Undercover

Episode 64 – Undercover

The sixty second episode of Columbo was titled Undercover and was the final episode of the show’s twelfth season. Columbo adopts an alternative identity to infiltrate a criminal conspiracy. In this podcast Gerry and Iain look at a break from the traditional format.

 

 

After a minor role in Season 7’s How to Dial a Murder, Ed Begley Jr. returns as manipulative killer Irving Krutch, an insurance investigator whose standing was reduced when he failed to track down $4m stolen from a banking client some years earlier. Krutch has acquired a list of names – people connected to the original thieves who each hold one piece of a photograph showing the hiding place for the money.

 

The first people from the list we meet are JJ Dillinger (Jon Beshara) and Eugene E Ehrbach (an uncredited actor – can you identify him?), followed by Mo Weinberg (Burt Young), Geraldine Ferguson (Shera Danese), Dorothea McNally (Tyne Daly) and Derrick Combs (doesn’t appear). Columbo’s investigations are principally aided by Det. Sgt. Arthur Brown (Harrison Page) on the authority of their captain (Hank Garrett).

 

Irving Krutch’s alibi was supplied by his lover Suzie Endicott (Kristin Bauer), while Geraldine Ferguson’s associate Bramley Kahn (Edward Hibbert) also had a role to play in an episode featuring a sizeable principal cast.

 

Vincent McEveety got his shot at working from an Ed McBain (Evan Hunter) story, adapted for the screen by Gerry Day (her only work for the show).

 

If you have thoughts on any aspect of Undercover (and particularly if you know who played Eugene E. Ehrbach), please share them below, or find us on Twitter at @columbopodcast.

 

The Columbo Podcast is widely available – on iTunes, Stitcher, tunein, Pocket Casts or pretty much wherever you choose to receive and manage your podcasts. If you enjoy the show it would be greatly appreciated if you consider leaving ratings and reviews on these sites – particularly iTunes – as that can make a big difference to growing the podcast’s audience.

 

Undercover was released in 1994. It is 88 minutes long and originally aired on the ABC network. This episode is not available on Netflix, but can be found on the Season 10 or complete collection DVD box sets from Universal (all remaining episodes are considered ‘Season 10’ in the DVD collection).

 

The Columbo Podcast Team

The Columbo Podcast Team

The Columbo Podcast team develops, produces and promotes The Columbo Podcast.

  • Largo

    My apologies in advance:
    There are people involved in the entertainment industry that I feel like punching in the face. I’ve already mentioned on this forum how I feel about Dennis Dugan and Fisher Stevens and how much I really want to clock both of them real good. Well … guess what? I feel exactly the same way about Ed Begley, Jr. ! There hasn’t been a time — whether in a film like Cat People (1982) or like on the St. Elsewhere television series — where I haven’t felt like rolling up my sleeves, clinching a roll of quarters in each fist and just going to town on Ed Begley, Jr.’s noggin. Now why is this, you may be asking — well, it’s because I always find Ed Begley, Jr. to be an obnoxious and annoying weasel boy — just like he is here in this Columbo Mystery Movie entitled Undercover. To make matters even worse, this particular Columbo production is yet another CINO (Columbo In Name Only) episode! Oh, the humanity!

    Undercover is also yet another adaptation of a story by Ed McBain. If you want gritty and hardboiled police procedural melodrama, with a dash of the sleazy underbelly of the city thrown in (ala Raymond Chandler), the novels by Ed McBain are the right way to go, eh. But Columbo isn’t about any of this at all because the humble, disheveled and tenacious homicide detective created by Richard Levinson and William Link is the exact opposite of what an Ed McBain story entails. But here we are again with yet another McBain adaptation with the Columbo character clumsily grafted onto it. Actually, it’s a pseudo-Columbo character that is placed within this McBain adaptation, for the Lieutenant Columbo presented here isn’t the Columbo that we all know and love from times past. Overall, Peter Falk is playing just another hard-nosed cop in Undercover, but one who happens to have a flare for a few disguises.

