Prescription: Murder

Episode 45 – Prescription: Murder

Before Columbo‘s 1971 pilot, audiences were introduced to Peter Falk as the iconic detective through 1968’s television movie Prescription: Murder. A psychiatrist uses a patient to help create an alibi for the murder of his wife. In this podcast Gerry and Iain look at Columbo’s beginnings and how well this story holds up against the subsequent series.

 

 

Now that the Columbo Podcast has considered all of the show’s original run it seemed fitting to take some time and look back on the 1968 TV movie that, although not a pilot, can be seen as a building block for the series that followed a few years later. Gene Barry is exceptional as calculating killer Dr Ray Flemming, who disposes of his wife Carol (Nina Foch) with the assistance of a seemingly malleable patient, Joan Hudson – portrayed here by Katherine Justice.

 

Outside these key players and William Windom‘s Burt Gordon – a senior lawyer and friend of the Flemmings who works in the DA’s office – the remaining cast are very much minor supporting roles, with Virginia Gregg appearing as Flemming’s secretary, Andrea King briefly present as Gordon’s wife Cynthia and Sherry Boucher playing the air hostess whose evidence helps cement Flemming’s alibi.

 

Richard Irving directed both this movie and the eventual pilot, Ransom for a Dead Man. Richard Levinson and William Link took the writing credits both for the teleplay and the original play on which it was based. Their future involvement with the series requires no repetition here!

 

If you have thoughts on any aspect of Prescription: Murder, 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.

 

Prescription: Murder was released in 1968. It is 100 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.

  • Arabian Knights

    A very enjoyable podcast – thank you, gentlemen. Like you, I wondered about how the supposed “burglar” would gain access and why Flemming would be present at his interrogation. I missed the significance of cutlery splashing into the ocean, but you mentioned that with great good humour.
    I haven’t timed it, but it seems that Columbo makes his entrance much later than he usually does in the later episodes. Part of the series evolution.

    • Thanks AK. My recollection is that in the original play that this movie was based on, Columbo was not intended to be the featured character. That may explain his delayed introduction.

    • Largo

      I was under the impression that the “interrogation” scene was just a set-up designed by Columbo in an attempt to catch Dr. Flemming in a lie, and thereby producing a ‘Gotcha!’ right there on the spot. But, the old doctor was far too clever at this particular time. Later, Columbo had to go several steps further to nab this guy — by using Flemming’s very own trick of utilizing a “double.” That Columbo is one very sneaky little dude, huh? 🙂

      • “It’s a movie” does resolve many issues!

        • Largo

          Back in my film grad days, I actually bought a t-shirt with “It’s Only A Movie” printed on it — and I gave it to my roommate at the time, a fellow named Jim. I was always saying this particular phrase to him whenever he would fret over certain specifics in a film. Jim would always retort with, “I hate it when you say that!” So I just had to give Jim this t-shirt, eh. 🙂

          • I guess now the T-Shirt would say ‘It’s a movie, Jim, but not as we know it.’

  • Roberto

    Excellent podcast gents. You made this quite fun to listen to. Gerry cracking up about Flemming lugging around a suitcase of cutlery to and through Mexico until its final destination on a fishing boat (with attendant crashing noises as the knives and forks are dumped into the ocean) was very nice.

    Prescription Murder was very well-written and polished. It views as a stage-play for obvious reasons with all the pros and cons of that. The crime commission and detection were alright but nothing special. I am still hoping one day that we’ll see a perfect murder.

    It is remarkable that Columbo was not intended to be the main character. Falk was so endearing that we were allowed to watch our favorite Lieutenant at work for many years to come!

    Thanks again guys.

  • Roberto

    Just a quick pop-back-in with an obvious Star Trek tie-in for Iain. William Windom (Burt Gordon here) played Commodore Decker in The Doomsday Machine (TOS). I have previously mentioned that I spent a day with James Doohan once and he called it his favorite Star Trek episode. No weird aliens or save-the-world plot, just a good story well acted.

    • Largo

      About “The Doomsday Machine” — it was a ‘save the galaxy’ plot, Roberto. Decker (yelling at Kirk): “Oh, forget about your theories! That thing is headed for the heart of our galaxy — what are you going to do about it!?!” Well, Captain Kirk kicked its alien machine butt, that’s what! 🙂

    • Roberto

      Okay, but that was not the heart of the episode or what made Doohan and me (and countless others) love that episode. Doohan and I had an extended conversation about The Doomsday Machine and the “save the galaxy” aspect was never mentioned once.

