Columbo Cries Wolf

Episode 51 – Columbo Cries Wolf

The forty ninth episode of Columbo was titled Columbo Cries Wolf and was the second episode of the show’s ninth season. A publicity-hungry pair dupe Columbo, before their plans take a fatal twist. In this podcast Gerry and Iain look at the change in format and whether it helps or harms the episode.



We are introduced to a pair of soap opera legends as Ian Buchanan‘s Sean Brantley and Deidre Hall‘s Dian Hunter take centre stage in the episode. Their elaborate plan to stage Hunter’s murder and gain publicity for their magazine goes perfectly, but with her threat to sell 51% of the business to Sir Harry Matthews (Alan Scarfe) unaffected, Brantley takes permanent action to resolve the issue.


There are a lot of ancillary characters in this episode, but the most visible are Rebecca Staab as Brantley’s lover Tina; Mark Margolis as chauffeur Cosner; and David Huddleston as the Mayor of Los Angeles. Journalist Jeanne Wolf makes a cameo appearance as herself and Bruce Kirby returns to the force in an uncredited appearance as Sergeant George Kramer (we assume!).


Director Daryl Duke took control of the first of his two Columbo episodes, working with a story by William Read Woodfield, remembered for writing Columbo Goes to the Guillotine and with one further episode to follow (yes, it also has ‘Columbo’ in the title…).


If you have thoughts on any aspect of Columbo Cries Wolf, please share them below, or find us on Twitter at @columbopodcast.


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Columbo Cries Wolf was released in 1990. 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.

  • Largo

    Well, I was going to write up some prose poems dedicated to Rebecca Staab — but I decided not to because I felt that Peter and Roberto would probably ‘sandbag’ me with their rhapsodies about Deidre Hall or something like that, eh. 😉

  • Roberto

    Really enjoyed the podcast. You two sure sound like you are having fun (which was a concern of mine entering the new series). The back-and-forth regarding Iain’s views of the 1980s was hilarious. Still not sure if Iain really had never heard of the Fine Young Cannibals or if that was a bit.

    “Columbo Cries Wolf” is considered by many fans to be among the best of the new series movies. Since I don’t have any fondness for this movie, either others see things that I don’t or this speaks to the overall quality of the new series.

    The movie is enjoyable to watch even though it does not follow the recipe for a successful Columbo episode. Like I have said in earlier posts on new series movies, if you rate this as a general movie (non-Columbo category), then I can readily admit that it is sort of fun and interesting even though the crime elements and detection are substandard. If you narrowly consider it as an entry into the Columbo canon, then “Columbo Cries Wolf” is far less special. But let’s not quibble on that point.

    Ian Buchanan was great in the lead and carried the movie as far as he could. Deidre Hall and the rest of the supporting cast was good too. Nice to see Sergeant Kramer again (and not the doofus Albinsky).

    Looking forward to seeing what others think too.

  • Ian Baxter

    Another good podcast to accompany a reasonable episode. Appreciated hearing Gerry reflecting back on his early memories of Columbo. Not entirely sure what happened with the whole pager thing 🙂 I also remember being genuinely surprised by Dian turning up and I quite enjoyed the twist of having Columbo get it wrong followed by a return to formula in showing us the murder.

    Just a couple of things bugged me…

    Has Columbo become permanently cocooned within his coat? We all know it’s a trope, but in these ‘revival’ episodes he’s become stuck in it. Beginning to get annoying 🙁

    For an episode with a budget that included a mansion, a limo, a lama and some reindeer you would think they could do better than, glued on headlines in the papers, the wrong stamps on the postcards and a cut out ‘GOTCHA’ on the pager at the end. 🙁

    • I wonder why they didn’t just use a real wrist-mounted pager…

    • Largo

      ” … a cut out ‘GOTCHA’ on the pager at the end. 🙁 “

      The prop department’s label maker was put to good use on this Columbno production, eh! 😉

    • Largo

      “I also remember being genuinely surprised by Dian turning up and I quite enjoyed the twist of having Columbo get it wrong followed by a return to formula in showing us the murder.”

      This is why I absolutely love “Columbo Cries Wolf” and rank it in my top ten revival episodes list. One might be led to believe that I rank this particular Columbo episode rather high because of all of the lovey ladies running around throughout this mystery movie. May it never be! This has absolutely NOTHING to do with my own personal opinion of “Columbo Cries Wolf” — not even one iota! Nope, non, nein, Нет, いいえ!

      Okay, okay! A bit, a bit! I adore Rebecca Staab and Daphne Cheung! There, are ya all happy now! 😉

      My own personal title for “Columbo Cries Wolf” is ‘Fool Me Once, Shame On Me — Fool Me Twice: I Bust Your @ss Real Good And Haul You In To The Main Precinct!’ Or something like that, eh. Be seeing you! 🙂

  • Ian Baxter

    In a return visit to London Columbo shows Detective Chief Superintendent Durk his new pager…

    • I’m still waiting to see a real wrist-mounted pager.

