Rest in Peace, Mrs. Columbo

Episode 53 – Rest in Peace, Mrs. Columbo

The fifty first episode of Columbo was titled Rest in Peace, Mrs. Columbo and was the fourth episode of the show’s ninth season. Retribution is in the air as the widow of a man Columbo sent to jail seeks revenge on those she blames for his subsequent death. In this podcast Gerry and Iain look at a change in format and a uniquely personal case for Columbo.

 

 

Helen Shaver stars as killer Vivian Dimitri, a brilliant real estate agent with a secret vendetta. Dimitri’s husband was investigated by Columbo and convicted of manslaughter in the early 80s, in an investigation initiated by a tip-off from Charlton Chambers (Edward Winter). Chambers’ plan of edging Dimitri’s husband out of the picture to give himself a clear run at her affections has not, however, paid off. Understanding where the tip-off came from, Dimitri bides her time, but when her husband dies in prison she becomes intent on taking revenge.

 

Dimitri’s alibi is established by dinner with her married lover, Leland St. John (Ian McShane), while Chambers’ body is left to be discovered by office colleague Dede Perkins (Teresa Ganzel). Columbo gains vital assistance in his investigation from a new LAPD sidekick, Tom Isbell‘s Sergeant Brady, while important additional information is gleaned from Dimitri’s former therapist, Dr. Steadman (Roscoe Lee Browne).

 

Vincent McEveety directed the first of his seven Columbo episodes working with a script by the legendary returning figure of Peter S. Fischer (the seventh of his nine Columbo stories and the first since Season 6’s Old Fashioned Murder).

 

If you have thoughts on any aspect of Rest in Peace, Mrs. Columbo, 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.

 

Rest in Peace, Mrs. Columbo 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.

  • Roberto

    I have not yet listened to the podcast but to me “Rest in Peace” is a mixed bag. It is generally well-written and well-acted. It is even enjoyable to watch to some degree.

    However, where it fails for me is as a Columbo episode. It is missing most of the things that make Columbo so great and so loved. I know I have said it before but I cannot think of a better way to make my point. This movie would have made a great McMillan & Wife.

    I know that many Columbo fans love this episode/movie and consider it one of the best of the ABC series. I have great reservations on that score but look forward to hearing what Iain and Gerry have to say (and what others post on this forum). Cheers.

    • Not sure I can see the draw for calling this one of the best ABCs, either. Maybe some folk just love the idea of an entire episode revolving around the still unseen Mrs? Subject matter aside, it doesn’t feel like “best of” material to me.

  • starfloater

    Why didn’t they talk about the psychiatrist? Usually they would give a snippet about the actor that appeared in the episode. I know he was only in one scene but they talk about actors that have a shorter time in an episode all the time. And it was a good scene and he was the voice in the phone earlier. In the episode “the most crucial game”, Valerie Harper was in one scene and they gave her bio. In the last podcast, they even did the bio for Stanley Kamel who barely said anything. Mind you, I loved Kamel in “Monk”. Even Didi who was in this episode and barely said three lines, they did her bio.

    • We do our best, but sometimes we miss one. I’ve added an interesting link for Roscoe Lee Brown in the show notes above!

      • starfloater

        Thank you!

    • The actor has such a unique look and voice, even a scene as brief as this one is memorable. Funny, he’s instantly recognizable to me, but looking through his IMDB credits, there’s not really anything I remember specifically seeing him in. I guess he’s one of those character actors who seeps into the cultural consciousness regardless.

      • starfloater

        I think you are right, salty! Thank you for responding to my post.

    • Generally I (Gerry) now only mention minor roles in the episode if the actor has 1. a Columbo or Star Trek connection 2. a high profile. 3.some interesting trivia or 4. it is a very small episode cast list.

      In this case nothing stood out for me (although I am aware that often they could be a bigger star outside the UK or from years gone by). I decided to leave out the actor who played Connolly for the same reason although I really enjoyed both of their scenes.

      Teresa Ganzel was included because she was in a movie I enjoyed that starred 2 Columbo actors who are high profile – Ed Begley Jr and Jeff Goldblum and she is a bigger star (to me) than Roscoe Lee Brown.

      Thanks for your continued interaction. Appreciate it and hopefully I wont miss any of your favourites going forward.

  • Red Hobbes

    I agree with Roberto, this doesn’t feel like a Columbo story to me. MacMillan and Wife or Hart to Hart story, sure, but not Columbo. I think this is the start of the dregs, truly and honestly, and it’s a shame. The whole cast is good, and is doing a fine job, with the exception of Helen Shaver who is just awful. She’s not a terrible actress, not by a long shot but this isn’t a good performance by her, it’s stagey and so melodramatic that it distracted me from the episode.

