Columbo - The Complete First Season

Columbo - The Complete First Season

3.7 12

Cast: Peter Falk


Columbo: The Complete First Season marks Universal's first attempt to market an older series, after offering such current programs as Law & Order, and it's reasonably generous despite the absence of any special features. In addition to the first season of the series, Prescription: Murder, the 1967 adaptation of a play -- done as a made-for-televisionSee more details below


Columbo: The Complete First Season marks Universal's first attempt to market an older series, after offering such current programs as Law & Order, and it's reasonably generous despite the absence of any special features. In addition to the first season of the series, Prescription: Murder, the 1967 adaptation of a play -- done as a made-for-television film, with Peter Falk in his first appearance as the rumpled police detective -- is here, along with the official Columbo pilot film, Ransom for a Dead Man, made four years later. That makes a total of seven programs plus two movies, and the reason for the low number of episodes is simply that Falk was unwilling to commit to a series that involved a full run of 26 shows per season. That meant that Columbo rotated in the NBC schedule with three other series (MacMillan & Wife, McCloud, and Banacek) as part of what was known as the NBC Mystery Movie. But each show runs 72 minutes (intended for a 90-minute time slot), with the two features clocking in at over 99 and 100 minutes, respectively, with the result that this set, with nine separate titles, runs a total of 725 minutes. What's more, the individual shows are of very high quality, and are also hardly ever shown anymore, as the more recent Columbo episodes from the 1990s have eclipsed these shows on A&E and elsewhere. Apart from broadcasts on odd stations such as TV55 on Long Island, most of what's in this package hasn't been seen or shown widely in at least a decade and generally a lot longer. The material looks sensational. One can fully appreciate the way that all but Ransom for a Dead Man -- which has a peculiarly cheesy look to its settings and production design -- use Los Angeles as a backdrop to crime; it's so pretty there, what viewer wouldn't want to solve crimes in tandem with Peter Falk each week in those surroundings? The array of guest stars is also very solid, including Robert Culp, Ray Milland, Eddie Albert, Suzanne Pleshette, Don Ameche, Leslie Nielsen, Roddy McDowall, James Gregory, Forrest Tucker, Patrick O'Neill, Ida Lupino, Anne Francis, and Susan Clark. Two particularly memorable installments, "Short Fuse" and "Blueprint for Murder" are here, and both look infinitely better than they did in TV telecasts in the past just prior to the set's release. The Universal logo at the front end of Prescription: Murder looks almost 3-D, and the images get better from there. The depth of color on "Short Fuse" -- an episode partly set in a remote mountain location and a cable car -- is almost overpowering. (Those episodes are also a fashion and pop-culture maven's dream, as they were shot in 1970-1971, when characters in mainstream TV were trying to catch up with the world of the late '60, so Roddy McDowall is in his quasi-hippy phase, with lots of necklaces and such, and middle-aged businessmen played by the likes of William Windom are wearing turtlenecks, and all the businessmen are wearing thick ties and brightly colored shirts with wide collars. There's also a sound edit that joins a club scene with a car carrying a victim in "Short Fuse" that might be a first on network TV, featuring some serious Booker T. & the MG's-style instrumental music). And "Blueprint for Murder" is not only well made, but is notable as the first show that Falk directed. He apparently almost lost his voice running the shoot at a noisy outdoor construction site where a big chunk of the show took place. The audio is nearly as sharp as the video, though the volume is mastered a little low. Except for the last disc, which has only one episode, each disc has two complete programs, and each episode gets four chapters. There's a plot synopsis at the head of each episode and a "play all" function on the main menu of each disc. As pleasing as the contents are, the packaging is sorely lacking in basic information. There's a list of episodes (with one, "Murder by the Book, given a special note because it was directed by Steven Spielberg), but no list of guest stars or other notable attributes or a printed plot summary for the shows, and even that list is buried pretty deeply in the packaging.

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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Bill Pearis
As portrayed by Peter Falk, Columbo is arguably the most famous, beloved detective in television history. The series was unique in that unlike most whodunits, there was never any doubt as to who the murderer was -- that was the first thing you saw. The fun came from watching the police lieutenant with no first name poke holes in the killer's seemingly airtight alibi. The killer du jour would off a business associate, spouse, or relative who was getting in the way. Arriving on the crime scene would be Columbo, who -- with his rumpled tan raincoat, bed-head hairdo, and beat-up 1960 Peugeot -- didn't seem like a master sleuth. In fact, he would spend more time babbling about his wife, his dog, and other tangential subjects than actually questioning suspects. This haphazard manner caused the miscreant to let his guard down. Then, usually on his way out the door, Columbo would stop, turn, and say "Oh, just one more thing," and ask the question that would send the killer scrambling. It was a formula that proved irresistible for viewers. Columbo made his debut in a 1968 NBC movie, Prescription for Murder (included in this set, along with the rarely-seen first season pilot), and was then revived in 1971 as part of The NBC Mystery Movie rotation, initially trading weeks with McCloud and McMillan and Wife. Celebrity guest stars in the first season included Roddy McDowall, Lee Grant, Robert Culp, Eddie Albert, and Patrick O'Neal. There was talent behind the camera, too. Many episodes were written by Stephen Bochco (Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law), and the first-season opener, "Murder by the Book," was directed by an up-and-coming filmmaker named Steven Spielberg.

Product Details

Release Date:
Universal Studios
Region Code:
[Full Frame]

Related Subjects

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Peter Falk Columbo

Technical Credits

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Scene Index

Side #1 -- Disc One
1. Emergency House Call [31:41]
2. Diagnosis: Dead [26:37]
3. A Second Opinion [17:51]
4. Overmedicated [22:43]
1. Too Happy to Help [23:42]
2. The Drop-Off [25:01]
3. Keys to the Crime [24:47]
4. Money Talks [21:26]
Side #2 -- Disc Two
1. Deadly Divorce [16:26]
2. Professional Killing [20:41]
3. Mystery Witness [18:32]
4. The Perfect Alibi [20:06]
1. Insurance Fraud [15:48]
2. Security Affairs [19:34]
3. A Case of Coincidence [20:53]
4. Conclusive Evidence [19:29]
Side #3 -- Disc Three
1. Witnesses to Murder [12:21]
2. Burial at Sea [26:47]
3. The Early Bird Catches the Worm [15:36]
4. Surfacing Evidence [20:57]
1. Murder by Numbers [13:48]
2. Everybody's a Critic [20:51]
3. A Pretty Picture [14:40]
4. Fingerprint Proof [26:25]
Side #4 -- Disc Four
1. Premeditated Murder [20:23]
2. Suspicious Story [15:38]
3. Ruled Accidental [18:02]
4. Deliberate Setup [21:19]
1. Exploding Cigars [16:54]
2. Recorded Evidence [18:33]
3. Chemical Surprise [19:23]
4. Overexposed [20:25]
Side #5 -- Disc Five
1. Breaking New Ground [12:10]
2. Buried Suspicions [29:13]
3. Concrete Evidence [12:10]
4. Coming Up Empty [21:25]

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