Ransom for a Dead Man

Episode 30 – Ransom for a Dead Man

The pilot episode of Columbo was titled Ransom for a Dead Man and preceded the show’s first season. An ambitious wife disposes of her husband to take control of their assets. In this podcast Gerry and Iain look at the story of this pilot episode and its relationship to the series that followed.

 

 

The original run of Columbo spanned seven seasons. With the Columbo Podcast having reached the conclusion of Season 4 it seemed an opportune moment to produce a special episode looking back at the 1971 pilot that immediately preceded that run. Academy Award winner Lee Grant squared off against Peter Falk’s fledgeling Columbo in a 98 minute show that laid firm foundations for the series to follow.

 

Grant’s Leslie Williams was a lawyer, married to another – Harlan Warde‘s Paul Williams – and stepmother to Patricia Mattick‘s erratic Margaret Williams. Although the episode does not make this explicit, it seems likely that she is looking to gain unfettered control over their financial assets. She murders him and stages a fake kidnapping to cover her tracks. Margaret returns from her private school in Switzerland when her father goes missing and offers further irritation to Leslie.

 

Grant went on to win her Oscar in 1976, following nominations in 1952 and 1971 and ahead of a further nomination in 1977, all for the Best Actress in a Supporting Role category. Her win came for Shampoo opposite Warren Beatty, Julie Christie and Goldie Hawn and was that movie’s only success from its four Academy Award nominations.

 

There was a much larger group of supporting actors here than we saw once Season 1 began. From John Fink as Michael Clark, Williams’ associate at her legal practice, to Jean Byron as Pat, a tennis-playing friend to Leslie; from FBI agent Carlson (Harold Gould) to Paul Carr as Hammond, one of Carlson’s team, there were an array of talented supporting actors who helped sustain a strong show.

 

This was Richard Irving’s final stint behind the Columbo camera, while writer Dean Hargrove went on to be a producer and executive producer on 20 episodes of the show, between 1971 and 1975.

 

If you have thoughts on any aspect of Ransom for a Dead Man 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.

 

Ransom for a Dead Man was released in 1971. It is 98 minutes long and originally aired on the NBC network. This episode is not available on Netflix, but can be found as an ‘extra’ in the Season 1 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

    “The covers of this book are too far apart.” — a review by Ambrose Bierce

    I don’t pretend to be as eloquent nor as piercingly concise as Ambrose Bierce was with his shortest of book reviews. But if I were to try and make some kind of an attempt here, I would have to say that the Columbo pilot film, “Ransom For A Dead Man” (which I ‘affectionally’ call The Queen Bitch of the Universe and Her Ransom for a Dead Man Scheme), is far too fixated on the black hole that is the murderess — as opposed to Columbo’s investigation of same — in this particular tale (yeah, I know: far too many words, but I didn’t say I was another Ambrose Bierce). Said murderess is portrayed by Lee Grant, who has the distinction of being the most cold-blooded actress in Largo’s ‘Pantheon of Lizard-people Actors.’ So this makes it two Columbo episodes in a row now where all of us viewers have been besieged by reptilians murdering warm-blooded people. ¡Ay caramba!

    But Lee Grant is a special kind of reptilian: she’s the aforementioned black hole in this Columbo production, for she seems to be attempting to suck the enjoyment out of this NBC Mystery Movie in almost every one of her scenes. In other words, Lee Grant is a total killjoy to me and I have a really hard time getting invested in this Columbo movie because of her. What we learn of Grant’s Leslie Williams character comes in dribbles and drabs throughout the film’s clunky expositional dialogue scenes: that she’s bored with her fellow attorney husband, that she’s coldly ambitious and determined to completely overtake her husband’s law firm and that she is set on totally cutting off her stepdaughter from her rightful inheritance. To quickly achieve all of this, Leslie Williams murders her husband — but right at the start of this Mystery Movie in the very first sequence (before we even get a chance to know the husband character, Paul Williams). This is all very grim stuff and Lee Grant’s very stoney and passionless visage doesn’t make any of this go down any easier.

