Extra Information


    Friends since college, Oliver Brandt and Bertie Hastings
    are partners in a powerful accounting firm. And both are members of
    the Sigma Society, a club for geniuses.
    Bertie has discovered that the flamboyant Oliver has embezzled
    funds to support his wife's expensive tastes. Bertie has threatened to
    expose his partner to the wealthy clients he is cheating.
    When they are alone in the upstairs room of the Sigma Club, Oliver
    uses a gun with a silencer to kill Bertie-two shots fired at close
    range. He then sets up the elaborate scheme that will provide his alibi.
    The gun goes into an umbrella that is stuffed up the chimney.
    Alligator clamps attached to two small charges are clipped to the
    umbrella's metal frame. A small electrical wire runs from the chimney
    to the club's computerized record turntable. And a marker is set in the
    path of the needle arm, poised over a dictionary that has been
    balanced on the edge of its stand. Oliver also knows that the opening
    of the front door of the room can cause the back door to swing shut.
    This is how the alibi scheme works: a) Oliver sets the record player
    so the needle will come down near the end of an LP, leaving only four
    minutes until the arm rejects; b) Oliver [eaves the room and joins the
    other club members downstairs; c) the arm rejects and makes contact
    with the first clamp, setting off the first charge; d) the people
    downstairs think they have heard a shot; e) the arm continues on its
    path, knocking over the marker, which tumbles onto the dictionary
    and causes the thick book to fall to the floor; f) the people downstairs
    hear a "body" hit the floor directly after the first shot; g) the arm
    makes contact with the second clamp, setting off the other charge; h)
    the people downstairs think they've heard a second shot; i) everyone
    rushes upstairs, bursting through the front door and causing the back
    door to slam shut; j) everyone assumes that the murderer has just
    escaped out the back way.
    Oliver seems to have manufactured the perfect alibi. He was
    down stairs when everyone heard what they thought were shots and
    Bertie's body falling to the floor. The next day, Oliver returns to the
    club and removes the gun.
    But even a genius can't anticipate a detective with the skills of
    Lieutenant Columbo. The policeman is bothered by the record player.
    Why would someone program it to start near the end' That leads him
    to the funny scratch marks on the right side of the turntable. The
    police lab concludes that they could have been made by alligator
    Somewhat more troubling is the fact that everyone heard the body
    fall between the two shots. Yet the coroner says the two bullets
    entered at almost the same angle. Bertie was standing when both
    shots were fired. By accident, Columbo discovers how the back door
    has a habit of swinging shut when the front door is opened. He's sure
    the scene was staged, and after pressuring Oliver's secretary, the
    lieutenant uncovers a motive.
    A trip to Oliver's home confirms his suspicions. Oliver has the same
    model turntable in his home and the accountant's umbrella has scorch
    marks on the inside.
    Columbo summons Oliver to the club and demonstrates how he
    thinks Bertie was killed. He runs through the scenario at a fever pitch.
    The only thing this man left to chance, Columbo says, is the dictionary
    falling between the two explosions. Oliver is insulted. Such a genius
    wouldn't leave anything to chance. He would make sure the dictionary
    fell at the right time. That's not possible, Columbo chall lenges. lust as
    the arm is rejecting, Oliver grabs the marker and proves it is possible.
    That's what a genius would have done. Yes, Cotumbo does see.
    Oliver has just supplied the missing piece of the puzzle.
    Resigned and impressed, Oliver suggests that Columbo's brilliant
    mind might be put to better use in another field. He asks the detective
    if he has ever considered another line of work.
    "No, never," the lieutenant says. "I couldn't do that."
    "The Bye=Bye Sky High l.Q. Murder Case" (easily the longest
    Columbo title) is the first and least successful of the six episodes
    produced by Richard Alan Simmons.
    The mystery is unsatisfying on two counts. First, it's highly unlikely
    that a man of Oliver's great intelligence would knowingly face such a
    formidable adversary and incriminate himself in such a stupid manner.