    I have a confession to make here: I didn’t see this Columbo episode when it premiered on May 2, 1994. This was by choice for I refused to watch it. But I did see the advertisements for Undercover that had aired prior to this on the ABC Network. When I saw those ads featuring Columbo dressed and acting like a Mafioso, I said to myself: “This is definitely NOT Columbo and I have had enough!!!” It was here that I quit watching Columbo altogether and I never saw any of the remaining Columbo ABC Mystery Movies when they premiered on television. It was only within the last year that I finally watched these remaining Columbo movies once I had purchased the revival series on DVD. It’s true! Just check out some of my early Columbo Podcast Forum posts — the ‘puzzle’ pieces are all there (heh – get it?).

    But before you pelt me with rocks and garbage, please remember that I was there at the very start when the first Columbo movie premiered on the NBC television network back in 1968. I also saw the entire first and final seasons of the original NBC Columbo Mystery Movie series, and a good majority of the episodes in-between, when they all first premiered on television. So I am not an animal! I am a human being who happens to be a Columbo purist! To countervail someone who might want to accuse me of committing some kind of Columbo ‘sacrilege’ (for refusing to watch the remainder of the Columbo revival series ABC television network premieres), let me finish here with the one item that I did enjoy in this CINO movie: I loved that black cat! Be seeing you! [runs off while ducking for cover]

    P.S. — Some random thoughts:

    1. Hey kids — did you know that parking meter expert, Zeke Rivers, moonlights as a ventriloquist? It’s true! He can say the words, “Still here” and not even move his lips at all! Such an amazing feat of voice throwing!

    2. Golly, Lieutenant Columbo, were those tweezers you used made out of wood because one should never reach into a lightbulb socket at all when the FREAKIN’ LAMP IS ON AND STILL PLUGGED IN!!! Just sayin’ ….

    3. Tyne Daly is portraying yet another drunken floozy. It’s truly an incredible stretch of her acting talent — right, folks? HA!

    4. To the men in the forum audience (my apologies, ladies) — Do you guys remember Irving Krutch’s fallback alibi? Of course you do! Who wouldn’t, eh? This may not work with the police, but it’s rather successful in the workplace. So if your boss comes at you with such things as — “Where were you yesterday?” or “Why haven’t you finished that report I asked for?” or “You look really tired this morning” — you can always cover your @ss with Krutch’s lie by quickly responding with: ‘I was in bed with Susan Endicott.’ They’ll understand immediately, I guarantee it! 😉

    5. Okay, I’ll say it again — I really loved that black cat! In fact, I feel that there should be more cats on television and in motion pictures. And if various directors want to utilize a cat in a ‘jack in the box’ type scare edit, I say more power to them! I mean, Ridley Scott pulled a stunt like this in his film Alien (1979) with Jonesy the orange tabby cat. That was a real good one, because my pal Eric almost jumped out of his theater seat when that happened — and then he got a charley horse in his leg! So let there be more cats!!! >^..^^..^<

    • Much more cat-related drama coming up in a couple of weeks!

      • Ian Baxter

        Got a scary mouse coming up first!

        • Largo

          Indeed!

      • Largo

        Oh, do you mean the one with Sledge Hammer in it? 🙂

  • Ian Baxter

    *GROAN* here we are again, another missed opportunity, another ‘lets see Columbo in a different format’, no, no, no, no, no! It’s just not Columbo! It may as well be a rubbish spin off about his twin brother! Judging it in it’s place within the Columbo Canon it’s rubbish. Judging it by other films made in 1994 (take a look, it’s interesting) then I’d still say it’s poor.
    The only praise I can muster is that it’s better than ‘No Time To Die’, a sad comment if ever there was one. I mean, come on, Gerry and Iain could film a re-enactment of the hospital escape scene as a silent mime in their studio and I could guarantee that even that would be better than ‘No Time To Die’! 🙂

    • Largo

      “I mean, come on, Gerry and Iain could film a re-enactment of the hospital escape scene as a silent mime in their studio and I could guarantee that even that would be better than ‘No Time To Die’!”

      Well, only as long as Joanna Going gets to join in and play the nurse, then I’d say that we’re good to go, eh! 🙂

  • Roberto

    It was better than “No Time To Die” perfectly sums up this Columbo offering.

