A Culpable Investigator
When Los Angeles publisher, Arthur Kennicutt (Ray Milland) suspects his younger wife, Lenore (Pat Crowley), of having an affair he hires Brimmer (Robert Culp), a private investigator to find out the truth. Whilst Brimmer collects evidence of her affair he decides not to tell Arthur and instead blackmails her, wanting her to become a pipeline for information on the various high profile people that her husband associates with. When she refuses and threatens to tell Arthur of Brimmer's blackmail he loses his temper and accidentally kills her, dumping her body in an industrial area to make it appear to have been a robbery gone wrong. Of course when her body is found Lieutenant Columbo (Peter Falk) is called in to investigate and finds himself working with Brimmer who Arthur Kennicutt insists helps with the case.
"Columbo: Death Lends a Hand" is one of the episodes from Season 1 from back in 1971 and it was the 1st of 4 episodes which director Bernard L. Kowalski made over the years. Like other episodes from the first series Kowalski plays about with the camera technique and so whilst some directors used freeze frames to create impact he uses slow motion to create impact especially during the accidental death of Lenore. In fairness whilst the image isn't as crisp as modern high definition slow motion work it certainly grabs your attention and as it comes within the first 10 minutes it hooks you in for the rest of the episode.
The thing is that the slow motion camera work in "Columbo: Death Lends a Hand" is not the episode/movie's hook, instead that comes from Columbo working alongside the private investigator who in fact is not only a killer but a double crossing businessman who blackmails people. What this also gives us is Robert Culp in the bad guy role, ironically Culp like director Kowalski also did 4 episodes of Columbo and whilst this isn't his best he still makes for an entertaining, conniving bad guy with that sense of ego and confidence which is always attention grabbing.
But what for me I really like about "Columbo: Death Lends a Hand" is that whilst one from the first series there is more humour in this one especially when it comes to Columbo's quirkiness. This is the case right from the word go when the lieutenant is pulled over by a traffic cop for having faulty lights through to his quirky questioning of the golf teacher who was Lenore's secret lover right down to his interactions with Brimmer. And for me it was always the humour, the quirkiness which made Columbo so engaging.
What this all boils down to is that "Columbo: Death Lends a Hand" like the majority of the old episodes of Columbo is still entertaining and a lot of fun thanks to there being more humour in this than you got in some of the others from the first series.