Columbo (1971–2003)
39 user 5 critic

An Exercise in Fatality 

A health club owner murders one of his franchisees. Lt. Columbo is on the case.


Bernard L. Kowalski (as Bernard Kowalski)


Peter S. Fischer (teleplay by), Larry Cohen (story by) | 2 more credits »




Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Peter Falk ... Columbo
Robert Conrad ... Milo Janus
Gretchen Corbett ... Jessica Conroy
Pat Harrington Jr. ... Buddy Castle (as Pat Harrington)
Collin Wilcox Paxton ... Ruth Stafford (as Collin Wilcox)
Philip Bruns ... Gene Stafford
Jude Farese Jude Farese ... Al Murphy
Darrell Zwerling ... Lewis D. Lacey
Dennis Robertson Dennis Robertson ... Jerry
Raymond O'Keefe Raymond O'Keefe ... Sgt. Rickets
Victor Izay ... Medical Examiner
Ernesto Macias ... Fred (as Eric Mason)
J.R. Clark J.R. Clark ... Harry Lassiter (as J. R. Clark)
Mel Stevens Mel Stevens ... Dr. Freeman
Manuel DePina Manuel DePina ... Photographer


Milo Janus owns a chain of health clubs, but one of his franchisees discovers the man is cheating him - and can prove it to the authorities. Janus responds by murdering his partner and making it look as if he had accidentally killed himself trying to lift a barbell that was too heavy for him. Janus creates a would-be perfect alibi for himself involving a tape recording of his victim's voice, a phone that doesn't light up, a sexy secretary, a party for friends at his house, and a pornographic horror movie. But no alibi is perfect when the rumpled Lt. Columbo is on the case. Written by J. Spurlin

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

health club | barbell | See All (2) »


TV-PG | See all certifications »






Release Date:

15 September 1974 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Dalle sei alle nove See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Universal Television See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


| (DVD)

Sound Mix:



Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


On the September 13, 1974 episode of The Tonight Show Peter Falk, in Columbo costume, does an unannounced walk on and describes the plot of this episode that is currently being shot. It's mentioned he had just come from the Columbo set which explains his outfit. See more »


When Janus offers Columbo the carrot juice, the glass is full. The next shot shows only half a glass, later it is full again. See more »


Columbo: [on the phone with his wife] I'm gonna hang up. You can keep talkin' but I'm gonna hang up.
See more »

Crazy Credits

During the end credits the usual theme music is not heard. In its place is a jingle for the fictional Milo Janus fitness club instead. See more »


This Old Man
Traditional English children's song
Sung by Peter Falk on beach
See more »

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User Reviews

Aka Columbo goes to the gym
26 July 2016 | by Leofwine_dracaSee all my reviews

AN EXERCISE IN FATALITY is a fine episode in the early run of Columbo. It's strength lies in the quality of the writing, in particularly the fully-realised characters. Robert Conrad is the guest villain, a fitness and fanatic and ruthless businessman, and he makes a supremely tough foe for our protagonist to butt heads with: physically imposing, urbane, charismatic, and supremely self-confident.

The opening part of the story is very well handled with a good depiction of the business workings of a gym circa 1974. The murder is sudden, sweaty, and unexpected, and the way in which it's made to look like an accident is very clever. The subsequent investigation is well paced and always entertaining, with a particular emphasis on 'fish out of water' humour as Columbo gets involved in the fitness scene and even goes for a couple of jogs. The lengthy interlude in which he tries to get information from an uptight secretary is a real highlight. In addition, both Philip Bruns and Gretchen Corbett are very good in their minor roles. There's nothing to dislike about AN EXERCISE IN FATALITY - apart from perhaps the murderer himself!

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