Columbo's in the Pictures

Ask and listen, listen and ask. It's all we really got to work with - Columbo

Peter Falk in Columbo: Murder, Smoke and Shadows (1989)

Alex Brady (Fisher Stevens) is the current darling of the film industry with his special effect filmed movies which are charming audiences and winning him awards. But when an old friend, Leonard Fisher (Jeff Perry), shows up at the studio to confront Alex with evidence that years ago when Alex was just an amateur movie maker he was behind Leonard's sister's death in a stunt which went wrong, Alex murders Leonard and covers things up. Of course a murder brings Lieutenant Columbo (Peter Falk) to the crime scene who whilst unaccustomed to the world of movie making quickly suspects some smoke and mirrors are involved in a cover up.

Some people put on an old jumper because they know how it will make them feel, whilst others might have something to eat because they know it will deliver what they want. For some they will put on something to watch that they know will not only entertain but they won't be overly challenged by it. Basically what I am getting at is that a "Columbo" TV movie is like that old jumper you put on as you know what you are getting, you know the formula, you know the humour and you know that once it is over you will have a smile on your face and feel better, relaxed, chilled out. Yes an episode of "Columbo" is like a dose of medicine.

Fisher Stevens in Columbo: Murder, Smoke and Shadows (1989)

That brings me to "Columbo: Murder, Smoke and Shadows" which sees are cigar smoking homicide lieutenant tossed into the world of movie making when a hot shot director murders an old friend with proof that years ago he was at fault for another person's death. Now this is one of those "Columbo" movies where the lieutenant finds himself dealing with a young man who is cocky and a little demeaning towards the old lieutenant and of course that brings that smile on Columbo's face, that knowing look as he almost toys with his suspect. It isn't anything new as I have lost count at the number of episodes of "Columbo" I have watched which works with this formula but it is no less entertaining.

A big part of what makes "Columbo: Murder, Smoke and Shadows" entertaining is the casting of Fisher Stevens as this hotshot young director who is liked by everyone and is living his dream with an office with its own ice-cream bar and so on. It almost feels like the character of Alex Brady may have visually been based on a famous director which adds something extra to the movie. But of course there is Peter Falk and the comedy he brings as Columbo is brilliant such as in the scene where he goes up on a crane with Brady and suffers from the floaty sensation as first it goes one way then another.

What this all boils down to is that "Columbo: Murder, Smoke and Shadows" is just an enjoyable "Columbo" TV movie built on the familiar elements and guaranteed to put a smile on your face thanks to the wonderful writing and performances of both Peter Falk and Fisher Stevens.

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