    As for Roscoe Lee Browne, I remember him mainly from his voice work. He did the voice of Box in Logan’s Run. Shame he didn’t have a bigger part. And for the record, Ian McShane should get another detective series, Swearengen PI. That show would be amazingly entertaining, lol.

    About to listen to the podcast.

    • Disagree on Shaver, really enjoyed her in this!

      • Red Hobbes

        Agree to disagree, my friends. Enjoyable podcast as always!

        • Largo

          I agree to disagree about your particular disagreement with the CPT concerning “Rest in Peace, Mrs. Columbo.” Agreed? 🙂

      • Largo

        Indeed! I totally bought into the fact that her Vivian Dimitri was very disturbed …. and very dangerous!

    • She went over the top a time or two, but overall I thought the melodrama fit her slightly off-the-rocker character to a tee. Not to sure about that dancing in front of the slide projector, though….

    • Largo

      Whenever I encounter a Roscoe Lee Browne film performance, I always remember him as ‘Box’ the robot from Logan’s Run (1976): “It’s my job – to freeze you!”

      • Red Hobbes

        Absolutely guys. I wasn’t looking to start a fight or anything of the sort, I just didn’t like her performance or the episode as a whole. I like Helen Shaver, I thought she was great in Desert Hearts, but how she played Dimitri just struck me as clunky, and more than a little hammy.

        • Helen Shaver is another one who’s instantly recognizable to me, but I can’t actually think of anything I’ve seen her in except this. Maybe I’ll give Desert Hearts a try….

      • I did notice he played Box as I went through his IMDB, and was tempted to make note. I should’ve known you would be the other one to spot and comment on it. Well done, Largo.

  • Ian Baxter

    Wow, I found this a very boring episode. It should have been, could have been, so much better because there are some nice core ideas, but they are lost in the tedium of the set up, the slow dialogue and the awful music.

    The scene that is supposed to tie it all together, the funeral, isn’t shot in a creative way, indeed putting the funeral in as the linking scene gives away where the episode is going and robs us of any potential twist or anticipation.

    The internal monologue doesn’t work for me. If we move from the usual formula we need something special and it wasn’t there; there was no subtlety, no surprise, no shock, no clever twist, no laughs.

    What we are left with is a run of the mill detective show of any other name, and another failed sidekick 🙁

    If there are any highlights then I think I’d pick out the psychiatrist scene (makes me want to see Roscoe play a murderer!), and the ‘fond of her / madly in love’ phone call at the end. Small morsels after such a lot of waffle.

    As for the podcast… another good entertaining walk through… but how did you reach the conclusion that this was a strong episode? I think your eating the wrong kind of mushrooms! 🙂

    • We usually say episodes are solid unless they’re awful. Not the toughest graders!

    • I think Roscoe would’ve played an excellent Columbo murderer.

      • starfloater

        I agree with you salty!

    • Largo

      “Small morsels after such a lot of waffle.”

      Oh, I see why you don’t connect with this particular Columbo Mystery Movie: Ian, you have something against waffles! Well, I love waffles — with lots of maple syrup on them, eh! 😉

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eDU0CTDMk2g

      • Ian Baxter

        That could get really annoying 🙂

        • Largo

          My apologies, Ian. To make up for this I’ll provide you with a nifty tune that you and your family can groove to over this Christmas season, eh! (well, my youngest niece grooves to this one, anyway) 🙂

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=17o1OlroNSE

          • Ian Baxter

            “Marshmallow Lazar” 🙂

          • Largo

            Indeed! A very non-violent type of laser, eh! 🙂

  • The missus and I watched the episode last night, but haven’t gotten to the podcast yet. I think she liked it more than I did. Which isn’t to say I didn’t like it. But she definitely liked it more. I’m agreeing with a few others here in that the performances were decent overall, the story was okay, but it didn’t feel especially Columbo-like. I can go with “un-Columbo-like” when I’m seeing two off-screen friends having fun on camera, like in “Last Salute…”. But this one felt pretty lukewarm. Definitely better than the first three episodes of season 8 or the season 9 opener, and not a bad way to pass an hour and a half. On my “Above Par – Par – Below Par” scale, this one just slips into “Par” territory. But it’s on the lower end of par. I think my favorite part was actually Columbo’s telephone call to his wife at the very end. And loved the fact that they made a point of telling us the photo wasn’t actually of Mrs. Columbo, but of her sister. Nicely done in keeping the gag going with her being anonymous to viewers.

    Great article on Helen Shaver and Ian McShane. Also really enjoyed the bio on Tom Isbell’s site. And maybe I’ll give one of Peter Fischer’s Hollywood Mysteries a read. That’s a cool setup for a mystery series, as much as I love golden age Hollywood.