      • Largo

        Oh, I thought we were was discussing the plot. If I were to discuss the “heart” of ‘The Doomsday Machine,’ I would say that it is a rather strong statement against the use of nuclear weapons. But this is just my very humble opinion. I apologize if I caused you any annoyance here, Roberto.

        • Roberto

          No problemo Largo. I am admittedly wildly over-sensitive about my opinions and experiences surrounding Star Trek (TOS). Just wait till Gerry and Iain begin their Star Trek podcast discussing in great detail every single episode of The Original Series!

  • Arabian Knights

    I never watched one episode of Star Trek. I could not stand Spock’s ears! How silly is that? But I never ever watched it back in the day. Yuck.

    • What’s that got to do with the price of cheese?

      • I think AK’s reply has come detached from the conversation it related to. Largo and Roberto were discussing Star Trek again. It’s around here somewhere…!

        • Haha. Got me as confused as a piece of Wensleydale in a lingerie advert.

  • Peter

    Where can I find episode? Cannot locate it on YouTube and it has been 20 years since I saw it

    • Roberto

      I don’t know of any English-speaking versions, but Prescription Murder is available on the internet in a foreign language (I confess I don’t know what language this is).

      http : // video . meta . ua / 7693324 . video

      If you are so inclined, you can copy that into your browser and then delete the spaces.

    • If you have the season 1 or complete series DVD box set it is included as an ‘extra’. Outside of that, I’m not sure.

      • I wonder if we’re going to start seeing more people struggling to find these later episodes going forward. I see the complete series is currently going for almost a hundred bucks on Amazon in America. Definitely gone up, since I picked it up for under fifty. I do see bootlegs of the series available for as little as twenty five bucks, for those comfortable going that route.

      • I do see the various later shows packaged kind of piecemeal for $15-20 each on Amazon. Like, just the 1989 movies, or just the 1991-1993 movies, etc. That may be a less expensive way for folks to get just these later episodes, if they already own the original run.

    • Ian Baxter

      It’s available for around £3 on ebay, and having watched it again recently I’d say it was worth more the £3 🙂

      • Largo

        Indeed! 🙂

    • Sirappleby

      Netflix USA has all 7 Seasons if you have access to that and a VPN to switch countries!

      • Yup, Netflix is great for the original run; but now we’re going on to season 8 it can’t help!

    • Adrian Bailey

      Just watching it on 5 USA right now. I can’t remember seeing it before. Columbo’s character is all there – it really was a genius creation. The production is more stylised though. (Sometimes it feels like a French movie!) Although in colour, the production values hark back to the 1950s. Just 3 or 4 years later, gritty realism was more the order of the day.

      • Abigail

        Yes, it’s amazing how Columbo-y Columbo is in this episode. Mentions of his wife, “just one more thing…” – it’s all there! Crazy to think this episode is almost 50 years old.

  • Peter

    I found the full episode on the internet with Hebrew subtitles. Now I know how to say “one more thing” in Hebrew! Few observations 1) Nice direction with the chess board in the murder scene foreshadowing the chess match between Columbo and Fleming 2) The characters were not as sharply drawn. The villain is not villainous and the shrew is not too “shrewy”. Fleming comes off as a a normal man who committs a heinous act, while his wife I think truly loved him and you can’t but help feel sympathy for her as she is about to be murdered. 3) Tremendous amounts of foreshadowing of future episodes. You can almost make a trivia game out of it. I am sure subsequent episodes got many ideas from the original 4) Columbo comes across to me as more street wise and tough in this episode, a bit more unpolished. I haven’t finished the whole episode but will listen to podcast afterwards. Looking forward to it.

    • Good work finding it!

      The impression I got was that the wife loved him so long as he behaved in a certain way. To me that seems like a toxic relationship – primarily because of his infidelity and cemented by her response.

      • Peter

        It was definitely toxic. But you had to feel sorry for her when she is talking about the upcoming trip and feeling good about her husband as he is about to murder her. She is not as nasty as for instance Tommy Brown’s wife. In fact, their relationship reminded me of that one, and what is interesting is that Tommy Brown, like Fleming, is not pure evil, unlike Paul Glesko.

        • Interesting comparison between Fleming and Galesko, although I’d say it is pretty much ‘even stevens’ in terms of evil.

