Peter Falk in Columbo: The Most Crucial Game (1972)

Game On for Columbo

Paul Hanlon (Robert Culp) has worked hard for Eric Wagner (Dean Stockwell) ever since the young and irresponsible Eric inherited his father's business and money but he has had enough of working for a man who doesn't care especially about the football team he owns. So in the midst of a game Paul sneaks away and heads to Eric's mansion where he murders him in the pool, making it seem like he slipped and died after banging his head. But with Lt. Columbo (Peter Falk) on the case it doesn't take long for him to spot a flaw in Hanlon's alibi and starts hounding him.

They say a good singer could take a phonebook, sing it and make it sound beautiful, well I reckon that Peter Falk and the team who made "Columbo" could have done the equivalent as despite working to a formula these shows, or now TV movies as they are often randomly shown, are always entertaining. You know exactly what will happen so when in "Columbo: The Most Crucial Game" Paul Hanlon murders Eric Wagner you know that Lt. Columbo will either find a piece of evidence or by hounding him trick Paul in to making a mistake. Yet despite knowing this "Columbo: The Most Crucial Game" is as entertaining as any of the episodes/ TV.

Robert Culp in Columbo: The Most Crucial Game (1972)

But the thing about "Columbo: The Most Crucial Game" is that whilst it has all the parts from Columbo's nagging investigation methods to the cameos in supporting roles the whole murder, motive and resolution all seems a little weak. It seems to be that the writers of this episode felt they could get away with the formula and didn't put enough effort into the detail to make the storyline truly work which is why it all seems to suddenly come together in the final minutes but unfortunately with some questions unanswered when it comes to motive.

What this all boils down to is that due to the formula, the cameos and of course Peter Falk "Columbo: The Most Crucial Game" is as entertaining as ever. But at the same time this has a feel of an episode where the writers relied on the formula a little too much and let the usual high level of detail and reasoning slip.