0.1 Prescription: Murder

First aired: 20 February 1968 • Run time: 95 mins

In a nutshell: Where it all began – young goodlooking LAPD cop Lt Columbo lets his quarry do all the talking.


Director: Richard Irving

Written by: Richard Levinson & William Link (based on their play)



Murderer: Smooth, avuncular psychiatrist Ray Flemming played with icy gravitas by Gene Barry.

Victim: His ballbreaking wife – he already has a younger model lined up, Joan Hudson played by Katherine Justice, whose career as an actress makes his plan possible. Speaking of which…

Murderer’s plan: Strangle his wife, stage a robbery and then dress his mistress up as her while they apparently set off on a second honeymoon. After a staged argument at the airport, Flemming’s “wife” returns home and – it will be assumed – surprises a burgler while her husband was flying to Acapulco.

Murderer’s error: Not finishing the job! His wife is comatose rather than dead when he returns from his weekend away (although she doesn’t last long). Not calling out for his wife when he returns to his apartment.

Key clue: Trying to get Columbo taken off the case only convinces him and his superiors that he’s on the trail of the right man.

Howcatchem: Turns Joan by having her overhear what her murderous boyfriend has in mind for *her*.


Environment: Flemming’s office and apartment, both a mixture of timeless chic and sixties groovy styles. Flemming’s penthouse is dominated by an enormous and well-stocked bar. In his office, a secret panel slides back to reveal another stash of booze, ready for midday lubrication, Mad Men style. A brief visit to an anonymous Dr Kildare-style hospital.

New technology: Columbo can have a picture sent out-of-town by wirephoto (not exactly new technology, the service was begun by AP in 1935).

Formula intact? Well, this one-off TV movie defined the formula, so it can hardly be anything other than intact. Columbo’s character and Falk’s performance aren’t quite as we remember them, but the inverted mystery, the 20-minute wait for Columbo’s first appearance, the false-exit ploy, the verbal cat-and-mouse and the starry guest murderer are all present and correct.


Carries his raincoat over his arm in his first two scenes and does without it altogether when he visits Joan on her movie set. Can’t find a pencil but carries other notes and evidence around in a briefcase. Is often lost in thought while others are talking. Has a sister with a florid taste in furnishings. His suit appears grey rather than brown. Claims to want psychiatric treatment because he annoys people. Relaxes reading murder mysteries. Browbeats Joan with a great deal of (verbal) force. Manages to get his psychiatrist suspect to profile the killer!

Star-struck: Has never been in a psychiatrist’s office before.

Obsession of the week: None

Sidekick of the week: None

Mrs Columbo: Gives him a pencil every morning. Tells her husband he needs strings on all fingers. Would prefer him to smoke a pipe.

Fish out of water: Columbo’s rumpled raincoat looks iconocally at odds with the chic surroundings. But in this more subdued characterisation he seems more comfortable in more environments than he ever would again.

Cigars: Draws on one contemplatively in his first ever scene – at the Flemming residence. He still has it jutting from his mouth at the hospital. Lights one in Flemming’s office. Another one when he returns to search for Mrs Fleming’s gloves and dress. Another after Tommy leaves the interrogation room. Lights one as he prepares to explain to Fleming he has been taken off the case. After asking permission, lights one when he interviews Joan.

“Just One More Thing”: “One more thing, before I forget…” just before he leaves the hospital, at the end of his first scene. “Oh that reminds me,” as Fleming turns to leave the interrogation room.

Quotes: bad for their posture / persistent creature / in a way I feel sorry for you

Trivia: maybe we should buy paintings of soup cans

Any good? Plays more like suspense – coma, gloves. Tommy’s confession.


One Response to “0.1 Prescription: Murder”

  1. Bruno Noulet Says:

    great !!!
    so great… I am disappointed not to find the same thing for all other episodes… 🙂

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