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Columbo "A Trace Of Murder" Finds The Detective Investigating a CSI Agent

COLUMBO, Peter Falk, 1971-93

Columbo season 10 episode "A Trace Of Murder" finds the detective coming up against a killer who also happens to be a CSI agent. The character of Columbo had something of a strange evolution before becoming an icon. Bert Freed first played the detective in an episode of The Chevy Mystery Show, an anthology series, before Peter Falk (The Princess Bride) took over for 1968 TV movie Prescription: Murder. Even then, Falk's take on Columbo was more aggressive than the one seen in the TV series.

Steven Spielberg (West Side Story) would direct Columbo's first episode "Murder By The Book," pioneering a more cinematic look than was the norm for television at the time. The series also featured an inverted mystery angle, where the story would show the killer and explain their motives, and then Columbo would come in an to investigate the crime. So instead of being a whodunit, the plot focused on how Columbo would catch the killer out. The series ran for over 30 years, with Falk last portraying the character in 2003's "Columbo Likes The Nightlife."

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Related: Columbo "A Bird In The Hand" Hid The Real Killer Until The End

One of the great things about the writing on Columbo was the little tweaks made to the formula to keep things fresh. Season 10 had a few of these, with "It's All In The Game" finding the detective being seduced by the killer - played by Faye Dunaway (Bonnie And Clyde) - before he knowingly let her accomplice daughter escape justice at the end. "A Bird In The Hand" also subverts the typical structure by hiding the true killer for much of the episode. "A Trace Of Murder" focuses on Cathleen, the wife of a rich businessman and her lover Patrick, as they decide to frame her husband Clifford (Barry Corbin, No Country For Old Men) for murder.

Patrick shoots Clifford's business rival and plans evidence implicating him in the killing. That's where Columbo enters the scene, but this case will be harder than most since Patrick is also the crime scene investigator assigned to the case. While this should have set up a thrilling game of cat and mouse, sadly "A Trace Of Murder" is a bit of a dud. David Rasche (Cobra) is a fine actor but Patrick is far from a compelling foe, and the story just sort of plods through the motions until Columbo deduces Cathleen and Patrick know one another because of the way he opened a car door for her.

Columbo "A Trace Of Murder" was billed as a 25th-anniversary movie and is one of the last episodes of the series, but fans consider it one of the weaker entries. It does contain a notable in-joke, where Columbo jokes that "Three eyes are better than one." Peter Falk was famously one-eyed, but fans of the show have often debated whether this applied to Columbo himself. This joke was the only reference to the subject one way or the other.

Next: Columbo "It's All In The Game" Saw The Detective Let A Killer Go Free

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