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Columbo - A Trace of Murder 1997
Description: A pretty girl and her forensic expert boyfriend test to frame her very rich husband for murder.
Released: 15 May 1997 Director: Vincent McEveety Writers: Richard Levinson (created by), William Link (created by), Charles Kipps Actors: Peter Falk, David Rasche, Shera Danese, Barry Corbin Genres: Crime, Drama, Mystery
Trailers and related videos:

See Episode 36: A Trace of Murder on youtube.

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See The Columbo Confab Podcast on youtube.

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See May 14, 1997 commercials on youtube.

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See KAPP-35 (ABC) commercials, 5/1 on youtube.

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See 5-15-1997 ABC Commercials (WEW on youtube.

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See Crime Movies on youtube.

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See Universal Television (1997) on youtube.

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See May 14, 1997 Commercials (Libe on youtube.

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See Monsyrt on youtube.

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See Beyond Indiana: ABC Intershow on youtube.

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Columbo - A Trace of Murder Reviews:

A 1997 Columbo episode which was made to celebrate 25 years of the detective on television. The plot centres around a girl who conspires with her lover (who just happens to be part of the police forensics squad that eventually survey the murder scene) to frame her rich husband for the murder of his business partner who was suing him.Since Columbo's return to the tiny screen in 1988, the series has been very hit-and-miss: there have been some episodes which have upheld the decision to bring Columbo back, whilst others merely aggravate and dismay loyal fanatics of the series with thoughtless and badly conceived changes to the formula. This particular episode has a powerful plot which is executed with the conviction it deserves, but I'm at pains to explain the logic behind putting cat hairs from the murder stage on the back of the person's suit to incriminate him - in a murder scenario, how would they receive there; perhaps on a sleeve or on a part of the trousers, but on the back of the suit??Nevertheless, there are intelligent aspects to this story: the gradual dismantling of the "frame" with a vital clue and how Columbo initially deduces that the wife and the police forensics expert know every other.Yes, the episode is haunted with a tiny predictability: the wedding images do indicate precisely when the husband acquired cat hair on the back of his suit and yes, they should have trimmed down the last half hour of the movie: it suffers from distinct protractedness because the murderers' plot has all but failed after nearly an hour and the final stage which sees Columbo re-enact how he discovered that the wife and the forensics expert now knew every another is fully unnecessary and badly staged.There are some nice performances in evidence too: Peter Falk's real-life wife, Shera Danese (who plays the wife who frames her husband) acts well here and here scenes with Columbo are better than you might expect. Also, Barry Corbin as the framed husband perfectly conveys his character's business-like volatility.Overall, this a distinct "breath of new air" for a series which was undeniably ailing with some of its past inferior, badly judged scripts.


Cathleen Calvert wants to leave her millionaire husband Clifford and set up with lover Patrick Kinsley. However a water-tight prenuptial agreement means that divorce will leave her with nothing. Killing him is deemed far too dangerous and obvious a crime but if only they should receive him out of the method without losing access to his wealth. Luckily for them, Clifford is being threatened with a major lawsuit from accountant Howard Seltzer and Cathleen decides that the easiest thing to do would be to murder Seltzer and frame Clifford. The deed is simple and it looks like an launch and shut situation given how much evidence is accessible (thanks to the knowledge Kingsley has as a member of the police forensics team). Trouble is, for Lt. Columbo, it just doesn't ring real and he just keeps digging.With the long running Columbo formula it is tempting to test and change it and "new" Columbo movies have occasionally fallen into the trap of ditching the formula and trying something fresh – it rarely worked. However with this movie the writers have successfully varied the formula while still retaining enough of it to avoid losing the elements of the series that create it so successful. It is a bit of a trouble that the plot is built on a lot of coincidences and illogical risks but generally the movie manages to hold things working so that I just agreed the events. Having told that, it didn't ring real that Kinsley, having left enough forensic evidence to frame the pope, would feel he has to receive more involved in the case. Such things aside though the movie is an engaging mystery that is fun to watch because we receive to see Columbo at work, going after his main suspect as per formula but also having more out there to engage his mind and take him in a various direction. It is a great touch and, like I said, it allows the movie to do what the series normally do while also doing things differently.Falk works with this well and embraces the possibility to present his hero working internally with the slightest tiny clues. He delivers some great comic touches throughout and, as usual, seems fully comfortable within his own skin. The casting of the two male helps is good. Corbin is a solid presence and he provides the tension with Columbo while Rasche provides the "I'll support you solve this" element of the formula – so together they deliever the usual items but the fact that it is split makes it more interesting. Danese is less convincing but the movie doesn't place too much on her. There isn't much help to speak of and generally the main three male actors do well to carry it with nice performances.Overall then a cute enjoyable Columbo film. Although the change in formula comes with illogical devices and unlikely setups it does generally work and it presents the formula while also changing it. As many of the fresh Columbo movies show, changing the formula is a dangerous business but here it pulls it off.


Overall this is a cute nice Columbo, in my opinion, though it does have some glaring weaknesses.Barry Corbin is very nice as the loud husband who gets framed by Shera Danese. Danese turns in her usual performance; she's lovely and interesting but seems to enjoy essentially the same hero in each episode.The criminologist "bad guy" does a cute sloppy job for a supposed expert -- that may be the largest plot weakness; it's difficult to trust he was that dumb. A long method from CSI.The another weakness is the ending - the twist is nice enough, I suppose, but the stage in which he reveals it is contrived and overplayed.All in all, a nice story. If they'd redone the ending and allow the villain be a tiny more intelligent it would have been a nice one. As it is, it's just good.-B-



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