          • Peter

            I made mistake of commenting before the ending. Yes, he was evil, but not to Glesko level. Question: are we to assume he intended to kill his mistress? Wasn’t clear to me.

          • I say yes, my wife says no. 🙂

          • Peter

            Agree with you

          • My gut feel is that he was just using her. Not sure he would have done away with her though.

          • Yeah, but she’d a sang like a canary if and when he ever broke it off with her. And he knew that….

  • Ian Baxter

    Great movie; have not watched this in quite a while but really enjoyed viewing it again. Enjoyed it all the more for the early glimpses of themes that are taken forward into the TV series. The overall formula of the revealed crime where we know whodunnit whom the outset, and Columbo entering later in the show, is shown off very well. There are so many personal ‘favourite bits’ that foreshadow the future of the TV show and the development of the Columbo character. Thought I’d have a go at listing a few, see how far I get…

    1. The murderer thinks he’s committed the perfect crime… Dr Flemming recovering the hanky from the phone is very reminiscent of Franklin in Murder by the Book picking up his lighter

    2. The murderer underestimates Columbo… not as obvious in this episode as Dr Flemming sums Columbo up very well, but definitely something we see develop further in other episodes

    3. Columbo asking the Murder to help solve the crime (surely a deleted scene that would explain Dr Flemmings presence in the interview room)… a ploy repeated many times in the future

    4. Columbo engages with the world of the murderer… here he talks about the psychology of the killer with the psychiatrist, he later goes on to enter the world of wine, art, music, and photography etc

    5. The Murderer makes an initial offer of further assistance… a casual throw away line in this episode, but something we see repeated again and again by unsuspecting murderers

    6. Suspects don’t know when to stop talking… in this case Joan and Dr Flemming simply say too much, and many others in the years to follow will try to answer questions they don’t need to

    7. Columbo uses the murderers own techniques to entrap them… In this episode it’s the psychological use of a double, a future example would be use of subliminal cuts in Double Exposure

    8. Columbo mentions his wife and extended family… subtly done to good effect in this one, fun with the absent minded losing of pencils, but perhaps over used in the future

    9. Columbo v’s the Elite of Society… Columbo stands up for the everyman cop unfazed and undeterred by rubbing shoulders with the rich and powerful bringing justice, he continues to do this throughout his career

    10. Columbo Props… the cigar, the coat, the car (briefly mentioned). Thankfully he stops the annoying habit of talking with the cigar in his mouth!

    11. Columbo gets angry… okay, it’s a bit weird in this episode, but in future episodes I do think it works well when Columbo gets serious (like when Columbo challenges Dr Mayfield)

    Well, another fine podcast, but with two episodes covered in the ‘Specials’ category and no pilot/movie episodes left I’m wondering if you have any plans for future special podcasts. Any thoughts?

    • Largo

      Superb post, Ian! Just like Spinal Tap’s amplifiers, your forum post went beyond the usual level ‘ten’ area and far into the stratosphere with an ‘eleven’ booster rocket of excellence! 🙂

      • Ian Baxter

        Quite pleased to reach the earth shaking ’11’, but I suspect there are still many more highlights to pick out from Prescription Murder.

    • Peter

      Excellent summary. We could make a game of this, spotting future plot points. Another is the mistaken identity theme used in the Ann Baxter episode

  • Largo

    A dastardly crime has been perpetrated upon all of us Columbo Fans! The original made-for-television movie, Prescription: Murder (1968) has been retconned as the so-called first “pilot movie” for the Columbo Mystery Movie series. When accessing this film’s menu screen on my Columbo Season One DVD box set, Universal Home Entertainment clearly states that Prescription: Murder is “the pilot movie for the popular series.” Horse hokey, I say! Production of a television series from a finished pilot film to the actual series premiere is usually a matter of months and certainly within one year’s time. But in this particular case involving Columbo, we’re talking three freaking years between this so-called first “pilot” film to the so-called “second pilot” film, Ransom For A Dead Man (1971). I say that this is highly illogical!

    This is what I believe actually went down: the NBC network was already commissioning Universal Studios to make made-for-television content and Prescription: Murder just happened to be one of these projects that was chosen for production. Flash forward two years and some production executive at NBC gets the bright idea to create a new TV format involving four separate shows that rotate throughout the 1970-71 season in the same time-slot. He labels this idea “Four-In-One” and commissions Universal to produce four separate television series that will air on the same weeknight and time period. The NBC Network premiered this “Four-In-One” experiment in the Fall of 1970 with the following four rotating television programs: McCloud, Rod Serling’s Night Gallery, The Psychiatrist and San Francisco International Airport. Please take note that not one of these aforementioned four television programs is called “Columbo.”

