Peter Falk…………Lt. Columbo
Vera Miles………..Viveca Scott
Martin Sheen…….Karl Lessing
Vincent Price…….David Lang
Jackie Cooper…..Nelson Hayward
Robert Culp……..Dr. Bart Keppel
Johnny Cash…….Tommy Brown
For the uninitiated, the premise of Columbo is simple. Every episode an A-list celebrity would guest star as a criminal of some type that always ends up committing a murder of a B-list celebrity or a rising star in the industry. Afterwards, Lt. Columbo would come in and investigate the murder, eventually trapping the culprit in a web of lies. The culprit would either confess outright or incriminate him or herself in some clever way. This formula was followed for several years throughout the 70s and in the late 80s and early 90s to varying degrees of success. For a while, Columbo and the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson were the two most important programs on television for anyone who was trying to make a name for them self or solidify their name in Hollywood.
Simply put, these programs are almost always excellent in the height of the Columbo craze which Season 3 is smack dab in the middle of. Peter Falk has an infectious personality as Columbo. He acts like a bumbling buffoon until he is ready to seal the trap of justice around those who are looking to deceive the law. Ok, that was a little overdramatic, but Columbo is the type of hero who will literally have you talking back to your television over. He is that compelling of a character.
Production values are way up there for every episode. Seeing that Columbo was essentially a movie of the week type venture for NBC with most episodes running well over an hour, Columbo spares no expense. Despite the show being formulaic in pacing, it is incredibly varied in location across Southern California. Columbo is a series that reeks of being backed heavily by the network.
The actual stories surrounding the formula of Columbo are exceptionally well done too. The first episode/mystery movie pits Columbo in the midst of a power struggle between two high power corporate make up executives vying for a miracle beauty cream. In another episode, Columbo has to unravel the mystery of a evangelist who murders his wife and a choir girl he seduced in a plane crash while faking his own injuries in that crash. Stories like those two are just the icing on the cake of the myriad of tales that Columbo faces in every mystery. This season in particular is superbly written, and it offers everything from the murder of a writer who has a fake suicide note left by his publisher to a candidate killing his campaign manager who leaks a story that someone is trying to kill the candidate. This is an utterly brilliant season offering some of the most diverse cases in Columbo’s history.
There’s not much to say against Columbo. Peter Falk’s portrayal of the every man detective is as compelling as he is entertaining. The high production values of every episode shine through even with the fact that the show is 30 + years old. Columbo is as entertaining a show as it was when it first aired. Some of the names and faces may not be that familiar to people younger than 30, but it is the close to the preeminent drama of an entire generation.
Score: 10 out of 10
Columbo Season 3 looks like it was made in the 70s because of the style, but not because of the video. There are some shots that look a bit faded from what they once could have been, but overall, the video problems are minimal. Columbo Season 3 looks great for its age.
Columbo: The Complete 3rd Season is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono. That’s right, 2.0 Mono. It’s been a while since any of has seen mono as the primary method of listening. Regardless, dialogue is clear and crisp, ambience music never overwhelms scenes, and there is no noticeable white noise. This is a very good audio track considering the limitations of the show.
Wow, Columbo even manages to dig up an extra beyond the standard trailers.
Bonus Episode: “Murder is a Parlor Game” from the TV Spinoff “Mrs. Columbo”: The story of this spin-off is that Columbo’s wife Kate solves crimes as a reporter while taking care of their cute as a button daughter. The episode is pretty mediocre when stacked up against the genius of the other episodes of Columbo on the two disks, but it isn’t totally bad. There are some cute moments in it, and the script is well thought out. It just seems far too fluffy compared to the original Columbo TV series.
Trailers: Yay trailers. Meh trailers. There are all sorts of trailers to dazzle the eye and to entice the wallet. Still, it’s a freaking breath of fresh air that the poor neglected trailers aren’t all alone for once.
Score: 5 out of 10