Columbo s03e04 Double Exposure (1973) – 7/10 crime detective murder mystery TV review

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Cast / crew
Lieutenant Columbo: Peter Falk
Robert Culp: Dr. Bart Kepple
Robert Middleton:
Chuck McCann:
Louise Latham: Mrs. Norris
Director: Richard Quine
Writer: Stephen J. Cannell
Series Creator: Richard Levinson
Series Creator: William Link

Columbo s03e04 Double Exposure (1973)

When Dr. Bart Kepple, an expert on human psychology, murders Vic Norris, a man who is about to expose the doctor and his blackmailing ways, using every psychological trick in the book – Columbo – as much an expert but wearing his cunning disguise of a shambling idiot – has to use techniques he never even knew existed.

7/10

"Alright Lieutenant. I’ll play."- Dr. Bart Kepple underestimating, of course, Lieutenant Columbo

Good Columbo with several terrific scenes where Columbo attempts to out-psychologise (if that’s a word!) Robert Culp’s psychological expert. Culp trying to ignore the be-macced maestro cresting a hill in a golf cart is the opener to a fantastically clever scene where Columbo, using only a long-distance phone call, proves Culp knows a certain woman; Columbo deliberately not giving Culp the directions to a murder location is also an absolute joy. The use of sublimal image theory is a little suspect but not any less fun and it’s nice to see slack-jawed admiration for Columbo from the murderer when he is finally caught.

This Columbo episode contains violence, adult dialogue

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

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Columbo s01e07 Blueprint for Murder (1972) – 6/10 crime detective TV review

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Cast / crew
Lieutenant Columbo: Peter Falk
Patrick O’Neal: Elliiot Markham
Janis Paige: Goldie Williamson
Pamela Austin: Jennifer Williamson
John Fiedler: Doctor Moss
Forrest Tucker: Bo Williamson
Actor and Director: Peter Falk
Screenplay Writer: Steven Bochco
Story Writer: William Kelley
Producer and Series Creator: Richard Levinson
Producer and Series Creator: William Link

Columbo s01e07 Blueprint for Murder (1972)

Columbo investigates a reported death of a Texas tycoon but there’s no body and the last man to see him, architect Elliot Markham, presumes that he has gone off on an international trip. Sure enough, the police find the tycoon’s car at the airport but while the tape player and glovebox is stuffed with country and western music, the radio is tuned to a classical station. That’s enough to make Columbo think that something sinister may be going on.

6/10

Memorable but empty episode. Columbo’s surprise appearance in a woman’s bedroom is probably worth the price of admission and the plan for disposing of the body is clever. The skyscraper construction site is an unusual, interesting and convincing location. The episode is paced surprisingly well given the lack of developments but director Peter Falk doesn’t quite get the end gambit (the digging up of the pile / eventual arrest) quite right.

This Columbo episode contains very mild gory scene

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

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Agatha Christie’s Poirot s05e08 Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan (1993) – 7/10 period crime detective mystery drama TV review

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Cast / crew
Writer (Original Short Story): Agatha Christie
Hercule Poirot: David Suchet
Captain Hastings: Hugh Fraser
Chief Inspector Japp: Philip Jackson
Miss Lemon: Pauline Moran
Writer (Dramatisation): Anthony Horowitz
Karl Johnson: Saunders
Elizabeth Rider: Grace
Simon Shepherd: Andrew Hall
Hermione Norris: Celestine
Producer: Brian Eastman
Director: Ken Grieve

Agatha Christie’s Poirot s05e08 Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan (1993)

Poirot is sent to the coast for a holiday after the doctor, rather disappointingly, diagnoses him as "run down" rather than heroically enduring a life-ending malaise. While he’s there, a $300,000 pearl necklace is stolen from a locked box in a drawer in a room guarded by two people.

7/10

A lot of fun but the ingenious mystery and nature of the crime is not communicated quite well enough and feels like a lot of details have been left out. It is, in fact, the reverse. The writers have added story and details that weaken the central mystery instead of adding to it. The rest of the additions to the episode are a joy, however. Japp gets a magnificent gag with a teddy bear ("That’s for your boy?" Pregnant pause. "Yes."). Poirot gets his wonderful "am I going to die" face on for the doctor at the beginning and is a little put out to discover he’s only "run down" and he gets spectacularly miffed when he keeps getting people running up to him while on holiday saying "You’re Lucky Len and I claim my ten guineas!" This climaxes in a great scene where he finally meets Lucky Len.

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

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Columbo s03e08 A Friend In Deed (1974) – 7/10 crime detective murder drama TV review

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Cast / crew
Lieutenant Columbo: Peter Falk
Richard Kiley: Deputy Commissioner Mark Halperin
Rosemary Murphy: Margaret Halperin
Michael McGuire: Hugh Caldwell
Val Avery: Artie Jessup
Director: Ben Gazzara
Writer: Peter S. Fischer
Series’ Creator: Richard Levinson
Series’ Creator: William Link
Producer: Edward K. Dodds
Executive Producer: Roland Kibbee
Executive Producer: Dean Hargrove

Columbo s03e08 A Friend In Deed (1974)

When a man ends up throttling his wife during a heated argument about her extra-marital affairs, he goes to his friend Mark for help. Mark helps him out by providing him with an alibi and making the scene of the crime look like she disturbed a burgler. If anyone can help him cover it up, it’s Mark: Police Deputy Commissioner Mark Halperin.

7/10

Solid episode with good reasons for Columbo to become suspicious that everything is not as it seems (a folded nightie under a pillow, a complete lack of fingerprints including the victim’s and an unanswered phone call). Murder She Wrote writer Peter S. Fischer supplies a terrific conclusion – one of the series’ best – requiring Falk to go from his what’s-going-on face to his you’re-the-murderer speech; which he does perfectly, of course. In fact, if Fischer could have come up with some nice little Columbo moments (he has trouble with his car but there’s nothing to work with) to augment the strong, clever plot, this could have been the best Columbo ever. As it is, it’s clever, logical and the climax is completely unforeseeable and a total joy.

