Murder Under Glass

Episode 41 – Murder Under Glass

The fortieth episode of Columbo was titled Murder Under Glass and was the second episode of the show’s seventh season. A famous food critic kills to keep his extortion of restaurant owners concealed. In this podcast Gerry and Iain look at a suave killer who isn’t prepared to come quietly.

 

 

Determined not to be exposed for his illicit racket, taking cash from restaurateurs in exchange for favourable – or a lack of unfavourable – coverage, Louis Jourdan‘s Paul Gerard is a European food critic of world renown, with murder on his mind. Faced with a furious Vittorio Rossi (Michael V. Gazzo), proprietor of an Italian restaurant of some quality, who threatens to tell the world about Gerard’s true nature, Gerard opts to kill rather than negotiate. Drawing poison from the Japanese Fugu he disposes of Rossi with the aid of a gas-propelled bottle opener.

 

Shera Danese features as Gerard’s assistant-slash-lover Eve Plummer, while Richard Dysart and France Nuyen appear sufficiently nefarious as other restaurateurs participating in Gerard’s scheme. Antony Alba plays Mario, Rossi’s nephew who speaks only Italian, while Larry D. Mann (as chef Albert) and Mako Iwamatsu (as Gerard’s houseguest Kanji Ousu) also feature.

 

Jonathan Demme, famed for his Academy Award winning turn as director on Silence of the Lambs, directs his only Columbo episode from a script by Robert Van Scoyk, who would go on to pen two further episodes in the 1990s.

 

If you have thoughts on any aspect of Murder Under Glass, 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.

 

Murder Under Glass was released in 1978. It is 75 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.

  • Red Hobbes

    This was a fun episode, I enjoyed it quite a bit. Jourdan made for an excellently slimy villain, in the model of Dale Kingston.

    My favorite moment had to be at the banquet dinner, the almost blissful look on Columbo’s face as dish after dish of glorious food came out. IMO, that was the best part of the episode.

    As for Columbo’s actions with the geisha, I took it to be he was reacting to her bowing by teasing her a little bit. Possibly it could be interpreted as very mild flirting, but I think teasing is more accurate.

    Finally, France Nuyen was in the original Star Trek episode Elaan of Troyius. It was essentially their version of Taming of the Shrew. The big thing was her character’s tears could put a whammy on men, which predictably worked on Captain Kirk. Not a great episode, btw, lol.

    Another great podcast guys!

    • Thanks for the trivia and your thoughts on the episode Red. Glad you are enjoying the podcast.

    • I also enjoyed the humour with the Geisha girl. It’s not the first time I’ve seen this done though. I think it’s a bit of an in-joke.

  • Peter

    This is one of my favorite episodes, top 5 for sure, mainly because of Louis Jourdan who played the charming and stylish villain so well. I thought the last scene was great where they politely showed their contempt for each other. I also thought motive was good and murder plan interesting and original. Ironically, the only dish that I thought looked delicious and made me feel hungry was the one Columbo cooked at the end.

  • Roberto

    Just listened to another great podcast. Iain and Gerry did a fine job discussing this fun Columbo episode. Murder Under Glass is very well done with a great script, great directing, generally good performances, and interesting interaction between Columbo and Paul Gerard.

    Murder Under Glass is a joy to watch especially with all that wonderful food. I loved Albert’s line about wishing it was Gerard who was dead and not Vittorio. Columbo acts strangely at another funeral. Michael Gazzo from The Godfather is great as Vittorio. And Elaan of Troyius reappears from the Star Trek universe.

    The execution and detection of the crime were a little murky. We never really are shown how the murder was committed and those of us who are unfamiliar with that type of wine bottle opener were really in the dark. They at least should have shown Gerard putting the fugo poison into a wine-bottle opener capsule so that when we see those capsules later at the restaurant we can figure out how the murder occurred. Or maybe see him place one of those wine bottle openers in his pocket when he is done with the syringe with poison.

