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 Posted:   Sep 16, 2009 - 5:39 AM   
 By:   Jim Phelps   (Member)

I finally have all of the 1970s COLUMBO series on DVD now, and if anyone hadn't noticed--the best killers all have repeat appearances---as killers:

Jack Cassidy

Murder by the Book
Publish or Perish
Now You See Him

My #1 pick, and the guest actor most associated with this show. No one's smarmier, sleazier, and yet so utterly charming! I haven't seen Cassidy in too much else, but I daresay outside of his Broadway roles, Cassidy's Columbo appearances are his lasting career legacy. He plays it broad, but it's always believable and he's got that sleaze/charm routine down pat. Forget Indiana Jones, I'd ask Spielberg what it was like to direct Jack Cassidy!

Robert Culp

Death Lends a Hand
The Most Crucial Game
Double Exposure

What I like about Culp's performances is that they actually seem like a real-life arrogant S.O.B. Not played over-the-top, but he's like someone you'd meet and then despise. His Bart Keppel barely tolerates Lt. Columbo, but only deals with him because the man is the law. Kudos to Culp for growing a Fu Manchu 'stache for "The Most Crucial Game."

Patrick McGoohan

By Dawn's Early Light
Identity Crisis

By Dawn's Early Light is a preview of McGoohan's Escape From Alcatraz warden. Both men are righteous and totally blind in their belief system, with no room for negotiation. Yes, they believe their own tired cliches, like Haynes says to McGoohan in "Early Light."

My favorite McGoohan is Identity Crisis, when The Master brings a charm and "Be seeing you" to the proceedings. He even gets to play spy with his "Steinmetz" persona. Love Pat's 1970s threads, too.

These three performers are hands down the very best in terms of rapport with Columbo, deviousness, charm, and all-around screen charisma---IMO. And they all bring their unique strengths to their roles and make every Columbo they're in the most memorable for me.

 
 Posted:   Sep 16, 2009 - 7:45 AM   
 By:   Jehannum   (Member)

Good post. I'd just put Mr Culp as my favourite. I enjoy his air of arrogance and intellectualism and the way he looks down at Columbo.

In Death Lends a Hand, when learning that investigator Culp has also been privately assigned Columbo says "suddenly I feel a lot more confident about solving this case". I love that!

 
 Posted:   Sep 16, 2009 - 9:45 AM   
 By:   Storyteller   (Member)

Those are excellent choices for the smarmy villians of Columbo.

One of my favorite episodes of the show was called "Any Old Port in a Storm". It featured a wonderfully understated performance by Donald Pleasence as a not so typical murderer you actually care for. It was a real departure from the usual "I hope Columbo nails him to the wall" storylines. It was also interesting to see Columbo care so much for the killer by the end as well.

Simply one of my top favorites.

Great thread by the way.

 
 Posted:   Sep 16, 2009 - 10:08 AM   
 By:   Olivier   (Member)

Columbo had great guest star villains.
As you surely know, after the '70's, McGoohan also directed some episodes in starred in; always a pleasure.

Since we know "whodunnit" from the start, and the mystery and suspense lie in the way Columbo can figure it out and beat the villain that we see cover his tracks, the episodes greatly relied on the villain's cleverness and his interaction with Columbo; fortunately, there were some ingenious stories (now, how can he not escape the police?!) and great actors playing "villain of the week".

Good choices, but I don't recall the Culp episodes; I should read the synopses on IMDB.

I was hoping for a complete set once all the seasons had been released, but have never read anything about one; now, I'm wondering whether they will do it on Blu-Ray, so I'm still waiting.
razz

 
 Posted:   Sep 16, 2009 - 10:31 AM   
 By:   Mark R. Y.   (Member)

McGoohan played the murderer two more time in the 1990s Columbos. "Ashes to Ashes" was just OK, but "Agenda for Murder" in which he plays lawyer Oscar Finch, adviser to a political candidate, is as much a gem as his 1970s outings. Finch's reaction to Columbo's "You call that a lining?" joke alone makes this a classic ep.

 
 
 Posted:   Sep 16, 2009 - 11:31 AM   
 By:   CindyLover   (Member)

He also directed and co-wrote "Murder With Too Many Notes," of course.

 
 Posted:   Sep 16, 2009 - 11:52 AM   
 By:   Stefan Miklos   (Member)

Good post. I'd just put Mr Culp as my favourite. I enjoy his air of arrogance and intellectualism and the way he looks down at Columbo.

In Death Lends a Hand, when learning that investigator Culp has also been privately assigned Columbo says "suddenly I feel a lot more confident about solving this case". I love that!




I second that all the way. Culp is my single favourite on Columbo!
http://www.columbo-site.freeuk.com/season1.htm#1.2


I adore Ross Martin in "Suitable for Framing".

 
 Posted:   Sep 16, 2009 - 1:47 PM   
 By:   David Sones (Allardyce)   (Member)

McGoohan and Culp are definitely my favorites. I agree that Jack Cassidy was a great guest star as well; his smarminess is really fun to watch.

Worthy of honorable mention:

Lee Grant in Ransom for a Dead Man
Janet Leigh in Forgotten Lady
Patrick O'Neal in Blueprint for Murder (an underrated actor)
Leonard Nimoy in A Stitch in Crime (love it when Columbo gets pissed at him)
William Shatner in Fade-in to Murder (his wacky costume alone is worth honorable mention)

 
 Posted:   Sep 16, 2009 - 1:51 PM   
 By:   Mr. Marshall   (Member)

My father accompanied Jack Cassidy as a pianist when he was performing as a singer.

he always spoke very highly of him!

 
 Posted:   Sep 16, 2009 - 5:02 PM   
 By:   Jim Phelps   (Member)

Has anyone seen The Andersonville Trial (1970)? Jack apparently did some great work in that.