This Columbo episode contains violence, mild adult dialogue

Classified 12 by BBFC. Suitable only for persons of 12 years and over.

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Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Sad Cypress (2003) – 7/10 period murder mystery detective drama TV review

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Cast / crew
Hercule Poirot: David Suchet
Writer (Original Novel): Agatha Christie
Screenplay Writer: David Pirie
Elizabeth Dermot Walsh: Elinor Carlisle
Rupert Penry-Jones: Roddy Winter
Kelly Reilly: Mary Gerard
Paul McGann: Dr. Peter Lord
Phyllis Logan: Nurse Hopkins
Producer: Margaret Mitchell
Director: David Moore
Actor and Associate Producer: David Suchet

Agatha Christie’s Poirot Sad Cypress (2003)

A poison pen letter is brought to Poirot’s attention and though he takes it very seriously, it’s not enough to get a body exhumed for further investigation. Shortly thereafter, a murder is committed and Poirot returns only to fall short once more as a woman is sentenced to death for a crime only she had the means, motive and opportunity to commit. Yet the little grey cells refuse to settle.

7/10

"I am thirty-six times an idiot!" – Hercule Poirot

This is a nicely staged production with a good sense of atmosphere and a beautifully-judged pace. There is just enough information given to the audience for them to have worked out the mechanics of the murder themselves but no way for them to derive the motive. This isn’t a mystery where everywhere has means, motive and opportunity – only one has; Poirot’s challenge is to see that there was, in fact, another. The screenwriter’s challenge is to help the audience see that and what he does is quite interesting. Though the clues regarding the true murder are there, the audience is highly unlikely to perceive them. The only reason they will consider that Elinor Carlisle isn’t guilty is because whomever we are told is guilty in these murder mysteries is always innocent. And so, unlike Poirot, we don’t need to find another motive because we already presume that she is innocent.

This Agatha Christie’s Poirot episode contains unexpectedly unpleasant nightmare scene

Classified 12 by BBFC. Suitable only for persons of 12 years and over.

Links

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991) – 8/10 science-fiction action adventure movie review

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Cast / crew
For: Gene Roddenberry
Director and Screenplay Writer: Nicholas Meyer
Kirk: William Shatner
Spock: Leonard Nimoy
DeForest Kelley: McCoy
James Doohan: Scotty
Walter Koenig: Chekov
Nichelle Nichols: Uhuru
George Takei: Sulu
Mark Lenard: Sarek
David Warner: Chancellor Gorkon
Kim Cattrall: Lt. Valeris
Rosana DeSoto: Azetbur
Christopher Plummer: Chang
Dedicated To and Original Series Creator STAR TREK: Gene Roddenberry
Story Writer: Lawrence Konner
Story Writer: Mark Rosenthal
Actor, Executive Producer and Story Writer: Leonard Nimoy
Screenplay Writer: Denny Martin Flinn
Producer: Ralph Winter
Producer: Steven-Charles Jaffe

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)

When a disaster on Praxis, an important energy-producing moon, faces the Klingon race with the choice of military expenditure or survival as a species, they call to the Federation to arrange a peace. Three months from retirement, Captain James T. Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise are sent as a figurative olive branch to escort the Klingon Ambassador to Earth. After a less-than-successful diplomatic meal aboard the Enterprise, Kirk is rudely awoken by the sound of Enterprise firing on the Ambassador’s ship and his subsequent assassination. In the absence of the actual killers, Kirk and McCoy are arrested and put on trial.

8/10

"Nice to see you in action, one more time, Captain Kirk." – Captain Sulu

In what must be a unique cinematic event, the original Star Trek cast literally sign off from their motion picture series and must have been deservedly proud that it was done with this spectacular and interesting, generally well paced and smart movie. Boasting social commentary, courtroom drama, murder mystery intrigue, one of the greatest beards in movie history (Kurtwood Smith), a prison escape, a dude who doesn’t have knees where his knees are and a classic space battle resolved with intellect (and a lot of photon torpedoes, admittedly), The Undiscovered Country is a terrific movie with a lot to like. Not included in that list would be Kim Cattrall who threatens to undermine everything with her lack of acting ability. Generally, though, the movie is handled surely by Wrath of Khan director Nicholas Meyer and is headlined by wonderful work from William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy. It certainly was nice to see them in action one more time.

This movie contains graphic violence, gory scenes, unpleasant scenes

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

Agatha Christie’s Poirot s05e06 The Chocolate Box (1993) – 7/10 period detective murder mystery TV review

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Cast / crew
Writer (Original Short Story): Agatha Christie
Hercule Poirot: David Suchet
Chief Inspector Japp: Philip Jackson
Writer (Dramatisation): Douglas Watkinson
Rosalie Crutchley: Madame Deroulard
Anna Chancellor: Virginie Mesnard
Director: Ken Grieve

Agatha Christie’s Poirot s05e06 The Chocolate Box (1993)

Poirot returns to Belgium for the first time in years to accompany Japp who is being honoured by the Belgian government. While there, Poirot is reminded of a case that didn’t go his way and he decides that the time is right to reveal the truth.

7/10

It’s terrific to see a young Poirot skilfully brought to life by David Suchet with his normal weight and gait and a bit of running around and a bit of extra hair on the toupé. Dramatiser Douglas Watkinson does well in structuring the story and there’s plenty to like, especially with Poirot as a burgler and his constant lack of discretion. I did chuckle happily at the scene where Poirot is asked for, not by name but, "by moustache." Even though Hastings isn’t here, there’s a lovely feeling of friendship with Poirot accompanying Japp to an award ceremony in Belgium. While the setting and atmosphere are terrific, the colour blindness that is at the heart of the detective story climax doesn’t convince. Even if pink looks green and green looks pink, couldn’t you still tell whether a lid and a box were the same colour? Regardless, a good episode.