      • Ian Baxter

        Where I work it’s all belt pagers never seen one on a wrist… If they ever remade Columbo the murder would doubtless have something like an Apple Watch

    • Largo

      Ah, that’s nothing! Dick Tracy has had a two-way wrist TV / police radio communicator watch for years! 😉


    Fun episode. Generally I don’t like the later shows as much as the 70s ones, but something about the structure of this episode makes it easy to watch again. I always seem to forget exactly what the twists were between viewings, and the plot turns out more complex than I thought. I don’t usually enjoy smarmy, Pierce Brosnan style TV actors either, but Buchanan fits this particular character well, and seems to be having such a great time it’s infectious.

  • Ian Baxter

    Agree with Gerry and Iain in their dislike of the whole ‘coming up’, ‘next time’, rubbish…

    Next time, on Columbo Podcast…
    “do you recognises this man, a familiar face? Er… Steinbeck?”, “It’s a fax machine, for sending messages too long for the wrist pager…”, “Columbo cut the cheese *snigger*…”, “you need a warrant for that piece of gum” 🙂

  • Well, show notes prize definitely goes to Woodfield’s Hypnotic Eye interview. What a hoot. I’m almost tempted to see the movie, but not sure I could stomach a film whose thrust is mutilating it’s female characters. And Buchanan’s interview was fun, too. Sounds like a much nicer person than his Columbo character was. Also enjoyed Duke’s bio. Sounds like his time with Columbo was a fairly minor stop along a pretty illustrious career.

    And Rebecca Staab! I KNEW I’d seen her somewhere: she was Sue Storm in Corman’s unreleased Fantastic Four movie!

  • Sadly, the Bruce Kirby link gave me a “stay away” warning, so I’ll have to take it on faith it was an enjoyable link. Hope your pc is still feeling well, Iain. 😉

  • As for the episode, it’s one of the two revival episodes I’ve more or less enjoyed, so far. (The other being Grand Deceptions, although I enjoyed it more, I think.) I agree that sexing up Columbo just doesn’t quite work, and it’s the reason Grand Deceptions works better for me than this one.

    I also remember next week’s episode as being a particularly enjoyable one, but it’s been awhile, so we’ll see how it goes. 🙂

  • CarlosMu

    She likes her salmon like she likes her men: Scottish, non-domestic, and paper thin. 😉

    i am enjoying the podcasts of these later episodes. I’ve been turned off by the unbearable 80’s look and sound, so some of the episodes are somewhat new to me. This is one of them. But it turns out that under the giant hair there was a pretty good story.

    • Definitely not as bad as I’d been led to believe!

    • Don’t forget the shoulder pads. When that secretary turned round i.e. when you could see the back of her, she looked like an american football player in terms of what she was packing.

  • Red Hobbes

    This was my favorite of the new batch of episodes. The villains, yes villains, were smarmy and arrogant, and the game they played with Columbo made for an excellent mystery/gotcha. What made it work for me was the play on Columbo’s reputation, followed by his stopwatch solving of the case at the end. Not really a pun there, but he nailed Buchanan’s character so fast you really needed to time it.

    My thinking on Columbo’s rep is, at this point, he’s known as a highly decorated police lieutenant by the public and as maybe an eccentric legend by the brass. I mean, busting your boss would grant you both legendary status and lots of acrimony by the cops and people you work with. His reputation is, outside of his family, really all he cares about. Anyone who tries to sully that gets taken down pretty hard.

    I could’ve sworn the guy at the party in the early scenes was Bill Pullman, but it was a hoot to see Sue Storm and Electra Woman in a Columbo movie.

    About to listen to the podcast now guys.

    • Red Hobbes

      “Falk! Gimme sex!” A little glimpse into the bedroom of the beloved actor. Seriously, I could’ve gone my whole life without hearing that remark, lol.

      I’m a broken record here, but great podcast guys.

  • I really enjoyed this one – even though it was extremely dated – and for me, the gotcha was the best I’ve seen to date in any Columbo episode. Of course, for me, Ian Buchanan will forever be Dick Tremayne from Twin Peaks. I have to say his scottish accent was much more detectable in Columbo than in TP. Wasn’t it irritating when he continued petting his nymph whilst Columbo was initially asking him questions?! I haven’t listened to the podcast yet but will give it a blast in the next couple of days.

    • Ian Baxter

      Not sure I’d rate the ‘gotcha’ as highly… but totally agree about the petting nymph scene. I seem to remember Gerry becoming a bit hot under the collar when Robert Conrad (in Exercise in Fatality) ran away from Columbo on the beach showing a similar disrespect.

      • Largo

        “Not sure I’d rate the ‘gotcha’ as highly …”

        I rank this particular ‘Gotcha!’ scene very high — despite the ‘cut out’ label on the wrist pager and, more importantly, the highly disturbing nature of the discovery of poor Dian’s corpse. EEGAH! D-:

  • Forgot to mention, it was a pleasure to see David Huddleston aka Santa from Santa Claus the Movie and Charles Lebowski i.e. The Big Lebowski himself.