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Columbo: Last Salute to the Commodore (1976)

 
 

More Comedy than Commodore

Peter Falk in Columbo: Last Salute to the Commodore (1976)

Commodore Otis Swanson (John Dehner) is an unhappy man; he dislikes the way his son-in-law Charlie (Robert Vaughn) is running the business he built and despises the fact his daughter Joanna (Diane Baker) is a drunk and then there is his elderly nephew Swanny Swanson (Fred Draper) and his lawyer Kittering (Wilfrid Hyde-White) who are just as bad. When the Commodore is murdered it is Charlie who deals with the body, impersonating the Commodore and taking the body out to sea where it is dumped overboard. When the body shows up it is Lt. Columbo (Peter Falk) who is handed the case and begins to suspect that Charlie whilst involved in the cover up but can't prove he is the actual murderer.

A good idea spoiled by some frankly bad ones is the quick review of "Columbo: Last Salute to the Commodore" as whilst this features Patrick McGoohan behind the camera as director the writers have had some bery strange ideas. And unfortunately those strange ideas end up over powering the good ideas and the usual stuff which made "Columbo" such a popular series.

Robert Vaughn, John Dehner and Diane Baker in Columbo: Last Salute to the Commodore (1976)

So what do I mean? Well the good idea is that whilst we witness Charlie covering up a murder, wipe cleaning an old wooden truncheon and so on we never see him actually commit the murder of the Commodore, giving this an element of who done it. And as we learn right away that there were 4 people who the Commodore disliked because of their attitude we equally have 4 people with potential motives for bumping the old guy off. As such whilst we watch Columbo come to suspect that Charlie covered up the murder he initially can't find evidence that he committed the crime which considering that often Columbo trapped people with a proof of a cover up and a motive it is smart.

Unfortunately whilst there is this smart side to "Columbo: Last Salute to the Commodore" it is also full of dumb stuff such as an early scene which sees Columbo, along with a young officer he has to mentor get into his car with 2 other people. The whole thing looks like clowns in the circus squeezing in to a clown car. It is simply a stupid gag as is another one later on when at the boat yard Columbo tries to have a conversation whilst there is a lot of construction noise going on. I literally could carry on as we have scenes of Columbo trying to cross his legs in a meditation pose and then putting his arm around the shoulder of Charlie whilst on the phone like they were an old couple on the couch together. It almost makes you wonder if all involved thought the storyline was a bad one and decided to just have a laugh.

Because it feels like everyone involved in "Columbo: Last Salute to the Commodore" were playing it for laughs they also seem to be playing it dumb. As such you have Peter Falk clowning around and over doing playing Columbo as a bit of a klutz whilst Peter Vaughn pulls so many faces that this starts to feel like one of the "Columbo" TV movies from the 90s rather than one from the 70s.

What this all boils down to is that whilst "Columbo: Last Salute to the Commodore" switches things round to a "who done it" rather than a "how to catch them" storyline the abundance of humour in this TV movie does this "Columbo" no favours what so ever and ends up giving this plenty of stupid scenes.

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