A Matter of Honor

Episode 34 – A Matter of Honor

The thirty third episode of Columbo was titled A Matter of Honor and was the fourth episode of the show’s fifth season. An ageing matador kills a dear friend to conceal an uncomfortable truth. In this podcast Gerry and Iain look at a vacationing Columbo and his unofficial contribution to the investigation.

 

 

As legendary matador Luis Montoya, Ricardo Montalban – perhaps best known for his role as Khan on the original series of Star Trek and in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan – creates an impressive villain, commanding and arrogant in an effort to mask his own extreme cowardice and fear. Having been exposed as a fraud in front of Robert Carricart‘s Hector Rangel as the pair tried to rescue Rangel’s son from a bull, Montoya chooses to murder his friend rather than run the risk of others finding out the truth.

 

Pedro Armendariz Jr.‘s Commandante Sanchez is tasked with investigating the death, drawing on the expertise of Columbo who happens to be on holiday in Mexico at this point. Rangel’s son, Curro (Adolph Martinez), is enlisted by the lieutenant to help expose Montoya in the episode’s dramatic conclusion.

 

Emilio Fernández, as ranch hand Miguel, and Maria Grimm, as Montoya’s daughter Nina, also offer support as the story progresses.

 

Director Ted Post returned for his second and final stint behind the Columbo camera, following A Case of Immunity earlier in Season Five. Writer Brad Radnitz, meanwhile, penned his only script for the show.

 

During the podcast we asked if anybody knew whether the episode was filmed in Mexico. If you recognised any of the locations or have thoughts on another aspect of A Matter of Honor 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.

 

A Matter of Honor was released in 1976. It is 70 minutes long and originally aired on the NBC network. It can be viewed on Netflix in the United States and is available on DVD in other countries, including a comprehensive box set of all the show’s seasons released by Universal.

 

The Columbo Podcast Team

The Columbo Podcast Team

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

  • Largo

    This episode attempts to convince me that Ricardo Montalban is a coward. That’s like saying Sean Connery is a wuss — I’m never going to buy into this even for a nanosecond! Like Sean Connery, Ricardo Montalban is a tower of testosterone and vigor, a giant tree of masculinity — a man’s man. For a bastion of courage and strength, this episode offers us actor Robert Carricart, who appears to be two minutes away from his next heart attack. In short, a very unconvincing and weak Columbo entry that’s also quite anachronistic to boot. Be seeing you!

    • I think you will find this week’s podcast less at odds with you than last week!

      On Montoya, perhaps he is not so much a coward as suffering from PTSD or similar?

      • Largo

        PTSD!??! That does not exist in the Largo dojo!

        And I don’t want to hear anything about “battle fatigue.” That nonsense is just a free ride and I’ll have none of that, eh. There will be no “battle fatigue” in my outfit as long as I’m in command! You’ll send those lily-livered cowards back to front! Ya hear me!??!

        What? I was just thinking about General George S. Patton there when I blacked out for a moment. Now where was I, eh? “At odds?” When are we not at odds? I mean, with you guys dissing ‘my girl’ Margaret Williams all of the time and stuff. Oh, golly gee whiz! Now I’ve got to take a stress pill and lay down for a bit. (Sheesh — my doctor told me to do my best to not get upset this week). 😉

      • saltyessentials

        Definitely, PTSD would explain it.

    • Agree with the first points. Re: the point about this being a very unconvincing and weak entry, it’s not that bad, and certainly in a different league to ‘Dagger of the Mind’.

  • Roberto

    It is painful to come here and comment on this sub-standard Columbo episode. The podcast does a faithful job of critiquing the episode. Uncomfortable stereotypes, uncomfortable bullfighting backdrop, uncomfortable seeing Ricardo Montalban as anything short of heroic, uncomfortable murder, etc.

    Columbo’s crime detection is decent but hardly good enough to carry the episode. Interaction between Montalban and Falk is pretty lukewarm (most interesting character is the Mexican cop). Final gotcha is weak sauce.

    Podcast was especially fun with Iain and Gerry’s Star Trek banter. I was waiting for Gerry to ask how the Kardashian sisters became Star Trek villains.

    And, yes, I eagerly await the sequel Podcast from Iain and Gerry stepping through the episodes of the original series of Star Trek! Of course, the roles would be reversed as Gerry would be seeing the episodes for the first time and Iain would be the world-renowned expert!! (OMG, you mention this at the end of your podcast, I swear I wrote this before I heard it.)