    Needless to say, this “Four-In-One” idea pretty much bombed out and the only shows that achieved decent ratings were Night Gallery and McCloud. Now Night Gallery later became a weekly series, but Dennis Weaver of McCloud refused to commit to more than six or seven individual episodes — so a weekly McCloud series was not feasible. So in my mind’s eye, this is what I believe happened within the NBC chief programming executive’s boardroom:

    NBC Chief: “Dennis Weaver doesn’t want to commit to more than six episodes a year. Now, we still have Mr. Weaver under contract, so what do we do here? I need ideas, people!”
    Assistant One: “We could expand McCloud to fill a two-hour time slot and run these six segments as The McCloud Mystery Movie.”
    NBC Chief: “No! That would only cover six months if we were to spread them out. I need at least eight McCloud movies to cover eight months of programming — that’s out of the question. And I absolutely hate that title: too many ‘M’s.”
    Assistant One: “You object to alliteration, sir?”
    NBC Chief: Of course I object to illiteracy! I want all of our children in this great nation to be able to read! But that’s not the issue here! You’ve got to focus, man! Focus!
    Assistant One: [he does a slow face-palm]
    NBC Chief: (turning to another assistant) “What about you — any ideas?”
    Assistant Two: (very nervous) “I want what’s best for the network, chief.”
    NBC Chief: “You blithering idiot! You always say that! Now, make yourself useful and go fetch me some more coffee and two more Danish rolls — chop chop!”
    Assistant Two: [runs out of the room to comply with the request]
    NBC Chief: (looking over rest of his staff) “Well!?! I’m waiting, people!”
    Assistant Three: “I like this ‘Mystery Movie’ idea, but we’ll need three more ‘Mystery Movie’ segments to make it work alongside McCloud. With these four rotating ’Mystery Movie’ segments, we will have the minimum 24 shows to complete a whole season’s worth of programming content.”
    NBC Chief: (fuming) “How dare you say that forbidden word in my boardroom!”
    Assistant Three: (knowingly) “You mean the word ‘four?’ Four separate mystery movie shows with six episodes each amounts to a total of 24 individual segments. It’s all quite logical, sir.”
    NBC Chief: (yelling) “Get out! Get out! Get out! Get out! Get out! Get out!”
    Assistant Three: [very quietly and very slowly leaves the room with a smug expression on his face]
    NBC Chief: “I don’t want to ever hear that dreaded word uttered in my presence again! That’s Wilson’s word! That moron and his stupid ‘Blank-In-One’ experiment!”
    All Assistants: [very agitated and nervously glancing at each other]
    NBC Chief: “That’s right — you all know what became of Wilson after I fired his stupid ass! I raked him over the coals so bad before he was kicked out of here that he’s now sitting in a padded cell over at our local funny farm! BWAH HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!”
    All Assistants: [silent and looking down at their hands]
    NBC Chief: “But enough about the past. We all need to look to the future — the future of this great television network! Now, how are we going to solve this little scheduling problem, people?”
    Assistant Four: “Remember that mystery film we did three years ago called Prescription: Murder? It starred Peter Falk. I suggest we sign Peter Falk up for one of these ‘Mystery Movie’ segments.”
    NBC Chief: “Yeah, yeah. Peter played that little detective guy — ah, whatshisname …. uhmmm … Lieutenant Columbus!”
    Assistant Four: “Peter Falk portrayed Lieutenant Columbo, sir. We should negotiate a deal not only with Falk, but also with Richard Levinson and William Link — the creative writing team behind the Lieutenant Columbo character.”
    NBC Chief: “Right, right. I totally agree. Okay — that leaves one more ‘Mystery Movie’ segment to cast. Who should star in this third ‘Mystery Movie’ show?”
    All Assistants: (in unison) “Rock Hudson!”**
    NBC Chief: “That’s absolutely brilliant! Brilliant! Brilliant! Brilliant! Make it so, people!”

    And the rest, as they say, was history. Be seeing you!

