Ransom for a Dead Man (1971)
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The Columbo series is rebooted with the mystery thriller Ransom for a Dead Man. Lt. Columbo is brought in to assist with the kidnapping case of a high profile lawyer, but when he turns up dead Columbo suspects that the wife has staged the whole thing. Lee Grant does a magnificent job at crafting a villain that's able to hold her own with Columbo and parry his joists. And, Peter Falk revamps the Columbo character as a clever, amiable, and unassuming detective that never shows all of his cards. The storytelling is also much improved, focusing on the investigation instead of the crime. Ransom for a Dead Man marks the rebirth of the Columbo series, and delivers a smart and engaging crime drama.
The first episode proper sees Columbo investigating a cold and calculating but charming lawyer who stages a fake kidnapping to cover up the murder of her husband. The plot is not the best of the series, and it is slightly marred by some dated and gimmicky camera work but it introduces Columbo's now familiar idiosyncrasies and the interplay between he and his suspect as they constantly try to wrong foot each other is brilliant. It's also unusual in that it introduces a partner in crime solving in the shape of the victim's disgruntled daughter leading to a great climax as they dismantle the perfect crime, detail by insignificant detail. And movie buffs should watch out for the clip of Double Indemnity too!
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