Ransom for a Dead Man (1971)

Starring: Peter Falk (Lt. Columbo), Lee Grant (Leslie Williams), Patricia Mattick (Margaret Williams)

The lieutenant is back! Three years have passed since the young Columbo burst onto the scene in “Prescription: Murder” and although the film was a success, the powers that be still weren’t quite sold on the rumpled guy and ordered a second pilot to see if folks out in TV land still were interested. So strap in and let’s see how this second helping of the raincoat won over the hearts of viewers.

The curtain rises on a sassy redhead, Leslie Williams, who is methodically cutting and pasting old school style.

I love crafting!

I love crafting!

"A little dab'll do ya...."

“A little dab’ll do ya….”

She then listens to a seemingly innocuous voice memo from her husband and then grabs the scissors and starts slicing and splicing the tape like the vixen she is. What is going on?


“Eight tracks are sooooo outdated.”

Splice, Splice Baby

Splice, Splice Baby

Unfortunately, for him, the hubs comes home and the little minx shoots him in cold blood.

Busting a cap...

Busting a cap…

Looks like the maid has her work cut out for her.

Looks like the maid has her work cut out for her.

She throws the body in the trunk, drives miles to nowhere and then kicks his body over a cliff. She then mails the ransom letter she made to herself.

"And this one's for making me wash your underwear all those times!"

“And this one’s for making me wash your underwear all those times!”

I'm my own best pen pal...

I’m my own best pen pal…

With the easy stuff out-of-the-way it’s time to put the wheels in motion! The she-devil returns home and pours herself a congratulatory drink and starts plotting.

The next day we discover that she’s one of them thar fancy lay-dee lawyers who isn’t shy about breaking balls.

I object....to my fabulousness.

I object….to my fabulousness.

During a meeting in her office, she fakes getting a phone call that her husband has been kidnapped. After receiving the self-mailed ransom note, she calls the feds who set up shop in her living room.

We want money for your honey...

We want money for your honey…

Can you hear me now? Good.

Can you hear me now? Good.

In the middle of waiting for the kidnappers to call, in comes our hero to save the day. But why is he here? This isn’t a homicide, it’s a kidnapping. No worries ma’am, he’s just the local police liaison who was in the neighborhood.

"Ehh...just 645 more things ma'am."

“Ehh…just 645 more things ma’am.”

Through the magic of a fancy-pants phone system at her work, she takes the taped message she spliced into a phony ransom phone call with her husband’s voice and programmed the machine (kidnappers) to call her house at a precise time with instructions.

Now THAT'S a smartphone.

Now THAT’S a smartphone.

“They” have devised a very complex plan to collect their ransom in exchange for the husband. The Mrs. is supposed to fly (she’s a pilot too of course) alone to a designated point and drop a big bag o’money out of the plane when she sees a flashing beacon they have set up.

Columbo is starting to smell something rotten.

Something is rotten in the state of California...

What’s that smell?

The Mrs. cleans out all of her husband’s accounts to pay the $300,000 ransom  and even provides her own bag. At the airport getting ready to fly to the drop, she pulls a fast one and puts the real ransom bag with the 300K in a locker and substitutes it with an identical one filled with nothing.

The ol' switcheroo...

The ol’ switcheroo…

The lady takes off with a very nervous Columbo following in a helicopter.

"Thank you for flying Murder Air."

“Thank you for flying Murder Air.”

He flies through the air with the greatest of unease....

He flies through the air with the greatest of unease….

The missus makes the drop with her dummy bag. The feds and Columbo arrive on the ground to get the kidnappers and discover the bag already empty and no kidnappers or the husband in sight! Columbo arrives back at the airport knowing something is amiss in all of this but can’t quite put his finger on it.

Show me the money!

Show me the money!

Leslie arrives back home having executed (heh heh) her plan flawlessly.  She is surprised by her step-daughter, Margaret, who is worried about her missing father and quizzes her. There is clearly no love lost between these two and soon the little lady starts thinking ol’ Leslie is hiding something.

Hello Mommy Dearest.....