    I’m sure that a lot of us have encountered people from time to time that are so humorless in their monolithic thinking and ice-cold ambition that being around them seems to drain the very life-force from us. This fits Lee Grant’s Leslie Williams character to a tee (for me, that is). Thank God that the delightful Peter Falk is really on his game as Columbo in this production so as to liven up the proceedings and counteract the gelid reptilian Grant! We can really see Falk laying the groundwork for his most famous character role in many of his scenes here. Unfortunately, Lee Grant’s frosty presence almost completely stifles the joy and richness out of the various attempts at the ‘cat and mouse’ interplay. I mean, Peter Falk serves them up just fine, but the ‘ball’ is never hit firmly enough by Lee Grant to get over the net for him to return volley. Do you know what I mean? Do you hear what I’m saying? Do you smell what I’m stepping in, eh? (Oops – sorry about that last bit, eh)

    To make matters even worse, the Columbo producers have Lee Grant’s Leslie Williams character take our dear Lieutenant up in a 1968 Beech 36 Fixed Wing Single Engine aircraft. Great, that’s just what this Mystery Movie needs at this point is more *bleeping* flying around in a small plane! The black hole murderess, along with our sweet detective hero, and superfluous padding involving more blasted boring flying scenes does not make for interesting mystery thriller viewing! This despite the fact that William Goldenberg’s music score is very atmospheric throughout the film (I really dig the film’s opening theme, too). However, it’s very fortunate that actress Patricia Mattick is on board in this film’s second half as the feisty stepdaughter, Margaret Williams. Sure, this actress paints in broad strokes and she is portraying an obnoxious, spoiled brat — but, dammit, Margaret is ALIVE — which is a whole lot more than I can say for the deadwood, sociopathic killjoy that is her evil stepmother as played by Lee Grant.

    Margaret Williams shows passion in her rage, in her frustration and in her sorrow at the death of her father. Leslie Williams shows cold intelligence, cold conniving and cold ruthlessness: more precisely, Leslie Williams is ‘death on two legs.’ Margaret, on the other hand, is full of life and intensity of purpose. So it’s sure a good thing that Columbo persuades Margaret to team up with him in order to bring the Queen Bitch of the Universe down from her high horse of crime. Despite the fact that this finale is totally ludicrous (Leslie would NEVER be stupid enough to utilize that ransom money at this point), it sure is really satisfying to hear Columbo tell Leslie flat-out that she has no conscience. Of course, deep within my fevered brain, I hear Columbo telling Leslie Williams that she is a lizard-person who is totally incapable of love or compassion. Be seeing you!

    • Couldn’t disagree more on Grant’s performance, Largo! We both enjoyed it and thought she captured the character brilliantly. Opinions, eh!

      • Largo

        Nah! I said Lee Grant is a cold-blooded actress who portrays a cold-blooded, sociopathic killjoy of an evil stepmother that’s a murderess. In other words, Lee Grant couldn’t help but capture this character “brilliantly.” Ya see, it’s not that much of a stretch for lizard-people actors to portray icy killers without a conscience, eh! 😉

        • Will be interested to hear your thoughts once you’ve listened to the podcast!

          • Largo

            Really? After the lambasting that you gave to “my girl” Margaret Williams (Patricia Mattick), I think I’ll keep my thoughts about your podcast to myself, eh! While I stew around my place as I pout and remain butt-hurt over your mocking of Margaret, I’ll just have her stare you and Gerry down for this ill-treatment in this week’s podcast. 😉

  • Largo

    Oh, just one more thing: the original run of Columbo on the NBC television network lasted seven seasons — not eight. Be seeing you!

    • We realised that mistake after recording. Just means we get to the second special episode sooner!