This Agatha Christie’s Poirot episode contains violence

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

Links

Agatha Christie’s Poirot s13e03 Dead Man’s Folly (2013) – 4/10 period crime detective murder mystery TV review

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Cast / crew
Hercule Poirot: David Suchet
Writer (Original Novel): Agatha Christie
Screenplay Writer: Nick Dear
James Anderson: Michael Weyman
Rosalind Ayres: Mrs. Warburton
Sinéad Cusack aka Sinead Cusack: Mrs. Folliat
Tom Ellis: Detective Inspector Bland
Rebecca Front: Miss Brewis
Emma Hamilton: Sally Legge
Martin Jarvis: Captain Warburton
Sam Kelly: John Merdell
Stephanie Leonidas: Hattie Stubbs
Sean Pertwee: Sir George Stubbs
Daniel Weyman: Alec Legge
Nicholas Woodeson: Detective Sergeant Hoskins
Ariadne Oliver: Zoë Wanamaker aka Zoe Wanamaker
Producer: David Boulter
Director: Tom Vaughan

Agatha Christie’s Poirot s13e03 Dead Man’s Folly (2013)

Ariadne Oliver has been hired to organise a murder hunt for a fete being hosted by Sir George Stubbs but she has a nasty, niggling feeling that real crime is in the air and calls upon the services of Hercule Poirot to bristle his moustache in evil’s general direction. Certainly not to prevent any murders, good heavens, no.

4/10

Taking nearly half its running time to get to the first murder, this adaptation suffers, as so many of the feature-length Poirot‘s by choosing not to be interesting, fun or informative. The second half has trouble maintaining interest as there aren’t enough clues to construct a theorem and, somehow, there aren’t any suspects; reeling from the shock of seeing a black man in a Christie adaptation, they just send him to the gallows and congratulate themselves on a job well done. When Poirot reveals the solution, it turns out most of the information he gives is brand new and not derived from the clues supplied. In a nice touch, this was filmed on location at Greenway in Devon: Agatha Christie’s home.

This Agatha Christie’s Poirot episode contains violence

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Agatha Christie’s Poirot s13e05 Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case (2013) – 8/10 period crime detective murder mystery TV review

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Cast / crew
Hercule Poirot: David Suchet
Writer (Original Novel): Agatha Christie
Screenplay Writer: Kevin Elyot
Helen Baxendale: Elizabeth Cole
Shaun Dingwall: Doctor Franklin
Claire Keelan: Nurse Craven
Anna Madeley: Barbara Franklin
Aidan McArdle: Stephen Norton
Matthew McNulty: Major Allerton
Alice Orr-Ewing: Judith Hastings
John Standing: Colonel Toby Luttrell
Captain Hastings: Hugh Fraser
Anne Reid: Daisy Luttrell
Philip Glenister: Sir William Boyd Carrington
Producer: David Boulter
Director: Hettie MacDonald

Agatha Christie’s Poirot s13e05 Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case (2013)

Hastings travels to Stiles, location of his and Poirot’s first murder case together, to visit an ailing, wheelchair-bound Poirot. Fortunately, Poirot’s moustache and little grey cells are in as good condition as ever, but evil is here once more and Poirot aims to stop it.

8/10

Along with The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and, arguably, The Murder on the Orient Express, this is one of Agatha Christie’s most unforgettable and surprising murderers. Fortunately, screenplay writer Kevin Elyot didn’t remove that (like ITV did with Roger Ackroyd) and the episode is crisp, involving and emotional. After the highly variable quality of the feature-length episodes, it’s nice to report that the series ends on a high. Oh, and yes, of course, ITV interrupted SPOILER Poirot’s death for adverts and, of course, the ITV announcer talked all over the deliberately silent end credits.

This Agatha Christie’s Poirot episode contains adult dialogue, gory and unpleasant scenes, distressing scenes

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Agatha Christie’s Poirot s02e04 The Lost Mine (1990) – 6/10 period crime detective drama TV review

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Cast / crew
Writer: Agatha Christie
Hercule Poirot: David Suchet
Captain Hastings: Hugh Fraser
Chief Inspector Japp: Philip Jackson
Miss Lemon: Pauline Moran
Writer (Dramatisation): Michael Baker
Writer (Dramatisation): David Renwick
Anthony Bate: Lord Pearson
Colin Stinton: Charles Lester
Producer: Brian Eastman
Director: Edward Bennett

Agatha Christie’s Poirot s02e04 The Lost Mine (1990)

Poirot’s struggles in the early running of a game of Monopoly versus Hastings is mirrored in the real world with financial problems with his bank account (he’s £60 overdrawn, much to his fury and protestations). Meanwhile, he is engaged by his bank to find the owner of a map to a lost mine who failed to arrive at a crucial business meeting.

6/10

You don’t often see Poirot get the wrong end of the stick but writers Michael Baker and David Renwick deliver a delightful scene early on when Lord Pearson arrives to ask for Poirot’s help while Poirot thinks he’s come to apologise for a mistake in his account balance. It’s also great to see characters doing something other than their principle activity; in this case, Hastings and Poirot are playing Monopoly. It doesn’t really have anything to do with the plot but it is a tremendous amount of fun and reinforces the friendship between our two heroes. Sadly, the mystery aspect of the episode is uninvolving.

This Agatha Christie’s Poirot episode contains mild gory and unpleasant scenes, opium abuse

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

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Agatha Christie’s Poirot s10e04 Taken at the Flood (2005) – 7/10 period crime detective drama TV review

Cast / crew
Hercule Poirot: David Suchet
Writer (Original Novel): Agatha Christie
Screenplay Writer: Guy Andrews
Jenny Agutter: Adela Marchmont
Patrick Baladi: Rowley Cloade
Eva Birthistle: Rosaleen / Eileen
Elliot Lowan: David Hunter
Amanda Douge: Lynn Marchmont
Penny Downie: Frances Cloade
Claire Hackett: Beatrice Lippincott
Supt. Harold Spence: Richard Hope
Celia Imrie: ‘Aunt’ Katy Cloade
Nicholas Le Prevost: Major James Porter
Tim Pigott-Smith: Dr. Lionel Cloade
Elizabeth Spriggs: Mrs Leadbetter
Pip Torrens: Jeremy Cloade
Tim Woodward: Enoch Arden / Charles
David Yelland: George the Butler
Producer: Trevor Hopkins
Director: Andy Wilson

Agatha Christie’s Poirot s10e04 Taken at the Flood (2005)

When the Cloade family can’t get financial support from their father’s widow – a very young American actress that none of them had met before the marriage – they, rightly, blame her extremely controlling brother. As their lives were predicated around a certain amount of income, having it cut off has brought them into desperate straits but then it appears that the young actress was married before and her first husband didn’t die. The Cloade’s enlist the help of family friend and world’s greatest detective, Hercule Poirot – no, not Batman – to find evidence of bigamy. Naturally, as soon as Poirot takes on the case, someone dies.

