I finally saw Cabin in the Woods the other night, and really loved it. My favorite moment: "Am I on speakerphone?"
Now if I could just get around to seeing The Avengers...
Prescription: Murder remains my favourite of all the Columbo chapterplays, Mr. Kujawa, for many of the reasons you cited.
The Good Mrs. Benson had not seen it until I played it for her many years after the Columbo series had disappeared from the airways. She didn't like it, feeling that Peter Falk was not "Columbo" enough. Curiously, that's the reason I enjoy it the most.
All of the essential "Columbo" elements are there, but the character hadn't yet lapsed into near self-parody---a sin committed in the last couple of seasons of the show's initial run in the '70's. In Prescription: Murder, the viewer's initial impression of Columbo is that he is a run-of-the-mill policeman, unimaginative, plodding, and maybe a little less intelligent than most cops. He could probably catch the guy who swiped a banana from a fruit stand, but not much more.
At the same time, the villain of the piece is the smooth, urbane, and highly intelligent Dr. Fleming (Gene Barry), who seems ten steps ahead of Our Hero. In fact, he is so suave and Columbo is so dull that you almost root for Fleming. Only Fleming's particularly cold-blooded murder of his wife prevents you from doing so.
But as the film progresses, more and more of the true mind beneath the rumpled grey suit comes out. In fact, it isn't too long after Columbo makes his appearance---Dr. Fleming "returns" to his apartment from his "vacation" in Mexico, to find the lieutenant there, searching the crime scene---that the viewer realises that there may be more to the dull detective than at first glance. Columbo's first meeting with Fleming consists of routine questions for which Fleming is prepared, and Columbo seems to immediately accept Fleming's alibi. Then, just when you think that the detective is simply going through the motions, he points out to Fleming how odd it is that he, Fleming, didn't call out to his wife when he came home. (Columbo was in another room at the time.) After all, that's what most husbands do after returning from an absence. It was almost like Fleming knew his wife wouldn't be there to answer.
The natural logic strikes home with the viewer. Columbo's right; that is a little strange. And the viewer himself didn't pick up on it because he is "in the know" with the murderer; the viewer knew the wife wouldn't be there to answer. It's only after Columbo points out the unusual behaviour that the viewer begins to sense that this dumb policeman may not be so dumb after all.
It's interesting to see Columbo adjust his demeanour depending on whom he talks to. With Fleming, he's a poor, overworked cop who's probably in over his head. With Fleming's lawyer (William Windom), who threatens to call the police commissioner if Columbo doesn't solve the case quickly, Columbo is still self-effacing, but shows a keen political adeptness. And then, as you mentioned, Mr. Kujawa, with Fleming's actress-mistress, he drops the humble act completely, and we see his true self emerge. That chameleon-like aspect of his personality is one of the more fascinating attractions of the film.
I found the scene in Fleming's office, between Columbo and the murderer, to be the most interesting part of it. I know many who agree with you, Mr. Kujawa, and find it trite. But I thought it was the most intriguing cat-and-mouse session of all of the Columbo chapterplays. Occasionally, in the series proper, Columbo would coyly tip his hand to the murderer, resulting in scenes similar to the one with Fleming. But only the one with Fleming was ever so protracted. On the surface, it's cordial, polite, even respectful. Columbo sticks to his "dumb cop" routine and Fleming plays the professional psychologist, grieving over his wife's death. But underneath, Fleming knows Columbo is smarter than he lets on and Columbo knows that Fleming is a cold-blooded murderer.
And then there is yet another stratum: Columbo knows that Fleming knows he is Columbo's suspect, and Fleming "diagnoses" Columbo's personality accurately, in a show of braggadocio; to inform Columbo that even though Fleming knows Columbo is no dummy, he (Fleming) is still too smart for him.
A nice, polite, professional scene, yet it is swirling with undercurrents.