      • Largo

        Jolly good, eh! I was also wondering about the very short sixth season of Columbo: it has only three episodes. Does this mean we might be getting two or three “special” podcast episodes at that time? 🙂

        • You’ll just need to wait and see!

          • Ian Baxter

            That ‘SPECIALS’ category in the menu bar across the top of this page is so full of potential 🙂

          • Largo

            I know! The suspense is killing me here! The possibilities are endless! 🙂

  • Roberto

    Let’s start with the negatives. The entire murder scenario is beyond ridiculous. A very intelligent wife decides to kill her husband in their own home, somehow drag the body to a car, transport the body cross town, and throw it (figuratively speaking) over a cliff. Only about a million things could go wrong with that plan (gunshot heard, inconvenient blood everywhere, difficulty in moving dead body, car spotted via transport, body discovered prematurely, etc.).

    But wait, there’s more. She will fake a kidnapping in which the ransom will be delivered via airplane and she will drop an empty bag out of the airplane, switching out an identical bag with the money beforehand (with law enforcement all around her and the bag). Ignoring the obvious silliness here, ransom money is always “marked” (so as to catch the kidnappers, duh) so how can the wife ever plan on spending that money?

    The stepdaughter is not a fun time despite what Largo says (sorry Largo). Both the character and the actress are terrible in my humble opinion. The entire episode would have been better in her absence except she is needed for the final gotcha which is forced and and weak. I would have enjoyed the finale more if Leslie had flown to San Francisco and bought a long-desired mink stole with the ransom money. (Maybe, shudder, Columbo could make a pun on the word “stole”.)

    Anyway, there are many positives to the episode which are more than enough to make this an enjoyable episode to watch. Of course, being the pilot we are all grateful that it was sufficiently well-done and received to warrant a complete season of our favorite detective. Lee Grant was phenomenal as the cold-blooded killer without a conscience. The plot, though convoluted and deficient, was good enough to sustain a long episode. Finally, Peter Falk as Columbo was superb. Many of his lovable foibles are presented here and greatly enrich our enjoyment of the episode.

    Very nice podcast again Gerry and Iain. You two do a wonderful job balancing your (our) love of Columbo with fair critiques of weak plot points, characters, or actors.

    • Largo

      Roberto …. you …. you didn’t like Patricia Mattick’s portrayal of Margaret Williams? Color me sad and shocked! 😉

      Actually, I said this actress “paints in broad strokes” so I agree that her performance was a bit lackluster. But compared to the cold and passionless Lee Grant, I was ready to invest in any other redhead that this Columbo production had to offer and so I went with the nerd hot Margaret once she suddenly appeared on the scene, eh. But more importantly, any character that despises Leslie Williams as much as I do is a real good friend of mine. So now you know the rest of the story, Roberto. 🙂

      Thanks for detailing all of the inane plot flaws. I was just too lazy about this particular aspect and I chose not to do it. I totally agree with you on everything, except that I find very little to enjoy in this pilot film outside of Peter Falk’s wonderful performance and William Goldenberg’s score. I’m kind of surprised that this actually sold the series, to be honest with you. But “Ransom For A Dead Man” is far superior to the pilot film for McMillan & Wife, so I guess I can be glad about that, eh.

      The bottom line for me is that I much prefer the stand-alone film Prescription: Murder (1968) for the plot and its villain. However, Peter Falk’s performance as Columbo is so much better in “Ransom For A Dead Man” when it comes to how he created and formed the detective character here that we all know and love from the main series. It’s all rather complicated for me when it comes to ‘juggling’ and comparing these first two Columbo films, eh. Maybe I’d better take a nap now or something. 🙂

      • Roberto

        Thanks for the reply Largo. While I enjoyed the episode, I would not classify it as a “good” Columbo episode — right-brain vs. left-brain I imagine. Some episodes are good, but not very enjoyable while others are not good but are enjoyable to watch. Very confusing.

        And, yes, I should have mentioned the musical score by William Goldenberg as one of the episode’s positives.

