Tuesday, December 24, 2013

My Favorite Columbo Episode: Etude in Black

with the great John Cassavetes. Cassavetes plays a sophisticated, arrogant conductor who murders his mistress to prevent her for spilling the beans to his rich wife (Blythe Danner). Columbo seldom solved crimes with perpetrators that weren't rich and arrogant, but Cassavetes played it oh, so well.

Written by Steven Bochco and Richard Levinson.

Columbo sort of lost it along the way for me. It was too tied to its set-up. And its decision to always place  the murders among the wealthy made them awfully similar. But for a few years, it was terrific. And Falk was always terrific in the part.

What is your favorite COLOMBO episode.

17 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Patti - This is definitely a great, great Columbo. I miss Peter Falk...

Margot Kinberg said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
George said...

I loved COLUMBO. The episode that sticks out in my mind is one called "An Old Port in a Storm." Here's the description: A connoisseur running a California winery murders his younger half-brother to prevent him from selling the family business. Lt. Columbo is on the case.

Deb said...

We're in the process of re-watching all of those great Columbo episodes (first four seasons were great--then, as you note, the format got stale) and, by interesting coincidence, this was the episode we watched on Friday (thanks, Netflix!). Apparently, Blythe Danner was pregnant (with Gwyneth Paltrow) when the episode filmed, so there are lots of up-close facial shots, shots from the back, and many gauzy, flowing gowns. My favorite part: The still lovely Myrna Loy playing Blythe Danner's very wealthy mother.

My favorite episode--although a bit on the campy side--is set in London and stars Honour Blackman and Richard Basehart as theatre stars who kill the producer of their production of Macbeth. Blackman quickly becomes a Lady Macbeth when Wilfrid Hyde-White threatens to reveal all.

One of the most enjoyable things about watching the old shows is seeing future stars in very small roles. Katey Sagal, Marcia ("Mrs. Krabappel") Wallace, Bruno Kirby...the list goes on.

Deb said...

And, as Columbo would say, just one more thing: One of my daughters, a self-described "band-and-drum-major geek," said of John Cassavetes's conducting in this episode, "His conducting is to actual conducting as the sign language interpreter at Mandela's funeral was to actual sign language interpreting."

TracyK said...

Columbo was and is a favorite TV show in our household. We have all the DVDs and have re-watched many of the early seasons multiple times.

As far as favorite episodes, I liked all the episodes that Patrick McGoohan was in, just because he was in them. I think my all time favorite is the one with Jack Cassiday called Murder by the Book, which was very close to the beginning of the series.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Funny you should mention Myrna Loy, Deb. She'll be stopping by later.
I remember the Cassidy episode well. Great villain, wasn't he?

John said...

Too many to choose from. I have a special fondness for Ruth Gordon as a vengeful mystery writer, Faye Dunaway as a sympathetic (rather than the usual egocentric, vain killer) murderer, and all of the ones with Robert Culp as the bad guy. He was especially good as the usual arrogant "Columbo" villain.

The one George mentions is with Donald Pleasance as the murderer and is brilliant, mostly for its solution. Columbo must learn the basics of operating a wine cellar before he can get his proof of murder.

John said...

Can I go again? There are also the episode with Leonard Nimoy as a truly despciable (dare I say evil?) surgoen and Theodore Bikel as a supercilious Mensa member. The Bikel episode has one of the most baroque murder methods which is reminiscent of a John Dickson Carr novel and the ending is superb. Bikel is taught a moral lesson in the difference between intelligence and wisdom.

Dana King said...

The Jack Cassidy episode sticks in my mind, as well. Another, with Nicol Williamson as a dog trainer, also stands out, but I can't say I ever saw a Columbo I didn;t enjoy.

Todd Mason said...

The Pleasance episode was also a refreshing break from formula, in that the vintner realizes that Columbo is sharper than he appears rather earlier than most of the arrogant perps...the concluding conversation is most amusing.

The earliest episodes are awaiting shakedown, but I can enjoy the entire first series--the ABC revival series was pretty dull by comparison.

Charles Gramlich said...

I watched some Columbo and enjoyed it but I don't remember any individual episodes. Just the general feel.

Cap'n Bob said...

I saw the first season or two, then watched it intermittently. Thanks to the above comments, my memory has been prompted, although I remember Falk going on the Tonight show to promo the one with Pleasance.

When I got out of the Army I worked in Ossining, NY. Each day I walked passed Falks clothing store, which was owned by Peter Falk's parents.

pattinase (abbott) said...

he actually,married a woman my husband knew.

Randy Johnson said...

A little late to the party and mine's been mentioned a few times. ANY OLD PORT IN A STORM is the one. The byplay, the chemistry, between Falk and Pleasance was rarely equaled in any other episode.

Al Tucher said...

I agree with Katy about Patrick McGoohan. Nobody did arrogant better. He also directed several episodes.

I used to wonder why the same dozen or so were broadcast until they were tattered, until I saw and unfamiliar one a few years ago. It was sould-destroyingly dreadful. (Dabney Coleman was the rich, arrogant adversary.)

Al Tucher said...

Apparently, I lost my typing chops over Christmas.