    And we never really could follow Columbo’s moves either. Are we to assume that the poisonous wine bottle opener dispersed the poison into the wine bottle upon opening? (I assume so.) Then the lab guys would have found traces of the poison in the wine bottle. (Ditto.) So it would have occurred to someone somewhere that the poison could have entered the wine bottle via the opener. Have Mario recreate the scene for Columbo? We were kinda kept in the dark here which made an “interesting” (annoying) twist from a standard Columbo episode.

    I am not sure how realistic it would be for the Medical Examiner to identify the cause of death as poisoning at the scene in this case. Fugo poisoning is via neurotoxins so there are typically no visible signs that poisoning has occurred (death can follow from heart trouble or breathing difficulties). So I don’t buy that aspect of that clue that Gerard was guilty. Anyway, from the perspective of a fictional tv show, poetic license can be granted.

    Shara Danese played a key role in this episode. Her performance was of a quality we have come to expect (now and in the future) from her. I really wish they could have gotten a better actress for Eve Plummer since that could have made the episode that much better rather than being somewhat of a detraction.

    All in all, I consider Murder Under Glass an enjoyable and very good Columbo episode. I have it in my personal Top 10 episodes, though it comes in around number 10.

    Thanks again to Gerry & Iain for such a wonderful podcast!

  • Ian Baxter

    Hmmm… doesn’t really work for me.

    Gerard has all the makings of a good match for Columbo but why are left in the dark with the murder. Making Columbo more confident and revealing more of his backstory is interesting, but why move away from the original formula?

    We should have seen exactly how Gerard committed the crime. I don’t mind the odd surprise or reveal, but it felt to me as if we were viewing from a distance when in the best episodes we are drawn in; almost making us an accessory to the crime.

    In previous episodes (and in the next one) we get the detail, and we have tension as we see Columbo apply the pressure, but that’s not evident here, Gerard doesn’t even really seem that bothered by it all, so why should I be? I’m afraid that for me the episode is also let down by Shera Danese.

    It’s still entertaining, and I’ll watch it again one day, but It could have been so much better.

    • Afraid I’m with you, Ian. I’ve never compiled a top 10, but I’m sure this one wouldn’t be in it if I did. Gerard’s performance left me cold, I didn’t like being left in the dark on the murder, and I didn’t care for Columbo’s lack of faux bumbling about.

      For me, it’s the fact that he’s generally affecting a lack of knowledge that makes it so enjoyable when he drops his act and goes for the jugular. This episode, he had no act to drop.

      I did like Shera Danese’s performance, though.

    • Austin Barnes

      Excellent episode from you fellows as usual!
      I like the episode a lot in general, but I agree something is lost in the formula when important details are missing. The “howcatchum”, as the Link and Levinson once put it, is strongest when we get all the dramatic irony of knowing more than Columbo does until the end. Having all the pieces means the mystery isn’t as important as watching Columbo solve it. Its his job after all.

      Columbos more agressive and confident dealings with the killers (and the more bumbling and fawning act) I have always attributed to a) how quickly Columbo settles on his prime suspect (if he’s wrong or barking up the wrong tree, he can backout easily if need be) and 2) what his read of the person he thinks is his prime suspect, both in temperament and ability. If the killer is particularly clever, he needs such an act to keep the killer off guard until he’s got the pieces in place. He always drops it when its no longer working or necessary.

      This episode is a nice example of that. Consider: Columbo within two minutes has his suspicions about Gérard (regardless of the strength of the clue) gives him abit of the fawning act, makes him feel at ease by harshly questioning Mario, then does the little “I can’t let you get away with it” line. And the look on Gérard’s face is of shock than of puzzlement. The next time the talk, you mentioned his excellent double whammy of telling him he was a suspect, then saying he isn’t. Finally, by end of the market scene, the guy has fallen for an obvious trap and in Columbo’s mindn he has his man. If you were him, would you honestly waste the effort on a guy who is so obviously guilty? Its like getting into a fight with a guy that can’t lift his arms. I feel its the fact that this killer has a good plan, but can’t think on his feet to save his life, which is also seen as he tries to MURDER THE GUY IN CHARGE OF THE CASE. He was only so unbothered by things hes a smug git who thought he was uncatchable, and then thought Columbo was going to die, and odds are the next cop wouldn’t be as clever as Columbo.

