One half of a murder-mystery writing team kills his more talented partner after the latter announces his intentions to go solo which would ultimately leave the former in financial ruin. Later a grocery store owner, who has important information pertaining to the case and has romantic desires for the killer, sees this incident as an opportunity to blackmail him into having a relationship with her. Feeling cornered, he kills her and tries to make it look like she'd fallen off a boat and drowned in a drunken stupor.
French title: "Le livre témoin" ("The Witness Book") See more »
In the first minute an overhead view reveals that Ken Franklin parks his Mercedes Benz in a space with the number 62 on it. When Ken and Jim walk out to the car it is parked in space number 59. See more »
[Jim works in his office]
[knock on the door]
Who is it?
[another knock on the door]
[He opens the door - Ken is aiming a gun at his face. Jim laughs]
Oh, you're not intimidated.
Oh, come on, Ken. You're forgetting that I'm one-half of the world's greatest mystery-writing team? You, ah, don't have gloves on, your finger's not on the trigger, and there are no bullets in the cylinder.
You're right. I'm a lousy practical joker.
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Peter Falk's third appearance as Columbo (after a pair of two-hour NBC World Premiere Movies) officially kicked off the "Columbo" series, as well as the "NBC Mystery Movie" in September 1971.
Filmed after the superior "Death Lends a Hand," but aired first, it has the distinction of having been directed by Steven Spielberg in those days before "Jaws" when he was still cranking out episodic television on the backlot of Universal. There are some smart directorial touches, particularly in the opening scenes where the sound of Martin Milner's typewriter serves as the sole soundtrack, but this a disappointing episode overall.
As the less talented half of a famous mystery writing team (not unlike Richard Levinson and William Link, "Columbo"'s creators), Jack Cassidy makes a classy villain, one who would be invited to square off against Peter Falk on two more occasions (including season three's "Publish or Perish" which was also set against a publishing background). Unfortunately, Steven Bochco's script drags along, making this a frequently dull episode. Worse, the denouement finds Columbo wrapping things up based on flimsier than usual evidence. Had the killer not confessed, he could have walked away from his crime.
Still, Peter Falk is terrific, and makes it worth watching.
Brian W. Fairbanks
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