  • CarlosMu

    You missed the main clue: when Columbo first meets Montoya, Montoya is wearing an ascot. Dead giveaway and surely Columbo picked up on it. We’re going to see this clue again in the next episode.

    I actually enjoyed the interactions between Columbo and Montoya. The look of disgust Montoya gives Columbo when they meet, and the extent to which Columbo was NOT intimatded by Montoya. Something that Montoya was not used to, I’m sure. He gives that pompous speech about cultural differences and Columbo doesn’t even acknowledge it. He just walks away unimpressed.

    One thing I found mysterious was the daughter. I figure she must serve some purpose in the story, but I can’t imagine what it is. I was amused when Montoya tells her to freshen up before visiting her friend in the hospital. Do people tell other people to freshen up? It sounds like he’s telling her she stinks.

    Finally, the location was certainly in Mexico, there is no way to recreate that look in the U.S. the city scenes were probably Mexico City, the shots give you an idea of an enormous city.

    • Roberto

      Newspaper article at the time says episode was filmed in Mexico City and Cuernavaca, Mexico

      • Glad that’s solved. Thanks both.

        • saltyessentials

          I was convinced the scene with the calf scaring Columbo was shot on the Universal back lot’s Old Mexico set, where they do the flash flood on the tram tour. But I couldn’t find any photos that looked exactly like the scene, and the newspaper article seals the deal–filmed in Mexico. Nicely tracked, Roberto.

    • Great points.

  • Peter

    I like this episode, though it is definitely not top tier. Mortal an was terrific in this episode, and I thoroughly enjoyed the interactions between him and Columbo. I also enjoyed Sanchez quite a bit. I thought the psychology behind the motive very interesting, though I thought it not strong enough to lead to murder. I think He for had a lot to lose if Montoya was exposed as the whole business would go up in flames therefore doubt he would have exposed him.
    Never understand the lov for Star Trek. Just can’t get into it.

  • Guys, you know how much I – like everyone else who frequents this forum – love this podcast, but I have to admit to being ever so slightly underwhelmed by this week’s effort, which I found to be quite self-indulgent. There was an awful lot of banter about Star Trek, but at the expense of some missed opportunities in terms of facts about Ricardo Montalban. For instance, in 1951, during filming, he was trampled by a horse [not entirely dissimilar to the theme of this week’s episode], which led to him having a spinal injury which in later years necessitated him being wheelchair-bound. He was also married for 63 years, which is amazing in itself. Pope John Paul II made him a Knight of the Order of St. Gregory the Great, plus many other interesting facts, none of which made it into the discussion. Anyway… I did appreciate the discussion around how Montoya could have killed such a loyal friend in such a brutal way and, incidentally I didn’t pick up any background noise, so your kit is doing its job well.

    Maybe this doesn’t rank in people’s top 10, but for me Mr. Montalban displayed a fine range of acting skills, particularly in the use of his facial expressions and I really enjoyed his performance. Then again, I enjoyed his performance as the grandfather in Spy Kids 3 especially, in which his wonderful voice delivers a beautiful speech in interplay with ‘The Toymaker’. For me, though, he will always be Mr. Rourke, watching the plane coming in, while Tattoo frantically shouts ‘Mr. Rourke. The plane! The plane!’. Happy memories.

    Bye for now…

    • Thanks for the feedback Kieran. Hopefully you enjoy next week’s episode a little more! I may have inadvertently cut Gerry’s trivia on Montalban short with my interventions, but you’ll be aware that his ignorance of Star Trek is a long-running theme on the show.

      I do remember saying that I thought Montalban was excellent in the episode and my favouite of the Season 5 killers so far. Thanks for the extra trivia.

      • You are a Star Fleet officer: you have a duty!

      • saltyessentials

        I loved the Trek banter. I was laughing out loud on my commute to work this morning while listening.

    • CarlosMu

      agreed about Montalban. It was enjoyable to watch him in this episode.

      I haven’t seen Spy Kids 3, but the role sounds an awful lot like Peter Falk’s role in the Princess Bride.

  • Ian Baxter

    Enjoyable… but not much honour in this episode. This just doesn’t make sense to me… how can a matter of honour be the killers motivation when he then decides to commit a most dishonourable murder; killing a loyal friend?

    He takes no responsibility, admits no guilt and shows no gratitude in his dealings with his friend. Even after the deed he shows no remorse for the death of this loyal man. Where is the honour in all of these actions? Where is the crisis of conscience? Montoya certainly has a powerful screen presence, but it is a little one dimensional.

    The problem, I think, is that they are trying to shape a plot around the setting of bullfighting and Mexico, not around characterisation and a the psychological battle of wits between killer and Columbo.

