Peter Falk in Columbo: A Friend in Deed (1974)

Columbo's Gut Feeling

When Hugh Caldwell (Michael McGuire) kills his cheating wife he goes to his friend and neighbour, deputy police commissioner Mark Halperin (Richard Kiley) for help. Mark in deed does help; staging the death to make it appear like Hugh's wife was murdered by a thief who had been hitting the area in recent weeks. But when Lieutenant Columbo (Peter Falk) shows up he realises things don't add up, unfortunately for Columbo his suspicions lead him to suspect Halperin may have been involved but who would believe him if he accused the deputy police commissioner.

"Columbo: A Friend in Deed" is one of those episodes from the 70s where the character of Columbo has grown in to a real hound, a man who finds one thing strange and then like a loose thread on a jumper tugs and tugs at it until the whole thing unravels. As such when he finds it suspicious that there were no finger prints from the dead woman in the bedroom where she was found he starts building his investigation on this curiosity. And more chinks start to surface and in the most unwanted of places when Halperin's statement doesn't tie in with what his wife said forcing Mark to need an alibi all of his own! And "Columbo: A Friend in Deed" is entertaining with the way the story evolves, becoming increasingly tangled and problematic for Columbo when his suspicious lead him in a certain direction.

Richard Kiley in Columbo: A Friend in Deed (1974)

But whilst "Columbo: A Friend in Deed" is certainly entertaining and features good performances from both Richard Kiley and Michael McGuire there is for me something not quite right with it. That problem is like with Columbo often coming across as distracted director Ben Gazzara also seems at times distracted with the seemingly inconsequential. For example there is a scene where Columbo's old car won't start and so he sets about flagging down a lift, it is a scene which in truth is not overly important but seems to go on longer than is needed. It is the same elsewhere and it causes "Columbo: A Friend in Deed" to feel like it is spluttering along.

What this all boils down to is that "Columbo: A Friend in Deed" is as good as most episodes of Columbo and over 40 years after it aired it is still entertaining. But this one suffers from a director almost trying to mimic Columbo's attention issues with scenes which end up in truth unimportant but overly focused upon.