7/10

After awkward character introductions, Guy Andrews’ adaptation improves on some details of Christie’s novel while retaining the plot that sees deaths cleverly disguised as other kinds of deaths and revelling in the energetic odiousness of the Cloade family of suspects. Acceptable changes include how Rowley identifies Arden, the nature of the explosion and Rosalie and Lynn’s fate at the end. The cast is good, especially Elliot Lowan as David Hunter and David Suchet’s Poirot is a cheerful presence.

This Agatha Christie’s Poirot episode contains adult dialogue, bad language, substance abuse, violence, gory and unpleasant scene

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Agatha Christie’s Poirot s13e02 The Big Four (2013) – 6/10 period crime detective drama TV review

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Cast / crew
Hercule Poirot: David Suchet
Writer (Original Novel): Agatha Christie
Screenplay Writer: Mark Gatiss
Screenplay Writer: Ian Hallard
Tom Brooke: Tysoe
Nicholas Burns: Inspector Meadows
Jack Farthing: Gerald Paynter
Patricia Hodge: Madame Olivier
Simon Lowe: Dr Quentin
Sarah Parish: Flossie Monro
Captain Hastings: Hugh Fraser
Miss Lemon: Pauline Moran
Chief Inspector Japp Assistant Commissioner Japp: Philip Jackson
Producer: David Boulter
Director: Peter Lydon

Agatha Christie’s Poirot s13e02 The Big Four (2013)

As the world appears to be tottering into war, the Peace Party organise a symbolic chess match between America and Russia. On his third move, however, the Russian Grandmaster keels over dead. You know, this never would have happened if Poirot hadn’t been invited to attend; he is a little egg-shaped Belgian bad luck magnet. Still, if he wasn’t there, they also wouldn’t have discovered that the death was far from accidental and, according to the papers, a mysterious organisation calling themselves The Big Four was responsible.

6/10

Though it ends up being rather silly and features a critical centrepiece explosion that has atrocious effects, this is largely a snappy, murderful couple of hours with the first death (at the chess game) being particularly ingenious. It uses manipulation of an eagerly sensationalist press as a key theme; something that certainly applied to the understandably partisan industry at the time this is set (shortly before the outbreak of World War II) but also applies to the contemporary grab for ratings through ever more explicit and intrusive coverage of scandals and disasters. It seems that BBC News can get George Alagiah to any place on Earth before local governments can get water or emergency services and supplies there.

This Agatha Christie’s Poirot episode contains unpleasant scenes

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Agatha Christie’s Poirot s13e04 The Labours of Hercules (2013) – 4/10 period crime detective drama TV review

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Cast / crew
Hercule Poirot: David Suchet
Writer (Original Novel): Agatha Christie
Screenplay Writer: Guy Andrews
Orla Brady: Countess Rossakoff
Simon Callow: Dr. Lutz
Morven Christie: Elsie Clayton
Rupert Evans: Harold Waring
Nigel Lindsay: Francesco
Sandy McDade: Mrs. Rice
Fiona O’Shaughnessy: Katrina
Eleanor Tomlinson: Alice Cunningham
Tom Wlaschiha: Schwartz
Producer: David Boulter
Director: Andy Wilson

Agatha Christie’s Poirot s13e04 The Labours of Hercules (2013)

After a case goes horribly wrong, a depressed Poirot takes a long car ride with a young man who bursts into tears and runs away and then tells him about a lost love and Poirot goes to Switzerland to find this lost love and, unpredictably, there is a connection to the case that went horribly wrong and a chance for redemption and a character arc and there’s a twist and it’s all WRITTEN BY CHILDREN.

4/10

"They say Poirot is so intelligent, he is scarcely human, but, you know, he does not listen to this ‘they’" – Poirot

Once more eschewing any recognisable humanity or warmth or fun, this feature-length episode suffers from a complete lack of atmosphere, a surprisingly offensive pot-pourri of accents, the baffling insistence on making everything unspeakably serious and a weak central mystery (where the identity of the killer is immediate from the moment they appear largely because it obviously isn’t anyone else; it is inexplicably changed from the original short story). It also might contain the single most embarrassing scene in the entire series (not involving Zoe Wanamaker) when a young man is supposed to burst into tears and run away from a car. Christie’s stories are largely fun, generally very well-paced and these feature-length episodes are not. And I miss Hastings. It will be interesting to see if his return in the next and last ever episode of Poirot will make good use of him.

This Agatha Christie’s Poirot episode contains gory scene, adult dialogue

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Columbo s01e04 Suitable for Framing (1971) – 6/10 crime detective drama TV review

Cast / crew
Lieutenant Columbo: Peter Falk
Ross Martin: Dale Kingston
Don Ameche: Frank, the lawyer
Kim Hunter: Edna
Director: Hy Averback
Writer: Jackson Gillis
Producer and Series Creator: Richard Levinson
Producer and Series Creator: William Link

Columbo s01e04 Suitable for Framing (1971)

When art critic Dale Kingston murders his uncle in order to get his hands on a valuable art collection before it is given away to charity he plans everything including a perfect, watertight alibi and a perfect stooge to blame. Lieutenant Columbo knows that nothing is perfect and presumed inheritee Kingston is quickly his prime suspect, though his efforts to prove it keep falling flat.

