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(Review originally written at 19 April 2008)

It's nice that the movie tries some new things for a change. For instance it introduces the Columbo character first into the movie before the murder has even occurred and he starts to investigate before they have even found a body. We don't even get to see how the crime unfolds fully at the beginning but there is a good reason for this as later becomes obvious. It also in a way is more or less a sequel to "Columbo: Étude in Black", of one year earlier. Normally a Columbo movie doesn't refer back to anything that happened in previous Columbo movies but this one does, with Lt. Columbo, his dog and Dr. Benson.

The movie also doesn't feature a lot of interaction between Lt. Columbo and his suspect, a formula normally used in a Columbo movie. This is an element that might disappoint some of the Columbo fans. At moments like this the Columbo character is normally at its best when he puts pressure on his suspect or tries to gain his trust by playing dumber than he of course obviously truly is.

The Columbo character himself also looks 'cleaner' than normal and is it me or is his trademark raincoat in a different color, or at least in some sequences it looks like it.

Of course different doesn't also mean better but in this particular case I didn't mind some of these changes, since the movie obviously still worked out and can be regarded as one that is on par with most of the other Columbo movies and even slightly better than just the average ones.

It's also thanks to the settings and acting that this movie worked out. As dull as it might sound but I like chess and movies featuring the game and world of chess always have a certain typical atmosphere over it, of certain high intellectuality and true gentlemen but at the same time, tension, suspicion and rivalry.

Peter Falk is in good form again as Columbo and it's one of his better acting jobs as the shabby police detective. It also helps the movie that it features Laurence Harvey as the movie it's prime suspect. He is in great form, in one of his very last screen roles before his death in 1973.

It's a fine written and directed movie. The story isn't the most clever or ingenious ones, at least not when being compared to the best and most memorable Columbo movies but it's a story that doesn't bore and still provides plenty of surprises and entertainment, even though this movie doesn't feature as much comical relief as was the case in some other Columbo movies, which in my opinion is a positive thing. The movie features a good build up, to a fine ending. The directing is mostly formulaic and by the book but also features some good dream like sequences and other more different elements that are consistent with the '70's and less standard way of making movies.

I like it as a sort of different Columbo movie.

8/10

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About Frank Veenstra

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