      Compare this to ‘A Stitch in Crime’, ‘Candidate for Crime, ‘Murder by the Book’ or ‘Double Exposure’ where Columbo keeps the act up for just as long as he can/is necessary, because those killers are making him work for it and he has to be a little more careful, so he flatters and bumbles to catch people off guard. “Stumbling around, when he’s really going for the jugular.”, as we heard in ‘Ransom for a Dead Man’ (which someone beat me to the punch in referencing *snaps fingers*) We have seen many cases for Columbo being pretty pragmatic when the need arises, and I feel this is just an extension of that same idea.

      I don’t know if anyone mentioned this, but Gérard was indeed not at the funeral, but he did send the large wreath that is featured near Albert and is lingered on a moment as the funeral scene starts (which seems okay, he want to acknowledge the passing of a member of the food community he is apart of, but didn’t go himself since it may have been known he was arguing the guy right before he died, and it might come across as disingenuous. Points to the killer from me).

      Sorry, this rambled. All this sort of stuff comes to mind when I listen to the podcast. Unsure if this whole thing really merited replying to you instead of just its own post. Ah well. In the end I agree with you, I like the episode, but it falls short on a lot of little things. And as the Lieutenant would probably agree, the little things make all the difference.

      • I think you’re pretty much right on all of this. Missed the wreath though – good spot!

      • In fact, Gérard makes a point of saying he didn’t attend the funeral as he would rather remember people when they were happy.

    • Arabian Knights

      Agreed. I have never liked this episode much either. Too much Columbo gushing over food, cooking, rambling on in that irritatingly slow manner of speech he used in the later episodes. And while the victim was fine in Godfather II, here he only seems to bluster and shout at the top of his lungs.

      I was OK with the plot holes, being more taken by the acting than the plot.

      And Louis Jourdan … a fine gentleman in real life, but he’s even more annoying than Dale in Suitable for Framing.

      • Ian Baxter

        Peter Falk is definitely slowing down in his delivery 🙁

        • I don’t agree. Not sure if it’s this episode or the next, but I comment on the podcast that I think his delivery is clearer, more focused and sharper in season 7 than previously, to my newbie ears.

          • Ian Baxter

            This is where it’s interesting to have that ‘newbie’ take on it. I’ll concede that although I watched it last week I’m perhaps guilty of letting the different episodes merge a little in the memory… just perhaps 🙂

          • Largo

            “Guilty as charged! Book ’em, Danno!”

            Oops! Wrong show, eh! Sorry about that, Ian.

        • Largo

          You’re kidding, right? Compared to “Commodore,” Peter Falk’s performance here is approaching Warp Factor 7, eh!

    • I bet you’re really difficult to buy birthday and Christmas presents for!

      • Ian Baxter

        🙂 yep

        • Largo

          Has anyone in your family bought you The Complete Wild Wild West Series DVD box set yet, Ian? 🙂

          • Ian Baxter

            I’ve employed Dr Keppel to help with some subliminal messaging for the family! 🙂

          • Largo

            Jolly good show, Ian! 🙂

    • Largo

      “Making Columbo more confident and revealing more of his backstory is interesting, but why move away from the original formula?”

      Change is good, Ian. And here in this particular Columbo episode, I truly appreciated this change-up in the series’ formula. I’m with Peter on this one: a great sophisticated villain with guest-star, Louis Jourdan, and a very interesting milieu involving the premiere gourmet folks, eh! Great stuff! Be seeing you!

  • Another great podcast, guys. I can’t tell you how much I enjoy these each week. (Well, I guess I just did tell you.) This is a definite middle tier episode for me. Fun to watch once in a blue moon, but I never seek it out. I missed Columbo’s usual pretense of ineptness and Jourdan’s villain was run of the mill. Had it’s moments, though, many of which you called out during the cast.

    The finale of this episode just kills (no pun intended) me, though. Columbo promises to have the killer behind bars in 24 hours and his plan is to invite the guy to lunch and HOPE he tries to poison him? What if Jourdan had just showed up, eaten and left? Columbo would have enjoyed a good meal but left with absolutely no proof (in the form of a wine glass full of poison). Pretty chancy, depending on a plan like that.

