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4.0 out of 5 stars Second Generation Columbo -- Five 1989 TV Films, May 4, 2007
This review is from: Columbo - Mystery Movie Collection, 1989 (DVD)
Columbo began in 1968 with the TV film "Prescription: Murder" followed by 44 episodes aired between 1971-78. More than a decade later Peter Falk returned as Det. Columbo in what has come to be known as the "second generation" Columbo series. Five episodes aired in 1989, six in 1990 and thirteen more between 1991-2003. Hence, the first generation had 45 installments and the second generation 24, for a total of 69 Columbo segments.

This 3-Disc DVD collection features the five 1989 Columbo TV films, all 94 minutes in length:

(1.) "Columbo Goes to the Guillotine" (Original Airdate: Feb. 6, 1989). A magician/paranormal critic is beheaded by his own guillotine. The murderer is a vengeful psychic. This one is highlighted by the super-sharp Karen Austin, who played John Candy's wife in "Summer Rental" (1985). (You might not think she's anything very breath-taking at first, but wait til the scene where she lets her hair down).

(2.) "Murder, Smoke and Shadows" (Original Airdate: Feb. 27, 1989). A young, talented film director electrocutes a former friend who has evidence that could ruin his lucrative career. Fisher Stevens effectively plays the Spielberg-like filmmaker.

(3.) "Sex and the Married Detective" (Original Airdate: April 3, 1989). Lindsay Crouse plays a sex therapist/radio show host who murders her cheating lover by masquerading as a mysterious "lady in black" high-class hooker.

(4.) "Grand Deceptions" (Original Airdate: May 1, 1989). Robert Foxworth runs a military think tank and commits fraud against the wheelchair-bound owner, an elderly famous general. He's also having a long-running affair with the general's much-younger wife. Foxworth murders an investigator (commissioned by the general) who's tries to blackmail him and makes his death appear to be a military-games accident.

(5.) "Murder, A Self Portrait" (Original Airdate: Nov. 25, 1989). A successful artist enjoys life living luxuriously on the California shore with no less than three women: his ex-wife, played by Fionnula Flanagan, his present wife, played by Shera Danese, and his young model, played by Isabel Lorca. The three women -- a redhead, brunette and blonde respectively -- are all incredibly beautiful in their own unique way and age-bracket. The man obviously wants his cake and eat it too! He is so insanely jealous he murders his ex-wife when she announces that she's finally cutting all ties with him to pursue a relationship with her psychologist. Shera Danese is, incidentally, Peter Falk's lifelong wife, whom he married Dec. 7, 1977. She appeared in a total of six Columbo episodes, including two in the initial series, one of which was a prominent role in "Murder Under Glass" from 1978.

BONUS MATERIAL is limited to a piece on "America's Top Sleuths" -- a countdown of the most popular sleuths in TV and film.

COMMENTARY: I'm truly happy that these "second generation" episodes are finally coming out on DVD. I can only remember seeing a couple of them: "Grand Deceptions," which is on this collection, and "Columbo Goes to College," a 1990 segment which I've seen a couple of times. Many say that this more recent series is "sub-standard," but I just don't see this, at least with the ones I've seen -- which consists of the five episodes featured in this collection and "Columbo Goes to college." As far as I'm concerned, the stories, writing, actors, locations and sets are just as good as the earlier series. Some argue that the actors are no-names. Is Robert Foxworth a no-name? I think he's excellent (see him in the 1979 nature-runs-amok flick "Prophecy"). Is Karen Austin a no-name? I think not. Perhaps there are not as many major-league guests, but so what? There's certainly no significant drop in quality. Really, the only difference is that Falk is a bit older; but that just makes him appear even more disheveled, which naturally prompts the murderer to underestimate him to an even greater degree. The only criticism I can muster is that some of the stories may seem a bit padded at 94 minutes. I'm of the belief that Columbo works best at the shorter running time of 73 minutes (although there are exceptions), but this is a minor cavil. Besides, it somehow doesn't make sense to complain about MORE material.

BOTTOM LINE: This collection is a must for all Columbo fans. You can't go wrong. I should add, in light of the criticisms and uncertainty expressed in some reviews here, that my discs all play perfectly well.