For the second Columbo MOW---Ransom for a Dead Man---and the first season or two of the '70's series, the show kept that balance in Columbo's personality. But somewhere along the line, the producers began to figure that the audience loved seeing the slow-witted Columbo, so the scripts began to exaggerate that part of his character more and more. He got more unkempt, more distracted, more prone to clumsiness and digression. The show seemed to concentrate on this so much that the audience itself forgot that it was a pose. That's why the rare occasions in the later seasons when Columbo dropped the act---his confrontation with Dr. Mayfield (Leonard Nimoy) in "A Stitch in Crime" or his angry outburst to Milo Janis (Robert Conrad) in "An Exercise in Fatality"---take the viewers completely by surprise.
Overall, I think your evaluation of Prescription: Murder and the handling of the Columbo character in the '70 series proper are spot-on.
This is what I love about the internet-- I never know when something I post will get a reaction like this.
COLUMBO was never my favorite NBC MYSTERY MOVIE. That was McCLOUD. COLUMBO usually came in 3rd after McMILLAN AND WIFE (and even lower when BANACEK, MADIGAN, McCOY, TENAFLY or THE SNOOP SISTERS were on). But after walking in on the last 10 minutes of the one with Roddy McDowell (the climax in the cable-car with the bomb), I never missed one until the 7th season, after the entire format had been cancelled, except for COLUMBO, which continued for one more season-- each movie run at some RANDOM day and time, so nobody could know when the hell they were on. (There may be a couple of those I have still never seen...)
McMILLAN AND WIFE also began to slowly "lose it" the longer it went on. The last couple seasons, it seemed to me it got DULL (an unforgivable crime), and unless I was really, really paying attention, I began to forget what the plots were about. Ironically, when they decided to do one more season AFTER the show had (apparently) been cancelled with the departure of Susan Saint James, the writing improved. Who the hell saw that coming? I mean, she left, they cancelled the show, 2 of the other 4 regular moved on to OTHER TV series, and then, they decide, oh, let's do another season-- as McMILLAN. With a new Sgt. (the future boyfriend of Annie Potts on DESIGNING WOMEN), a new house-keeper (Martha Raye was a HUGE IMPROVEMENT !!!) and a DEAD wife (allowing "Mac" to have a different romance each story-- my favorite being Shirley Jones).
Back to PRESCRIPTION: MURDER... the key point where I knew Gene Barry SCREWED UP was with the gloves. Columbo TOLD him they couldn't find the dress or the gloves. The dress turned up in the laundry. His girlfriend forgot to put the gloves in the laundry bag. So he goes back to the apartment, to plant the gloves, figuring, the cops will figure the missed them the first time. But Columbo shows up too early, and so he tells him he found them. And you KNOW that Columbo knows the guy is LYING. Because he's VERY THOROUGH-- and would NOT have missed the gloves. The gloves turning up after-the-fact is just proof that the guy killed his wife. But this is never mentioned. It would have made more sense to figure the "wife" lost or threw away the gloves. A case of "too smart for his own good".
I think Peter Falk's appearance and demeanor in the pilot is only jarring if you come to it after just seeing the later ones. (Like going from LOST IN SPACE's 3rd season to the 1st.) I haven't seen the revival films since they was first run (last one, 2003). I've only seen the odd one from the 70's here and there over the last 10 years (usually, one I don't have on tape-- like the 3rd one with Jack Cassidy, or the final one, with Clive Reville). I'm missing MOST of the ones from the 70's, but I figure, if I'm ever gonna watch these, might as well get every one I have and see 'em in sequence.
What I really wish I had is THE IN-LAWS and THE CHEAP DETECTIVE. I love those! Haven't seen either in ages.
"This is, uh, MRS. Presidente, perhaps?"
"Nnnnnnooooo! This is a PROSTITUTE!"
(Oh, of course, that makes perfect sense... Richard Libertini is a riot in there.)
I remember being amazed when I was able to see (in the mid-80's) part of the 6th season of DOCTOR WHO. Because Patrick Troughton on there, at times, reminded me of COLUMBO. He seems like a cowardly idiot. UNTIL the villains leave the room, and suddenly, he becomes INTENSE, and DANGEROUS. Wow.
This is, as opposed to Tom Baker, who was often "too convincing" as an idiot. Half the time, you found yourself thinking he was saving the unverse through DUMB LUCK.