  • Largo

    I didn’t actually see “Rest in Peace, Mrs. Columbo” when it premiered on the ABC television network on March 31, 1990 — because my local ABC affiliate preempted it due to a college basketball game. There was a ‘Close-Up’ article in TV Guide magazine that highlighted this particular Columbo episode at the time and I had to see this one, eh! Checking all of my available TV listings that night did not reveal when my local channel was planning on tape-delaying this episode. So I had to call this particular television station muy pronto — I was desperate, eh. Blast it all, Columbo fans just don’t get any respect in eastern Iowa! 😉

    Unfortunately, the only phone number I could find was for this station’s ‘News Line 9’ number (“when you see news, call News Line 9!”). So I called this number and I suddenly found myself speaking with our very own eastern Iowa cutie newscaster, who was named Alicia. I immediately apologized for tying up the ‘News-line 9’ phone and I also told Alicia that I needed to speak to someone in programming. Alicia asked about the particulars concerning my query and then she placed me on hold and inquired about when Channel 9 was planning on broadcasting “Rest in Peace, Mrs. Columbo.” In short order, Alicia got back on the line and told me that this Columbo episode would be shown the following Saturday. Whew — what a relief! Or so I thought at first right after I got through speaking on the phone with sweet Alicia.

    When I had finally watched (and recorded) “Rest in Peace, Mrs. Columbo,” I was a little disappointed with this episode. But it has since grown on me and it is now one of my favorites from the Columbo revival series. However, Helen Shaver scared me as the very disturbed murderess, Vivian Dimitri. She still does to this day. In fact, I continue to have the occasional nightmare that Vivian has broken into my condo and poisoned my marmalade! Oh, the humanity!!! Be seeing you! 😉

    • Love the story about Alicia!

    • Peter

      I personally love Iowa. The Hawkeyes came so close to beating the Spartans! Was rooting for them.

      • Largo

        Thanks, Peter! It’s great to find a fellow Iowa Hawkeyes fan here at the CPF!!! The Rose Bowl is next and it’s Iowa vs. Stanford. GO HAWKS!!!

  • Roberto

    After listening to the podcast, while I don’t share Gerry and Iain’s enthusiasm for “Rest in Peace”, I am glad they enjoyed it as much as they did. The podcast was fun and lively and their dedication to the task is heartwarming. I hope they can keep it up as the series progresses.

    Regarding Helen Shaver, I thought she was melodramatic and over-the-top at times, but overall she was believable (in a TV show kinda way). I know she is a fine actress so she must have played the killer the way the director wanted, so I have no qualms about that. Of course, I prefer my Columbo killers rich and arrogant ala Jack Cassidy and Robert Culp, but Shaver was fine in my book. Vivian was mentally unhinged and sadly so, and I think Shaver portrayed that well.

    Picking up on what others have said, I agree that the episode seemed dull and boring. The pacing was slow, exaggerated by the flash-backs (flash-forwards?) and inner monologues, and the music seemed soporific.

    There were things to enjoy about “Rest in Peace”, but overall I cannot recommend it. As a mystery story to read, I would have loved it. As a McMillan & Wife (as I said) I would have loved it. As a Columbo episode, I was greatly disappointed.

  • Just finished the podcast. A pleasure, as always.

    One note: You guys were wondering how Columbo knew where to find Dr. Steadman at the restaurant. I thought the message Steadman left for Columbo specifically told Columbo where he could find Steadman if he wanted to talk to him that night. So I think Columbo was just following instructions.

    Anyone else remember that? Not sure I want to actually pull out the DVD to check….

    • Roberto

      I think they left that off-screen. Columbo was given a message to call Dr. Steadman back and the next scene immediately shows Columbo’s flight landing in San Francisco (I assume). Steadman refers to their phone conversation but this takes place off-screen.

      • Right you are, Roberto. (My curiosity got the better of me and I pulled the DVD out for a look-see.)

        Officer: A guy named Steadman, returning your phone call. He left a number where you can reach him.

        Then we get the plane taking off, and after that, a quick shot of the San Francisco skyline with the Golden Gate bridge in the background. Which (my wife and I had to look up, Americans or not) is where San Quentin is. About 400 miles and a six hour drive from L.A., so the plane was a good idea. 🙂

        Prior to this week’s viewing, I had always assumed that Columbo had tracked him down and was accosting him without an invitation, since the doc seems so standoffish, but it looks like he was there at the doc’s invitation after all.

    • Ian Baxter

      Just a bit of Columbo magic 🙂

  • Roberto

    Rest in Peace Robert Loggia.