    **The ultimate ’go to’ actor of the Seventies! That’s my theory and I’m sticking to it, eh! 🙂

    • Largo

      I may be considered a ‘lone wolf’ in some other quarters, but I’ll keep up the cry (or howl) of: “Prescription: Murder is NOT a pilot movie for the Columbo series — it was a stand-alone project that eventually lead to the superb series that we all know and love!”

    • Ian Baxter

      Very good, raises a few questions for me… I’ve never seen ‘McCloud’ or ‘McMillan and Wife’ – how would you say they rate alongside Columbo? Is there evidence of Columbo out-performing the other two? Any one have any answers?

      • Largo

        My family watched both Columbo and McMillan and Wife on the “NBC Wednesday Mystery Movie” and really enjoyed them. We never did watch McCloud, but like Columbo, it lasted seven seasons: six as a rotating “Mystery Movie” and one season as a “Four-In-One” segment. McMillan and Wife lasted just six seasons as an NBC Mystery Movie. But, overall, all three shows did very well in the ratings — first on Wednesdays and then on Sunday evenings. My personal preference was always for Columbo, but as far as the actual individual ratings, I’m not sure about these, eh.

      • I remember seeing episodes of both of these, along with Columbo, and they weren’t bad at all, but they didn’t stick with me the way Columbo has. Something magical the way this show all came together to become such a classic.

      • Peter

        I thought all four shows were very good but Columbo the best and the one I looked forward too. Doc Ramsey was the other one of the 4. Like Largo I had a huge crush on Susan St James

        • Largo

          Oh, dear, Peter! Susan Saint James is giving both of us that look! 😉

          • Peter

            We have similar tastes!

          • Largo

            Indeed we do, Peter! Here is one more picture of sweet Susan when she received her star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame —

  • Great episode and great superlative podcast. I particularly liked the easy humour, especially the larks around the cutlery. Also funny the way Iain mentioned George Peppard, as in ‘We’ve seen George Peppard in… hang on, we’ve not seen George Peppard in…’ Hilarious. The only bit I can fault is the mention of a priest, as ‘traditional’ priests – i.e. in the Catholic Chuch – don’t get married anyway. This was actually quite different to the other podcasts as it had an extra impetus of energy, probably due to the fact that you both went into it with the previous episodes on the clock. I do hope – picking up on Gerry’s response to what’s to come – that it’s not downhill from here…

    • Thanks Kieran. Can’t remember the priest comment off the top of my head! Hopefully the podcasts don’t go downhill, even if some people think the episodes do!

  • Ian Baxter

    The home of Joan Hudson is ‘Stahl House’… https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stahl_House

    • Largo

      Great find there, Ian! Thanks! 🙂

    • Yeah, nicely spotted.

  • Largo

    The original made-for-television film production, Prescription: Murder, premiered on February 20, 1968 on “NBC Tuesday Night at the Movies.” This is how the American public was first introduced to Peter Falk’s first rendition of his most famous character: the LAPD homicide detective, Lieutenant Columbo. And I was there to witness it (I sure hope a few of you were also there to witness this event back then, too) along with my mom. My dearly departed mother (Jan. 16, 2006), could never turn down a good mystery, or in this case, a good mystery movie on television. So there we both were, along with my older sister and two older brothers, as we watched this historical event unfold in “living color.” My father was a very smart man: he waited until all three television networks had announced that — starting in the Fall of 1966 — all of their primetime programs would be broadcast in full color before he purchased our first color television set (a Sylvania) in late August of that same year. So whenever the NBC network’s animated peacock symbol unfolded its feathers along with the announcer intoning, “The following NBC program is brought to you in living color,” I was always thrilled by it because of our new Sylvania TV.

    Having grown up during my early childhood years with only a black and white TV set on hand was like aimlessly scrounging around on a bleak lunar landscape compared to our new Sylvania color television set. I was finally able to see the Batman (1966-69) series in full color, with all of those comic book-like “ZAPs” and “KAPOWs” almost seeming to leap out of the screen in bright, jukebox colors. I also got to witness the “Space Family Robinson” finally blast off of that dreary desert planet on the Lost In Space series — but with a lot of huge orange fire balls and bright red explosions galore! So, needless to say, when the opening credits for Prescription: Murder began, with their psychedelic-like and brightly colored ink blot animation — along with that jazzy score — I was absolutely mesmerized. I remember this very well and I also recall being quite riveted at first. Then the next thing that I can remember from this first viewing is being repulsed by the strangulation scene when Dr. Flemming murders his wife, Carol.