"Darling, be careful. I don't think he's as stupid as he seems."
"My dear, NOBODY could be as stupid as HE seems."
What I love about the Internet is, no matter how obscure a subject I bring up---World of Giants or Six Hours to Live or Danny Dunn---there's going to be somebody who knows as much about it or more than I do and there's probably a website about it.
We are going to depart here, Mr. Kujawa, in terms of preferences of the wheeled series on NBC's Mystery Movie.
Columbo was easily my favourite, even with our shared criticisms of the later seasons.
McCloud came in second, for me. And that was on the basis of Dennis Weaver's spot-on performances and the fish-out-of-water set up of a deputy marshal from New Mexico attached to the New York City Police Department (even though that premise was fundamentally flawed). I don't need a television series to have the incessantly flowing plot developments of a soap opera; it's perfectly fine to me if some format basics stay cemented in place. But there comes a point when there must be some evolution or the show just looks stupid.
In the case of McCloud, it was the constant attitude of Chief of Detectives Clifford toward Marshal McCloud. No matter how many times McCloud's instincts proved correct and a major crime was solved because of it, Clifford still treated McCloud like a hick . . . .
"Chief, I really think we need to investigate the break-in at that museum. The burglars didn't take anything."
"McCloud, the New York Police Department doesn't have the time or the money to investigate every break-in where the crooks get scared off before they can take anything. Now get back on that parking meter detail . . . ."
That got old fast because, logically, at some point after not too many episodes, Chief Clifford, who was no dummy, would think, "Hmmm . . . the last ten times McCloud had one of these hunches, he was right. Maybe I better listen to him this time."
Of the three major series on the wheel, McMillian and Wife I positively hated. While all of the series formats stretched reality to a degree, McMillan and Wife just pushed the envelope too far.
First, you had the über-alpha male, Stewart McMillian. Wealthy, handsome super-achiever. Supposedly, a man in his forties (if you go by Rock Hudson's actual birth year, he was 46 the year the series began), yet he was the star of his college football team, an operative for Military Intelligence during World War II (when he would have been 19 years old!), an agent for the CIA, a Naval officer, a succesful lawyer (which meant he also found time to go to law school), and then he was appointed police commissioner of San Francisco. Without, evidently, having a whit of actual experience on a police department.
Now, yes, if you squint hard enough, you can buy all of that. But what takes it too far is that, every week, the show tried to pursuade the viewers that a case would come up that only the police commissioner without police experience and his aide, a detective sergeant, could handle.
Now, a McMillan and Wife fan might insist: "McMillian wanted to take those cases. He had a personal interest in them." Fine, but it still doesn't make sense. He's the police commissioner; he has a whole department of detectives, quite a few of whom probably had ten-to-twenty years of experience solving crimes---certainly a lot more than McMillan himself did. Men who were much more capable detectives than McMillan himself. Yet, did Mac assign them to his personal-interest cases? No. Instead, he felt he and his quirky aid were much more suitable to the job. And, of course, he was---because the writers had to maintain his über-alpha-male status. (I'm not going to deride Sergeant Enright here; he was actually my favourite character on the show.)
I just couldn't believe that after some prominent person or personal friend was killed in San Francisco, McMillan wouldn't pick up the phone, call his chief of detectives, and order, "Put your five best men on the case, and then call the crime-scene boys and tell them this one is a priority!"
Having the police commissioner and his aide solve major crimes on their own would be like the commanding officer of a Navy warship and his orderly fight all the shipboard fires and fix all the materièl casualties on the ship.
I know what the show was going for. It painted itself as a Nick-and-Nora Charles-type mystery series with comedic overtones. But Rock Hudson and Susan St. James were no William Powell and Myrna Loy. Hudson was a fine actor, but he didn't really have a sense for comedy. Not even in his comedy films with Doris Day. That meant, by default, he played straight man to Susan St. James, whom I never have warmed to.
Her Sally McMillan was supposed to be charmingly kooky. Well, she was kooky, yes, but charming, no. For all I know, Susan St. James herself is a sweet woman who would be a delight at my dinner table. But on screen, she's never come across to me as anything but grating, interfering, and irritating. If I had been married to Sally, it wouldn't have taken long for there to be "a tragic accident while cleaning my service pistol."
