Picks and Pans Review: Columbo: A Trace of Murder
Oh, gee, one more thing, sir. I can't believe I forgot to ask you this...." Yeah, yeah. We're on to you, Lieutenant Columbo. Incredibly, the suspects still aren't. ABC says A Trace of Murder marks Columbo's 25th anniversary on network TV That depends on whether you date the Peter Falk character from the late-'60s TV movie Prescription: Murder or the early-'70s premiere of Columbo as an element of The NBC Mystery Movie. Either way, his act is old. And speaking of history, ABC's occasional two-hour Columbos of recent years make us miss the NBC format, which usually required Falk to milk his mannerisms for only 90 minutes.
The new film involves a conspiracy between a police forensics expert (David Rasche) and his lover (Shera Danese, Falk's real-life wife) to get her rich husband (Barry Corbin) out of the way by framing him for a murder. The thin plot would never fill the allotted time if Falk weren't a master of such dilatory tactics as rubbing his weathered face and patting his rumpled raincoat. But you know what's really incredible? We still enjoy his shtick. And Falk's dialogue with the perfectly patronizing Rasche is like gentlemen's Ping-Pong: non-strenuous fun. If they'd had a better script to play with, this silver anniversary would be worth celebrating.