Hello Mommy Dearest…..

The next day in court the feds come to deliver the news that her husband has been found dead, upon which Leslie tries for the Best Fainting Performance Oscar upon hearing.

And the Oscar goes to....

And the Oscar goes to….

Columbo’s spidey sense is tingling and he’s concerned that she didn’t ask how he was killed or where he was found. The fed tells him to back off but now since it’s a MURDER and not just a kidnapping that’s the Lieutenant’s area now and he ain’t going NOWHERE!

At the funeral, Columbo is startled when Margaret slaps Leslie and accuses her of wanting this all along.  Columbo sidles up to the poor little thing and tells her she’s not alone and to contact him if she needs anything.

She'll slap a bitch.

I’ll slap a bitch!

"I like your style kid."

“I like your style kid.”

When the ladies get back home, Leslie informs Margaret that she had to wipe out her trust fund to pay the ransom and that her allowance is going to be reduced as well. Leslie is all like, you need to get a J.O.B. girl.

"Sorry kid, the money's gone. Like your old man."

“Sorry kid, the money’s gone. Like your old man.”

The next day Columbo turns up at Leslie’s office and before does a little sexist bantering with her male secretary (“I don’t know how you do it.” “Do what?” “Work for a woman.”). What’s up with THAT Columbo? Leslie arrives and while chatting with the minx, Columbo spots her fancy-pants answering machine and the wheels start churning wondering why the kidnappers would take the money but leave the bag. He also questions the angle of the bullet hole noting that it would be made by someone sitting down and that bothers him.

Well looky what we have here....

Well looky what we have here….

The missus wants to put Columbo’s mind at ease and takes the Lieutenant on a nice little ride in the sky. He questions her on her husband’s possible enemies and affairs but she assures him that neither could be the case and that he man was on the up and up.

"I thought these were the friendly skies?"

“I thought these were the friendly skies?”

Columbo heads to Barney’s Beanery to get back on terra firma where he orders his usual chili from Bert.

"You know what I like Bert."

“You know what I like Bert.”

Margaret shows up and tells him her suspicions of her step-mother. She says Leslie used her father for his name and connections since he was on the State Supreme Court. Leslie was tired of the marriage but still wanted the stature and the money.

Can't a man eat in peace?

Can’t a man eat in peace?

Margaret calls him to the house one day and tells him she found the key to her father’s car (that he was supposedly kidnapped from.)

He figures out that she was trying to forge evidence against her step-ma and she pulls out her signature move and tries to slap him. But Columbo don’t play that.

Oh no she DI-IN'T!!!

Oh no she DI-IN’T!!!

The missus is astounded that Margaret did that but Columbo assures her that he couldn’t bear to convict her of murder on the wrong evidence. BURN!!!!

The next day Columbo does the ol’ trick phone trick to let the missus know that he is on to her FOR REAL.  He got a fancy pants machine, timer, tape, etc…and figured it all out. He knows the husband could have been dead before the phone call and that a tape of his voice was spliced.

"I see what you did there."

“I see what you did there.”

The missus calls Columbo out and says she sees through his aw-shucks bumbling manner. She reminds him she is a lay-dee lawyer and says “what might have,” “could have” is all ridiculous and hearsay.  He don’t care. She goin’ DOWN somehow.

 The missus arrives home and comes to find Margaret with a cap gun shooting at her in the manner of what Leslie did to her daddy.

"Payback's a bitch. Now so am I."

“Payback’s a bitch. Now so am I.”

She taunts her through the house with ransom notes stuck on the mirror.

"Hey! Easy with the 'old bag' stuff, alright? Geeze!

“Hey! Easy with the ‘old bag’ stuff, alright? Geeze!

The missus gives up and says she’ll reinstate the kid’s trust fund if she’s on the next plane out. She takes Margaret to the airport the next day and puts her on a plane with her (supposedly gone) trust fund funds.

"It's been real."

“It’s been real.”

As she is leaving she bumps into the Lieutenant who just happens to be at the airport. They go to have a drink to talk about the case and Columbo reveals that she was set up by Margaret who could not be bought. BUSTED!!!