I saw the revised sixth-season, renamed McMillan, precisely one time. That was the season's first episode, because the anal-retentive part of my nature wanted to see how they wrote Sally out of the series. It turned out to be revealed in a throwaway line by now-Lieutenant Enright early in the first act. I don't even remember what the rest of the episode was about.
As with all forms of art, this is subjective. You liked the show; I didn't. There's no right or wrong here. But, for me, when it comes to McMillan and Wife, I'd rather watch the episode where Gilligan is turned into a radio.
On a separate topic, I've never seen more than a handful of Doctor Who episodes, mostly to familiarise myself with the character. Outside of a handful of key scenes, viewed on YouTube, I've not any experience with Patrick Troughton in the rôle. Your description of his essaying of the character---appearing like a cowardly idiot in front of the foe, then turning intense and formidable as soon as the bad guy walks out the door---intrigues me. I'll have to give his Doctor Who work a closer look one of these days.
Unfortunately, by the time Patrick Troughton's episodes turned up on PBS in the mid-80's, only part of his 3rd season still existed. NOTHING from seasons 4-5 were available. It wasn't until the early 90's that a complete story from Season 5 turned up (in Hong Kong, shipped to England, and quickly put out on videotape! --I got mine). Fortunately, Troughton did return no less than 3 times in later stories (and it was pointed out in an online reivew that his final return was actually the first time his character's personality was shown accurately from the way he was in the 60's-- even if he looked MUCH older!).
Can't comment much on McMILLAN AND WIFE, haven't seen 95% of those since they were first-run. My main complaint about COLUMBO, and this mostly goes for the mid-late 70's, was the repetitious formula (and his increasing air of half-wittedness, whic you touched on).
McCLOUD is a strange, and downright schizo case. For example, I never saw the pilot until at least a year after the show went off the air. When I did, I was shocked. On repeat viewings, I was more shocked, not less. Let me put it this way... I don't think there was a really bad episode in the entire run. Except for the pilot. And it's BAD. I mean, AWFUL. How in God's name did something THAT BAD ever get the go-ahead to go to a series?? Mark Richman as Clifford is not the problem (I was reminded on re-watching the series some years back that there was a hilarious reference to the pilot when Richman guest-starred as the head of the mounted division, who receives a note from Clifford which says, "I've had him for 4 years, it's your turn now.") The story is just impenetrable, awkwardly-told, badly, badly written, the derivitive sections actually distract and get in the way (the film was the target of a successful lawsuit brought by Herman Miller-- who wrote COOGAN'S BLUFF!!). And the climax has to be one of the worst-directed sequences I've ever seen in any cop show!! I don't say this lightly. (Oh yeah, and Craig Stevens is just awful in here, too. You'd never know he used to be the star of his own detective series a decade earlier...)
And then one day-- gotta love the IMDB-- I discovered that Richard A. Colla directed the pilot. AND, he directed the pilot for BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. He never returned to either show. BOTH pilots are possibly the WORST episodes in their show's respective runs. Colla apparently had a long career of doing ONE episode on a wide variety of shows. I guess NOBODY ever asked him back. It's just surprising Glen Larson had him do 2 pilots-- 7 years apart.
Anyway... Clifford shows respect for McCloud over the course of the 1st season (which, as far as I know, is still not available in syndication in its original 1-hour format). But Larson left the show after 1 year. Peter Allan Fields, who later worked on such shows as RETURN OF THE SAINT and the PERRY MASON movies, produced Season 2 (the 1st "NBC MYSTERY MOVIE" season) and it has a very different, more "low-key" feel and approach to it. More mystery, less action & comedy. The 1st episode, in fact, "ENCOUNTER WITH ARIES", feels like a NYC western version of COLUMBO. I'm not sure if that was someone misunderstanding the format, or done as a JOKE. The rest of the season wasn't like that.