6/10

Despite having an annoying and charisma-free villain, Peter Falk’s typically brilliant performance as Columbo and a gleefully cunning climax make this a memorable episode. Falk delivers a best-in-class embarrassed by a naked lady, one of his better popping-up-in-unexpected-places (the suspect’s apartment as he’s returning with stolen paintings) and a brilliant attempt at a macho rant down a phone at a colleague (“CHARLIE! I sent that stuff over half-an- oh.”). Don Ameche adds a bit of class as a lawyer and makes one wish that he could have played the murderer. The bad points come from guest murderer Ross Martin who is dull, drab and distinctly aggravating as the murderer. That said, I suppose that makes it all the more sweet when Columbo nails him. The direction is also flat, lifeless and feels full of tension-deflating mistakes but there’s a lot of good Columbo and an ingenious finalé and that’s what we watch for.

This Columbo episode contains inferred violence

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

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Columbo s01e01 Murder by the Book (1971) – 6/10 crime detective TV review

Cast / crew
Lieutenant Columbo: Peter Falk
Jack Cassidy: Ken Franklin
Rosemary Forsyth: Jill Ferris
Martin Milner: James “Jim” Ferris
Director: Steven Spielberg
Story Editor and Writer: Steven Bochco
Producer and Series Creator: Richard Levinson
Producer and Series Creator: William Link

Columbo s01e01 Murder by the Book (1971)

When a successful book-writing partnership decides to part company, the ‘silent’ partner murders the other in order to collect the insurance payout but even their famed literary creation, Miss Melville, would have to go some to match wits with our Lt. Columbo.

6/10

A good perfect alibi plot and Peter Falk’s perfect performance as the eponymous shambling detective lift this murder mystery but an unconvincing conclusion drag things back down. Turns out the perfect alibi was just that. This episode was directed by Steven Spielberg and his sense of location creates some peculiarly indelible impressions. This was the first of the regular Columbo series (as opposed to the pilot episode) which would run for nearly thirty years and would be Spielberg’s immediately previous work to his breakthrough TV movie Duel (made the same year).

This Columbo episode contains

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

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The Mentalist s06e01 The Desert Rose (2013) – 5/10 detective serial killer drama

Cast / crew
Executive Producer, Series Creator and Writer: Bruno Heller
Patrick Jane: Simon Baker
Teresa Lisbon: Robin Tunney
Kendall Cho: Tim Kang
Wayne Rigsby: Owain Yeoman
Grace Van Pelt: Amanda Righetti
Josie Davis:
Jack Plotnick: Brett Partridge
Lauren Stamile:
Gale Bertram: Michael Gaston
Producer: Michael Weiss
Producer: Erika Green Swafford
Producer: Simon Baker
Director and Executive Producer: Chris Long
Producer: Matthew Carlisle

The Mentalist s06e01 The Desert Rose (2013)

After getting a police officer shot, Lisbon and Jane are sent on an out-of-the-way case where a body has been found in the desert. While both are shook up about the startling revelation that Red John knew Jane’s seven suspects (Bret Stiles, Gale Bertram, Ray Haffner, Reede Smith, Robert Kirkland, Thomas McAllister, Brett Partridge) two months before Jane knew, Jane wants solitude but Lisbon needs an outlet.

5/10

A weak start to season six with two out-of-thin-air solutions undermining the rather more interesting and understandable increase in stress between Lisbon and Jane. Their argument proves a pivotal, if slightly contrived, moment for the episode setting up a pivotal, if slightly contrived, climax that should guarantee us watching next time. It’s also a relief to see Jane realise his error and try to apologise repeatedly instead of his usual thing of smugly grinning that ‘he was right all along and the ends justify the means, so there.’

This The Mentalist episode contains extreme graphic gun violence, gory and unpleasant scenes, adult dialogue

Links

Buy The Mentalist The Desert Rose at Amazon

Columbo s01e02 Death Lends a Hand (1971) – 7/10 crime detective TV review

Cast / crew
Lieutenant Columbo: Peter Falk
Robert Culp: Brimmer
Patricia Crowley: Lenore Kennicut
Ray Milland: Arthur Kennicut
Director: Bernard L. Kowalski
Producer and Writer: Richard Levinson
Producer and Writer: William Link

Columbo s01e02 Death Lends a Hand (1971)

Columbo investigates the death of Lenore Kennicut – a young woman accidentally killed by a private detective, Brimmer – but then her husband hires Brimmer to find the murderer.

7/10

Reasonable little murder mystery which, unlike most subsequent episodes, does not feature a ‘perfect murder’ scenario but does feature the quality that made the show so special: the joy of Columbo stalking his prey. Guest star Robert Culp is an agreeably superior baddie and special guest star Ray Milland adds a bit of gravitas but, as usual, Peter Falk is remarkable as our eponymous hero. This time around the murder was not premeditated and the death of the victim was accidental. Columbo still tumbles to the guilty party as soon as he is introduced but only confirms how at the very end.

This Columbo episode contains violence

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

Links

Porridge: No Way Out (1975) – 9/10 classic prison comedy TV review

Cast / crew
Norman Stanley “Fletch” Fletcher: Ronnie Barker
Writer: Dick Clement
Writer: Ian La Frenais
Mr. Barrowclough: Brian Wilde
Mr. MacKay: Fulton Mackay
Leonard Arthur “Lennie” Godber: Richard Beckinsale
Harry Grout: Peter Vaughan
Graham Crowden: Prison Doctor
Director and Producer: Sydney Lotterby

Porridge No Way Out (1975)

Fletch pretends that an old knee injury has flared up in the hopes that he’ll get to spend Christmas in the prison hospital with all the comfort that implies. However, the obligatory checkup at the local civilian hospital comes to the attention of Harry Grout and Fletch is pressed upon to assist with the escape of a fellow inmate.

9/10

This 1975 Christmas Special is another classic from Clement and La Frenais with Ronnie Barker on outstanding form as Fletch consistently delivering his lines as brilliantly as is humanly possible. It all builds to one of my favourite punchlines of any comedy ever (SPOILER "they dug another tunnel and put the earth down there"). The Christmas theme is woven in perfectly (the prisoners are covering the sound of a tunnel being dug with carol singing) and it has a clever (I had to look up perspicacity?), utterly joyous ending.

