Strange Bedfellows

Episode 65 – Strange Bedfellows

The sixty third episode of Columbo was titled Strange Bedfellows and was the first episode of the show’s final season. Columbo enlists unconventional assistance to pin down a double murderer. In this podcast Gerry and Iain look at a killer with no flair for disguises.

 

 

George Wendt, of Cheers fame, features as fratricidal killer Graham McVeigh. Having inherited half a horse training farm, McVeigh finds his life complicated by the presences of his gambling addict brother Teddy (Jeff Yagher). He concocts a complex scheme, convincing Teddy he will fix a race to pay off Bruno Romano (Jay Acovone), but dopes the horse causing it to come up short. He then seeks to frame Romano for Teddy’s death and sets up a self-defence alibi for his own killing of Romano.

 

Columbo isn’t the only characters keen to see justice served, however. Mob godfather Vincenzo Fortelli (Rod Steiger) was fond of Romano and has his mind set on taking revenge for that murder. Bruno’s partner, Lorraine Buchinsky (Linda Gehringer), provides an alibi for the time of Teddy’s death, while Sgt Phil Brindle (Bruce Kirby) assists the investigation.

 

Vincent McEveety found himself in the director’s chair once again, while the story was written by Peter S. Fischer, using his Lawrence Vail pseudonym.

 

If you have thoughts on any aspect of Strange Bedfellows, 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.

 

Strange Bedfellows was released in 1995. It is 86 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.

  • Roberto

    I am really looking forward to this podcast since this Columbo episode is such a mixed bag of stuff. Much of it is on the poor side but there are moments that kinda work. George Wendt is not your prototypical Columbo villain, of course, but that is not his fault (blame the people who hired him). Rod Steiger was great (I guess), but doesn’t his story undermine the typical Columbo-villain dynamic?

    Off to listen to podcast!

  • Largo

    I have one word that perfectly describes the Columbo Mystery Movie Strange Bedfellows: ludicrous. This is the word that comes to mind whenever I encounter any one of the following:

    1. George ‘I Never Miss A Meal’ Wendt in that absolutely absurd ‘disguise’ when he is in that restaurant! It just looks like Wendt’s Graham McVeigh character bought a cheap clip-on beard and fake goofy glasses at Walmart. This (failed) attempt to be inconspicuous is made so that McVeigh can execute his mouse diversion in order to make that phone call to his brother from the owner’s office — all to establish an airtight alibi. Brilliant! (Riiiight)

    2. George ‘Mountain Of A Man’ Wendt as Graham McVeigh on that small folding bicycle making that incredibly awkward getaway from the murder scene! I can’t help but be inspired by this particular sequence into immediately conjuring up in my mind the image of an elephant struggling to ride a child’s tricycle.

    3. Poor Rod Steiger trying to method act his way (unsuccessfully) through a woefully inconsistent performance as a mafia don! Steiger’s acting vacillates wildly between outright cartoon-like parody and the deadly earnestness of a downbeat drama directed by Sidney Lumet.

    4. That blasted dead mouse and its rubber toy facsimile being handled by Lieutenant Columbo! This particular rat-sized mouse is described several times in this episode as “tiny.” Sorry, but I beg to differ here — that mouse is freakin’ HUGE!!! This mouse is definitely a Texas-size mouse if I ever saw one, eh! I’d sure hate to see a mouse that Columbo described as being “big.” Perhaps it would be in the monstrous proportions similar to the mouse that I encountered when I watched Super Bowl XLII back in 2008. Please check out the video below and judge for yourself. Be seeing you!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h8qgk5tXuUA

    • Boo, hiss. You are a meanie, Mr. Largo.

      • Largo

        Nah uh! Those SPECTRE days are long over, Kieran. Plus, I no longer keep sharks as pets — I have fluffy little kitty cats. As for my review — well, hey — it’s just all part of the show. Surely you don’t think I’m as mean as that mouse in that video, do you? Now that type of mean is really scary!

      • Margaret Williams

        Well, a “boo” and a “hiss” right back at you, Kieran! And I’ll raise you one “Merowr!” Tee hee hee hee! 🙂

  • Once again, I have to say a really enjoyable episode. Yes, there were a couple of implausible moments, but aren’t there ever? When McVeigh produced the folding bicycle, my thought was actually ‘Wow. That’s going to be a long bike ride back to his house.’ Nice little cameo by Shani Wallis of ‘Oliver’ fame. Teddy’s cockney girlfriend was a little OTT for my tastes, I’m afraid, although I’m sure that would have been the way she was directed to act, so nothing against the actress. Very much a case of stereotypes – back to the way priests are portrayed, eh, Largo?