    Best example of this is the use of the bull as a weapon; it is not a logical working out of how Montoya would act (such a gruesome and cold hearted death). It as a contrivance on the part of the script writer included simple because it is a bull fighting Mexican context.

    However, all that said, I’m an easily pleased fan and it is still enjoyable and entertaining stuff… and Falk is so watchable in this.

    Fun podcast… if life after Columbo for you guys does involve Star Trek then I hope Gerry makes the most of the opportunity to mention Columbo connections and links at every possible moment 🙂

    • The problem with doing Star Trek is that so many people have already done it ahead of us. Would need to find a unique angle!

      Anyway, we’re only halfway through Columbo, so very much focused on the current project for now! Fun to speculate though.

      • Ian Baxter

        Whatever you’d do next I guess it has to be something you guys, or at least one of you, has a passion for.

        However you are right to keep both eyes on the current project, there is still so much to enjoy in the Columbo canon, really looking forward to the next one.

      • Largo

        What!?! You’ve already got a unique angle! It’s staring you right in the face, eh! Your angle is very unique: you’re both Scotsmen! Lieutenant Commander Montgomery Scott’s great, great, great, great grandfather and his best pal cover Star Trek: The Original Series (1966-69). Can you dig it? 😉

      • CarlosMu

        I was hoping you’d do Santa Barbara next, but my hopes were dashed.

    • Largo

      Ricardo Montalban starring as legendary matador, Luis Montoya, in the Columbo Mystery Movie, “A Matter Of Vanity” — tonight on NBC! Right, Ian? 🙂

    • saltyessentials

      I guess “honor” in this instance really means “pride”, right? Not a lot of honor to be found, in its traditional sense….

  • chris

    I can’t believe I found a Columbo Podcast with people who love this show like I do! Nice job guys on an episode that’s a little unusual and in my opinion, boring and flat. Look forward to more!

    • Hi Chris, glad you found us. Look forward to hearing your thoughts on the show!

  • saltyessentials

    Great job as usual, Gerry and Iain.

    I think, generally, the episodes that take Colombo out of his element (L.A.) suffer a bit because of it. I have a hard time buying his being placed front and center in investigations where he has no authority at all. The writers attempt to give us reasons why, but it never quite flies for me. And it especially doesn’t work for me, here. Although I DID like the callback to Troubled waters. Columbo, as a whole, has so few instances of continuity, it’s fun when it does show up.

    Interesting with the show notes for Adolph Martinez, turns out the missus and I had just watched that particular episode of Longmire a night or two ago. I had thought the casino owner looked and sounded familiar and wondering where I’d seen him before–turns out it was in Columbo a week prior!

    I think my first memories of Montalban are actually as Mr. Roarke, but ever since seeing his Trek appearance and then the second Trek film, he’s been Khan to me. 🙂 “He tasks me. He tasks me and I shall have him!”

  • saltyessentials

    And, you know, I’ve been thinking to myself for awhile now that I’d love to see you continue on after Columbo is finished. I’d tune in just for your friendly banter, even if the show being covered wasn’t one I’m familiar with. Although I certainly understand doing something like this is a big time and energy commitment. Wouldn’t blame you a bit if you decided one show was enough. I guess we’ll all just have to wait and see. 🙂

  • Roberto

    In the spirit of trying to improve the episode retroactively (40 years after the fact)… How about if they add a scene with Montoya and his daughter? Daughter senses that something is troubling her father and suggests that he confide in her. He says that she looks so much like his late wife (her mother, of course). Montoya says that he wishes he treated Hector better and that Hector didn’t deserve to die like that. Daughter asks what he means. Montoya pauses for a moment and seems to decide to confess to his daughter. Just as he about to confess, in walks Columbo and Montoya’s defenses go back up.

    I don’t know how many Columbo murderers have confessed their crime to someone other than Columbo in the final gotcha scene. I guess the answer is zero if you don’t count the “partner” murders such as Dagger of the Mind, Double Shock, and A Friend in Deed. Any Port in a Storm and Try and Catch Me (two of my favorites) have elements of others knowing what happened but this is more for blackmail purposes than for the murderer baring their guilty soul via confession.

    • CarlosMu

      there is a really great scene in “Agenda for Murder” that fits that bill. I won’t say more because spoilers!

      I like your Columbo fanfiction idea by the way.

      • Judy

        I thought parts of this episode were shot in San Miguel de Allende. The outdoor cafe scene looks just like El Jardin – across the road from the cafe are the arches where the bank (?) is.