Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Columbo meets The Prisoner?

I'm a big fan of the show Columbo -- Peter Falk was just brilliant in that show. I just watched an extraordinary episode, though, Last Salute to the Commodore, directed by Patrick McGoohan, a repeat guest star on that show. This was a distinctly bizarre episode in a lot of ways, a lot of odd motifs going on, particularly related to volume: a great scene with Columbo shouting over machinery, and a lot of singing/whistling, over-loud laughter. Columbo also had great fun invading personal space: particularly in the scenes with the over-stuffed car and the telephone call. On top of all that, he had not one but two sidekicks! (There's another, more significant, unorthodoxy about the episode, but it comes later on and I'd hate to spoil it) Other than the departures from the usual formula, though, it was a decent Columbo mystery: he pulled a lot of the same tricks, including experiments to figure out how things were done, trying to get the murderer to explain at length how it "must have been done", etc. It's just... I had the distinct impression that the cast was somewhat tipsy through the whole thing, which is what prompted me to look up who the director was, at which point it all become clear.

If the name McGoohan rings a bell, by the way, then you've probably seen his short series The Prisoner, with which this episode has a lot in common. The Columbo episode wasn't quite as surreal as The Prisoner, but a lot of the same elements were there, especially the laughter motif. If you haven't seen The Prisoner, I'm not sure I can recommend it without reservations, not least because I just can't recommend watching the last episode, which I think was horribly botched. But it might be worth seeing before the miniseries remake that's slated to come out this November.

And if you do watch The Prisoner, go back and watch Columbo Season 5.

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