This Porridge episode contains Mild adult dialogue and references to homosexuality

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

Doctor Who: The Snowmen (2012) – 8/10 science fiction adventure TV review

Cast / crew
Matt Smith: The Doctor
Jenna-Louise Coleman: Clara
Writer and Executive Producer: Steven Moffat
Producer: Marcus Wilson
Director: Saul Metzstein
Richard E. Grant: Dr Simeon
Catrin Stewart: Jenny
Neve McIntosh: Madame Vastra
Dan Starkey: Strax
Ian McKellen: Voice of the Great Intelligence

Doctor Who The Snowmen (2012)

Hiding in the clouds above Victorian London, The Doctor has withdrawn from the hero business after going through the emotional wringer with the Ponds some time ago. An encounter with a perky barmaid, Clara, and an instantly appearing snowman made of some kind of memory snow or something isn’t quite enough to pull him out of his exile. Clara’s going to have to try a bit harder.

8/10

This is a great episode and probably the best seasonal special in the 21st century run. It’s simply tremendous fun and jam-packed with fun (santaran), scary (man-eating snowmen), imaginative (memory worm), surprising (do not read spoilers for this one), brain-tickling (one word answers) goodies which doesn’t have quite enough time for it’s monster-of-the-week story. If the finalé had had any emotional impact, this would have been near-perfect. The crux of the episode is The Doctor and the invigorating Clara and that’s all we want to see. And now we want to see more.

This Doctor Who episode contains inferred extreme violence, unpleasant and scary scenes.

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The Mentalist S05E02 Devil’s Cherry (2012) – 2/10 crime detective drama TV review

Cast / crew
Creator and Executive Producer: Bruno Heller
Actor and Producer Patrick Jane: Simon Baker
Robin Tunney: Teresa Lisbon
Tim Kang: Kendall Cho
Owain Yeoman: Wayne Rigsby
Amanda Righetti: Grace Van Pelt
Dove Cameron: Charlotte Jane
Lee Garlington:
Yani Gellman: Julien
Writer and Executive Producer: Daniel Cerone
Producer: Matthew Carlisle
Director: Randy Zisk

The Mentalist S05E02 Devil’s Cherry (2012)

Six months after losing Lorelei to Red John, Jane is running on auto-pilot but a sip of tea at a gruesome crime scene leads him to a neighbour’s garden where he meets a young woman who claims to be his dead daughter Charlotte.

2/10

I’ve always said that writers resort to psychosis when they’re out of ideas and that’s what we have here. A gruesome coda is worth an extra star (the victim gutted himself under the influence of hallucinogens), Patrick’s daughter (Dove Cameron) is pretty and it’s slickly presented but they are the only positive features. The Mentalist needs to seriously pick things up or it’s going to lose this viewer.

This The Mentalist episode contains mild adult dialogue and extremely gory scenes.

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The Wrong Trousers (1993) – 10/10 stop motion classic comedy action movie review

Cast / crew
Animator, Writer, Characters Creator and Director: Nick Park
Animator: Steve Box
Peter Sallis: Voice of Wallace
Writer: Bob Baker
Writer (Additional Contributions): Brian Sibley
Producer: Christopher Moll

The Wrong Trousers (1993)

Wallace buys Gromit a pair of Techno-Trousers to take him for walkies but their lodger sees them and envisages an entirely different, and more nefarious, usage.

10/10

While this is lightning-in-a-bottle stuff and one of the most brilliant half-hours of film ever created, writer, animator and director Nick Park has shown with his subsequent movies that this funny, imaginative, snappy, charming and warm-hearted adventure wasn’t a fluke. Climaxing with a classic chase sequence which features a moment as good as Bond’s Lotus diving into the water or anything you can name, this is a pleasure from start to finsh and is absolutely, categorically, undeniably a must-watch for everyone.

Classified U by BBFC. Universal: Suitable for All.

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The Mentalist S05E01 The Red Glass Bead (2012) – 4/10 crime detective drama TV review

Cast / crew
Actor and Producer Patrick Jane: Simon Baker
Robin Tunney: Teresa Lisbon
Tim Kang: Kendall Cho
Owain Yeoman: Wayne Rigsby
Amanda Righetti: Grace Van Pelt
Polly Walker: Alexa Schultz
Amanda Detmer:
Michael Gaston: Gale Bertram
Jim O’Heir:
Drew Powell:
Ivan Sergei:
Emmanuelle Chriqui:
Producer: Matthew Carlisle
Writer and Executive Producer: Bruno Heller
Director: Randy Zisk

The Mentalist S05E01 The Red Glass Bead (2012)

After being a wanted fugitive for six months, pretending to murder Lisbon and leading his team members to abandon all due process and break the law themselves, Patrick Jane finds himself in prison for the rest of his life and concocts an elaborate fantasy to regress into where he and the team are relieved from suspension, escape punishment and are allowed to continue solving murder-of-the-weeks while following all leads to the identity of Red John.

4/10

The problem with this-changes-everything season finalés is that a successful show can’t change everything, it needs to keep on doing what made it successful. So the challenge becomes unchanging-everything. It is a challenge that has rarely been met in television history (Star Trek: The Next Generation managed it once or twice, and that’s about it) and The Mentalist Season Five adds itself to the list of miserable failures at restoring the status quo convincingly or logically.

This The Mentalist episode contains adult dialogue and violence, gory and unpleasant scenes and sensuality.

Links

Columbo S07E03 Make Me A Perfect Murder (1978) – 6/10 crime detective TV review

Cast / crew
Peter Falk: Columbo
Trish Van Devere: Katherine “Kay” Freestone
Laurence Luckinbill: Mark MacAndrews
James McEachin: Walter Mearhead
Ron Rifkin: Luther, the TV Director
Lainie Kazan: Valerie Kirk
Bruce Kirby: TV Repairman
Kenneth Gilman: Jonathan
Patrick O’Neal: Frank Flanagan
Director: James Frawley
Writer: Robert Blees
Writer (Series’ Creator): Richard Levinson
Writer (Series’ Creator): William Link

Columbo S07E03 Make Me A Perfect Murder (1978)

When Katherine Freestone is dumped by her boss boyfriend, TV producer Mark MacAndrews and doesn’t get promotion she is less than impressed by his peace offering of a brand new Mercedes. So she kills him. Columbo investigates.

