Sunday, May 19, 2024

Tonight's TV: Columbo (1973) - "Lovely But Lethal," "Any Old Port in a Storm" - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

I've now made it to Season 3 of COLUMBO, watching the first two episodes from that season, "Lovely But Lethal" and "Any Old Port in a Storm."

I found the first one only so-so but really enjoyed the latter!

"Lovely But Lethal" featured Vera Miles as Viveca Scott, a makeup company executive hoping that a new anti-wrinkle cream will help her struggling company rebound.

And then a chemist (Martin Sheen) steals the formula and threatens to sell it to Viveca's rival, David Lang (Vincent Price)...and Viveca kills him. And before Lt. Columbo realizes Viveca's a murderess, she also targets Lang's weird secretary (Sian Barbara Allen).

Although it was fun to see Price and a young Sheen, this episode didn't do much for me. I didn't care for the makeup theme and other aspects of the show, including the oddball chain-smoking secretary.

Jackson Gillis, who wrote the episode based on a story by Myrna Bercovici, strikes me as a very uneven writer for the series. His work included the poor "Dagger of the Mind."

The episode was directed by Jeannot Szwarc. It was filmed by Harry L. Wolf, who also filmed the next episode, "Any Old Port in a Storm."

"Any Old Port in a Storm" was directed by Leo Penn and written by Stanley Ralph Ross from a story by Larry Cohen.

This one is classic COLUMBO, from the clever mystery with intriguing characters to the presence of classic film era actors such as Frank Puglia and Rand Brooks in small parts. I really enjoyed it.

Donald Pleasence plays Adrian Carsini, a wine expert whose beloved winery is losing money. While Adrian owns the winery, his half-brother Rick (Gary Conway) owns the land and plans to sell, leading Rick to end up dead at his brother's hands.

Adrian's suspicious secretary (Julie Harris), who spends her evenings watching movies like THIS GUN FOR HIRE (1942), sees an opening to push her longtime boss Adrian into a relationship...

This is a fun "cat and mouse" story with a clever solution, and there are many fun touches, including the depiction of a very glamorous '70s plane flight.

Another moment which screams "1970s" is the secretary wanting Columbo to leave her home before her 11:00 movie starts, as she doesn't want to miss it, and Columbo agrees it's a good one and says maybe he can catch the ending when he gets home. The exchange encapsulates the days of "appointment TV" without recorders or DVDS; you had to watch a movie when it aired or you might not see it again for years!

Pleasence is rather pathetic as the villain, as in killing his brother he also "kills" the only things he really loves. Harris is also good as the steely secretary plotting how to use Adrian's situation to her advantage.

There are many familiar faces in the cast, including Dana Elcar, Robert Donner, Robert Walden, and Vito Scotti.

The Kino Lorber Blu-ray prints and sound are again of very good quality.

Previous COLUMBO review posts: "Murder By the Book" (1971), "Death Lends a Hand" (1971), "Dead Weight" (1971), "Suitable for Framing" (1971), "Lady in Waiting" (1971), "Short Fuse" (1972), "Blueprint for Murder" (1972), "Etude in Black" (1972), "The Greenhouse Jungle" (1972), "The Most Crucial Game" (1972), "Dagger of the Mind" (1972), "Requiem for a Falling Star" (1973), "A Stitch in Crime" (1973), "The Most Dangerous Match" (1973), "Double Shock" (1973).

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray collection.


Blogger Daniel Armstrong said...

A mystery review with a mystery of its own: One paragraph says Donald Pleasence plays Adrian, the murder victim. A later paragraph says he plays the villain, the killer. An entertaining post as usual, Laura.

2:51 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thank you, Daniel, hopefully it makes sense now. I'm a proofreader by profession but once in a while things slip past me, especially if I'm writing late in the evening (grin).

I appreciate you reading.

Best wishes,

9:09 AM  

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