    This particular murder sequence was quite daring on the filmmaker’s part and for them to present this to a 1968 television viewing audience was, and still is, quite shocking. I was horrified and taken aback by Carol Flemming’s strangulation, especially since her character was so overjoyed about the upcoming trip to Acapulco with her husband. That Dr. Ray Flemming — what a cold-hearted and cruelly calculating rat-bastard! He just stands there and waits as Carol chirps brightly on about stuff while she’s in a very happy mood, and then he throttles the life out of her (apparently, that is). Very, very creepy stuff for a sensitive eight-year-old boy like me! Can you say, “EEGAH!!!” There was an extra layer of revulsion on my part because of the particular actor portraying Dr. Ray Flemming: Gene Barry. As I watched this terrible murder go down, I was probably thinking in the back of mind: “But I thought Gene Barry was supposed to be the hero?”

    In my little eight-year-old brain, Gene Barry was only known to me as the legendary Western gambler and lawman, Bat Masterson — from the television series of the same name (1958 – 1961, which had been in syndication reruns during my earlier and formative childhood years) — and the very rich and resourcefull, Amos Burke of Burke’s Law (1963-65) and Amos Burke – Secret Agent (1965-66). But most important of all, I had recently seen Gene Barry as the stalwart scientist-hero, Dr. Clayton Forrester, in the science-fiction classic, the War Of The Worlds (1953) on late night television. And now I was quite stunned to witness Gene Barry as a ruthless, cold-blooded killer with his Dr. Ray Flemming character. Aside form this murder sequence, I also recall from this initial television premiere viewing of Prescription: Murder Columbo’s confrontation with the lovely Joan Hudson character and the great “Gotcha!” scene during the finale.

    Seeing this film now, I’m still very enthralled with its rather sophisticated and suave Sixties ambience. Prescription: Murder still remains a very slick piece of entertainment and quite an impressive debut for Peter Falk as Lieutenant Columbo. As I mentioned in an earlier discussion thread, Peter Falk’s performance here isn’t as solid as in the actual pilot film for the Columbo series, Ransom For A Dead Man (1971), but he and the writers are still laying a very strong and familiar foundation for the Columbo character in Prescription: Murder. Peter Falk gets incredible support from actor Gene Barry as the aforementioned murderer, Dr. Ray Flemming, as well as from the ever so lovely actress, Katherine Justice, as Hollywood starlet and murder accomplice, Joan Hudson. All of these actors just knock it out of the park here and they are all a real joy to watch each and every time that I revisit this Columbo movie.

    Gene Barry’s Dr. Ray Flemming character has to rank as one of the very top Columbo villains of all time. Besides being highly intelligent and sophisticated, Dr. Flemming is also completely ruthless and cold-blooded and he seems to always have an attitude that is imbued with cool and calculating detachment. Even though Flemming appears to exhibit almost sociopathic tendencies, when we hear him admit to Columbo that he feels that morals are “relative,” we immediately recognize Dr. Flemming for what he truly is: an amoral intellectual with a rather warped superiority complex. This particular admission of Flemming’s occurs in my favorite scene in Prescription: Murder, where the Lieutenant and the the psychiatrist size each other up and Flemming reveals not only how he views Columbo as a man, but also how Dr. Flemming views himself and the world around him. It is a truly thrilling moment as well as a most chilling one at the same time — but more importantly, a sequence that is perfectly acted by both performers. This scene alone is well worth the price of admission, eh! Be seeing you!

    • Peter

      My mother, may she rest in peace (9/12/2013), got me hooked on detective shows at a very young age as did yours Largo. It is also in the family as my Dad, still in full vigor, is a retired NYC police officer, and Italian like Columbo. The sophisticated Dr Fleming though spills his drink while talking to Columbo in that scene!

      • Largo

        Your post made me all teary eyed here, Peter. Thank you so much for sharing this with all of us here on the forum!