6/10

"Interesting, isn’t it, how you can work these small things out if you just think about it; like you got a tiny voice whispering right in your ear trying to tell you who did it." – Lieutenant Columbo.

Well-paced Columbo with some excellent music and agreeably tense interrogation scenes. There’s a lovely recurring gag where Columbo takes people’s comments about the case ("Can I help?", "Good luck, Lieutenant") to refer to his whiplash injury and neck support ("Thank you. It’ll be off in a few days."). There’s a nice educational element (now out-dated) regarding cue-blips and the reel-switching duties of a projectionist. It struck me while watching that Columbo features a significant number of female murderers (two out of five this season). On an absolutely sexist tone, it does feature a nice-looking woman (Trish Van Devere) in a man’s shirt which has to be one of my favourite things ever. Line horribly abused by time: "Wearing rubbers in the house – that’d strike you blind on the spot."

This Columbo episode contains unpleasant scenes, inferred unpleasant scenes.

Links

Columbo S09E04 Rest In Peace, Mrs. Columbo (1990) – 8/10 crime detective TV review

Cast / crew
Peter Falk: Columbo
Helen Shaver: Vivian Dimitri
Ian McShane: Leland St. John
Edward Winter: Charlton Chambers
Tom Isbell: Sgt. Brady
Teresa Ganzel: Dede Perkins
Michael Alldredge: Connolly
Hugh Gillin: Priest at Funeral
Rosanna Huffman: Mrs. Thornwood
Roscoe Lee Browne: Dr. Steadman
Creator: Richard Levinson
Creator: William Link
Writer: Peter S. Fischer
Director: Vincent McEveety
Supervising Executive Producer: William Link
Co-Executive Producer: Peter Falk
Executive Producer: Peter S. Fischer

Columbo S09E04 Rest In Peace, Mrs. Columbo (1990)

Vivian Dimtri kills an informant that exposed her husband’s embezzling of his client’s money. When confronted by a client, the husband ends up killing him and going to prison for manslaughter. He dies in there of a heart attack and the informant that started it all is merely the first to pay. The second murder will be the cop who put the husband away: Lieutenant Columbo.

8/10

Arguably the best of the feature-length 1989-series Columbo’s, this is also notable for being a bit of a behind-the-curtain episode. Early on, Columbo explains why he believes Helen Shaver did it then we see him present a completely different story to her face, helping her believe she is in control, giving her a false sense of security and confidence. Fascinating, and his SPOILER "this isn’t my house" reveal is a classic. Falk deals with the exposure of Columbo’s technique brilliantly here. He’s great, as always, and sells a nice mac gag (a dude leaving a brothel is wearing the same one) and delivers his world-class embarrassed throat-clear when learning of Shaver’s illicit assignation. Helping with the quality of this episode is Shaver who is frequently mesmerising as a badly wounded widow seeking retribution on Columbo and never more so than in the final scenes and in response to Columbo’s above reveal. She also gets an, er, intriguing scene with the arm of a teddy bear that I suspect everyone’s pretty smug about getting past the censors.

This Columbo episode contains adult dialogue and brief graphic violence and sensuality.

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

Links

Doctor Who S34E05 The Angels Take Manhattan (2012) – 8/10 science fiction adventure TV review

Cast / crew
Matt Smith: The Doctor
Karen Gillan: Amy Pond
Arthur Darvill: Rory Williams
Writer: Steven Moffat
Producer: Marcus Wilson
Director: Nick Hurran
Alex Kingston: River Song
Michael McShane: Grayle
Executive Producer: Steven Moffat

Doctor Who S34E05 The Angels Take Manhattan (2012)

A day trip to New York turns out badly when the book the Doctor is reading – starring Melody Malone – makes a reference to Rory getting them coffee as Rory is getting them coffee. The Doctor realises that the book is a history book sent back in time to help him avert yet another disaster but then Rory is kidnapped and taken through time to somewhere the TARDIS can’t go.

8/10

When you’ve got characters who are statues, it makes jolly good sense to go to the place with the most famous statue in the world – New York City – and this episode gets off to a good start with their big reveal. The return of the intensely unlikable and irritating River Song (a typically unconvincing eye-rolling Alex Kingston) is a problem but it’s the only one worth mentioning. The episode is otherwise tense and atmospheric and, critically, it connects emotionally. Marketed as the Pond’s farewell (though I swear they already did that last season), certain events aren’t, therefore, surprising but they are touching. It makes me wish I could share a love like this; it’s very nice. This time the logo has the Statue of Liberty behind it; subtle and rewarding to spot.

This Doctor Who episode contains scary scenes.

Links

Doctor Who S34E04 The Power of Three (2012) – 6/10 science fiction adventure TV review

Cast / crew
Matt Smith: The Doctor
Karen Gillan: Amy Pond
Arthur Darvill: Rory Williams
Writer: Chris Chibnall
Producer: Marcus Wilson
Director: Douglas MacKinnon

Doctor Who S34E04 The Power of Three (2012)

The Ponds are beginning to value their daily non-Doctor life more-and-more and wondering whether there will come a time when they won’t want to join him on his adventures. However, a peculiar invasion of Earth by small black cubes looks like it’ll give the Ponds and The Doctor some quality time together.

6/10

This is certainly a solid enough episode with the attention well kept during the supposedly mundane majority leading to a climax we’re not really bothered about; running and shouting without much interest or useful explanation. Aside from some awful photoshopping of cubes onto famous landmarks it does look cool (the cubes countdown looks great and there’s a big spaceship to blow up) and the cubes are quite intriguing. However, if there had been more attention paid to the Pond’s sort-of maturing beyond the thrill of adventure and finding fulfilment in making a successful marriage, this episode could have been more than just entertaining. As it is, we’ll have be content with The Doctor playing on a Wii and painting a fence.

This Doctor Who episode contains scary scenes.

