The fourteenth episode of Columbo was titled The Most Dangerous Match and was the seventh episode of the show’s second season. When a legendary chess grandmaster is seriously injured Columbo must outwit a sharp-minded killer to piece together the vital evidence. In this podcast Gerry and Iain consider whether the case has been made effectively, following the twists and turns of the investigation.
The Most Dangerous Match sees Columbo thrust into the midst of a rivalry between Laurence Harvey‘s Emmett Clayton and Jack Kruschen‘s charming Tomlin Dudek, chess grandmasters facing a career-defining showdown. Each of these actors was Oscar nominated – Harvey in 1960 for Room at the Top and Kruschen the following year for his role opposite Jack Lemmon in The Apartment.
In a particularly tight episode the only supporting roles of note were played by Lloyd Bochner as Tomlin’s ‘coach’ Mazoor Berozski and former popstar Heidi Brühl as Linda Robinson, Clayton’s ex-fiancée turned advisor to Tomlin. The episode did see returns from Columbo’s dog and his vet, played by Michael Fox and there was an engaging, if brief, turn from Oscar Beregi Jr. as an exasperated restaurateur.
The episode was designed to revolve around Harvey’s performance as Clayton, but ultimately the plotting and script were deserving of the greatest scrutiny. Writer Jackson Gillis was nominated for a Primetime Emmy for his work on Suitable for Framing in Season 1 and for an Edgar Allan Poe Award for his work on Requiem for a Falling Star, but The Most Dangerous Match was to receive no such recognition and perhaps we should not be surprised at that.
The episode was directed by Edward M. Abroms in his second and final outing at the Columbo helm. His career as a director saw him behind the camera on 31 different shows over a period of 9 years, but it was as an editor he had his greatest success, picking up an Oscar nomination and winning two Primetime Emmys in that capacity – including one for Season 1’s Death Lends a Hand in 1972. Fascinatingly, both of his directorial roles on Columbo received Primetime Emmy nominations, an accolade not extended to any of his work on the other 30 shows!
During this episode we asked listeners a couple of questions. Firstly, what is the story behind Lovejoy’s Antiques. Could the books have their origin in this episode of Columbo? Also, who portrayed the taxi driver hired to collect Tomlin Dudek and where might we recognise him from? If you have thoughts on those issues or any other aspects of The Most Dangerous Match then please feel free to comment below, or find us on Twitter at @columbopodcast.
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The Most Dangerous Match was released in 1973. It is 74 minutes long and originally aired on the NBC network. It can be viewed on Netflix in the United States and is available on DVD in other countries, including a comprehensive box set of all eleven seasons released by Universal.