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Columbo: Mystery Movie Collection (1989)

Universal // 1989 // 466 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Dennis Prince (Retired) // May 9th, 2007

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All Rise...

Looking at Lt. Columbo's crumpled trench coat reminds Judge Dennis Prince of an off-color joke about the best thing to have wrinkles come out of.

Editor's Note

Our reviews of Columbo: The Complete First Season (published October 27th, 2004), Columbo: The Complete Second Season (published May 25th, 2005), Columbo: The Complete Third Season (published October 10th, 2005), and Columbo: The Complete Series (published November 26th, 2012) are also available.

The Charge

"Oh, just one more thing…"

The Case

Just when you thought the 1970s were long gone and so, too, was one of the most compelling albeit unkempt crime investigators…well, there was just one more thing to consider—this Columbo wasn't fully satisfied and, as such, remained on the case.

After enjoying a highly successful seven year run between 1971 and 1978, Peter Falk's not-so-dapper detective appeared to have hung up the rumpled overcoat for good. But then, his work didn't appear to be finished yet.

"Oh, I'm sorry, I know you're a busy person and I don't mean to waste your time, but I was wondering…"

What this outwardly dismissible sleuth was wondering is whether his services were still needed to solve of unusual murders for the Los Angeles Police's Homicide branch. Well, the answer was 'yes;' and following an 11-year absence, the persistent detective was back on the roster and showed he hadn't lost a step when digging deep into the details of an unsolved crime. Long-time fans, of course, were ecstatic to see Falk return, but were understandably anxious to see if he could still work the same deductive magic. He did; with the long delayed Season Eight, he showed his inimitable performance paired with the proven show formula was just as fresh as ever.

It's the formula, ya see, that has made the show work so well. Taking a page from the Hitchcock playbook, the writers and producers of Columbo established the template. The murder under investigation would be plainly revealed to the viewer in the opening act. Enter Columbo, to pick and pick and pick at the clues and prod and prod and prod the suspects in an effort to outlast any feigned attempts at innocence. The attraction of the formula was that the viewers weren't playing along with the detective in a whodunit setting, but rather were enraptured at watching the unshaken sleuth whittle down to the truth that had already been revealed at the episode's start.

Following a well-received stream of complete season boxed sets that encompassed Seasons One through Seven, Universal now releases the five tele-films that comprised Season Eight, plus the first installment of Season Nine. Each episode is presented in its original 1.33:1 full frame format. The picture quality on tap is good, sporting excellent source elements and matching the high quality of previous DVD releases, but do expect it to be a bit soft. The audio is offered in a suitable Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono mix. As for the episodes, here's what you'll find in this three-disc set:

Disc One

• "Columbo Goes to the Guillotine"
A gruesome accident leaves a magician dead after a mishap with his guillotine illusion. When Columbo begins to dig into the facts, he discovers the recently departed had recently conspired with a bogus psychic to convince a government agency to continue funding the mock medium's work. But, as the detective soon deduces, the conspiring parties might have unceremoniously parted ways with an accident that might not have been so accidental. Anthony Andrews guest stars.

Original Broadcast Date: February 6, 1989
Grade: A

• "Murder, Smoke, and Shadows"
A self-absorbed film director employs the use of movie magic to dispatch a vengeful pursuer. The adversary, it seems, had determined the stunt-related death of his sister was the fault of the egocentric director. Fisher Stevens guest stars.

Original Broadcast Date: February 27, 1989
Grade: B+

Disc Two

• "Sex and the Married Detective"
Although this installment's title sounds more like an episode of Love, American Style, it involves the radio host of "The Sex Therapist of the Airwaves." When she discovers her personal assistant in bed with her lover, the incensed announcer murders the lover and attempts to implicate the assistant. Lindsay Crouse guest stars.

Original Broadcast Date: April 3, 1989
Grade: B

• "Grand Deceptions"
It's a case of "infernal affairs" when a general who owns a private military academy suspects his trusted administrator is embezzling from him. He enlists a colleague to investigate the potential skimming, but the colleague decides to blackmail the administrator for a cut of the bleeding funds. Naturally, a murder plot quickly ensues. Robert Foxworth guest stars.

Original Broadcast Date: May 1, 1989
Grade: C

Disc Three

• "Murder: A Self Portrait"
An accomplished artist has successfully assembled his own harem, made up of his current wife, a live-in model, and his nearby ex-wife. Holding emotional and financial control over all of them, the artist dares to dabble in a group discussion asking what the three women think of one another. He is completely unprepared for their intense jealousies that result in a dire outcome. Patrick Bauchau guest stars.

Original Broadcast Date: November 25, 1989
Grade: C

While the episodes here are definitely worth the purchase price, there's no denying they aren't exactly up to par with the original run. Don't let the less-than-stellar grades dissuade you, though; these episodes are still very entertaining and rightly rely on an excellent portraying a compelling character driven by an engaging formula. Still, given the acclaim that Columbo has enjoyed, especially with its numerous DVD releases, Universal once again withholds critical testimony by not offering any truly relevant extra features. The only bonus here is a 30-minute original production from cable TV's Sleuth Channel, America's Top Sleuths, contained on Disc Three. Although we do catch up with Peter Falk in recent interview footage, this piece is far too promotional to be worthy of inclusion in this set.

All in all, this newest release from Universal is great news for Columbo enthusiasts, and proves that the disheveled detective still had gut and gumption enough to resume his investigative work.

"Is that a fact?"

Yes, it is.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 87

Perp Profile

Studio: Universal
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
• English
Running Time: 466 Minutes
Release Year: 1989
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Mystery
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• Featurette: America's Top Sleuths


• IMDb
• The Ultimate Columbo Site

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