Columbo's toughest adversary when he begins to fall
for the charms of the alluring chief suspect in his investigation
of the murder of a brutal playboy, on MCA TV International's
"COLUMBO" episode entitled "It's All In The Game." The episode
was written by Peter Falk and directed by Vincent McEveety.
An elegant party is being held at the palatial Bel Air estate of
socialite Lauren Staton -- a woman of striking beauty and an
indefinable core of strength. If she has a weakness, it would
seem to be for Nick Franco, gambler, continental playboy and,
as we see when he leaves Lauren's side to return to a high stakes
poker game and goes instead to meet beautiful young Lisa Martin
at a Valley bar, a two-timing liar. He's also a brute, as the
scar he left on Lisa's throat further testifies. However, the
two women in his life not only know each other...they're planning
a surprise for Mr. Franco.
When they get to his darkened apartment, Lauren is there waiting.
Before Nick can switch on the lights, she fires a round from a
silenced automatic into the gigolo, killing him. Lisa and Lauren
embrace in a quick gesture of affection and congratulations.
They move swiftly, obviously to a prearranged plan. Lauren tucks
an electric blanket she has brought along around the body and
turns it on. Lisa takes a set of burglar tools Lauren has also
brought, goes out through the sliding glass doors, and tampers
with the lock. Lauren leaves, returning to her party where she
re-enters the crowd, having to all appearances spent the time
resting from a headache. She pulls of f her performance
After the party breaks up, Lauren returns to Nick's apartment
building, but this time wakes up the manager on the pretext that
she's forgotten her key. She tells him she wants to be there to
surprise Nick when he comes back from his poker game. As they
come down the hall, a gunshot is heard from Nick's apartment.
The manager quickly opens the door to reveal Nick's corpse lying
on the floor. Lisa, meanwhile, having fired the telltale shot
into the air out the back door, is swiftly walking of f into the
night with the electric blanket concealed in her travel bag.
Lauren rushes to Nick's body, seemingly overcome with grief.
Enter Lieutenant Columbo. He arrives as the uniforms and Medical
Examiner go about their work. The body temperature fixes the time
of death at about two or two-thirty in the morning, consistent
with the account of Lauren and the apartment manager. Clearly
somebody was robbing Nick's apartment, he surprised them, and
they shot him, all just before Lauren arrived. Columbo
immediately notes a couple of things -- the refrigerator was just
cleaned, yet there's water in the drip pan under the ice
compartment. The victim was out between two in the afternoon and
two in the morning, yet the apartment's been heated.
Meeting Lauren, Columbo is sympathetic, tells her to go home and
they can talk later. The next day, he comes to her Bel Air home
-- he's impressed with it...and her. Her innate class is a matter
of more than money. But he has his report to write and he must
ask his questions. He starts off by noting that people's
circulation is funny -- he can't stand the heat, but he notices
that Lauren likes to stay warm. Also, that her personal alibi is
airtight: she was at her party, and when Franco was shot, she was
with the apartment manager.
But he can't stay away from Lauren. He trails her to a department
store and interviews her again while she shops for a hat. He's
probing, as gentle as he can, into her relationship with Franco.
For her part, Lauren notices that the detective is attracted to
her, and begins flirting with him. She buys him a tie.
Meanwhile, Lauren regularly telephones Lisa, advising her to stay
-- she will handle the detective. She makes a date with Columbo,
and he is clearly in danger of being smitten with her. But on his
investigation, Columbo's gears are turning -- the evidence
indicates someone was in Franco's apartment after 5 P.M. and
before 2 A.M. Who was it?
The cat and mouse game gathers momentum. He runs down Franco's
elusive phone records and pinpoints one number he called daily.
And that business about the refrigerator still bothers him --
why was it turned off? He voices his questions to Lauren who
turns on all her sex appeal.
Interviewing the maid, he learns her sister cleaned Franco's
apartment that day. She plugged the icebox back into the wrong
socket, one controlled by the same master switch as the lights.
When the killers turned off the lights, they turned the
refrigerator off as well. Whoever did that, also turned on the
heat...because they weren't robbing the apartment -- they were
sitting in it, waiting.
Learning these developing facts from Columbo, Lauren is starting
to worry, as she confides to Lisa, but is still confident of her
ability to charm him onto her side. But she advises Lisa to make
plane reservations to leave the country.
Too late. Columbo has tracked down Lisa's address, and searched
it, finding some telltale photographs. He orders his investigators
to arrest her. As his men are interrogating her at the station,
Columbo calls Lauren to meet him there. When she enters, he
studies her reaction as she sees Lisa through the one-way glass.
