Word Games (TVM 1979)

US / 94 minutes / color / Gambit, Universal, NBC Dir: Boris Sagal Pr: James McAdams Scr: Richard Alan Simmons Cine: Isidore Mankofsky Cast: Kate Mulgrew, Henry Jones, Lili Haydn, Robert Culp, Edie Adams, Bob Dishy, Rene Auberjonois, Priscilla Pointer, Allan Rich, Frederic Forrest, Barney Martin, Christopher Allport, Herb Armstrong, Neil Flanagan, Susan Connors, Miriam Nelson.

This was the pilot to a series spun off from Columbo and featuring the detection adventures of the wife whom the lieutenant constantly cites but never names. The series, by contrast, experienced a surfeit of names during its short lifetime (13 episodes), beginning as Mrs. Columbo, then becoming Kate Columbo, then Kate the Detective and finishing as Kate Loves a Mystery. As you’ll have guessed, in this spinoff the otherwise anonymous Mrs. Columbo is given a name, Kate; after a mid-series divorce from her more celebrated husband, she becomes Kate Callahan.

Kate Mulgrew as Kate Columbo.

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Prescription: Murder (1968 TVM)

US / 99 minutes / color / Universal, MCA–TV, NBC Dir & Pr: Richard Irving Scr: Richard Levinson, William Link Story: Enough Rope (1960 teleplay) and Prescription: Murder (1962 play), both by Richard Levinson and William Link Cine: Ray Rennahan Cast: Peter Falk, Gene Barry, Katherine Justice, William Windom, Nina Foch, Virginia Gregg, Andrea King, Susanne Benton, Ena Hartman, Sherry Boucher, Anthony James.

The very first appearance of the iconic Lt. Columbo was in a 1960 TV movie called Enough Rope, an episode of the Chevy Mystery Show; the character was played by Bert Freed. The writers of that episode, Richard Levinson and William Link, then took their teleplay and made a stage play out of it. And, in due course they adapted their stage play back into the teleplay for the TV movie, Prescription: Murder, that would become the pilot for the phenomenally successful series. (It wasn’t the only intelligent crime series birthed by the Levinson/Link team, who Continue reading

snapshot: The Pigeon (1962 TVM)

US / 50 minutes / bw / Hubbell Robinson, NBC Dir: Don Weis Pr: Boris D. Kaplan Scr: Rik Vollaerts, Raphael Hayes Story: Rik Vollaerts, based on characters created by Ed McBain Cine: John F. Warren Cast: Robert Lansing, Ron Harper, Norman Fell, Gregory Walcott, Peter Falk, Roxane Berard, Frank Sutton, Morgan Woodward, Arthur Batanides, Harlan Warde, Nora Marlowe, Marjorie Bennett, Louise Lorimer, E.J. André, Richard Deacon, Harry Swoger.

Can a polygraph tell if someone’s lying if they’ve been hypnotized into making a false confession?

Gangster Tully Borgman (Sutton) hypnotizes sucker Greg Brovane (Falk) into believing that he was part of a supermarket robbery that left two guards dead, and feeds him with the names and descriptions of three invented confederates, then calls Steve Carella (Lansing) of the 87th Precinct with an anonymous tipoff.

Peter Falk as Greg Brovane.

Roxane Berard as Peggy Brovane.

As Tully tells his criminal buddies,

“The best part of the whole thing is the cops are looking for three guys that don’t even exist.”

Under questioning by Carella and Meyer Meyer (Fell), Brovane insists that what he’s telling them is the truth, and a polygraph test run by Continue reading