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Prescription: Murder 1968
Description: A psychiatrist uses a patient he is having an affair with to support him slay his wife, but his excellent alibi may come apart at the hands of a seemingly befuddled LAPD lieutenant.
Released: 20 Feb 1968 Director: Richard Irving Writers: Richard Levinson (teleplay), William Link (teleplay), Richard Levinson (play), William Link (play) Actors: Peter Falk, Gene Barry, Katherine Justice, William Windom Genres: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller
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Prescription: Murder Reviews:

This is a fascinating early outing for one of the best TV characters ever created. Filmed about three years before the nice boy was given a regular series, in an uncanny method it both stands alone and acts as a tutorial to what was to come.The Columbo formula is in place: instant suspicion leads to the hounding of the suspect until Columbo's psychological pressure is too much to bear and the victim is helplessly trapped.I like to think that Columbo spent the years between 1968 and 1971 refining his methods, becoming subtler and more suggestive in his probing while letting his appearance become dowdier and even less threatening. Certainly this is one of the several opportunities when he loses his temper on a case. Even when Columbo loses his temper, he is generally working to provoke a reaction.There are some great directorial touches here, too, particularly a slash based on the murderer's hands, a hand hitting a piano keyboard with a discordant 'plunk' (very Hitchcock) and Columbo's reflection materialising in a broken mirror.After years of watching Columbo I am surprised anyone in Los Angeles even thinks about committing a murder. Surely the boy is a legend in the local media? What do you mean: 'He's not real'?


A baby-faced Peter Falk makes his first appearance in this 1967 TV film as the world-famous detective Columbo, which was followed 4 years soon by other TV film and an exceptionally successful TV series.An excellent, well-paced, cleverly-crafted mystery which spends a lot of time establishing and developing Columbo's characterisation - the dogged determination and persistence through seemingly trivial questions; the display of deceptive absent-mindedness and ineptitude; the constant references to his family etc. are all underpinned by the cigar, the mac and the generally scruffy appearance (although his overall appearance here is rather more tidy).Undeniably, in hindsight, Columbo characterisation and Falk's performance is a tiny raw here, for it would take a tiny more time to fine-tune both things: nevertheless, Falk still does a nice job with the complexities of the hero and gives a smooth, unruffled performance.The plot is purposely straightforward and relatively thin and there are not the plethora of accompanying clues and trivial pieces of evidence that invigorate the vintage episodes of the series, but you have to remember that this TV films was the platform for the Columbo character.Gene Barry gives a fine performance as the murderer: he certainly relishes his role; effortlessly displaying his character's cold-heartedness, self-confidence and smugness in equal proportions. His scenes with Falk have a marked air of tension about them, as Barry's hero progressively shows disdain and arrogance towards the protagonist.The ending is clever, especially as the murderer continually thinks that he has got away with his crime; the method Columbo unmasks him is superbly ironical.The only trouble watching this movie is that most folks encountered the Columbo TV series, prior to watching the "introductory" TV movies, so it can be a tiny unnerving, yet, on its own account, it's a very accomplished piece of work. Furthermore, the greatest detective to hit our TV screens was born!


A successful California psychiatrist plots the murder of his wife of ten years using his actress-girlfriend as a ruse; Lt. Columbo gets the case. Near-terrific yarn provided the introduction of Peter Falk in a role which later became part of tv legend. Writers William Url and Richard Levinson based their teleplay on an off-Broadway present of theirs, and they do not disappoint in this earliest incarnation of the wily, cigar-chomping lieutenant (Falk even tells his popular line, "Oh, and just one more thing..."). The Universal production is smooth and spotless, the melody score amusingly intense, and the performances couldn't be improved upon--particularly Gene Barry's as the too-cool, not-rumpled doctor. The only issues with Url and Levinson's script come late in the game, after Columbo gets uncharacteristically tough and mean with Barry's girlfriend and then plays a tiny dirty pool. The denouement is tricky and fun, if a bit unfair to the audience.



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