Peter Falk and Lee Grant in Columbo: Ransom for a Dead Man (1971)

Killed for Being a Bore

Expert attorney Leslie Williams (Lee Grant) having grown bored of her husband, a respected member of the state supreme court, murders him, dumps the body but then stages things so it appears he has been kidnapped. With the Williams' being high profile the FBI lead by agent Carlson (Harold Gould) is called in to handle the negotiations whilst lieutenant Columbo (Peter Falk) shows up due to the crime being on his turf. But whilst agent Carlson sets about working through the protocol for a kidnapping Columbo is more suspicious especially when it comes to Mrs. Williams' calm manner when dealing with her husbands kidnapping. And Columbo finds himself being helped by Leslie's step-daughter Margaret (Patricia Mattick) who dislikes who stepmother.

Reading some of the reviews of "Columbo: Ransom for a Dead Man" it is very clear that different people liked different things from the series and TV movies. Take "Columbo: Ransom for a Dead Man" personally this one did little for me as for a lot of the movie Columbo is a spectator, observing Leslie and also agent Carlson. And whilst it builds in a typical manner with Columbo spotting the flaws in the crime and gaining enough evidence to make an arrest it feels like it is robbing Peter Falk of his part.

Patricia Mattick in Columbo: Ransom for a Dead Man (1971)

Instead what "Columbo: Ransom for a Dead Man" comes across as is to try and recreate a film noir style storyline with a wicked stepmother capable of murder and the step daughter who is precocious. Whilst some might enjoy this Machiavellian storyline with Lee Grant turning on some Joan Crawford style wickedness it didn't grab me. It may also be to do with the visual styling as this incorporates some of those earl 70s visual tricks involving freezing the frame and then seemingly burning it out. In many ways it feels like director Richard Irving with striving for something greater than your usual episode of "Columbo" and to be truthful he achieved it but it isn't my sort of thing.

What this all boils down to is that I can understand why some really like "Columbo: Ransom for a Dead Man" as it does have a feel of being more of a motion picture. But this one doesn't feel like it is an episode of "Columbo" with Peter Falk the star but instead Lee Grant's movie.

Tags: Columbo