Murder, a Self Portrait

Episode 50 – Murder, a Self Portrait

The forty eighth episode of Columbo was titled Murder, a Self Portrait and was the first episode of the show’s ninth season. A famous artist murders his ex-wife to protect a dark secret. In this podcast Gerry and Iain examine the killer’s motives and assess Columbo as an oneirocritic.



There are once again echoes of episodes past here as we meet Patrick Bauchau‘s Max Barsini, a man who has killed before and kills again to protect this secret. In Murder, a Self Portrait his victim is his ex-wife Louise, portrayed by the wonderful Fionnula Flanagan, who knows all about his earlier crime.


Principal support comes from the familiar face of Shera Danese (previously seen in Fade in to Murder and Murder Under Glass) as Barsini’s present wife; Isabel Lorca as his model-cum-live in lover Julie; the indefatigable Vito Scotti making his final Columbo appearance as “Vito”; and George Coe as Louise’s former therapist turned lover Dr Sydney Hammer.


This episode marked the last of director James Frawley‘s six shows, while writer Robert Sherman contributed his only Columbo story on this occasion.


If you have thoughts on any aspect of Murder, a Self Portrait, 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, a Self Portrait was released in 1989. It is 98 minutes long and originally aired on the ABC network. This episode is not available on Netflix, but can be found on the Season 9 or complete collection DVD box sets from Universal.


The Columbo Podcast Team

The Columbo Podcast Team

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

  • Johnny

    Gerry’s unexpected Minder joke had me laughing in the street like a maddy.

  • Johnny

    I enjoyed the new criteria of ‘alibi’, I thought of a suggestion while listening to this one though it is a bit late in the game. How about your take on the psychological breakdown of the culprit following Columbo’s endless hounding.

    Do you have any analysis of where your listeners are based? Being from Glasgow I’m getting all the dodgy references like Gladiators or Minder.

    • We have some data, though it’s been a while since I checked. Last look it was roughly 50:50 between US and UK listeners, with small amounts from other countries, but the trend was towards the US.

      • I also liked the alibi addition. And I’m so curious as to what you’ve got in store for upcoming specials! Hints…?

        • Ian Baxter

          Agreed, Mrs B says stop teasing… (although she could be referring to fact Gerry needs to put some clothes on!!)

  • Red Hobbes

    I kinda liked this episode. Maybe it was because the killer was so slimy, coupled with an experiment in existentialism that worked, and how quickly Columbo busted Barsini in the end.

    Barsini strikes me as a willful, spoiled child. Misogynist, sure, but his whole demeanor is that of a kid who always got his way, and never was told no. Or if he was, he didn’t take it well. His fall was immensely satisfying, especially when Julia and Vanessa dumped him.

    The opening, while padded and serving the purpose of introduce Columbo, was still lots of fun. Dogs are always worthwhile, and basset hounds are quite adorable. And they did draw a tenuous parallel between Barsini and Dog. Dog bit Columbo because of jealousy, and Barsini killed Louise because of jealousy as well, among many other reasons.

    As far as Patrick Bauchau playing Picard on TNG, I think he’d do an excellent job. He played a similar character on The Pretender, as I recall. And the novelty of a Frenchman playing a French character would’ve been quite amazing, lol. Fionnula Flanagan was also a TNG alumni, she played Data’s mother. And she also played a country singer in an episode of the Bionic Woman. An excellent performance in this episode, and IMO, she looked far more attractive than Barsini’s other two women.

    Another great podcast, and this is another industrial diamond in this ruff. Btw, my favorite Vito Scotti moment is a tie: the undertaker in Swan Song, and the Italian businessman in Identity Crisis. I loved the whole moment when Columbo asked him for more grapes, lol.

    Keep up the good work, guys!

    • Thanks RH. Agree about the dogs in general and that is definitely another top Scotti performance!

  • Oneirocritic… I had to look that one up. I’ll bet someone had a proud moment, working that in. 😉

    The missus and I watched the show last night, and will take in the podcast tonight. Until then!

  • Ian Baxter

    Well done guys, a very entertaining podcast. Sounds like you had a lot of fun recording this one.

    I think Max, Julie, Louise, Vanessa & Dr Hammer are prime candidates for and episode of Jeremy Kyle! However George Cole would have made a great Columbo murderer 🙂

    As for a conviction I think the evidence is very very poor; you could just as easily make a case against Dr Hammer using the same evidence… the Dr kills Louise, who he realises will never be truly free of Max… he tries to frame Max using the rag… and releases three ‘doctored’ dream tapes (made up from the 100’s of other dreams tapes she made about Hammer Time, Minder, Gladiators and Joseph!)… or something like that 🙂

    • Good point. I’ll try to remember that for the season summary!