  • Ian Baxter

    A missed opportunity? 🙂

    • Poor Kate. I really only know her from this and Voyager. She did an amazing job as Captain Janeway, so I know she’s a competent actress, but man she sucked as Mrs. Columbo. I guess poor writing and direction and production trump excellent acting skill.

      • She’s now in the Netflix series Orange is the new Black, where I’m led to believe she’s doing a good job.

      • Largo

        “[Kate] did an amazing job as Captain Janeway …”

        SAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALTY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • I could never get over the fact that she sounded like Katherine Hepburn, and as a result had to stop watching it (Voyager).

    • Largo

      EEGAH! What have you done to our beautiful discussion forum, Ian Baxter!??! That abominable series does not exist in this dojo!!! :-0

      • Ian Baxter

        The depths I’ve reached to raise a smile 🙂

    • Very funny!

  • To my surprise, I really liked this episode. I’m with Iain and Gerry on being pleasantly surprised against my expectations in terms of what I’d heard. I particularly liked Roscoe Lee Brown’s turn as Dr. Steadman. Great stuff, and a great podcast to go with it. 🙂

  • Peter

    I agree with you Gerry and Iain regarding the newer episodes. I personally enjoyed most of them and thought they can compete with the older episodes. I do enjoy the older ones more only because they bring back vivid memories of growing up in the 70’s for me.

  • Margaret Williams

    Gerry and Iain: thank you for a wonderful podcast on one of my top favorites from the Columbo revival series. Even though you mentioned that most unfortunate scene between me and Lieutenant Columbo (I’m so glad that I didn’t actually connect with my attempted slap), I still enjoyed your discussion on “Rest in Peace, Mrs. Columbo.” I’m looking forward to your podcast for the “It’s All in the Game” Columbo ABC Mystery Movie — my personal favorite revival episode. Toodles!

  • CarlosMu

    I think they were going for a retro style in this episode, like an old melodrama or noir. The victim, Charlie, reminded me of Wally from “Mildred Pierce”. Their snappy dialogue seemed kind of unnatural didn’t it? Charlie says something like “Babe, it’s Friday night, there’s a game at the sports arena”. Is that a bad bit of dialogue or did they have it that way for a reason? Same thing with the pace and the music that a couple of people mentioned.

    • At that time the Lakers played at the Great Western Forum, which is a commercial name, so I guess they didn’t want to use it? Could have called it “the Forum”, I guess.

  • nivipa

    I have to say that I am very surprised to hear Gerry and Iain talking about how careless Vivian was when covering her tracks. To my eye she very much *wanted* to get caught! At a bare minimum, she wanted him to suspect her so that she would have enough time to pick his brain and find a way to make him miserable. But even the psychiatrist said that she would not care in the least if she were caught, because Columbo *had to know* what she was doing, and how and why he was suffering. I even went back and watched the episode again after the podcast. These are the things that lead me to my interpretation:

    – Her leaving the cigarette behind
    – Her arriving late to dinner, and making a point to have both her date and the waitstaff notice exactly how late she was.
    – Her using an ATM just downstairs from the restaurant that Columbo would eventually know she was at.
    – Her making sure that her lover knew what time it was (2:00) when she left.
    – Her turning around at the door to leave her contract in plain sight on the desk.
    – The information she had to front load within minutes of first meeting him, such as “I was probably the last person to see him alive!”
    – Her actually asking him, after he was “convinced” that Connolly was guilty, “Don’t you think that you made a mistake?”

    No, as far as I’m concerned, she was always expecting to be his suspect. She wasn’t going to make it too easy for him, but she wanted him on her trail. She knew firsthand how he worked. How much he would seem to befriend her if she was his primary suspect. I don’t think that she ever truly thought that he would arrest Connolly. But, as things progressed after the funeral, she was happy to let him eat the marmalade and tell him how she had killed his wife as he lay dying.

    And, apropos of nothing, but the second time that I watched the show, I seemed to think that the music playing during her late-night weep session looking at old photos of her husband was “Still Crazy After All These Years.” I can’t be sure of it, as I’ve returned the DVD to the library, but if it was, that is one sense of humor the sound editor had!

  • This was GREAT. I am a 73 yr old Fan of Columbo. So glad I got to see
    a repeat of this episode.

  • Bill Cervetti

    My wife and I saw this for the first time last night. No one on these comments seems to mention that most amazingly counterproductive use of “product placement” I have ever seen —the use of (very clearly labeled) Polaner marmalade as, in effect, a murder weapon.Did no one notice? Was Polaner OK with this?

    • It’s not a brand we get here, so I didn’t pick up on it. I’m sure they were thrilled!