He sits her down, shows her the photographs, one of which clearly
indicates Lauren and Lisa know each other. Lauren makes a tacit
deal with him -- in return for Lauren's confession, Columbo will let Lisa go.
She reveals that Lisa is her daughter. She met Franco while
studying in Rome, and Franco romanced her. He learned of her
rich mother in Bel Air and came to America for the express
purpose of seducing Lauren as well. When the two women learned
what he had done, they planned to get rid of him. It would have
worked too.. .except for Columbo's doggedness.
Lauren's signed confession in hand, Columbo lets Lisa go,
sending her to Europe. Regretfully, he takes Lauren into custody.
Later, at his usual haunt, he hides from his old pal the
bartender, the acute pain he feels at having had to arrest
this woman, and for once it's clear that this detective's lot
is not always a happy one.
COLUMBO' GIVES FAYE DUNAWAY RAVE REVIEWS
Faye Dunaway shows up on ABC's ``Columbo'' mystery Sunday and resorts to a
bit of flirtation to throw the rumpled detective off his path.
Peter Falk, who wrote and produced this one (and who has played Lt. Columbo
for 22 years), called ``It's All in the Game'' (at 9 p.m. on WSET-Channel 13) an
installment that's ``very different, more unpredictable, more complex, more ambiguous and
In a letter he wrote to television writers, he said, ``I have never seen Faye Dunaway
better. She is a true star - stunning, arresting, complicated, funny, dangerous and
Dunaway may be better suited to this sort of long-form presentation than
she is to a half-hour series. Her first romantic sitcom, ``It Had to Be
You,'' was shelved after four airings and a lowly position at No. 86 on the
CBS said that the series may return later in the season, possibly in
January, and has ordered more episodes.
Meanwhile, Peter Falk is delighted that Dunaway found time to make his
movie, and said that co-starring with her had been a treat.
``I kiss the ground she walks on,'' he said.
Falk and Dunaway first shared the television screen in a 1965-66 CBS
series, ``Trials of O'Brien,'' in which he played a shrewd New York defense
attorney. Her guest spot on that series was her first major television
role. She signed up to play Lauren Black in the ``Columbo'' movie after she
and Falk talked about a television series she was then considering, one
that would star her as a detective.
``She had called me about that - I've known Faye for many years - and that
was fortuitous, because in the course of that conversation I said, `I've
got a script you've got to read,''' recounted Falk.
``She's very careful, Faye, about what she does. She'd seen other
`Columbos' down through the years, and she wanted to see some of the more
recent ones, the ones which involved women. So she read it, and she liked
it.'' Given the customary ``Columbo'' format, it's not giving anything away
to set up the story. Two attractive women - the older, Lauren Black
(Dunaway); the younger, Lisa (Claudia Christian) - learn they are both
being romanced by the same charismatic, ruthless gambler, Nick Franco
(Armando Pucci). Enraged that he has been two-timing them, they decide to
murder him and plot to cover their tracks.
When Columbo is called in to investigate, he finds himself distracted by
Lauren, who can see that he is attracted to her. The interplay between the
alluring and glamorous woman and the disheveled detective is delightful:
She decides he needs a new tie; he buys the one she chooses. They are two
veterans at work.
``I thought she was sensational,'' said Falk. ``I didn't write it for any
particular person - I just wrote it. But I'm tickled by it. I just love it.
It has for me a little bit more mystery than most `Columbos.'
``You're not quite sure where this relationship is going. Embedded in a
cop/criminal story is a man/woman story. It was fun to make; it was fun to
write. When you can find the way whereby what the cop does and what the cop
says dovetails with what the man would do and say - that was tricky. You
say to yourself, `What would he do?'''
After 22 years, Falk knows exactly what Columbo would and would not do. One
thing Columbo does not do is invite Lauren Black to bed.
``I was tempted, to see what would happen,'' said Falk, ``but I just didn't
think that the audience would want him to go that far.''
Nor is the crafty Columbo so bamboozled that he doesn't notice the clues that point to
Lauren Black as his prime suspect.
Falk, 66, began playing the raincoated detective in September 1971, although the character
actually debuted in one segment of ``The Sunday Mystery Hour,'' a summer anthology series
that aired in 1960 and 1961.
Columbo was played by Bert Freed in a story called ``Enough Rope.'' The
character's creators, Richard Levinson and William Link, then incorporated
him into a play, ``Prescription: Murder,'' starring Thomas Mitchell as Columbo.
The television version of ``Prescription: Murder'' aired in February 1968, and a second
movie, ``Ransom for a Dead Man,'' in March 1971.
Falk took over the role and was said to have worn the same suit, shirt, tie and shoes for
the entire run of the series. He also won Emmys for the role for the 1971-72, 1974-75,
1975-76 and 1989-90 seasons.