    • Particularly as he had no reason to suspect Gerard would try to kill him!

    • Agree – it’s middle tier, and I said as much in my comments before even reading down the page. Great minds, eh?

  • Show notes were great as usual. Really enjoyed reading about the relaxing blowfish regulations in Japan. Yikes. This must be the first time a murder weapon has got it’s own link in the show notes, huh? 🙂 Shera’s link was interesting–especially enjoyed the comments at the bottom about the “Fighting Falks.” They must have had more than the color blue in common, to go 34 years together. Also enjoyed reading about Alan Alda’s brother. I’d be curious to see him in something that showcases his acting talents a bit more (speaking English would be nice). Have to see what I can find. And would not have paired chef Albert with Yukon Cornelius. Just saw Mako last week, watching the pilot for Streets of San Francisco. Although his character was Korean, there.

    Whatever did we do before we had the internet?

    • Jenn Zuko

      I just think of the evil Aku from Samurai Jack whenever I see Mako.

      • Austin Barnes

        Right? Always expect him to bust out with his Aku laugh when I hear his voice “BWAH-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA!!!”

  • Omar

    Love this podcast guys, listen to it every week.

    I have a weird relationship with this episode….I find it enjoyable, I’m happy to give it another chance now and again but there’s always a bitter taste left in my mouth after watching it because it could have been so much better. All the ingredients were there but it just didn’t come together.

    I found Columbo especially unlikeable in this episode for some reason. Maybe it’s because of the contrast with his bumbling, innocent self in previous episodes. His cosa-nostra mannerisms when he first appears, the way he aggressively pounds Mario into submission at the start, how he’s always staring at Gerard with that sly grin, passing out a cheque during the funeral and the constant eating – ugh! – it just put me off.

    There’s nothing compelling about this episode. I was unable to feel any empathy for anyone. The “gotcha” with the murderer was weak and I was indifferent to it anyway. It’s ironic that the episode is food-themed because it did in fact leave me empty and unsatisfied!

    Really keen on hearing your thoughts on the next episode especially regarding whether Columbo’s case would hold up in court.

    Keep up the good work!

    • Arabian Knights

      I agree with all your thoughtful points. Really, the series was about written out.

    • Thanks Omar, appreciate your support!

      It’s clearly not the most popular episode. I think next week’s reaction will be interesting as well!

    • The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.

  • Great to see the Godfather connection continue with the excellent Michael V. Gazzo appearing, albeit briefly. Of course, GF fans know him best as Frankie Pentangeli. Just wondering now whether it will be 3 weeks out of 3 when it comes to next week, G.D. Spradlin’s performance last week being the first GF actor.

    Anyway, observations:

    Columbo consolidates his reputation as a real ‘foodie’ in this episode.

    Peter Falk inhabits the character of an Italian well. Did he have any Italian ancestry I hear you ask? Well no, since both of his parents were Jewish, coming from Poland, Russia (on his father’s side), Hungarian, Czech (on his mother’s side). Yet he pulls off the Italian character with great aplomb and is believable.

    Louis Jourdan has never looked better. In my opinion a great actor.

    For me this was one of the better episodes – I would say around about the top of the list of the tier two ones.

    Now for the podcast:
    Very enjoyable with some drily observed humour as expected from our Scotch (sic) friends.

    I now look forward to finding time to watch this week’s episode. By the time very early Friday morning comes around I will plug in my iPod, knowing that I have at least 1 hour of good Columbo company in a critique of the ‘latest’ episode and knowing that it’s the last day of the working week. Bonus!

    • Thanks Kieran. Well known fact that too much Scotch can make you sic(k). 😉

      Falk’s ancestry is an interesting one. My understanding is there isn’t a specific known connection to Hungary (just a general ancestral one), but they built a statue of him anyway!

      We look at that a little on our Columbo Statue page: http://www.columbopodcast.com/columbo-statue/

  • Taxman

    I really like this episode due to the background music played throughout. The other episode with great background music is Make Me A Perfect Murder, both sound Oboe based. I wonder if the music was written by the same person. Perhaps Gerry and Iain know?