    For the benefit of people in the UK who would have had the pleasure of viewing a certain episode of ‘Common as Muck, it would have been a relief that the horse wasn’t de-energised in the same way that the greyhound was.

    Anyway, in the words of Arnie Swarzenegger, whilst at lunch with Gary Oldman and an infamous director at a casting meeting for an epic motion picture of ‘The Great Composers’, “I’ll be Bach.”

    • Margaret Williams

      “Nice little cameo by Shani Wallis of ‘Oliver’ fame.”

      Oh, Oliver! (1968) is one of my favorite musicals, Kieran! When checking the IMDB, I see that Shani Wallis portrayed someone named Gwen in this “Strange Bedfellows” Columbo Mystery Movie. I just don’t remember this character at all, Kieran. Could you please help to refresh my memory on this one? Thank you.

      • Certainly. She played Randall Thurston’s companion – Gwen. It was a small part and she appeared a couple of times.

        • Margaret Williams

          Thank you, Kieran! 🙂

  • Hi everybody.

    An enjoyable episode overall, for me this week. I never quite buy George Wendt as a Columbo killer, not sure why. He never quite pulls off the affluent arrogance thing for me, I guess. But there have been worse, for sure. And now he’s doing Re-Animator: The Musical. You never know where life is gonna take you, do you?

    Like a couple of others have mentioned, I also thought Steiger was uneven in his role, kind of rolling around between spot on and woefully off base with his characterization (and Italian accent). He was an amazing actor overall, though. I always think of The Pawnbroker and In the Heat of the Night. Both powerful films and incredible performances.

    Enjoyed the show notes, Iain, especially the interview with Jay Accovone. He seems like a genuinely nice guy.

    Oh, and I noticed the blog with Bruce Kirby’s link had three MORE Columbo-related posts on it. Which I am adding below, for everybody’s convenience. 😉

    http://katewoodbury.blogspot.com/2015/11/lieutenant-columbo-as-role-model.html?m=0

    http://katewoodbury.blogspot.com/2014/11/the-beautiful-idealism-of-columbo.html?m=0

    http://katewoodbury.blogspot.com/2009/01/would-real-mrs-columbo-please-stand-up.html?m=0

    • CarlosMu

      “Columbo as role model”. Except when it comes to behavior at funerals!

      • Largo

        Indeed! Also, if I were that professor, I’d be flunking any student who used the “Scooby Gang” as a detective role model, eh!

        • Ian Baxter

          Scooby-Doo would be a great podcast for Iain and Gerry to take on 😉

          • Largo

            EEGAH!!!! Count me out of that one, eh! D-:

          • Ian Baxter

            I’m sure they’ve something better brewing 🙂

          • Largo

            I certainly hope so, eh! I am very proud to say that I have never seen any of the Scooby-Doo cartoons — or any of those blasted live-action films. Speaking of which: years back, one of our student employees once told me, “You know why we’re being plagued with Garfield movies now? Scooby [Bleeping] Doo!” And guess which expensive Lego set my youngest nephew has been bugging me to buy for him? Yup — the Scooby-Doo Mystery Mansion! EEGAH! When will this terror of the blasted Scooby-Doo ever end!??! D-:

          • Largo

            I will admit to having a soft spot (in my heart or in my head – or both) for Hanna-Barbera’s Josie and the Pussycats (1970)!

          • Largo

            Oh – just one more thing, eh. There was a Josie and the Pussycats live-action film released in April of 2001 and it totally rocks!

          • CarlosMu

            yes, plenty of tropes in that one, and we all love tropes

      • Margaret Williams

        Overall, I do agree with you on this particular issue, Carlos. However, I’d like to point out that Lieutenant Columbo treated me very kindly at my father’s funeral.

        • CarlosMu

          good point Maggie. And I may regret saying this, but I think you yourself are not such a good role model when it comes to behavior at funerals.

          • Margaret Williams

            You’re changing the subject there, Carlos …. very sneaky.