As of this writing, there remains 19 episodes of the second generation to be released on DVD. They'll likely release a 1990 six-film collection and then divide the remaining 13 episodes in two other releases.
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Showing 1-8 of 8 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Aug 9, 2007 6:01:20 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 11, 2007 11:52:17 AM PDT
Hello Dirk ( any connection to PITT???)
Let me begin by thanking you for my comment on the JACK PALANCE version of DRACULA which I ran across while ordering the new PBS version of THE 1977 FRANK FINLAY version. I thought my comment was well buried. Thank you for your kind words. I went to your homepage and found so many reviews. "The Rage: Carrie 2." caught my eye and I made a comment.
I just wanted to tell you how much I really enjoyed your review of COLUMBO particularly the "second generation" films as you call them. I must add that you are well informed and informing! Falk first came to my attention , of course, in MURDER INC. For which he received the first of 2 OSCAR nominations in a row (followed by POCKETFULL OF MIRACLES). During this time he also received an EMMY win for THE DICK POWELL SHOW (1961)
For episode the THE PRICE OF TOMATOES. Now I was 10 years old when these things occurred but did catch the movies in re-runs of THE DICK POWELL SHOW in the late 1980's on a great network called, at the time, THE NOSTALGIA CHANNEL. Now called, I believe AMERICAN LIFE TV and available to me here in Northeast PA where I reside (As an aside they also run THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E., MAVERICK, COMBAT and 77 SUNSET STRIP for mid-fifty people like me.
Falk's big breakthrough in my house was THE TRIALS OF O'BRIEN. As an Irish grandson of coal miners on both sides of the family you can imagine the resonance that show had with me. Of course it failed. However I vividly remember sitting in front of our 25" ZENITH color TV watching PRESCRIPTION:MURDER wonderfully featuring GENE BARRY after a nice turn in BURKE'S LAW. That was 1968 and at 17 I thought it was "OSCAR caliber material." .......I was young..........
Now to the substance of the review. There are many stories about the origin of COLUMBO especially the one where BING CROSBY was offered the role. (I can't imagine!) I checked the invaluable IMBD and found this, "This film, which established Peter Falk as the definitive Lt. Columbo, was adapted from a 1962 play by the same authors, which had starred Thomas Mitchell as Columbo. This in turn had been adapted from the "The Chevy Mystery Show" (1960) episode "Enough Rope", in which Bert Freed originated the role of Columbo Just a bit of info of which you are likely aware.
I bought, as a AMAZON PRIME member, all six seasons of COLUMBO, I was tired of seeing the episodes butchered on BRAVO. Then I was thrilled to see they were also releasing the second generation movies. I "pre-ordered" them immediately(whatever that actually either order them or you don't.
Now, to the substance of the review. Thank you so much for mentioning Shera Danese. She had caught my attention through her natural beauty but also by the fact that I noticed her as an actor. As she became familiar to me through COLUMBO and was delighted to find that she was actually married to Peter Falk (who turned in a wonderful performance in the movie ANZIO if I may add).
You make the following comment, "Many say that this more recent series is "sub-standard,"" adding intuitively..." but I just don't see this, at least with the ones I've seen ." I couldn't agree more and THANK YOU for setting the record straight. I felt that the movies were a step-up from an already fine show. Opening up the show from the very familiar UNIVERSAL lot.
Additionally you mention, "Some argue that the actors are no-names..." and site, among others,
Fisher Stevens, Lindsay Crouse, Robert Foxworth and Fionnula Flanagan. Allow me to add MY comments on these "no names" if I may.
LINDSAY CROUSE once married to David Mamet (his loss) and nominated for an OSCAR for PLACES IN THE HEART 1984. However, please catch her in ICEMAN (1984) for a knockout performance!
ROBERT FOXWORTH first came to my attention in TV's 1970 series STOREFRONT LAWYERS (later MEN AT LAW) and then later in a great movie but failed Gene Roddenberry pilot: THE QUESTOR TAPES (1974) and then considerable fame in FALCON CREST.
FIONNULA FLANAGAN,(are they kidding?), this great Irish star of stage and screen has received three EMMY nominations and one win (RICH MAN, POOR MAN (1976) and currently starring on SHOWTIME'S BROTHERHOOD.
You also mention FISHER STEVENS (not a favorite of mine) but excellent in one of my favorite episodes which was stolen right from under him by a brief appearance of STEVEN HILL as "MR MAROSCO."
In conclusion, (finally!) thank you for all your insightful observations. It was a pleasure reading them and I appreciate the effort you put into preparing them. I certainly look forward to catching up on old and discovering new reviews. I may not agree with them but I promise the discourse will be with a civil tongue.