        • Roberto

          With my curiosity piqued, I looked up Patricia Mattick’s IMDB page and see she was also in one of my favorite Clint Eastwood movies, The Beguiled released in 1971. I believe she was the red-headed girl wearing glasses. She looks much younger in the film than in this Columbo episode (also released in 1971) so I suppose the movie was filmed a year or so earlier.

  • Although it has been some months since I watched this pilot, I vividly remember it. I felt that Lee Grant put in an exceptional performance and I personally loved the scene in which she takes our eponymous hero for a flying lesson. Incidentally, this lady is now coming up for 90. I can only assume the exhilaration of doing the loop the loop on a regular basis has done wonders for her constitution, let alone her blood pressure.

    In terms of success of the pilot, the proof of the pudding is in the eating though, and the viewing figures must have translated into something rather positive as the Columbo machine then went from strength to strength.

    There is a John Cassavetes connection here, in that Timothy Carey – aka Bert – also appeared in JC’s ‘Killing of a Chinese Bookie’.

    Did anyone catch the Star Trek connection?

    Also notable by their absence are the two regular stalwarts Mike Lally and Mickey Golden.

    Bye for now.

    P.S. Tarzan’s last words? ‘Who greased that viiiiiiiiiiiine?!!!’

    • Roberto

      I think Paul Carr was Lee Kelso killed in WNMHGB (TOS).

      • Largo

        Indeed! Here is Paul Carr as Lieutenant Lee Kelso in Star Trek‘s second pilot film, “Where No Man Has Gone Before” (1965). It’s too bad that the evil Gary Mitchell (Gary Lockwood) murdered him with that power cable. Paul Carr was very disappointed that his character was killed off because he wanted to be in the original Trek series.

        • Roberto

          I attended an early Star Trek convention in the mid-1970s and entered their trivia contest. I think I probably came in last place but it was a lot of fun. One question was something like who was most responsible for getting Star Trek on network TV. The answer was Lucille Ball (head of Desilu Studios, of course) since she used her connections with NBC executives to shoot another pilot after The Cage was rejected (and she pushed hard to get Star Trek on the NBC schedule). My view of Lucy changed dramatically after I learned that.

          • Largo

            Well, Lucille Ball played a pivotal role in pushing for all of the Desilu pilots to be sold in order to save her production studio from financial ruin. I feel Herb Solo of Desilu and Grant Tinker and Fred Friendly of NBC should all be credited along with Lucille Ball for getting Star Trek not only a second chance, but also getting it on the air.

            I’ve never been to a Star Trek Convention. I did attend the first Science-Fiction convention held in Iowa back in 1976. Sheesh – what a disaster that was, eh! It’s ironic that almost all of the SF dealers at this convention and the convention organizers all dreaded any of the “Trekkies” from showing up. My pal, Kent V., dressed up as Spock and advertised the syndication of the series on our local ABC affiliate TV station — much to the chagrin of my other pal, Tom J. As for me, I had an absolute blast! 🙂

          • saltyessentials

            Hah. My wife and I went to a Trek convention in the early nineties. I remember John De Lancie spoke and mixed a few well-veiled comments, on the fine art of balancing actual life with crazed-fandomness, into his remarks. I don’t think most of the folks there caught on, though.

            Anyway, My wife and I found out we only *thought* we were Star Trek fans. We were quickly outed as wannabes by the fact we weren’t in full character costume and makeup, nor could we speak Klingon. Lots of people there having conversations in Klingon. Since then I’ve stuck to enjoying Trek on my own….

            Let’s see, is it Iain who’s the Trek fan? No offense intended, if you speak Klingon and have an Orion Slave Girl costume in your closet, I’m live and let live, man.