            Okay — yes, yes! When it comes down to brass tacks, I fully admit that my behavior was very poor at my father’s funeral. But you have to realize what an emotional crucible I was forced into at that time, Carlos. However, once my emotions were under control, you might recall that I immediately signed up on ‘Team Columbo’ to help take down that murderous Leslie once and for all. Pretty good for a 16 year old, huh? 🙂

    • Ian Baxter

      Great links, thanks, ‘Italian mama style’ Mrs Columbo! 🙂

  • Ian Baxter

    Watched this the other night and actually found it quite entertaining. Where Last Salute to The Commode really fails is that it’s soooo boring, but this episode was actually fun. Wendt on the bike and in the bad disguise is comical, the mouse nonsense is laughable, and the knowing look Columbo gives when he examines the police artist sketch is almost the exact expression he probably would have had if he’d watched the episode! Wendt does fill the screen and is very watchable. I knows it’s all a bit silly and not one of the best, but I’d watch it again.

    The podcast was good at picking up on the nods back to previous episodes (folding bike and ‘Any Old Port’ a good one) but I wonder if the makers were as aware of these echoes, I somehow doubt it? I’m not really seeing a lot of care or respect for the character of Columbo in these later episodes. Some are fun, and there are a few nice moments, but they seem to be more by chance and the good will of fans. The willingness to squeeze him into uncomfortable ill-fitting plots is increasingly disappointing.

    It has also been too long since we’ve really seen any decent character development, or tough cases, for Columbo. The last season of the original run had ‘Try and Catch Me’ with Columbo being asked to make an exception for Abigail, and then we had ‘Conspirators’ where we were left to the last minute wondering how Columbo would catch the guns and killer. This revival run has had no decent insight into the man and has not really given us enough good tough adversaries or crimes. The throwing in of a glut of tropes is not enough for a lead character.

    • Couldn’t agree more, Ian.

      My added opinion: In the original run, Columbo’s eccentricities were endearing because they gave added depth to an already great and full-fledged character. The revival series has gone more and more toward a Columbo who’s nothing BUT his eccentricities. Take away the overabundance of tropes and the “aw, what a cute little old guy this detective is” vibe and there’s not a lot of character left.

      It almost feels like the original run was created for adults, while the revival was going for a younger audience, or for an adult audience they assumed to be less intelligent than the folks watching the original show were.

      Afraid the original run will always be Columbo for me. The revival series is mostly a fond or sometimes not so fond remembrance, depending on the episode.

      • This feels like a fair assessment and I think the way they use tropes in the revival is something we’ve touched on a couple of times in the podcast.

        Have to say though, the new episodes haven’t been anything like as bad, as a group, as I had anticipated.

        • I agree, most of them aren’t bad at all. If I didn’t have the original series to compare them to, they’d sit as decent examples of 90s TV. But that’s the rub: Since I do have the originals to hold them up against, they suffer all the more.

          It’s like eating for years at a fine restaurant with incredible food, moving away and coming back to find they’ve been bought out by a reasonably decent restaurant chain. The food now is adequate, sometimes more than adequate, but it’s tougher to enjoy for what it is, when my palate remembers what I used to enjoy in that very spot.

          Wow. Waxed a little too philosophical for my own good, there.

          • Ian Baxter

            I’d be sending unpalatable ‘No Time To Die’ back to the kitchen! 🙂

          • lol You and me both.

            “Waiter, there’s a fly in my soup….”

          • Margaret Williams

            Please excuse my intrusion here, gentlemen, but I’d forget about sending that particular dish back. Instead, I’d rather be vacating that ‘Columbo-lite’ restaurant in a big hurry! 🙂

          • Roberto

            I concur that is a good analogy for the Columbo original series vs. the new series. The new series episodes (most of them) are okay but nothing great. To use the restaurant analogy, after awhile you’d stop going to the new poor-imitation restaurant. And after another while you’d get more than a trifle annoyed at the new poor-imitation restaurant for trying to take the place of the old enjoyable restaurant in your heart and soul.

    • Margaret Williams

      Great post, Ian Baxter! I’d like to print out your last paragraph, frame it and then place it on the wall above my computer desk — all with your permission, of course! 🙂

  • Largo

    ATTENTION IAIN

    I got this rather cryptic text (w/pic) just moments ago and was asked to pass this along to you here on the forum. Here goes:

    “What’s all this crud about me resembling some dead trash dumpster mouse!?!”
    — Rizzo the Rat

    • I trust you were able to advise him he had that all backwards!

      • Largo

        Hey, I’m just the messenger here. I know nothing, man! Well, except that this “Rizzo the Rat” is pretty steamed at you, Iain! 😉

  • NS

    Gotta say, I loved the way you threw in the lyrics to ‘My Lovely Horse’. I certainly appreciated the reference to Father Ted, even if nobody else picked up on it. Thanks, that blessed me!!