"Kids these days. What are ya gonna do?"

“Kids these days. What are ya gonna do?”

The feds take her away andColumbo is left alone and vindicated once again.

"Hmmm, wonder if there's enough for a new raincoat?"

“Hmmm, wonder if there’s enough for a new raincoat?”

Stay tuned for the next episode “Murder by the Book” directed by a young Steven Spielberg and starring a dastardly Jack Cassidy as Columbo’s foe!


Prescription: Murder (1968)

Starring: Peter Falk (Lt. Columbo), Gene Barry (Dr. Ray Flemming ), Katherine Justice (Joan Hudson), William Windom (Burt Gordon), Nina Foch (Carol Flemming)

Tilt your seats back and relax as we travel back to 1968 Los Angeles and see our sleuth on his first case. This was the pilot that introduced the world to a very young Lt. Columbo. Airing in 1968, it would be another three years before it began airing on TV. Although the “aw shucks” demeanor, the rumpled raincoat and smelly cigar are there THIS Columbo is a bit rougher than what most people know the lieutenant as.

You're going to need a prescription after watching these groovy opening titles.

You’re going to need a prescription after watching these groovy opening titles.

The curtain opens on a glamorous penthouse party for the 10th anniversary of psychiatrist Dr. Ray Flemming and his wife Carol.

"So then I says to Mabel, I says..."

“So then I says to Mabel, I says…”

"I'm not really this suave, I just wear tight pants."

“I’m not really this suave, I just wear tight pants.”

In the middle of the festivities the good doc gets a phone call from his actress mistress patient and heads off to meet her…much to the disdain of Carol who knows wassup.

"I've got your number buddy boy..."

“I’ve got your number buddy boy…”

Doc Ray and the actress mistress Joan talk about their upcoming devious plan to bump Carol off, take her money and run away together because that ALWAYS works.

"These water therapy sessions

“You DO love me right? Promise you’re not just using me as an alibi for when you murder your wife?”

When the doc arrives home past midnight he finds Carol in no mood. So much in no mood that she is wearing sunglasses in bed and that must mean something.

"I'm in no mood for your bullshit."

“Do these sunglasses make me look cheated on?”

But cheer up Carol, it’s all good because, SURPRISE!, he tells her he was just meeting with a friend of his to ask him about Acapulco because he’s taking Carol away on a second honeymoon there tomorrow! How could she ever have doubted him?!

"Darling, how could I ever have doubted you?

“Darling, how could I ever have doubted you?

The next day Joan and the doc go over their evil plan. The doc is going to kill Carol before they are supposed to leave for Acapulco, and Joan is then going to dress like Carol in one of her blue dresses and impersonate her.


“Does this come with a baton? I didn’t know your wife was a majorette…”

The big day arrives and sure enough, the doc actually goes though with it!  He strangles poor Carol and smashes the terrace glass door to make it look like a robbery. He ransacks the place and packs all the loot into a suitcase to take to Acapulco.


“This honeymoon is going to be better than our first!”

Obviously he's a light packer.

“Underwear? Check. Socks? Check. Candlesticks? Check.”

Joan shows up and it’s off to the airport! He checks the luggage and is 13 lbs overweight which he puts on his credit card. They check in to the flight and stage a big fake fight with Joan (Carol) storming off the plane to give them an alibi of Carol being alive and her and the doc being together. How could he kill her when he’s on a plane? Pretty sneaky Doc!

"Between that lady next to me in the hat and that bitch behind me in the sunglasses, I don't know who looks stupider."

"I didn't want to fly you anyway TWA...you didn't give me my junior hostess pin!"

“I didn’t want to fly you anyway TWA…you didn’t give me my junior hostess pin!”

Having played her role in the charade, Joan changes clothes and heads back to the penthouse where she shoves Carol’s blue dress in the dry cleaning bag that’s waiting to be picked up and heads home to wait for her man to come back. The doc has a swell time in Acapulco going deep sea fishing and throwing all of the fake stolen goods off the boat into the ocean.