Kindest Regards,
"Rock Hunter"

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 11, 2007 8:26:37 AM PDT
Wuchak says:
Wow, thanks for the loads of additional info on Peter Falk and other Columbo stars. You stated that I was "likely aware" of this information but, actually, I wasn't -- at least most of it anyway. So, thanks for sharing. Other Falk fans will appreciate your input as well.

Shera Danese, Falk's wife, is so incredibly gorgeous! Check her out in the episode "Murder Under Glass." Mr. Falk is truly a blessed man!

Your input on any of my reviews is welcome, pro or con. Just keep in mind that my evaluations are ALWAYS RIGHT -- LOL!

Lastly, I love the Dirk Pitt books. I think he's a relative of Brad.

P.S. I noticed that there was one paragraph (about three sentences) in your above comment that was accidently repeated. I just wanted to tell you in case you'd like to edit it out for the sake of other readers.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 11, 2007 11:57:47 AM PDT
I most certainly appreciate your comment. Especially this, "P.S. I noticed that there was one paragraph (about three sentences) in your above comment that was accidently repeated. I just wanted to tell you in case you'd like to edit it out for the sake of other readers."
Genuine thanks for pointing that out. When I read a review such as yours I try to provide a worthy response. I thought it gentlemanly to bring that to my attention. (And saved embarassment!)

Posted on Jul 2, 2012 11:58:51 AM PDT
Just wondering, and so far haven't found the answer, is the opening music included on these discs? Not his theme, but the Mystery Movie Theme which I believe was written by Dave Grusin. It would introduce the three mystery movies which aired back in 1989. I think Burt Reynolds played one and Louis Gossett Jr. played another along with Columbo. It allowed them to make less episodes per star and thus the quality stayed higher. I may have it on an old VHS tape but I am not sure. I just thought it was a really mood setting theme for the series.

It's funny, but Fawlty Towers had just 12 episodes for the entire series. The Office had only a handful - in the UK. Benny Hill had longer shows and less of them in the UK per season. It seems only the US do we just about insist on 22-26 episodes per season. I much prefer quality of quantity. Yes, you long for quantity when there is quality.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 2, 2012 9:28:17 PM PDT
Wuchak says:
I haven't seen an episode from this collection for over a year, but I don't remember any theme music besides the specific Columbo episode.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 3, 2012 12:53:23 PM PDT
Thanks! I search Grusin from time to time and come up empty. I'll have to lift it from my VHS tape. :-(

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 22, 2012 7:58:17 PM PDT
It's not David Grusin who wrote the Mystery Movie Theme, but Henry Mancini. The full instrumental version is included on the album "Midnight, Moonlight & Magic: The Very Best of Henry Mancini." There's also abundant examples of it at Youtube.

It's unlikely that the theme can be found on any of these commercially released DVDs. It's been my experience none of them have it. (I too have been looking for it, and consider it a necessary part of my enjoyment of Columbo, McMillan & Wife, McCloud, etc.)

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 22, 2012 8:50:01 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 22, 2012 10:52:14 PM PDT
Poison Dragon, the original series' theme music is by Mancini. Love his music. I have that theme song if you'd like it. It's on the CD TV Tunes. Either volume 1 or 2. I'm not near my iTunes to check. The theme I'm referring to is from the 1990-91 season where it was on ABC which featured three series of crime stories. Columbo, another starring Burt Reynolds and another starring Lou Gosset Jr.

The Mancini theme has a nice orchestra with some kind of synthesizer sound running through it. The Grusin theme was jazz based and had a vocal (no words, just sounds) which went like "chicka-cha, cha" or something. lol I did get to record it once on hi-fi VHS and it's probably going to have to do. I also wanted the Grusin soundtrack to Oh God! But that's unlikely unless Intrada or Varese Sarabande release a limited run like the complete Ghostbusters or Back to the Future soundtracks.

EDIT: It's on Volume 2 of TeeVee Tunes. I just checked my iTunes.
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