It seems Clifford KNEW McCloud was really smart, and damned good at what he did. But the longer he was around, instead of them getting along more, it seemed Clifford got more annoyed with McCloud's lack of following proper procedures. This increasd when Larson came back for Season 3, which was when the style and tone of Season 1 returned with a vengeance. But in Season 4 (when they finally came up with a new theme song that stuck-- possibly my favorite TV theme of all of the 1970's), Clifford's bad attitude exploded into almost self-parody. Of all the MYSTERY MOVIES, McCLOUD was definitely the funniest. That, and the occasiaonal action set-pieces, set it apaert from every other MYSTERY MOVIE series, andmade irt my favorite TV series of the whole of the 1970's.
I think it was around Season 6 that Clifford finally began to calm down again, as someone must have realized they could only sensibly take that "joke" so far. The last season or so, he & McCloud got along the way, arguably, they always should have.
One of my favorite Clifford bits was in the 6th season episode "THE DAY NEW YORK TURNED BLUE". A federal investigator (William Daniels) is checking out the department to okay or veto Federal funding, and one of the things he's concerned with it hiring practices, and "racial quotas". Meanwhile, the budget crisis has caused the police union to meet to vote on whether or not to strike. In the middle of the "secret" meeting, Clifford turns up with Daniels, and reads off Daniels' federal requirements. The hilarious twist is that, according to their quota, the department would have to LAY OFF several black and hispanic officers (Glen Larson clearly having a sarcastic go as the stupidity of such quotas). With a downright EVIL smile on his face, Clifford walks out of the room, leaving Daniels to answer any questions the angry (and ARMED) officers might have.
Between Dennis Weaver, J.D. Cannon and Terry Carter, you had 3 of my all-time favorite actors & characters in one show together. And add Teri Garr to the list for the episodes she was in, as well. (Her shining moment of glory was "RETURN TO THE ALAMO", when Clifford get the flu, and Broadhurst gets kidnapped-- and SHE's left in charge!) Larson got rather infamous later on for BATTLESTAR GALACTICA and later shows, but I think people tended to forget just how damned good he was a producer-- AND WRITER. And McCLOUD was his best work, ever.
A few years back, there was a similar discussion about McCloud, on the old board, wherein I raised the same objection to the character development which I mentioned in my previous post. And now that I've read your post above, I'm reminded that one of the other fellows here---I believe it was either CK or Randy Jackson---pointed out the same thing you have: that Clifford's attitude toward McCloud shifted, but not in a logical progression. Rather, it was, as you also said, keyed to whomever was producing the series that particular season.
This informs me that either, one, I am misremembering the sequence of the episodes, or two, I never saw them in the proper order to begin with. Probably, a bit of both.
"The Day New York Turned Blue" is, indeed, one of the more enjoyable and memorable episodes of McCloud. The scene you cited is priceless, given that it follows a string of fuss-budgeting by William Daniels' character. It's also an episode with a multiplicity of plots. But there are two things I recall best about that episode.
The major plot is the effort to protect a mob target from gangland assassins. Clifford secures the intended victim in a holding cell at the 21st Precinct. This where another sub-plot, that the police union has forced the rank-and-file patrolmen to go on strike, converges. There is no-one available to protect the mob's target but Chief Clifford, McCloud, and a handful of detectives.
The mob's hitmen manage to infliltrate the precinct and apparently manage to kill their target, along with McCloud, and seriously injure Joe Broadhurst. Now I was savvy enough about television then that I should have known better, but the scene was carried out so effectively that, for a few moments, I actually felt that McCloud had been killed.
And that leads to the other thing that struck me about that episode. This was one in which Chief Clifford was notably less hostile to McCloud and, in fact, when the crisis is over, he invites McCloud and Grover and Polk out for a drink. Here, Clifford is downright amiable with McCloud. I remember thinking at the time that the entire final scene had the feeling of the wind-up to a series that was being cancelled. I recall wondering if the show had been cancelled and this was the last episode---with the convivial scene between Clifford and McCloud tacked on at the last minute, as sort of a coda.
Of course, I know now that the show had one more season to run, but at the time, it sure felt like the farewell episode.