          • Largo

            I was never into that Trek cosplay stuff, but I do have a Gorn action figure (mint in box) and a Starship Enterprise NCC-1701A replica (also mint in box). Plus, the Star Trek board game by Classic Games and the original series on blu-ray. Yes — I’m a Trekker and I am not ashamed to admit it, eh! 🙂

          • saltyessentials

            Nice little collection you’ve got here, Largo. I’ve never been much of a Trek collector, but I DO have a sizable collection of Six Million Dollar Man and Mego superhero dolls. I mean, “action figures.” Nah, they’re dolls, and I’m proud of them, too. 🙂

          • I’m not that much of a fan. Pretty sure DS9 is the only Trek series I’ve watched every episode from! The others have their moments, of course.

          • saltyessentials

            I dunno, Iain. Gerry certainly makes you out to be a fan. Are you telling me he’s overstating things? 😉 Myself, I’m a middle of the road fan–never got into the merchandise, but have seen (probably) all the original series, TNG, and most if not all of the feature films. And I actually just finished watching Enterprise for the first time. Liked its unique feel. I watched some of DS9 back in the day and a bit of Voyager. I’d like to take a closer look at both of those one of these days. I remember really being taken by the DS9 characters and story arcs, especially. My sister is a big Trek fan and says I ought to give Voyager a run.

            And, no offense on the slave girl costume remark, I hope. Me and my wife’s community incorporates a wide range of preferences and identities, and it’s a fair bet at least one man I know has an Orion Slave Girl costume–or something like it–in his closet. 🙂

          • Never really been one for dressing up – Star Trek or otherwise. For some reason I always found it awkward and dreaded Hallowe’en as a child!

            I do enjoy a bit of Star Trek though, it’s fun television.

          • saltyessentials

            Heh. I was a shy kid who just hated walking up to a stranger’s door to ask for candy. Most years my desire for chocolate and other assorted treats–something my folks didn’t buy a lot of otherwise–won out over my reluctance. But it was never a “fun” experience for me–I was on a mission for sweets! Very serious business!

  • Ian Baxter

    What a fantastic introduction to our iconic detective. I really like the clear way that this episode sets out the stall for what Columbo will be like. Having him in contrast to the FBI team was a very clever way to show how this was not going to be your run of the mill police detective/show. You were right to play the clip early in your podcast that has the killer sum up Columbo so well (a device we’ll see again in ‘Prescription Murder’).

    Thanks again to the podcast team for the this mid-project treat. Just to add, I’ve always liked how we only get glimpses of Columbo’s anger. It looks like Gerry shares Columbo’s temperament, he gets all the way through four seasons and then, just when you get comfortable with the cocoa and slippers, he explodes with rage at the despicable *bleep* *bleep* Pat! And quite right to! 🙂

    • Largo

      Well, that is easily explained: Pat is reacting that way because she is also a cold-hearted lizard-person. After all, Pat plays tennis regularly with Leslie Williams and who else would a lizard-person play tennis with, eh? They would only play tennis with a fellow lizard-person. Elementary. 😉

      • Ian Baxter

        Liking your logic Largo… although I can’t actually picture the two of them playing tennis… surely this was all code for something more sinister… hunting endangered animals for fur, for example

        • Largo

          Perhaps, but it might be even worse: hunting people! D-:

      • Roberto

        Wow, what a great idea for a better ending for the episode. Leslie spends an extravagant amount of the ransom money for a gift for Pat (her lesbian lover). Pat shows it off in front of Columbo who correctly deduces from whence it came.

        • Largo

          Huh? I said “lizard,” not lesbian! Sheesh! 😉

  • Largo

    So Lee Grant had a “facelift” while still in her 30s!??! That explains everything!

    • Ian Baxter

      This is what she look like after the surgery… 🙂

      • Largo

        No, no, no! That’s her lizard “brother!” **SHUDDERS**

    • saltyessentials

      Oh ho! Haven’t thought about this one in awhile. The ate rats and tarantulas, right? I distinctly remember scenes of rat-eating….

