I think we can all agree that it’s time again for a full-length Columbo movie. The first Columbo movie, technically a TV pilot, aired in 1968. The second pilot was released in ’71 and …
I think we can all agree that it’s time again for a full-length Columbo movie. The first Columbo movie, technically a TV pilot, aired in 1968. The second pilot was released in ’71 and from there the show continued on and off through January 2003 with each episode running between 70 and 98 minutes.
Actor Peter Falk played Columbo, a composite character based upon Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Porfiry Petrovich (Crime and Punishment), C.K. Chesterton’s humble-cleric detective, Father Brown and Inspector Fichet from the 1955 French thriller, Les Diaboliques. In his day, Falk (who is no longer with us) was as popular and iconic as William Shatner; maybe even more so.
I picture a certain actor, who has a house nearby, playing Columbo. I won’t mention his name. Let’s just say there’s a hint in the title of this column. Here’s my idea:
Columbo, now older, is still part of the LA police force. However, he’s been relegated to a desk job. Much of his work involves helping younger gumshoes become better detectives. To that end, he digs up cold cases for them to pursue and eventually latches onto a murder that took place in 1970’s NYC. Inspired by an actual NY Post headline, “Headless Body Found in Topless Bar,” the script allows for flashbacks to the ‘70’s as well as scenes shot in LA and NY. Columbo is back in action.
I don’t want to write the script. I just want to be part of the think tank. My first thought is that the movie must retain many, if not all, the characteristics we loved about Columbo. For example, he…
1. Wears a rumpled rain coat indoors and outdoors.
2. Always befriends the killer.
3. Mentions his wife, whom we never meet or see.
4. Looks disheveled.
5. Is asked to identify himself even to other police officers.
6. Drives a beat-up old Peugeot.
7. Lures the killer into a false sense of security with his disarming demeanor.
8. Pretends to be distracted by his surroundings just to frustrate whomever he’s talking to.
9. Manipulates the killer into self-incrimination.
10. Keeps his true thoughts and intentions secret.
11. Whistles the tune, This Ol’ Man, especially as the puzzle pieces begin to fall into place.
12. Has two sides; bumbling detective, genius sleuth.
13. Carries around evidence in a brown paper bag.
14. Sometimes brings his Bassett Hound to the job.
15. Sometimes has a nagging issue like a cold.
16. Always has an unrelated ah-ha moment, which helps him to solve the crime.
17. Sometimes sets up a trick to illicit a confession.
18. When the phone rings at the suspect’s location it’s usually for Columbo.
19. Often leaves the room only to return with one of these catchphrases: “Something’s bothering me” or “one more thing.”
20. Loves chili con carne.
21. Smokes a cigar.
22. Relentlessly pestering.
23. Is often dismissed by the suspect as inept.
24. Carries a notepad, but never has a pencil.
25.Dramatically drops his pretense at the end of each show and nails the criminal.
You may wonder how I know all of this. I’ve binge-watched the pilots and all of the seasons. I’ve even made notes. I’m sleuthing the sleuth. Call me crazy…or Mrs. Columbo.
Throughout the television episodes it was fascinating to see Columbo go from handling evidence without gloves to more modern-day forensic practices, the evolution of office equipment particularly the telephone, and as the show progressed how Columbo ends up merely carrying his cigar rather than lighting it up and smoking it.
The film, tentatively titled after the Post headline, will be rich with 70’s attitude, outfits and general sleaze. It’s a hulk of an idea. There’s only one caveat, I won’t contribute my brain unless said actor agrees in advance to the role.
RAMONA JAN is the Founder and Director of Yarnslingers, a storytelling group that tells tales both fantastic and true. She is also the roving historian for Callicoon, NY and is often seen giving tours around town. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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