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Columbo - The Complete Third Season (1971)

1 rating: 5.0
Action & Adventure and Mystery & Suspense movie directed by Steven Spielberg

Oh, just one more thing, mystery mavens--get ready to be mystified and entertained by the award-winning third season ofColumbo, starring Peter Falk as the rumpled but unbeatable Lieutenant. Having taken home Emmys for outstanding limited drama and lead … see full wiki

Director: Steven Spielberg
Genre: Action, Mystery, Adventure
1 review about Columbo - The Complete Third Season (1971)

Columbo's Peak Season

  • May 13, 2007
Columbo's third season is the mid-point of the original series. Not surprisingly one of the most enduring characters in TV history reaches his peak. There are still the elements of the series intact. His clever methods are basically the same, and the murderers showcase a variety of deceptive genius. It is the quality of this harvest that makes Season Three so special: Every episode is intricate and expertly honed; the developments are more edgy and tightly woven; and the resolutions are more suspenseful than before or since. Palpably, the craftsmanship makes the audience feel caught in every caper. Arguably, the performances and writing overall are the strongest of the whole series.

Jack Cassidy and Robert Culp* renew their appearances in episodes that keep us guessing. Particularly, the one with Cassidy, has edgy editing--more like today's movies and shows--that keeps us on our toes. (He co-stars with Mickey Spillane about a washed-up co-writer in "Publish or Perish".) Similarly, Culp's meticulous and cantankerous character outshines his previous efforts in 'Double Exposure,' where he commits a seemingly insurmountable subliminal crime. Jose' Ferrar also guest stars as a protective father who kills a colleague who will expose his son's prize winning plagiarism in "Mind over Mayhem".

Columbo's legwork is more clever and multi-faceted in "Lovely but Lethal," where Vera Miles (of 'Psycho' fame) plays a cosmetics entreprenuer who must squelch an inventor employee blackmailing her fortune for his expertise. Both the actress's and characters nervous brilliance keep up the caliber of the season. (Oddly, yet likably, Vincent Price makes a guest appearance, drawing from the debonair roles he mastered rather than the villains.) Less complicated is the murder of one brother of a family wine business in "Any Old Port in a Storm". Starring Donald Pleasance as wine conoisseur and purveyor, Cossantini, we get so lost in his character, we easily forget the plot has less strings attached. (This episode understandably plays one of the most in syndication.)

Nearly as likable is Johnny Cash's appearance as a country music star, Tommy Brown, who has more more baggage than Cash: Besides trading in June Carter for an insufferably domineering wife (played effectively enough by Ida Lupino who blackmails him for her ministry projects), he is also a clever murderer. (He smiles in concert and is boorish backstage, creating a natural performance with key distances between himself and his character. Still, his musical abilities are intact.) Columbo's investigation this episode is particularly sharp. Jackie Cooper is superbly slick in "Candidate in Crime," where a politician faces a would-be informant with killer information.

Probably his most difficult case, "Mind over Mayhem," finds Columbo solving a crime he knows the Police Commissioner committed. Played with toughness by Richard Kiley, and including a key performance by gangsters, we get a "rat race" episode before Scorsese did "The Departed". An admirably rougher atmosphere is presented this time.

Viewing Season Three of 'Columbo' is a real joy. The variety of circumstances, the suspense, and craftsmanship, make this set of episodes particularly consistent and compelling. While blackmail is a key thread with most of the motives, the crimes and cover-ups are expertly defined.

(*Did they get out on parole? Seriously, they play new murderers this time.)

(As sweet as Kate Mulgrew is, the tacked on episode of 'Mrs. Columbo' is lamer than any other presented. They make two connections: She actually mentions her lieutenant husband and Donald Pleasance guest stars. His purposely bumbling performance only underscores wasted resources.)

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