      • Largo

        Yes, those “V” lizard aliens ate rats whole! Now, I’m not saying that Lee Grant eats a lot of whole rats. But I do believe that she enjoys the occasional rat tart since these don’t have so much rat in them. 😉

        • Ian Baxter

          Is that from ‘V’? Remember watching that as a kid, scary stuff!

          • Largo

            But of course, my good man! Kinda scary, but sorta dumb, too. Thank God for Marc Singer (The BeastMaster!) and his friends who battled these lizard alien foes! 🙂

          • Ian Baxter

            When you’re a kid dumb and scary works 🙂

        • saltyessentials

          ((( Shudder )))

          I much prefer custard tarts….

  • Peter

    I feel like I can’t contribute because I can’t bring this episode up on Netflix and I don’t remember it from my childhood. Can somebody please help me. I need to weigh in!

    • Largo

      Hello, Peter! I just checked and “Ransom For A Dead Man” is up on YouTube — albeit with a cropped framing of the image so as to avoid copyright infringement (I guess?). At least it’s better than nothing, eh! Be seeing you!

    • Roberto

      yes, i watched it again today from you tube – the cropping is a little annoying but it is still a fun watch (ymmv)

    • saltyessentials

      I managed to pick up the complete collection box set on Amazon for around thirty bucks. It was one of those Deal of the Day things they do once in awhile. Usually more than double that price, I think.

      Hmm. Just looking at the set on Amazon, there’s the one I bought (34 discs) and a UK set with 35 discs. Wonder what I’m missing out on….

  • For those who enjoyed Lee Grant’s performance, she is currently promoting her book – worth a watch of this video: https://www.facebook.com/isaidyestoeverything/posts/456192467893436

    • Largo

      Nope – not gonna do it. I’d rather watch the Columbo Mystery Movies “Last Salute To The Commodore” and “Dagger Of The Mind,” along with the two CINO episodes “No Time To Die” and “Undercover,” all in a row! A Craptastic Columbo Movie Marathon! 😉

      Sorry — I’m really cranky now because my work day has been quite lousy, eh. Be seeing you!

    • saltyessentials

      Hah! That was enjoyable. I think she’d be a fun lunch date. Strikes me as a very authentic person; warm, honest and more than a little mischievous. Now that I think of it, there was a little of that mischievousness peeking at the corners of her cold calculating Columbo killer performance.

      Well, she’s not actually a Columbo killer–thankfully he survived the episode–rather she’s a killer *ON* Columbo. But you know what I mean.

      And I thought her comment about Amazon was telling: “We’ll show them, we’ll show them.”

      Sounds like another example of the grit she used to create a successful career after being blacklisted back in the day.

      • I’m reading a rather interesting biopic of John Wayne which describes the McCarthy shenanigans in some detail. Fascinating.

        • saltyessentials

          Yeah. I’m always amazed at what people will do to each other in their desires to be “right” and make others “wrong.”

  • Gentleman. I must commend you on another entertaining podcast, which I listened to at around 5am this morning. Actually, I didn’t feel that Patricia Mattick’s performance was so bad. To me, she captured the spirit of a rather spoilt young lady who was at a point in her life in which she was trying to appear as grown-up but perceived to be petulant. Perhaps as a supplemental podcast, you would consider re-enacting one of the scenes in which she acted in this episode, and let us be the judge of your acting.

    Actually, joking aside, I did completely empathise with the righteous indignation shown towards Pat. In fact, as you were saying this, I could almost hear that popular and well-known gospel song used to such great effect by Tommy Brown playing.

    All in all, a good and thought-provoking podcast peppered with humour. By the way, if you ‘liked’ Pat, you’re going to love the ‘forgotten lady’ of next week’s episode…

    Also enjoyed the reference to Irn Bru. For those poor unfortunate souls who have never had the pleasure, have a look at this link.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H4PxuFQCDis

    • Ian Baxter

      Milo Janis would not approve of Irn-Bru!