        • Peter

          Thank you Largo

  • Largo

    I absolutely loved this week’s podcast, gentlemen! It was really most enjoyable! Unfortunately, I’m going to have to take points off for Iain’s outrageous comment concerning Dr. Flemming’s ‘bag of tricks’ speech in Prescription: Murder (1968) being “almost as good” as Leslie Williams’ similar ‘bag of tricks’ scene in the actual Columbo pilot film, Ransom For A Dead Man (1971). Despite the fact that I’m extremely biased here, in my very humble opinion, I still feel that Gene Barry’s Dr. Flemming is an infinitely superior acting performance when compared to Lee Grant’s Leslie Williams evil step-mom lawyer character. And so it is with deep regret that I am forced to give this week’s Columbo Podcast a “Joan Hudson Hides Her Lucious Midriff From Largo’s Lecherous Gaze With A Towel Due To The Stupid 1968 NBC Network Censors Fearful Dread Of The Female Navel” demerit citation. I am truly sorry that I have to do this, Gerry and Iain. So your podcast for this week can only receive four **** out of five stars from me. But before I go, I just need to mention that disposing of silver cutlery in the ocean is very serious business and one shouldn’t make light of this particular task. Be seeing you! 😉

  • Excellent podcast, as always, Gerry and Iain.

    I really enjoyed watching the film (definitely not a pilot!). I used to think Columbo hadn’t really become “himself” yet, in this. But on this viewing, it was evident that every bit of him is there, just very understated. And Falk had a quiet intensity in his performance here, that was gone by his second outing. Which is good, ’cause I prefer the more laid back Columbo we got moving forward. You could definitely see the stage play origins in this. A different beast from everything that came after it, but very enjoyable in its own right.

  • Excellent show note links all around, Iain. Serendipitous choice for Richard Irving–I just published a post earlier today on my own blog, on The Six Million Dollar Man.

    Museum of Broadcast Communications and Archive of American Television are treasure troves. Not only great links for this show, but so much amazing information there in general.

    And I loved the Katherine Justice webisode. Well done.

  • Guys, don’t know how many of you, if any, play Quizup, but if you do, did you know that you can now create your own quiz on there? However… you have to be brave enough to sign up to the Ts&Cs, which I wasn’t. I basically went ahead and created what I considered to be 8 great Columbo questions then got hit with the Ts and Cs before I could submit. Being naturally risk averse, I bombed out at that point.

    • Ian Baxter

      How about testing us with your 8 questions here?

      • OK. So… my first question is:

        How many episodes of Columbo did the great Jack Cassidy star in:

        1. Three
        2. Four
        3. Five
        4. None

      • So… my second question is:

        We all know ‘Dog’, but which was the first episode in which he appeared?

        1. By Dawn’s Early light
        2. Etude in Black
        3. Negative Reaction
        4. Now You See Him

    • Roberto

      feel free to post your 8 Q’s here 🙂

      (is there a way to post with “spoilers” on this forum?)

  • Largo

    Well, since re-watching Prescription: Murder recently and listening to the podcast and getting got up with Columbo nostalgia and all — I have decided to revamp my Top 20 Columbo Episodes List once again. So here it is for your perusal:

    Largo’s Top 20 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

    • Wow. Identity Crisis gets the number 1 spot, whilst ‘Any Old Port’ gets a perfect 7. Surprised to see ‘By Dawn’s Early Light’ way down there, but there’s no accounting for taste, eh? Indeed, to see ‘The Conspirators’ make the top 20 is truly shocking. Nay nay, and thrice nay, I say!

  • Roberto

    Here is another top 20 Columbo episodes list (among the NBC series episodes and the two “pilots”):

    1. Now You See Him
    2. Bye-Bye Sky High IQ Murder Case
    3. Try and Catch Me
    4. Any Old Port in a Storm
    5. Murder by the Book
    6. Swan Song
    7. Double Exposure
    8. Murder Under Glass
    9. Stitch in Crime
    10. Identity Crisis

    11. Prescription Murder
    12. Double Shock
    13. Negative Reaction
    14. By Dawn’s Early Light
    15. Death Lends a Hand
    16. Troubled Waters
    17. Most Dangerous Match
    18. Etude in Black
    19. Exercise in Fatality
    20. Candidate for Crime

    Maybe one day Iain and Gerry (and other forum posters) will post their personal favorites too.

    • It still feels a little premature for me (Iain) to be putting such a list together with any certainty. I’d like to finish watching all the episodes and see what sticks in the old memory cells!

      • Largo

        But, my dear sir — we’re talking about just the NBC Columbo series. Certainly you can pull together a Top 20 list based solely on this original series of Columbo Mystery Movies. Be brave, Iain! Be bold — and damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead, brother! 🙂

      • Roberto

        Iain, if it makes the exercise more palatable, you can simply post a list of 10 of your favorite Columbo episodes (no ranking, etc.).

