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(Review originally written at 12 May 2008)

Hard to say what it is that makes this movie a tad bit better than most of the Columbo movies. Most likely it's the presence of Donald Pleasence. He always has been a great and perhaps also a bit of an underrated actor, who is best known for the work he did in horror movies.

But it also is the story and directing that makes this a good movie. Normally when Columbo shows up late into the story, the movie itself mostly isn't one among the best. Columbo in this movie shows up about 20 minutes into the movie. He also doesn't show up in the usual matter and we see him for the first time in his office at the police station, before he even starts to investigate the murder. And he and the killer don't first meet until well over 40 minutes into the movie. So it's a sort of Columbo movie that progresses in a non-formulaic way. I really like the storytelling and flow of the movie. For a Columbo movie it's rather long but this really doesn't matter since it's such a fine Columbo movie entry. You can also really thank director Leo Penn fr this, who also later directed the 1989 Columbo movie "Columbo: Columbo Goes to the Guillotine". It's not necessarily a slow going Columbo movie but it certainly is an easy going one, that sort of is comparable to murder-mystery movies from the '40's in a way.

It's not necessarily a well written, clever Columbo episode or one that offers many surprises but it's really that storytelling that makes the movie such a successful one. It also helps the movie that it uses some fine settings. The movie is for most part set in the winery-business, which seems to work really well for a murder-mystery.

Peter Falk and Donald Pleasence are great in their roles and also especially when they are together on screen. Besides those two the movie features also some other fine actors such as Oscar-nominee Julie Harris. Amazing how many Oscar nominees and winners always were more than happy to appear in a Columbo movie.

A real good and special Columbo entry!

8/10

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About Frank Veenstra

Watches movies...writes about them...and that's it for now.
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