  • Peter

    I actually enjoyed the episode. I thought Lee Grant played the cold-blooded killer well (unless she was just playing Lee Grant:)), the writing was superb ( in the plane Leslie says says, if someone was jealous of my husband, I don’t know him-nice deflection off of her of course), and Columbo’s character seems more developed here than in subsequent episodes. What is fascinating is how much foreshadowing of future episodes there is in this one, almost like the pilot served as a font of ideas. Finally, interesting how different Falk played this character between 1968 and 1971, with the 1968 Columbo coming across as less beguiling and more cynical, with a much shorter haircut!

  • CarlosMu

    It looks like the attitudes toward Patricia Mattick are leaning negatve

    • Ian Baxter

      Wow, she’s really not flavour of the month is she.

    • Peter

      I think she did a fair job with the character, neither an epic performance or flop

  • Ian Baxter

    A couple of mentions were given to the soundtrack/music in this episode. Here’s a wee selection… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DMzZ56oDaAo

    • CarlosMu

      fantastic. Also the special effects were very cool. Not a very typical thing for Columbo but still very enjoyable in this particular episode. This is her in the office flashing back to the murder:

    • Peter

      I should have mentioned the music, which was quite good. Isn’t it interesting how much the music affects the product? Can you imagine The Godfather, Gone with the Wind or Braveheart without their themes, and I am sure Gerry and Iaian can attest to the historical accuracy of the latter, right guys?

      • Iain will need to get back to you on that one – I have never watched it!

      • Iain here. There are a few liberties taken (Wallace and the queen being the obvious one), but the key elements of the film are accurate.

        • Peter

          And I thought McGoohan was incredibly good in this movie playing Edward the Longshanks.

      • Peter

        RIP James Horner who wrote beautiful score for Braveheart

  • Bhammer100

    I spent the longest time when first watching this episode trying to figure out if the daughter was attractive or not. I finally decided that she was but it was the glasses that threw me off i think.

    • Peter

      I had some difficulty. I hate when that happens. I concluded she wasn’t. On the other hand, Lee Grant, 70’s hairdo aside, is to me classically beautiful.

      • Margaret Williams

        I may vomit!

    • Margaret Williams

      Thanks … I think. So you actually abide by that Dorothy Parker rhyme: “Men seldom make passes, at girls who wear glasses.” ???

      • Bhammer100

        Sorry Margaret. Those glasses weren’t flattering.

        • Margaret Williams

          Okay. Thank you for clearing that up for me.

  • saltyessentials

    Hmm. Some strong opinions on the two female leads, here.

    I have to say, I don’t know much about Lee Grant. She’s an actress who always seems familiar to me, but I can never place her in anything I’ve seen except this Columbo pilot. Which I thought she was brilliant in, by the way.

    I did a quick scan of her films and know I’ve seen a few: In the Heat of the Night, Airport ’77, The Swarm, and Mulholland Drive. I guess that’s why she looks familiar, In the Heat… is an amazing film that I’ve seen several times, years ago, but never picked up on the fact it was her playing the widow.

    So Largo, what’s all the venom directed at Ms. Grant attached to? I did a few quick searches and didn’t see anything particularly damning. Seems like a fairly average Hollywood type to me.

    I gotta say Patricia Mattick annoyed the heck out of me with her portrayal. I’ve also never seen her do any other role, so don’t know if this was just a weird experimental role for her or if she comes across so poorly in other roles she did.

    Guess I’ll have to watch a few other things these two women were in to get a better feel for them.

    Over all, I enjoyed the show, plot holes and all, and thought Columbo was nicely fleshed out, as others have mentioned. And I loved the Gotcha. It wasn’t the most realistically set up, but man, the look on her face was priceless as she realized what Columbo had done. Awesome.

    • Largo

      “So Largo, what’s all the venom directed at Ms. Grant attached to?”

