On the negative side, Ian Buchanan's performance as the murderer is rather bland and I can't ignore the fact that the chauffeur does not check inside the limousine when he hears the gunshot.
Nevertheless, the whole thing keeps you guessing right up until the end and you really do start thinking that, for once, Columbo has got it wrong.
Because it's different it isn't more surprising though but the movie its different approach makes sure that there is more mystery to enjoy. In this case we don't see a murder being committed and all we know as that a woman disappeared somewhere on her way to the airport. But we don't know why or who is behind it all. With this approach this movie is obviously different from the usual Columbo movie entry. Due to this approach we get more inside Lt. Columbo's head and we see how he approaches and investigates the case.
The story and approach makes this a very entertaining movie to watch. Because of its approach the story also for some reason feels like it's a better and more cleverly written one compared to other Columbo movie entries, while it in fact perhaps isn't. I think that it is because of the fact that we ourselves also don't known what has happened and the movie for most part is a true mysterious thriller to us as well, just as it all is a big mystery for the main character Columbo.
One thing that didn't made me enjoy this movie was it's typical early '90's style. In terms of style the '90's was perhaps the worst decade for movies ever. The clothes, hair, make-up, the music...it's all so completely horrendous. But oh well, perhaps in 50 years from now people will start to appreciate this more and look back at it as the good old glorious '90's!
The movie features Ian Buchanan in one of his earliest roles. He began acting at a pretty late age and he now days is very well known all over the world for his role in the long running and successful soap-series "The Bold and the Beautiful", for which he has played in for 15 years, and still counting. He was good in this movie opposite Peter Falk and they had some good necessary chemistry together. Chemistry between the main suspect and the Lieutenant always had been an important key element of the series.
A different Columbo movie that actually works out.
The inspired casting of soap favorites Ian Buchanan and Diedre Hall are just two of the pluses in this episode, set in the cutthroat world of high fashion and glamor.
Though one of the plot devises is very similar to the first Falk-Columbo "Prescription: Murder," there is still enough that keeps this one fresh and memorable.
The final scene where Columbo solves the case is - pun intended - a "killer."
Maybe it makes no sense that this highly intelligent killer forgot to take off the bracelet gadget from his dead wife's wrist, or even that he let Columbo back on the property just like that, but alas... most Columbo episodes have a flaw or two or more, and if not, they're rather far-fetched. That's just how it is. Love it or leave it.
I'd almost forget: there's some fine '80s music here, such as the Fine Young Cannibals.
7 out of 10.
The opening credits include the rock song "She Drives Me Crazy" by The Young Cannibals & sets the tone for this one.
While the guest cast here is not as famous as some of the shorter ones, it goes by with a story that is not standard Columbo fare. There is a disappearance but whether or not there is a murder and who did it are not given sway which is unusual for a Columbo case. There are some major twists along the way. Columbo is literally shopping for a crime in this show, unlike others in the series.
The curves of the women models and the opening rock soundtrack give this episode a different flavor than almost any other Columbo.
I'm surprised that no one had commented yet, but I thought this Columbo was very entertaining. One of the better, newer Columbos. I wish Columbo had never gone off the air.
It has potential, for sure, but that's wasted away in an increasingly convoluted narrative that becomes ridiculous by the climax. Falk does his best with the material, and there are a few funny and goofy moments (typically involving his embarrassment at being surrounded by nubile young women in their bathing suits) but it's a far cry from the classic episodes of the long-running series. The supporting cast are also very hammy, particularly the grinning Ian Buchanan, although it's fun to see familiar faces like Alan Scarfe (DOUBLE IMPACT) and Mark Margolis (REQUIEM FOR A DREAM).
As with many TV film series (such as Perry Mason), if you like one or two of them then you'll pretty much like them all. This entry in the Columbo series pretty much follows the usual formula we know the killer and the "perfect" plan but then watch Columbo follow his hunch and gradually starts to pick holes in the story he is told before eventually finding enough to prove his suspicions. Knowing this ahead of time won't ruin anything for you; it is simply what happens in all the films. With this strict adherence to formula it is usually down to several factors whether or not the Columbo film stands out or if it is just average. With this film the writers tried to freshen it all up by writing the murder as potentially a hoax or a murder we're not sure. For the most part this plays pretty well because it looks like the murder was real and that the formula is all in place even if the body is not. So the majority works to formula even if it isn't great. The revelation that it was all a hoax is a bit of a b*gger because it knocks the wind out of the film and made me feel cheated and put back to square one.
