Saturday, July 30, 2005

"If you do not confess to this murder, I will take my cigar and put it out in your arrogant, upper-class, eye!" *

*from infamous, never-aired Columbo episode "Columbo Loses His Patience With A Suspect" (guest-starring Paul Lynde as "Kyle Mannerly", a murderous fashion designer who kills his competitor [Alan Sues] over some stolen jeans designs).

This is the next in the line of "thank god they did it, but why no special features?" Columbo complete season dvd box sets, which comes out on August 9th. Season Three includes the titles...

3.1 Lovely But Lethal- Cosmetic queen Vera Miles kills boytoy Martin Sheen. Columbo investigates and questions rival Vincent Price (!). I like this episode, but wish the killer had been Vincent Price, or that they had brought him back to play a killer the way they did Ray Milland, Robert Culp, Jack Cassidy, or Robert Vaughn.

3.2 Any Old Port In A Storm- Columbo occasionally had killers who the audience, and Columbo, felt sympathy for. Season three had two of the better ones, starting with this episode, guest-starring Donald Pleasance as a vintner who kills his brother in a blind rage for planning to sell the land the winery is on to cheap competitors. As Pleasance's character is basically a decent sort of person and the playboy brother is so crass, it's hard not to hope Columbo blows it.

3.3 Candidate For Crime- Jackie Cooper is a "tough on crime" politician who kills his campaign manager as part of a scheme to get sympathy votes by faking murder attempts on his own life. This case is referred to in future episodes, as the writers thought the idea of Columbo not becoming more well-known by solving these high-profile cases was becoming a little silly.

3.4 Double Exposure- Robert Culp is the murderer! Again! Need I say more? I'd watch this guy read a phone book, because I know, inevitably, it would somehow get to be about him and Bill Cosby. In that order.

3.5 Publish Or Perish- Jack Cassidy is the murderer! Again! And the guy he kills? Mickey Spillane! What kind of Bizarro universe were the writers creating where two-fisted drunk Spillane could be killed by theatrical, Barrymore-esque (he actually played John Barrymore in the Rod Steiger-is-W.C. Fields movie "W.C. and Me") Cassidy? Watch and find out!

3.6 Mind Over Mayhem- Son-obsessed Jose Ferrer kills Lew Ayres because his weak-willed son, played by weak actor Robert Walker, Jr. (son of alcoholic Robert Walker who also played weak guys), stole a molecular theory from a dead scientist and claimed it as his own, and Ayres will reveal all. Falk thought the clue he nails Jose Ferrer with was one of the best the writers ever came up with. Notable for the appearance of "Robby The Robot" and for the character of Steven Spelberg, boy scientist, a play on the name of the director of the first Columbo episode (not counting the two TV movie pilots), Steven Speilberg. At that point, Spielberg was working on "Jaws".

3.7 Swan Song- The other "sympathetic murderer" episode of the season, this one has Johnny Cash as a gospel singer married to an Aimee Semple McPherson-esque Ida Lupino. He kills her because she is blackmailing him to give her all of his recording/concert profits to build a huge Crystal Cathedral-ish church. The trick to being sympathetic in these things is to be humble and genuinely nice to Columbo, I think, as both Pleasance and Cash's characters are. It's hard to think of a Culp character treating Columbo in a sincerely decent manner.

3.8 A Friend In Deed- The mighty Richard Kiley plays a murderous Police Commisioner who strikes a "Strangers On A Train"-ish bargain with his next-door neighbor. I think the trick to casting a typical Columbo killer is to find someone that can play really arrogant, and I mean theatrically arrogant, bastards. Kiley does not disappoint as he plays someone who should be taking his own superstar Homicide Lieutenant, who has solved every high-profile case LA has had in the late-sixties/early seventies, much more seriously. But, because he's so high on his own Kiley-ness, he can't even be bothered to look up the guy's record, or ask around the office("Hey, what's up with my employee's 'Just one more thing'? Is that some sort of act, or what?") to know what he's dealing with.

Also, pick up "The Complete Thin Man Collection" coming out from Warners this week(8/2), or I'll never speak to you again.

Posted by Picasa


Mona Buonanotte said...

Ohgodohgodohgod!!! You have NO idea how much I lust after Columbo! I got Season 1 last Christmas and watched it every night, alone, just me and Peter Falk, until I wore out the dvds (didn't think that was possible). Ooh, I'm all a-quiver until Seasons 2 and 3 are in my hot little hands. (And he STILL looks good, see 'Dinner For Five', I still want him to wrap me up in that trenchcoat...wooo!)

Captain Spaulding said...

Actually there's one special feature for season 3: an episode of "Mrs. Columbo". Universal doesn't do special features probably because it raises the price.

I'd love to have seen Price as a murderer just to hear him read "I've had it up to here with your insinuations, Columbo!"

Robert Culp (or a caricature thereof) was also the murderer in the MAD magazine Columbo parody (or not-the-murderer since the joke was that Columbo annoys confessions out of innocent people).

Jackie Cooper's other motive was that he was diddling a campaign worker and the campaign manager wanted him to knock it off.

Understand in the Kiley episode that the neighbor's murder was not premeditated and he had just called Kiley to ask "What do I do?" Thus Kiley hatched his scheme within seconds of getting the call.

And speaking of Universal TV, they're going to be doing "Kolchak: The Night Stalker" in October.

your fiend, mr. jones said...

MB- You should check out his official website for his racy charcoal sketches. Or not. But I'm sure it would make an old television detective very happy if you did.

Capt.- I do not consider an episode of a "spin-off-in-name-only" being thrown into the mix much of a special feature. I would hope that Universal would have the guts to create the new term "mediocre feature" in offer of this weak show that offered the second class Kate Hepburn, Kate Mulgrew as an improbable wife (with tv kids!) for the lieutenant.

The idea of hearing Price's theatrical lisping of that line is great. Especially "insinuations".

Thank God Universal is doing the "Kolchak" box set, as it will be around (like the "Bewitched" box set was around this summer) to show how poor the remake is.