The writing was quite variable on McCLOUD over the years, even during a single season. Glen Larson tended to do the best writing. The 4th-season finale was THIS MUST BE THE ALAMO, one of the "special" 2-hour stories (before some IDIOT at NBC decided to make ALL of them 2-hours-- the effect of that was a lot of terrible padding that year). ALAMO had no less than 4 different plots running simultaneously. When I watched it again some years later, I realized, it could almost be seen as a prototype of HILL STREET BLUES and similar "soap-opera" style writing, which was unheard of in the 70's. I really think BATTLESTAR GALACTICA would have been more successful if they'd concentrated more on the characters and less on special effects. (Especially since they had so many terrific actors and characters on the show.) ALAMO had Broadhurst in charge of the station, and climaxed in a shoot-out which destroyed Clifford's office.
So a year later they did a sequel, RETURN TO THE ALAMO. The next year, THE DAY NEW YORK TURNED BLUE.
However, although they did a 4th one for Season 7, TWAS THE FIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS, the 7th season was when things really went to hell for the MYSTERY MOVIES. I suspect there was a big turn-around in upper management at NBC. It was clear they no longer gave a damn about the format. They kept screwing with the schedule, repeatedly. All of a sudden, it seemed like half of the weeks they kept scheduling "special movies" or "special events" on Sunday nights. The MYSTERY MOVIES themselves, I believe, were cut back to 90 minutes, and often doubled-up over a 3-hour stretch to make up for all the weeks they weren't on at all. What you suggest about McCLOUD is very possible, especially if you look at what happened with McMILLAN at the same time. I don't believe McMILLAN was supposed to come back that year! There are a couple of McCLOUDs that are clearly run in the WRONG ORDER (continuity between stories totally screwed over by having them run out of sequence).
The new show that year was QUINCY, M.E. It started out as "medical version of McCLOUD". No kidding. I loved it. Jack Klugman didn't. I believe it only survived because someone saw its potential, and after the first 4 (of 6) movies, YANKED it out of the schedule, and put it on Friday nights instead, deciding to make it a weekly. So on Fridays they ran the 5th & 6th movies in 2 weeks, then plowed straight into the newer 1-hour episodes. Which apparently was not what Klugman had agreed on at all. Plus, he wanted to do a "Doctor" show, not a "cop" show. They didn't take him seriously. After 9 or 10 episode, he WALKED OFF THE SHOW. They actually did 1 episode, "Has Anyone Here Seen Quincy", which featured Dr. Monahan's BOSS as the main character. (Years later, I learned L.A. in real life actually DID have an Asian man as their Chief Coroner!) They came that close to doing a "medical" version of CHARLIE CHAN every week... when they backed down, and agreed to all of Klugman's changes. He came back. The show ran 6 or 7 years. (I forget which) But I never liked it as much as those first 6 movies.
When QUINCY was removed from the format, they added another new series-- LANIGAN'S RABBI, with Art Carney. Because of the chaos of the schedule, somehow, I never saw this until after-the-fact. All the MYSTERY MOVIES went down that year, except COLUMBO, which they did one more season, all on its own, run at random days and times. So I never saw ANY of those until years later. QUINCY was the last survivor, because it had "escaped" out the side door. (Of course, COLUMBO came back 9 years later when ABC decided to revive NBC's wonderful format. The 1st new year was terrible, but then Falk took over and it got MUCH better. Too bad ABC only did the format for 2 seasons. I liked B.L. STRYKER.)
The big 3 networks really have a way of showing utter contempt for long-running shows when someone decides they're ending, don't they?
I always remember the final McCLOUD was "McCLOUD MEETS DRACULA", which guest-starred John Carridine. Absurdly, they tried to leave it up in the air as to whether the guy was an actor who'd gone crazy... or a REAL vampire.
Last night I watched Joheun nom nabbeun nom isanghan nom (2008), a.k.a The Good, The Bad, The Weird, a Korean riff on the "spaghetti Western", set in 1930's Manchuria. It tells the story of a bounty-hunter, an assassin and a small-time thief, all of whom fight over a map that ostensibly leads to hidden treasure, with their struggles exacerbated by some black marketeers and the IJA. It's quite a fast-moving, fun picture. I enjoyed it alot.
