Monday, 27 June 2011

JUST ONE MORE THING...

Having just been writing about one of my favourite film detectives, Miss Marple, I was saddened to note the passing, a few days back, of the wonderful Peter Falk who spent 35 years interrogating and exposing criminals who – until the last few minutes of each episode of Columbo – assumed that they had got away with murder scott-free.

The series (which began with a TV movie in 1968 and ran to 69 episodes) made a star and a household name of Falk and bred a generation of us young TV-viewers who could lovingly emulate that dusky, hesitant voice, the half-closed, wonky eye, the studied gestures: the hand running through the tousled hair, scratching the furrowed brow, thoughtfully tapping the temples, plunging deep into the pocket of the scruffy raincoat, making sweeping gestures as if sieving the room for clues and stabbing the innocent air with an accusative stub of a half-smoked cigar...

And, of course, the oft-used piece of business: the half-exit, followed by the pause, the turn, the walk back into the room of the guilty party (oh, so, nearly off the hook) and the apparently off-hand request beginning, "Just one more thing..."

The format of Columbo was the reverse of the classic 'Whodunit' because, in virtually every episode, we knew – within the opening moments – who had! The game was always how the murderer would be trapped by the seemingly ineffectual Lieutenant Columbo: it was, as someone once dubbed the show, a 'Howcatchem!'

And here's how he managed to incriminate Theodore Bikel in 1977 in The Bye-Bye Sky High IQ Murder Case...



And, three years earlier in 1974, Columbo nails his own boss, Commissioner of Police, Mark Halperin (Richard Kiley) in A Friend in Deed...



You can read a fine obituary by Time's film critic, Richard Corliss, here.

PETER MICHAEL FALK
16 September 1927 – 23 June 2011


Caricature of Peter Falk by Brooks

2 comments:

Eudora said...

Another eternal character...a brilliant production. How many stars performed the murderer, I remember especially Oskar Werner because that was one his last performances in a movie ... I think the actors love perform evil characters, seems very atractive to them perform the baddy.

Anonymous said...

This is really sad for me. I've loved Columbo since I was a child (I'm 38 now). I just bought the entire series on DVD last summer. Maybe this means more to Americans. Thanks for posting this. What's your favorite episode? Mine is absolutely The Conspirators S7E5.