Fashioned Murder).

          • David, thank you for sharing your inside info. Your behind-the-scenes details add to our collective Columbo experience (and I would not have guessed Gerry Day was a woman)!

            Elsewhere in this blog, CP has described you as a “writer and historian”. If you have any insights on my theory that Peter Falk did, in fact, have a major role in “Hazardous”, I’d love to hear your thoughts. I can’t wrap my head around the idea that 3 women of no writing experience before or since crafted a Columbo that made it to air….not because they’re women, mind you. I’d feel the same about men with little to no experience, such as terrible “Old Fashioned Murder” writer Peter Feibelman, who has a glaring lack of credits to his name. But unlike “Old Fashioned”, “Hazardous” is a pretty competent effort, and I just know there’s a “story behind the story” on this one.

            • Glenn, you are correct in your guess that Peter Falk was pivotal in bringing about Caution. He was not one to hold a lack of credits against someone if he liked their work. (April Raynell, in fact, was his personal assistant.) Details on my Columbo project are just about ready to be unveiled…

                • It seems strange that Bud Clarke would turn his back on Wade Anders to insert the incriminating porn tape-just long enough for Anders to pull the cigarette switch. (If you were blackmailing someone would you ever turn
                  your back on that person?). Wouldn’t it have made more sense to already have the tape in the VCR and all Clarke needed to do was hit play while not turning his back on Anders? It appears Anders knew Bud better than the other way around. What would Wade have done if Bud had kept him in view? Improvise I guess. Other than this, I enjoyed the episode more than most of the newer ones.
                  Welcome back CP, and good luck to your daughter!

                  • “What would Wade have done if Bud had kept him in view?”

                    He could have switched the pack at a later moment, perhaps requesting a belt of scotch or some other excuse for Budd to leave the room or turn his back.

                    In the worse case, he could pick up the pack in plain sight and say, “These things will kill you, you know,” and then “accidentally” drop it on the floor and make the switch.

                    The fact that Budd smoked the cigarette right in front of him was just a bonus.

                    He could just as well of switched the packs and then left. Budd dies at some point in the future and the police see no reason not to call it a heart attack. End of investigation.

                    Sure, the story of the porn is on Budd’s computer, but so what? People do questionable things when they are young. He could even wear it as a badge of honor — “Look at how good I was in that.”

                    • It’s not just a question of his having done a porn film tarnishing Wade’s squeaky clean image. His costar “Holly” was underage, so he had committed a statutory rape.

                      What I have never understood is that when Wade delete’s the porn story from Budd’s computer, why does he replace it with another one, that doesn’t match Budd’s house style? Why not just delete and go? Is there some valid technical reason for this, e.g. so that the total number of files is unchanged?

                    • I find this a great episode. Not only is it one of my favourites of the new ones (5th in my list) but it also makes my Top 20 all time Columbo’s.

                      I’ve no issue with the obvious flaws in this killers thinking. That’s the point!! Wade was arrogant, self absorbed, dismissive but also a bit dumb.

                      I keep saying that the beauty of Columbo is that they don’t make the killers out to be evil geniuses like Fleming did with Blofeld in Bond!!

                    • Yes, the whole point of the Columbo stories is that the killers are very clever people, but they are amateurs who make stupid mistakes. That’s how Columbo catches them!

                      The alternative would be for the killers to notify the LAPD in advance, by sending them a clue in the form of a riddle.

    • I second your complaint regarding overuse of tongue-in-cheek music. I’d say it really dates these episodes but, frankly, it feels out-of-date even for 1991. The cliche TV score for punchlines was well established around the time of Andy Griffith, and the first round of postmodern shows like The Simpsons were already deconstructing such tropes when Hazardous first aired.

  39. On the subject of heavy handed direction, don’t forget that Columbo goes to College has to stoop to a slow-mo replay. I’m wondering if the directors in the ABC series had strict instructions about spoon feeding of clues – because this sort of thing frequently marred these episodes. Another disappointing example being extended panning of the cheese bite in Agenda for Murder.
    For some strange reason, I always enjoy the scene where George Hamilton arrives at the Production party declaring, “I’ve put in a hard day, and now I want to celebrate.” Perhaps it’s because I’ve always wanted to say this in real life !

  40. Thanks for the review. You’re so right about the cancel culture aspect of this episode. I enjoyed this episode and George is definitely gorgeous. I enjoyed Arnie who also appeared in Any Old Port.(Robert Donner)
    Does anyone else get Peter Haskell confused with Peter Graves?

    • My sister and I had to argue with our friend over Peter Haskell not being Peter Graves(easily get them confused as mentioned in a previous comment). Haskell is definitely Graves’ doppleganger. I agree that Penny Johnson gives a stellar performance throughout and I also agree that Columbo casting should’ve included a wider range of nationalities as other shows like Cannon(one of my other favorites) did.


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