    “Undercover” was an interesting story and I can imagine that the original Ed McBain novel was a good read. However, why anyone (*anyone*) thought that this story would make a good Columbo episode is beyond my comprehension.

    Falk got to play dress-up (literally) and maybe that’s one reason why he wanted to do this. The movie’s litany of character actors were semi-fun to watch, with the Tyne Daly scene being the “highlight” of the movie. Not much really made logical sense though you can tell that nobody really cared too much about that.

    “Undercover” didn’t quite rise to the level of “so bad it was good” but it came fairly close. As I have said on more than one occasion, this would have been a fun McMillan & Wife episode, but as Columbo it was nothing short of annoying.

    • Margaret Williams

      “As I have said on more than one occasion, this would have been a fun McMillan & Wife episode …”

      Yes, we have noticed that you always fall back to the McMillan & Wife series whenever Columbo fails to live up to your standards, Roberto. Well, Sally and Mac are here to tell you to please stop dragging them into these Columbo revival series discussions. They are no longer amused by your suggestions, ‘k? Tee hee hee hee!

  • Well, sorry to buck the trend but actually I quite enjoyed this tongue-in-cheek foray. Sometimes it’s nice to step out of the formulaic mould and obviously Peter Falk felt justified – and comfortable – in doing so. The acid test: would I watch it again? A resounding ‘yes’. Now looking forward to what Gerry and Iain have to say on the matter.

    On another note, we are getting ridiculously close to the last episode, and I have to say, it’s been a blast!

    • Margaret Williams

      Oh, piffle! There goes “Kieran the Kontrary” again!

    • Thanks Kieran. As always, we appreciate the support.

      • Listened to the podcast first thing and it was very funny. I have to admit I never thought I’d hear the ‘d’ word uttered in the same context as Columbo. Your observations and thoughts about Detective Brown’s spare troosers were spot on: more laugh out loud moments that we’ve all come to expect. Glad to hear I’m not alone in enjoying this episode. I agree that the Godfather parody was quite funny – in fact, Frank even held his jaw in the same way that Brando did. I also agree with you that Ed Begley Jr. was great in this.

        NB For some reason, although Hank Garrett’s name is included in the cast list on IMDB, his character (Captain Landau) is not.

        • Largo

          “Laugh out loud moments” !?! Falk’s lame Mafioso was “quite funny” !?! And Weasel Boy Begley was “great” in this darn episode!?! EEGAH!!!! 🙀🙀🙀🙀

          To say that I merely ‘beg to differ’ would be a darn gross understatement, Kieran! I’m sorry, but there wasn’t one darn thing that I found funny in this craptastic episode. I thought all of the so-called ‘lighter moments’ were rather forced and darn heavy-handed. I also felt that Steve Lawrence did a darn better Brando as Corleone parody on The Carol Burnett Show, eh! And that Weasel Boy Begley is ever so punchable in this darn CINO production! I mean, just look at that darn screen capture that tops this discussion thread: what a incredibly punchable face that is just gawking at all of us up there, man! 😱😱😱😱

          Yeah, I know, Kieran: we all have opinions and all …. but I just had to get all of that off of my chest, so I hope that you understand. Just sayin,’ dude …. this darn CINO episode makes me so darn mad!!!! 😾😾😾😾

          • Largo

            I don’t like saying this, but I’m afraid that I’m going to have to pass on listening to this week’s podcast. After reading Kieran’s enthusiastic post (see above), I just can’t bring myself to witness Gerry and Iain “enjoying” this CINO episode. Besides, almost all of my free time of late has been spent watching Patrick McGoohan in the Danger Man series. Be seeing you!

          • Ian Baxter

            Yet another one I’m not overly familiar with… but one of the better things about this final run in on Columbo is that there is one more McGoohan appearance to anticipate.

          • Largo

            Right — that’s the Columbo episode where Patrick plays that scary mortician dude. But, thankfully, McGoohan isn’t as terrifying as …. (GULP!) …. Angus Scrimm!!!! 🙀🙀🙀🙀

          • Ian Baxter

            I think the laughs Kieran talks about are in the podcast not the episode.