Whatta smile!

 
 Posted:   Sep 16, 2009 - 5:28 PM   
 By:   That Neil Guy   (Member)

This thread reminds me of what was so disappointing about the 80s and 90s episodes -- the guest villains were rarely of the same caliber as those on the original run of the show. And even when you did have a Shatner or McGoohan, it just wasn't quite the same. I watched all the new ones, enjoyed almost all of them, but I never LOVED them like I did the 70s episodes.

 
 
 Posted:   Sep 17, 2009 - 5:11 AM   
 By:   Lee S   (Member)

Some of the greatest actors in the world, getting their moment to do some of their best work. The element of contrast was so important, too. Look at how different Cassidy, Culp, McGoohan, and the other ideal guest stars were from Falk. They also all had wonderful voices and unique line readings. I think it was Richard Levinson who said that when the show is 90 minutes of people talking, the talk had better be interesting. It always was.

 
 Posted:   Sep 17, 2009 - 5:54 AM   
 By:   Jim Phelps   (Member)

Some of the greatest actors in the world, getting their moment to do some of their best work. The element of contrast was so important, too. Look at how different Cassidy, Culp, McGoohan, and the other ideal guest stars were from Falk. They also all had wonderful voices and unique line readings. I think it was Richard Levinson who said that when the show is 90 minutes of people talking, the talk had better be interesting. It always was.

Good post, Lee.

In remembering Columbo from my childhood, it's no wonder why my family-- particularly my grandparents--looked forward to watching it, even in reruns. They could see a Golden Age star impressing them all over again, as well as a superbly-writen show with one of the all-time great characters as portrayed by the Legendary Peter Falk. It's no exaggeration to call him that, is it? I don't think so. Anyway, I find that I enjoy the show as much as my grandparents did, and with the same enthusiasm in seeing a Golden Age star in it but even moreso whenever the three Titans of Columbo are in it.

 
 
 Posted:   Sep 17, 2009 - 9:39 AM   
 By:   Lee S   (Member)

I think they had no trouble getting top people for the show because there was a prestige factor, but also because the open mystery eliminated the objection most top actors have to doing mysteries. (No one has an interesting motivation except the killer, and he only gets one good scene at the end.) In Columbo, the guest star part really was a starring role.

Also, the murderers got a $20,000 salary, which was about five times the rate of other dramatic series of the era.

 
 Posted:   Sep 17, 2009 - 9:56 AM   
 By:   Jim Phelps   (Member)

Wow! Jack Cassidy was a heckuva singer!!! Before I heard this, I never cared much for "The Song is You"! Anyone here ever see Jack on Broadway?

What a talent...

 
 Posted:   Sep 17, 2009 - 10:36 AM   
 By:   Eric Paddon   (Member)

Encore view of Janet Leigh as the most sympathetic and beautiful of Columbo killers, "Forgotten Lady."



On the matter of 70s vs. 90s Columbo, I think it's not just the fact that good guest killers were harder to come by. The stories are just not as well-written. You'll notice that in the 70s, the stories had tighter construction in which Columbo's trapping of the killer came in layered stages of *multiple* clues that he finds that then add up. But frequently, the 90s Columbos lack the smarts to give us that complex unraveling, and what usually happens is (1) a longer backstory leading up to the killing. Sometimes Columbo won't make his entrance in these versions until about 40 minutes in and (2) just one big clue that unravels things and the payoff clue is usually too predictable and frequently it ends up being a recycled kind of gimmick from previous episodes and (3) too much overstressing of Columbo's "quirks" for cheap laughs. The Columbo of "Prescription Murder" and early episodes like "Death Lends A Hand" is a more interesting character who gives the impression of being someone whose minimal quirks are more of an act to cover up just how brilliant he is and fool the suspects into thinking he's not so bright.

And another problem with these 90s Columbos is that many of them have storylines that belong more to the dark, smoky world of film noir and that is not a genre Columbo belongs in. Columbo works in the more traditional "Drawing room mystery" kind of story that Chesterton's Father Brown (the earliest ancestor I can think of for the Columbo character) would be at home in.

 
 
 Posted:   Sep 17, 2009 - 10:53 AM   
 By:   Lee S   (Member)

I agree with all of the earlier criticisms of the later Columbos, and had one additional thought recently: the scenes are much shorter. It makes a tremendous difference to the rhythm of the story and the relationship with the killer. Compare the scenes between Falk and McGoohan in Identity Crisis and then between Falk and McGoohan in Agenda for Murder. Apart from everything else, the Identity Crisis scenes go on for several minutes. One scene lasts almost fifteen! In Agenda for Murder, the scenes are short and choppy and there is much less of a relationship between Columbo and the killer. At one point, he has three questions to ask, and he ends up following him to three different places in a row to ask them. Columbo is literally chasing the guy all over Los Angeles instead of just asking all the questions in the same scene.

 
 Posted:   Sep 17, 2009 - 12:40 PM   
 By:   Mr. Marshall   (Member)

This thread reminds me of what was so disappointing about the 80s and 90s episodes -- the guest villains were rarely of the same caliber as those on the original run of the show. .

i made the very same point at the LT COLUMBO forunsmile

 
 Posted:   Sep 17, 2009 - 12:41 PM   
 By:   Mr. Marshall   (Member)

Wow! Jack Cassidy was a heckuva singer!!!


yes he was!

 
 Posted:   Sep 17, 2009 - 2:14 PM   
 By:   Jim Phelps   (Member)

A&E aired a special of Peter Falk's favorite Columbo episodes which also included comments from the legend himself. Looks like Mr. Falk's preference leaned towards the show's fifth season:

http://www.columbo-site.freeuk.com/favoritecolumbos.htm

 
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