The film does try to gather itself up from here for a strong conclusion and, although it gets something back, the idea that Brantley would be able to so simply f**k up the real murder having staged the hoax one so well is just too much to swallow. The script does have some nice moments in it though; the thinly veiled portrayal of the Playboy world adds some comic value if not any real value while an early reference to another Columbo film was a nice touch (Durk was in Dagger of the Mind, although it is sad to hear that he hasn't been promoted in almost 20 years). Falk enjoys himself around the girls and also gets to show off his Sherlock skills in the first two-thirds. However I though he (and the film) could have done a better job with showing us how he deals with defeat as it is it just brushes over it too quickly. Buchanan is not a great actor but he has the presence of an average Sean Connery and does well enough hardly a match for Columbo but he does just about enough. Hall is OK but it is the support cast that is amusing, with showings from recognisable faces such as Scarfe, Margolis and, of course, David Huddleston.
Overall this is an OK Columbo pretty much up to the standard of the modern Columbo movies, although that isn't much praise. The writers try something new and it does work reasonably well, perhaps to the point that fans are happy but the final twists are just not that well delivered.
COMMENTARY: Who cares if the two guest-stars are soap opera actors? This is one of the better latter-day installments. The plot follows the Columbo formula up until the last act and then pulls the rug out from under you.
I thought it was good up to that point with an interesting murder scenario that includes an element of the original Columbo movie "Prescription: Murder" (1968), but the unexpected twist takes it to the next level, even though it's pretty preposterous. Entertainment is the name of the game and this episode entertains. It is also perhaps the best showcase of beautiful women in the show's history, rivaled only by the outstanding "Now You See Him" (1976).
Sean Brantley (Ian Buchanan) is a womaniser and part owner of a girlie magazine based on Playboy. He lives in a vast estate modelled on the Playboy mansion as well.
His partner Dian Hunter is not happy with his philandering. She is the majority owner of the company and she flies down to London to sell the magazine to a British businessman. The trouble is Dian did not arrive in London and it seems she disappeared on her way to the airport and replaced by a lookalike.
Although there is no body, Columbo is called onto the case and Brantley is the main suspect. Columbo even contemplates digging up the grounds to find the body of Dian even if it means the LAPD looks foolish to the press.
A change in the formula as you do not see Brantley killing Dian. A Columbo episode that opens with a Fine Young Cannibals song and plenty of flesh of nubile young ladies. After a while you get sick and tired of seeing the same models and I doubt they were there for artistic reasons.
As for the plot, you kind of sense that there might not be a dead body but there would be a further twist and murder.
Buchanan is a facile actor. He only ever convinced in Twin Peaks where he was required to play a supercilious character. Here he can never give the script the spark that it requires, he is not helped by a dull and messy story.
Anyway, the usual Colombo episode goes like this. The first half hour is devoted to a depiction of the crime, usually intricately executed, in which means, motive, and opportunity are explained. The remaining three quarters of the film involve Colombo being called in, all scruffy, stumbling around and falling over clues, until he figures things out. The world into which Colombo is introduced is usually a fancy or highly specialized one with which he's had no prior experience. The social world may be technological, gourmet cooking, oenology, fitness and health, cosmetics, high fashion, orchid raising, medicine, high-end art, Hollywood celebrity, bullfighting, that sort of thing. Colombo is nothing if not ordinary. He smokes cigars, loses his pencils, is mussily groomed, and seems obsequious. Only gradually is it revealed that he has the skills of Sherlock Holmes.
By the time this episode appeared the idea was rapidly losing steam. I mean, you can only repeat the same formula so many times and this formula doesn't readily lend itself to paradigm overthrow. (Colombo as Nick Charles?) So here the writers have tried to make it a LITTLE new by keeping us as much in the dark about the crime, or even if there was a crime, as Colombo. In the end, the apparent crime turns out to have been an event staged for its publicity value. When the plot turns sour for Buchanan, he tries to pull it off again, only this time for real.
This attempt to replicate the success of the earlier scheme fails, of course, as the series itself was failing at the time. The writers no longer seemed to know how to come up with plots as engaging as those in the 1970s. In any state of continuing crisis, one of several sane reactions is to get the hell out. Colombo should have hung up his raincoat for good and all after this one, although it isn't terrible, and worse was yet to come.
Of course it wasn't going to be that simple, but credit the writers and producers for trying. And Peter Falk for going along with the gag. Just the sight of Columbo dumping his flute of champagne on the ground while his tormentor basks in victory was worth the scenes of airport footage and bulldozers.
Hall is co-owner of a Playboy type magazine with Ian Buchanan. But she does the work and Buchanan is the Hugh Hefner type public image. When it's a missing persons case. So in a reference to a character that Bernard Fox played back in those Columbo stories of the 70s, Chief Superintendent Durk of Scotland Yard asks his old friend Lt.Columbo to look into it from the American end.
With the dogged determination he's known for Columbo looks into the matter and zeroes in on Ian Buchanan. He comes up with bits and pieces of a homicide case, but no body.
More I will not say because I think the double twist ending was a bit much. Yes there is a body and yes there is a murder. But not one word more.
I think the Columbo writing team was being a bit too clever.
That being said, it is an ingenious plot to commit a crime and Columbo shines again at the end. I didn't think the acting was that bad, just meh.