      You mean what’s my rather wicked satirical barbs directed at Lee Grant attached to? Gosh, I don’t know – you supposed they’re attached to my subjectivity? 😉

      • saltyessentials

        Fair enough. 🙂

    • Ian Baxter

      Hi ‘saltyessentials’, does this mean you have finally caught up with the podcasts? Hope so, eagerly anticipating Season 5 (well most of season 5) and will look forward to your contributions. Managed to catch a few of your comments as you’ve been working your way through the episodes. 🙂

      • saltyessentials

        Yep, This is my first on-time-with-the-rest-of-you listening and commenting. I feel so grown up!

    • Peter

      It’s interesting as I had same reaction in regards to Grant. When I saw that it starred Lee Grant, I of course recognized the name and kept thinking to myself, where have I seen her before? She must be familiar to me from other roles, I kept thinking to myself, but when I saw the movies she had been in, I realized that I had either seen none of them or how only a vague recollection. Is there a new term we should make up for this phenomenon, like a movie déjà vu?

      • saltyessentials

        How about “moja vie”? No, that’s too coffee-like. “Moo-ja vie”? A little cow-ish. “Muja vie”?

        • Peter

          I like Muja Vie. Let’s go with that!

          • saltyessentials

            Muja Vie it is!

  • Ian Baxter

    There was some debate in the podcast as to where we had heard the same music in other episodes. It can be heard in the episode ‘Publish or Perish’ where Mr Greenleaf gatecrashes his rival’s party and I noticed at The #ColumboTV tweet-along for ‘Stitch in Crime’ that the exact same music from Ransom was also used at Dr Mayfield’s party.

    • CarlosMu

      I think it can also be heard in “Lady in Waiting” where Columbo and Hamilton are in the bar. It’s hard to tell because it’s just the piano by itself.

      • Ian Baxter

        Yep, good spot, had a quick listen and I think you’re right. I guess once a piece is written for a show then it makes sense to use it.

  • Largo

    I have now included “Ransom For A Dead Man” on a Largo List for top Columbo episodes. I simply increased the number of episodes so as to include a total of 25 individual episodes. I did this to honor my ward, Margaret Williams.

    Largo’s Top 25 Columbo Episodes List [Original NBC Series]

    1. Identity Crisis
    2. Murder By The Book
    3. Death Lends A Hand
    4. Swan Song
    5. Now You See Him
    6. The Bye-Bye Sky High I.Q. Murder Case
    7. Any Old Port In A Storm
    8. Prescription: Murder
    9. An Exercise In Fatality
    10. Double Shock
    11. Blueprint For Murder
    12. A Stitch In Crime
    13. Lady In Waiting
    14. Double Exposure
    15. By Dawn’s Early Light
    16. Candidate For Crime
    17. Troubled Waters
    18. Murder Under Glass
    19. A Friend In Deed
    20. The Conspirators
    21. Suitable For Framing
    22. Fade In To Murder
    23. Ransom For A Dead Man
    24. The Most Dangerous Match
    25. Playback

    • Margaret Williams

      Well, it’s about time, Largo!

  • Thanks! Also, sorry for taking so long to approve this comment. Mea culpa.

    Completely agree with your analysis!

  • Darrel Jetpacksam Eddings

    While I enjoyed this, It isn’t the introduction to Lt. Columbo.
    Prescription: Murder was the 1st, then this episode.

  • Carrie Rostollan

    I keep thinking that Columbo and Margaret played Leslie, that they constructed the whole scene with the keys together to give Leslie a reason to extort (?) the ransom money out of Leslie in exchange for her silence.

    As for the rest of your review, sparkling listening as always.

  • Carrie Rostollan

    I keep thinking that Columbo and Margaret played Leslie, that they constructed the whole scene with the keys together to give Margaret a reason to extort (?) the ransom money out of Leslie in exchange for her silence.

    As for the rest of your review, sparkling listening as always.

  • Susan

    What is the black blinking box that was thrown out of the airplane in this episode? It (or one like it) appeared later when the daughter was tormenting the mother. What is is, and why was it in the episode?