I more or less watched X-Men: First Class last week. I'd like to re-watch it though as I dozed off a few times during the movie.
A few days ago I watched RANSOM FOR A DEAD MAN with Lee Grant as the killer. This was the actual "pilot" for COLUMBO, presumably at the time they were hoping/planning to do the whole MYSTERY MOVIE thing. The style has been modified a bit by here, and the main thing that sets this apart from the later ones was the 2-hour format --at least, until they started doing "special 2-hour episodes", then changed the format so that all of them would be 2 hours instead of 90 minutes. Personally, I think it's a shame the 90-min. format died, as in the early 70's, it seemed a perfect length for a lot of tv-movies. Without the commercials you had about a 75-min. movie, which was only a little longer than most of the "B"-movie series of the 30's & 40's which I came to see the MYSTERY MOVIES as being a 70's revival of. I kinda pegged COLUMBO as the 70's "answer" to CHARLIE CHAN (another detective who's name starts with a "C"-- heh). Both had very self-effacing characters who put criminals off their guard by pretending to be not as clever as they actually were.
Funny thing I never noticed before (perhaps because I haven't seen in in too many things), but this time it struck me just how much Lee Grant repinded me of Ingrid Pitt. (Except, with a very different voice and accent.) Seems to me Ingrid Pitt would have made a terrific murderer for one of these things, if only she'd been working in Hollywood instead of England.
Watching these almost back-to-back, there was one noticably quirk that was in both of them. In each case, the murderer is about to leave the scene of the crime, when the camera focuses on something they left behind-- before they come back and grab it. In the 1st one it was the gloves, in the 2nd one, I think it was a bag (only a couple days, and I'm already beginning to forget).
Probably my favorite moment in this one is after Columbo tears into the daughter for planting fake evidence, in front of the killer... then, almost casually, says, "I wouldn't want to arrest you for the wrong evidence." You can see in her eyes that she SUDDENLY realizes he's onto her. (I was only wondering if he'd put the daughter up to it, just to see the step-mother's reaction.)
Just watched the 3rd one a few minutes ago-- MURDER BY THE BOOK. (In this one, it's a lighter!) This was the 1st of the regular 90-min. MYSTERY MOVIE episodes for COLUMBO, and every freakin' body makes a Big F****** Deal over the fact that Steven Spielberg directed it. Apart from my not particularly like Spielberg, I couldn't see any noticable style or anything in this. The story (Steven Bocho, a decade before HILL STREET BLUES) is clever, but parts of it are just annoying. Jack Cassidy plays his first of 3 murderers on the show, and he's surprisingly dull here. I enjoyed him much more in his 3rd appearance. Unfortunately, I have a really BUTCHERED copy of this, run on THE CBS LATE MOVIE near the end of their late-night run when some A**H*** at the network decided to start running a news show at 2 AM and so every movie that started at 12:40 AM had to fit into an 80-min. time slot regardless of how long they were and how much they had to cut out for commercial time (and the CBS LATE MOVIES were always known for being extra-long to accomdate EXTRA commercials!!). So what was originally a 75-min. movie got cut down to 60 (15 minutes missing!!! --how does it still make sense???).
I know A&E ran a ton of the NBC MYSTERY MOVIES over the last 10-15 years, usually in the afternoons, but I'd pretty much given up taping TV shows by then and was trying to focus mostly on movies on TCM. I caught a few of these on A&E (as well as some BANACEKs) but never watched regularly. Too much else to do. It's a shame, with my maniacal fanatacism for taping / collecting TV or movie series over the years, I think McCLOUD was the only one of the MYSTERY MOVIES from the 70's where I managed to get EVERY episode (even if a few of them were BUTCHERED as described above). Seems like almost every series CBS re-ran, some idiot made a point of NOT running 1 or 2 episodes-- like they way they ran 5 out of the 6 MADIGANs with Richard Widmark (not counting the feature film). Or 3 out of 4 McCOYs. Or 16 out of 20 NIGHT STALKERs. (In that case, the other 4 were in syndication as 2 monstrously-re-edited butcher-job "movies".)