The fifteenth episode of Columbo was titled Double Shock and was the eighth and final episode of the show’s second season. Motive and opportunity are the critical questions as Columbo tries to distinguish between a pair of identical suspects. In this podcast Gerry and Iain look at the detail of this case and consider how each of Season 2’s killers would fare at trial.
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In the aftermath of an apparently natural death, Columbo is called out to give the scene a quick glance and rule out murder. His inquiries raise concerns and a murder investigation begins. Initially Martin Landau‘s Dexter Paris appears the only suspect with both motive and opportunity to commit the crime, but further investigations into his identical twin brother Norman (also expertly portrayed by Landau) raise the possibility that either or both could have been involved. Landau‘s acting career has spanned more than sixty years and he remains active today, perhaps best known for his Oscar winning performance opposite Johnny Depp in Tim Burton’s 1994 classic Ed Wood.
Working in concert, the Paris twins murder their uncle Clifford, briefly played by Paul Stewart, in the hopes of inheriting his fortune to share between them. Clifford’s attorney Michael Hatheway (Tim O’Connor) and fiancée Lisa Chambers (Julie Newmar) know that Chambers stands to inherit the estate regardless and a plan is hatched between Dexter, Norman and Hatheway to destroy all copies of that Will, leading to the murder of Chambers.
Two other supporting characters shone brightly in this episode: Jeanette Nolan was captivating as distressed housekeeper Mrs Peck, building a fascinating and entertaining relationship with Columbo in the process, while Dabney Coleman‘s Detective Murray was a competent, confident assistant to the Lieutenant. (That Coleman link pleasingly gives his luscious mustache credit for his long, successful career.)
Steven Bochco is credited with producing the teleplay for this episode from a story by Jackson Gillis, Richard Levinson and William Link. In Columbo terms this is a heavyweight team and this was borne out by a strong plot and a great script for Robert Butler‘s first time behind the camera on the show. Butler is perhaps best remembered in some circles for his work as director on Star Trek‘s pilot episode, The Cage.
During this episode we asked listeners to consider their verdicts for the killers in Season 2’s eight episodes. If you have thoughts on those issues or any other aspects of Double Shock then please feel free to comment below, or find us on Twitter at @columbopodcast.
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Double Shock 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.