15 August 2016



This month's Blu-Ray offering from the rather excellent CRITERION COLLECTION is a film starring a man whom we probably know better as 'everyone's favourite rumpled television detective,' Columbo, from the long-running TV series of the same name.

Peter Falk, who passed away in 2011 at the ripe old age of eighty-four, acted in more than a handful of films and television shows during his long lifetime, but he'll always be remembered for his role as the shuffling, ambling scruffily-overcoated detective who liked to chomp on cigars and make occasional references to a wife whom we never saw. (Well, I certainly never saw her anyway...!)

Columbo was seemingly absent-minded and some ill-advised criminals probably thought he was no threat at all to them but boy!, were they wrong. Columbo's scattiness of mind and scruffy appearance concealed a razor-sharp brain and an eye for detail that was the undoing of many a scurrilous murderer trying to inherit his or her spouse's dosh or take over his business partner's company. Well, that was usually what the little blighters were up to in every episode, haha.

Columbo's 'thing' was that he'd pretend to be satisfied with what the killer was telling him and he'd get up to leave. At the last minute, however, he'd scratch his messy dark head and turn around before saying: 'Ummm, there IS just one more thing...' and then bam!, he'd deliver his killer blow and the murderer would know they were caught. It was the same in every episode.

The poetic justice of it all would always hit you right between the eyes. After a whole hour of Columbo's cat-and-mouse game with the murderer, whom we'd see committing the grisly deed right at the outset so there'd be no mystery as to their identity, the case would be expertly wound up by the scruffy detective whom everyone had foolishly underestimated.

Some interesting facts about COLUMBO, for any fans out there. The first ever episode was directed back in 1971 by Steven Spielberg in one of his first ever directing jobs. Four years later, of course, he went on to direct JAWS and the rest, as they say, is history. But what a way for the TV series about an untidy, distracted detective to start out...!

Speaking of Columbo's legendary untidiness, I'm sure I remember an episode where his job brought him to some sort of downtown Mission for homeless men and- you guessed it- he was mistaken for a down-and-out and hilariously told that he'd be kitted out with some nice clean togs. Ooooh, the shame of it all...!

Peter Falk's 2006 autobiography is aptly and sweetly named JUST ONE MORE THING. I have the box-set of every COLUMBO episode ever made, by the way. It was given to me as a birthday present and it has all the episodes from 1968 right up to 2003, by which time dear old Peter Falk may have had snow on the roof but he still had a lovely full head of hair, God bless his buttons.

Anyway, he's brilliant as Vince Ricardo in this film we're meant to be talking about(!), THE IN-LAWS. He plays a 'businessman' whose son is about to get married to the daughter of a Manhattan dentist and, naturally, the in-laws-to-be have got to meet up and have dinner before the big day.

The dentist, Sheldon S. Kornpett, D.D.S., is a normal everyday kind of guy and he finds Vince's chaotic, mysterious and oddball behaviour at the dinner party so off-putting that he tries to dissuade his daughter from marrying into Vince's family. But he hasn't seen the half of it with Vince yet.

Vince is in actual fact a CIA agent who's up to his eyes in a kerfuffle involving engraving plates belonging to the US Treasury Department. It isn't long before he's involved his unwilling in-law-to-be, Sheldon, in his desperate plan to get twenty million dollars for the plates from a Honduran General, which in turn he'll (apparently?) turn straight back over to the CIA.

It's one of those brilliant screwball comedies where an ordinary person- that is to say, Sheldon- gets involved with a charismatic, eccentric character like Vince Ricardo and ends up in all kinds of
outrageous and even dangerous, life-threatening situations. 

The funniest of these is probably when the Honduran General, a typical crooked Central American dictator-type (hopefully any such types reading this won't kill me for saying that!), puts Vince and Sheldon in front of a firing squad after he's gotten what he wants from them. Vince tries hilariously to stall the proceedings while Sheldon loses it altogether, bemoaning the day he ever met the madcap Vince. I suppose that one can hardly blame him at this point...!

The two men are absolutely phenomenal together. They're a terrific comic double act and they just buzz off each other so well that it makes for marvellously funny viewing. It's probably the original 'MEET THE PARENTS'-type movie and it's out right now on Blu-Ray from THE CRITERION COLLECTION, complete with some rather delicious extra features to titillate your viewer's soul.

Peter Falk was in Rob Reiner's 1987 smash hit romantic comedy fantasy-type film THE PRINCESS BRIDE as well, by the way. He played the kindly old Grand-dad who came to read a storybook to his under-the-weather grandson, Fred THE WONDER YEARS Savage.

The cranky kid isn't down with all the lovey-dovey smoochy stuff in the book at first but, as the wonderful fairy story progresses, he grows more and more enraptured with it, much to his dear old Grand-dad's delight. It's a fantastic movie and one of Peter Falk's finest achievements. Along with THE IN-LAWS, naturally...! That's about all for now, anyway. Oh, but just hang on there a minute.

'There IS just one more thing...!'


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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