"Ooopsie daisy!! Butterfingers!"

“Ooopsie daisy!! Butterfingers!”

 The doc arrives back home tan and well rested. He opens the door to the penthouse and sees a chalk outline on the floor and the terrace door boarded up.

"Honey, I'm home! Oh that's right....nevermind."

“Honey, I’m home! Oh that’s right….nevermind.”

ENTER COLUMBO. Look how dreamy he is!! Even the doc is startled by how handsome the lieutenant is and asks what’s going on. Columbo tells him there was a break in and someone TRIED to murder the doc’s wife. She’s still alive! At the hospital!

First look at the lieutenant...

First look at the lieutenant…

...and what a look. Columbo was a HOTTIE!

…and what a look. Columbo was a HOTTIE!

They arrive at the hospital and find that Carol has just died. Her last words were the doc’s name, “Raaayyyyyy.”

"Oh snap."

“Oh snap.”

The next day Columbo meets up with the doc and questions him why his luggage was 13 lbs overweight going to Acapulco but only 4 lbs overweight coming back? The doc says he brought some medical journals to read while down there and left them there. Ok. Sounds reasonable. Then Columbo asks what this wife was wearing. A blue dress with brass buttons and blue gloves. Hmmm, says the Lt. The po-po didn’t find a blue dress or gloves in the apartment when they searched it and makes a date to stop by later and search again.

On the way out Columbo passes by Joan who is on her way in to see her sugar daddy doctor and because he’s Columbo, knows she’s involved somehow.

"My spidey sense is tingling..."

“My spidey sense is tingling…”

Joan goes in to tell the doc she forgot to put the gloves back in the apartment when she dropped off the dress.  She’ll stop by later to drop them off so Columbo can find them.

"You big dummy..."

“You big dummy…”

Ray and Joan meet up at the penthouse before Columbo is supposed to show up but he arrives early and forces Joan into hiding. The doc gives him the gloves and says they were just overlooked and at that moment the dry cleaners show up with the missing blue dress. The doc is in the clear!

"What have we here?"

“What have we here?”

Columbo ain’t buyin’ the doc’s BS. He knows what he knows and so he sets up some loser to make phony confession to try and trick the doc into giving away something. It doesn’t work so Columbo gets down to brass tacks. He tells the doc he thinks he knows what happened. Right down to the doc throwing stuff overboard in Acapulco which accounts for the missing luggage weight.  Ray is tired of being accused dammit, and gets Columbo taken off the case.

"I'm onto you emmer effer!"

“I’m onto you emmer effer!”

Columbo don’t play that. So then he shows up at the doc’s office and says that now that he’s off the case, he can be the doc’s patient because he doesn’t know why  he bothers people so much.

"I need therapy."

“I need therapy.”

After some flirting, drinking and psychotherapy, the doc says that even if he did kill his wife, Columbo could never prove it. There’s no stopping Columbo now. He’s on the hunt! He goes to the movie set Joan is working on and says he’s on to her and will ride her until she breaks down and confesses.


“Do you want the iron fist…

...or the velvet glove?"

…or the velvet glove?”

Columbo’s men begin following her and park outside her house. Frantic she calls Ray and tells them Columbo is onto them but he tells her to chill. The next day the doc finds out there’s been an accident at Joan’s house. He rushes there to find Columbo waiting and sees Joan’s lifeless body being lifted onto a gurney.


It sure is hard work being a cabana boy.

Columbo tells him Joan was so stressed she OD’d on barbituates and that the doc is home free since now no one can tie him to his wife’s murder. The doc reveals he was never worried about Joan anyway and that he would’ve arranged an accident to take care of her. But surprise! Joan is alive!


Surprise fool!

Columbo totally played the doc by staging Joan’s death with an actress to lure the doc into confessing.


“I’m sooo much prettier than her…”

The film ends with the doc enjoying one last smoke of freedom while Joan spills her guts to Columbo about what went down.

"Eff me."

“Eff me.”

Stay tuned for “Ransom for a Dead Man,” the first movie that began the regular Columbo TV series… coming soon!