Cruising with Columbo

Peter Falk and Bernard Fox in Columbo: Troubled Waters (1975)

Hayden Danziger (Robert Vaughn) has bought his wife, Sylvia (Jane Greer), on a pleasure cruise, the same cruise which features Rosanna Wells (Poupée Bocar) as a lounge singer, a woman who Hayden had recently had an affair with but who is blackmailing him now. It is on the cruise that Hayden plans to murder Rosanna and make it appear that her pianist, who is also her recently dumped boyfriend; Lloyd Harrington (Dean Stockwell) did it. What Hayden doesn't account for in his elaborate scheme is that Lt. Columbo (Peter Falk) is holidaying with Mrs. Columbo and is asked by the ship's captain (Patrick Macnee) to investigate the death.

One of the first things which strikes you about "Columbo: Troubled Waters", especially when you are a fan of the series, is that this one starts with Columbo rather than focusing on the murderer. It is just a brief moment of humour and diversion from the formula as the still raincoat wearing Lieutenant runs on to the cruise ship unsure whether Mrs. Columbo, no we don't get to see her, has boarded and in a panic asks the Captain if she is there giving his wife's name as.... Mrs. Columbo. But what this opening does is quickly show off the movie's star power as in just one shot we Have Robert Vaughn, Jane Greer, Patrick Macnee and Peter Falk, plus later on we also see Dean Stockwell as well as Bernard Fox.

Robert Vaughn in Columbo: Troubled Waters (1975)

But as I said, the opening of "Columbo: Troubled Waters" is just a minor diversion from the formula and what follows is the elaborate murder of singer Rosanna Wells by Hayden Danziger who is being blackmailed following their affair and fears his older, wealthier wife will leave him with nothing. As I said, it is elaborate with Hayden not only covering his own tracks to give himself an alibi but making it look like her ex-boyfriend did it and as per usual the elaborate nature is his downfall. To give you a little insight, to make it appear Lonnie did it Hayden writes "L" on the mirror in lipstick but with the instant death due to the way he shot Rosanna that would not be possible. So as you can see, it is again minor clues for Columbo to chew on. And yes that means that at some point Columbo begins to suspect Hayden and then it is a case of how will he get his man, through undisputable evidence or tricking him in to a boastful confession.

And to be honest when it comes to the acting "Columbo: Troubled Waters" is business as usual with a nice array of famous faces in a variety of roles. What is nice about this is that Peter Falk has some wonderful interactions with each of them from a humorous interaction with Bernard Fox to Patrick McNee as the ships captain being inquisitive as to the way the quirky lieutenant goes about his business.

What this all boils down to is that "Columbo: Troubled Waters" delivers everything you expect from a 1970s episode of Columbo and even manages to put some twists in their on the usual formula. But whilst this is as entertaining as ever for me there is just something about the set up which is a little too contrived for my enjoyment.

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