          • Largo

            I fixed my post, Ian — thank you. Golly, I need to not get so agitated and overly excited before I post that early in the morning. I believe an afternoon nap will do me a world of good!

          • Ian Baxter

            Podcast laughs aside, I’m totally in agreement with you that this really is a maddening Columbo episode. As I said with ‘No Waste Of Time To Die’ I just can’t get past the missed opportunity to stick with formula and put the effort into finding a good adversary for Columbo. (Obviously this needs backing with a good script and direction as we’ll see with next weeks episode where I think they had so much potential with the character but lost the way).

          • When I referred to laugh out loud moments, I was,of course, referring to the observations and repartee in the podcast rather than the episode itself.

          • Largo

            Well, I’ll be jiggered! I guess I posted on the forum a wee bit too early in the morning or something. I’m sorry about that misunderstanding, Kieran. I edited my earlier post by including another quote from your first forum comment. But like I stated above in said early morning post: this CINO episode makes me mad …. as in mad with rage … a terrible, blinding rage that makes me see things …. things obscured with a red haze and all …. ya hear what I’m sayin’ here? 🙀

        • We did consider Garrett might be the mystery actor playing EEE, but quickly realised he was the captain.

        • Ian Baxter

          Listened to this weeks podcast in the car. Gerry’s ‘d’ brought a little hush followed by Mrs B saying ‘which episode is this?’. There were indeed a few laughs on the way. 🙂

          • Oops. I (Gerry) hope there were no kids in the car!

          • Ian Baxter

            No 🙂

          • “Gerry’s ‘d'”. This is how rumours get started…

          • Ian Baxter

            Lets just say that the Scottish tourist Board won’t be calling upon Gerry or Iain to promote the Glasgow hotel trade 🙂

          • Largo

            Thanks for that heads up, Ian. I’ve deleted this week’s podcast from iTunes: I definitely won’t be listening to this one after all. Remember when Gerry and Iain didn’t resort to such foul language in the early days of the Columbo Podcast? Golly — a parent could listen to the Columbo Podcast with kids in the car back then, eh! What a shame!

          • There is no foul language in the podcast. iTunes has rules about that sort of thing!

            Anyone old enough to watch and understand the themes of this episode would be fine to tune in, so far as content goes.

            It’s worth noting (and I have said so on this week’s podcast) that this Columbo episode (and most of the later ones, actually) isn’t suitable for very young viewers.

          • Largo

            By “foul” you know perfectly well what I’m referring to: gratuitous offensiveness and crudeness, etc. within the podcasts as previously noted by others here. The rating of these later Columbo revival episodes is totally irrelevant to how the CPT actually conducts themselves within the podcasts. I’ve noticed recently what appears to be an increasing lack of concern on the CPT’s part on how some of the more sensitive listeners may be reacting to these ‘looser’ type of podcasts. But the bottom line is this: I’ve been offended and I’ve unsubscribed from your podcast.

  • Red Hobbes

    I actually enjoyed this episode. It struck me as Columbo being a cop, not a rumpled homicide detective. Its not perfect, not by a long shot, but it was a nice change of pace. Its this kind of change of format that works, occasionally. Not all the time.

    Another great podcast guys!

  • CarlosMu

    Good spot on Freddy’s apartment, I’m certain that is the same building.

    I think it’s been said here before, bad “Columbo” episodes make for good “Columbo Podcast” episodes. This one’s a good example, though it seems some people like this episode,

  • Margaret Williams

    Gerry and Iain, your Undercover podcast deserves something far more potent than one of my famous stare-downs. I feel it needs to be rewarded with a “Margaret Williams Smackdown!” So consider that cage match challenge back on, boys!!!

    • Ian Baxter

      🙂

      • Margaret Williams

        *** Please note that the Columbo figure in the photograph in Ian Baxter’s forum post above is a symbolic representation of the CPT. ***

        Dear CPT: BANG! ZOOM! And to the moon, courtesy of my metal chair launching pad! Tee hee hee hee!