    Although effectively staged, the climax is not at all convincing.
    Secondly, in trying to make Oliver one of the more sympathetic
    Columbo murderers, writer Robert Malcolm Young made him too
    weak. The fun is always in wondering how in the world Columbo will
    catch his suspect. Oliver isn't any challenge at all. We know our hero
    has got this guy nailed. Almost never dealing from an attitude of
    haughty superiority (odd since he's a genius), Oliver is on the run from
    the moment Columbo sees him. There's no challenge to this catand-
    mouse game. It's all too one-sided. You want Columbo to close the
    case and put this poor sweating guy out of his misery.
    The script also contains a few contrivances that are hard to
     The club members, for instance, are all too conveniently talking about
    installing a burglar alarm just minutes before Oliver (surprise,
    surprise) makes it appear that a burglar killed Bertie.
    Still, like all of the weaker episodes, "The Bye-Bye Sky High l.Q.
    Murder Case" has plenty to recommend it, not the least of which is
    the robust likability and charm of Theodore Bikel. The Viennese-born
    actor/singer/guirarist was better suited for the role than anyone knew.
    "I got involved with it through [actor] Sam Wanamaker," Bikel
    explained. "He directed it. I was close to that character. At one point
    or another in my checkered past, I was a member of that type of
    society-Mensa. The members were drawn from the top two
    percent of tested intelligence. So I had something to draw on."
    "I always thought Mensa was the silliest organization on earth,"
    Simmons said.
    By the time Bikel got involved with Columbo, the ten- and fourteen-
    day shooting schedules of the early seasons had been expanded to
    accommodate Falk's perfectionism.
    "I remember we had twenty-two shooting days for a ninety-minute
    episode," Bikes recalled. "That was wonderful. The whole experience
    was a lot of fun. I read mysteries and like them, so it was a pleasure
    to do a Columbo. Peter is not what he plays. He's much more
    cultured. He had a lot of artistic control and he used it to make other
    artists comfortable. He'd tell me he would go for as many takes until I
    was pleased with it. That's very rare in television."
    Look closely and you'll spot a brief but funny appearance by Jamie
    Lee Curtis a year away from her starting rote in John Carpenter's
    Halloween and six years away from her portrayal of a good-hearted
    hooker in the John Landis comedy Trading Places. The daughter of
    a Colurtlbo murderer Janet Leigh in "Forgotten Lady") plays a stern
    waitress who forces Columbo to give up a doughnut he brought into
    her restaurant.
    The episode is also significant because it introduces departures that
    Simmons would make better use of in his five remaining episodes.
    Columbo's entrance usually was underplayed. People would
    dismiss the bedraggled figure in a raincoat.
    "Dick Simmons had a slightly different approach," Falk said. "Dick
    tried to create a lot more tension between Columbo and the
    murderers. So he made the entrances a little more formidable.
    Columbo was no longer looking for his pen. In the first shows, the
    adversaries were totally confident and Columbo represented some
    minor annoyance. I don't think Dick quite believed that. Dick wanted
    more tension. It was another way of looking at it. On reflection, the
    entrances in Dick's shows aren't all that dissimilar to what Levinson
    and Link wrote for Prescription: Murder. There is a certain amount of
    tension when he first meets the murderer."
    There's a scene in "The Bye-Bye Sky High l.Q. Murder Case" in
    which Columbo runs through a torrential downpour. For once it is
    mining in sunny California and the lieutenant doesn't have his raincoat.
    Mrs. Columbo picked that night to use her new spot remover.
    The scene comes very close to the series finale concocted by
    Levinson and Link.
    "We always wanted the last show to be a story in which he doesn't
    wear his raincoat during the entire case," Dick Levinson related. "It's
    being dry-cleaned. At the very end, with the case solved, he walks
    outside and it's starting to rain. He puts his hands in the air and we
    have a freeze-frame. That's how we wanted the series to end."

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