    • Largo

      I totally agree with you, Ian: a very entertaining podcast! I especially enjoyed Iain’s satirical comments on all of the ridiculous attempts at some sort of Freudian ‘dream logic’ that the Columbo producers were straining vainly for within this episode! EEGAH! What outright idiocy here with all of these Columbo filmmakers! I’m especially looking at you, James “The Muppet Movie” Frawley!!!!

  • Roberto

    Great podcast, dreadful episode/movie. I cannot imagine any scenario in which I would voluntarily re-watch “Murder, A Self Portrait”.

    The murder and its detection are very substandard. However, I do take some solace in that Columbo’s ridiculous dream interpretations gave podcast Gerry a laughing fit which is always greatly appreciated.

    When the murder plot and detection are weak, an episode/movie must have a great villain and great interaction between villain and Columbo. “Murder, A Self Portrait” had neither. Barsini, though odious, was not a great villain. And the interactions between Barsini and Columbo rigidly concerned Columbo’s portrait and the silly dream interpretations.

    The acting overall was quite good (and I even grudgingly include Ms. Danese in that review). The whole thing just didn’t hang together. I agree with Iain and Gerry’s opinion that the story just wasn’t polished enough. The idea of a free-love marriage with the ex-, current- and future-wives living together could have been interesting. But the execution fell flat.

    Looking forward to reading what others thought.

  • We greatly enjoyed the podcast, as usual. The episode was… well, it was. I’ll call it average for a revival episode and below average for a classic one.

    I will say I thought the dream sequences were very nicely done. Very atmospheric; reminded me of something you’d see in a film from the German expressionist movement in the early 20th century. So those were fun if I lift them out of the Columbo universe and watch them on their own.

    And I’d love to own that painting of Columbo. But I’d trade it for a Columbo action figure. 😉

  • Here we go…


    • Ian Baxter

      Please tell me there’s a deleted scene where Dr Hammer tries to impress Louise with his moves 🙂

  • Show Notes:

    Kevin Peter Hall, The Predator himself, as Data and Wesley Snipes as Geordi? Yikes. Great find, Iain.

    I’ve seen two of Ms. Flanagan’s three ST episodes. Never caught the DS9 one.

    Great interview with Shera. I also don’t understand the ill feelings toward her from fans. She always seems to play whatever role she has pretty well. She mentions Falk’s artwork at the end. Have you seen this collection on his official site?

    The missus and I at first mistook Isabel Lorca for Molly Hagan from Murder, Smoke and Shadows.

    I only made it through one episode of Archer, but interesting role for Coe.

    Last show note for Frawley! Bet there was some celebrating!

    • I’ve saved up Frawley’s Wikipedia page until now. It was lucky he had enough written about him to cover six episodes!

      Thanks for the art link, will take a look.

  • Guys: I’ve switched to Worzel Gummidge, starring the inimitable Jon Pertwee, for the moment. Up to the ‘Worzel Gummidge Down Under’ seasons which are quite dark…may be back in a few weeks.

  • Largo

    Forget the Minder jokes, this is George Coe’s finest achievement: De Düva: The Dove (1968)! This is the very best Ingmar Bergman parody, co-directed by Coe and written by Sidney Davis:

  • Largo

    Hey, Gerry and Iain: have you seen this film? You’ll both love it — it’s French! 😉

    • Actually, we have! Listen out in future podcasts!!

      • Largo

        I just did, eh! Do you have the Criterion edition of Mon Oncle, per chance? 🙂

  • nivipa

    Hello again, Gerry and Iain! I have not commented for quite some time, but I have been greatly enjoying your podcasts still! I shall have to find out where I can see Sledge Hammer to be more timely in participating!

    I wanted to take a few moments to share, my favourite Vito Scotti moment. It’s his final scene in Any Old Port in a Storm, after he has been railed at by that OTHER Italian, Carsini. He and his employee both taste the port that was so offensive, and do that funny movement with their mouths. Hilarious!

    Also, about that cioppino: They spent so long lingering over the image of it, and the character was so excited to see it, that I was convinced that it was poisoned and he would end up being the victim! Columbo would then have to determine which of the three women had done it, or whether it was all of them in it together!

  • Kryptonian

    I have been working my way through the podcast and was listening to this episode on the way to work this morning. I really wish I knew about the podcast at the time you recorded it as I really missed the boat it seems with joining in with the discussion etc. Great stuff though guys, lots of interesting stuff in the 50 episodes I have listened to so far…

  • dtrieber

    Funniest (and sickest) line of the podcast- (When Louise tells her ex husband Max she’s going to live with Dr Hammer) Iain: “Max can’t except it’s hammer time”