Links

Doctor Who S34E03 A Town Called Mercy (2012) – 7/10 science fiction wild west adventure TV review

Cast / crew
Matt Smith: The Doctor
Karen Gillan: Amy Pond
Arthur Darvill: Rory Williams
Writer: Toby Whithouse
Producer: Marcus Wilson
Director: Saul Metzstein
Andrew Brooke: The Gunslinger
Adrian Scarborough: Kahler-Jex

Doctor Who S34E03 A Town Called Mercy (2012)

The Doctor, Amy and Rory arrive in the America old west town of Mercy and find it, and now themselves, under siege by a cyborg, Gunslinger, who wants them to give him the alien doctor.

7/10

This is better than the previous two episodes with a plot that very nearly engages. The crux of the plot is the Doctor needing companions to balance out the soul-sapping weariness of being alone and that is clearly communicated. While the concepts are interesting and worthwhile, the plot suffers from familiarity and a complete absence of atmosphere. Director Saul Metzstein’s Dinosaurs on a Spaceship episode also had no atmosphere. However, there’s some fun lines this week (‘Tea… Leave the bag in.’, "I speak horse. He’s called Susan.") and the plot does raise thought-provoking questions about companionship and redemption, vengeance, justice and second chances.

This Doctor Who episode contains violence.

Links

Doctor Who S34E02 Dinosaurs on a Spaceship (2012) – 6/10 science fiction adventure TV review

Cast / crew
Matt Smith: The Doctor
Karen Gillan: Amy Pond
Arthur Darvill: Rory Williams
Writer: Chris Chibnall
Producer: Marcus Wilson
Director: Saul Metzstein
Rupert Graves: Riddell
Mark Williams: Brian Williams
David Bradley: Solomon
Riann Steele: Queen Nefertiti
Sunetra Sarker: Indira

Doctor Who S34E02 Dinosaurs on a Spaceship (2012)

The Doctor along with Queen Nefertiti of Egypt and big-game hunter John Riddell is tasked with boarding a spaceship that is on a collision course for Earth and stopping it.

6/10

Adequately entertaining and that’s something of a problem. There’s not much to say. The biggest problem, aside from it’s mediocrity, is probably a total lack of atmosphere but the Pond’s aren’t annoying in this episode (that’s left to Rian Steele’s Nefertiti and Sunetra Sarker’s Indira), Mark Williams gets his trowel out ("Haven’t you got one?") and we do get the Doctor sending a baddie to his death without a second thought. The Doctor’s position as judge, jury and not-quite-executioner has been a recurrent theme for a while now but it rather goes by here without comment as if it’s presence is not borne by precedent but was how the story was going to end anyway. I noted the Dalek zits on the logo last time, this week’s has dinosaur skin on it. A nice detail.

This Doctor Who episode contains violence.

Links

Columbo: A Bird in the Hand… (1992) – 4/10 Columbo crime detective TV review

Cast / crew
Peter Falk: Columbo
Tyne Daly: Dolores
Greg Evigan: Harold McCain
Frank McRae: Lt. Robertson
Don S. Davis: Bertie
Leon Singer: Fernando
Michael Gregory: Mr. Hacker
Steve Forrest: Big Fred
Producer: Christopher Seiter
Writer (Series’ Creator): Richard Levinson
Writer (Series’ Creator): William Link
Writer: Jackson Gillis
Director: Vincent McEveety
Executive Producer: Peter Falk

Columbo A Bird In The Hand… (1992)

When Big Fred – the wealthy owner of a football team – is killed in a hit-and-run accident, Columbo is called in because of his notoriety just to make sure there was no foul play and suspects nothing but then the gardener is blown to smithereens when he attempts to move Big Fred’s Rolls Royce.

4/10

This a classic case of wasted potential. The setup is highly intriguing as a murder victim gets accidentally killed before the murderer’s bomb plot can be completed and the story goes on to be agreeably tidy. However, Vincent McEveety’s trademark listless direction, a total lack of Columbo characterisations, unconvincingly wobbly Tyne Daly’s distracting eye-bulging and a broken clue or two (bomber being left-handed due to bizarre boxes on underside of car, sweaty damp socks, what!) undo Jackson Gillis’ entertaining plot.

This Columbo episode contains mild swear words and unpleasant scenes and references.

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

Links

Columbo S04E06 A Deadly State of Mind (1975) – 6/10 Columbo crime detective TV review

Cast / crew
Peter Falk: Columbo
George Hamilton: Dr. Marcus Collier
Lesley Ann Warren: Nadia Donner
Stephen Elliott: Carl Donner
Bruce Kirby: Sergeant Kramer
Director: Harvey Hart
Writer: Peter S. Fischer
Writer (Series’ Creator): Richard Levinson
Writer (Series’ Creator): William Link
Producer: Everett Chambers

Columbo S04E06 A Deadly State of Mind (1975)

When a wealthy husband is unpremeditatingly killed by Marcus Collier, the wife’s lover and psychiatrist, Columbo is called in to investigate. Collier sets up the wife as the only witness, tells her to tell the police that her husband was killed by intruders as he sets about establishing an alibi on top of a coworker. Columbo, as always, is troubled by tiny inconsistencies involving headlights, tyre tracks, a gun and a piece of flint.

6/10

Columbo’s reasons for believing foul play are thin, even by his standards, a lot of the first part of the episode is slow-going and Falk isn’t given much fun stuff to do but it does get better. The unusual nature of the second murder is intriguing and the writer has clearly thought about it by adding drugs and a normal scenario to create an abnormal result (though humans have a self-preservation instinct which still works under hypnotic suggestion). This is also one of those episodes where Columbo pleasantly tells the murderer that he knows well before he has any proof, which is always fun. The highlight of the episode is the delightfully wonderful, if almost certainly illegal, climax. George Hamilton and the audience think they’re one step ahead of Columbo and it is cause for special joy when he reveals that we’re not. For Brits, special mention for the unintentionally hilarious line from Collier’s publisher: "Sorry, I don’t have a Willie."

This Columbo episode contains violence, unpleasant scene.

Classified PG by BBFC. Parental Guidance.

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