        I think it could be very interesting to see such a list from a “new” Columbo viewer.

    • Margaret Williams

      Where’s my Columbo episode, Roberto? You mention the Columbo pilot, but you don’t include it on your actual list! You big tease!

    • OK, I’ll sneak this in a couple of hours before the new episode and maybe nobody will notice! Let’s go with a top 15, because after that it’s a bit tough to choose:

      Lady in Waiting

      Now You See Him

      Murder by the Book

      A Stitch in Crime

      Fade in to Murder

      Prescription: Murder

      Try and Catch Me

      Any Old Port

      Candidate for Crime

      Negative Reaction

      Double Exposure

      Publish or Perish

      Ransom for a Dead Man

      The Conspirators

      Bye Bye Sky High IQ

      • Margaret Williams

        Oh, goodie! You’ve included my Columbo episode in your Top 15 List! Thank you, Iain — you really made my day!!!

      • Margaret Williams

        You’ve inspired me to make my very own list, Iain! Thank you!

        1. Ransom for a Dead Man
        2. Try and Catch Me
        3. Requiem for a Falling Star
        4. Lady in Waiting
        5. Forgotten Lady
        6. Lovely but Lethal
        7. Old Fashioned Murder
        8. Make Me a Perfect Murder
        9. Dagger of the Mind
        10. Prescription: Murder
        11. Any Old Port in a Storm
        12. Etude in Black
        13. Now You See Him
        14. An Exercise in Fatality
        15. Double Exposure
        16. Murder by the Book
        17. A Stitch in Crime
        18. Double Shock
        19. Death Lends a Hand
        20. Fade in to Murder

        • Good choices Margaret. That Swiss education paying off.

          • Margaret Williams

            Why thank you, Iain! I would also include my therapist, Dr. Shatterhand – of the Piz Gloria Research Institute. Dr. Shatterhand actually suggested that I continue to post on your Columbo Podcast Forum every once and a while. It’s all a part of my therapy. Toodles!

      • Ian Baxter

        I’d squeeze in ‘Swan Song’, probably at the expense of ‘Fade into Murder’, but I like your top 15… pleased to see that ‘Lady in Waiting’ gets to the top, I remember you saying you liked it before, and it is one of the most under-rated episodes that is often overlooked. Thanks for sharing.

        • I think Swan Song would make a top 20, but that song…

          • Ian Baxter

            I know, I know… with all Cash could have brought to the party we get that one! 🙁

      • Roberto

        Thanks Iain for sharing. Great list!

  • Sorry J_S, this got caught in moderation due to the link. Great review of the show, I guess a lot of people would have like to have seen that!

  • I would imagine that Mark Ruffalo would play it pretty close to the way PF played it. He even has a look of him.

  • Roberto

    Thanks to Kieran Wright for mentioning his list of Columbo trivia questions, my mind went to a similar place. I am trying to come up with a list of Columbo PODCAST trivia questions. All for fun of course!

    I have a few questions firmly in mind already, but don’t want to give anything away yet.

    Watch this space!

  • Sirappleby

    Greatly enjoying the podcasts gentlemen, having just found them recently. I’m a very big fan of the show so I love the extra Trivia but also the way you are exploring new angles and really delving in to the characters! I’ll need to listen fast to catch up with you though, still on Season 1!

    • Thanks Sirappleby, we appreciate the support. Shouldn’t take too long to catch up, you’re only 50 hours or so of podcast behind! Can knock that out in a couple of days!!

  • Emrys

    I went to the theatre to see this too! Even bought a programme with the intention of putting it on the wall. /didn’t. I thought Benedict did a pretty good job. Must have been an intimidating role!!!

  • Abigail

    Just discovered this podcast and, as a massive Columbo obsessive, I can’t wait to start listening. This episode is on in the UK right now, and I think the comments here neglected to mention one very important thing about it – Columbo is hot. It’s the only episode where I’d say that! He looks fifteen years younger than in the early 70s episodes.

    • Hard to say how we overlooked that! It certainly comes up in other episodes!!

  • J. Elizabeth Martin

    Hi There! I noticed that your link out for Katherine Justice goes to my site (thank you), which has been redone, and now is a broken link from your first paragraph. To get to the episode of my web series with Katherine, the URL is actually: http://www.jemartin.net/the-nevermore-chronicles/