The High Tech Killer

Peter Falk and Gena Rowlands in Columbo: Playback (1975)

When electronics expert Harold Van Wick (Oskar Werner) married Elizabeth (Gena Rowlands) his mother-in-law Margaret Meadis (Martha Scott) put him in charge of the family electronics business. But with profits falling and disliking Harold's love of high tech gadgets which he has installed all over the large family home she demands his resignation. It is why with the aid of all the electrical gadgets he has over the house and some forwards thinking he murders Margaret but makes it seem like a burglar did it whilst he was out of the house at an art show. Of course no one is too smart for Lieutenant Columbo (Peter Falk) with the L.A.P.D. whose suspicions are quickly aroused.

I wonder what it must have been like to watch "Columbo: Playback" back in 1975 when it was released as it presented the public with this home filled with electronic gadgets, from surveillance equipment with control centres hidden behind walls to doors which open when you clap. Sadly watching "Columbo: Playback" now the entertainment or novelty factor which comes from a 70s high tech home and gadgets such as a digital watch is no longer there although it is kind of amusing when Harold goes on about the watch he has invented.

Oskar Werner in Columbo: Playback (1975)

But whilst "Columbo: Playback" lacks the entertainment of the high tech gadgetry when watched now there is still of course Columbo and his way of investigating. Almost everything Peter Falk does as Columbo in this episode makes you smile from the way he talks to his dog to him mentioning to the guard that when someone does something differently to what they normally do it raises his suspicions you become captivated. And it is a good thing as for some reason the rest of the cast seem to think they are in some sort of soap opera with some over acting, some more than others.

What this all boils down to is that "Columbo: Playback" is now one of the episodes which entertains thanks to the brilliant performance of Peter Falk bringing all the quirks to Columbo which made him such an entertaining character. But I would imagine back in 1975 the whole high tech element probably entertained just as much.

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