The twenty-fifth episode of Columbo was titled Negative Reaction and was the second episode of the show’s fourth season. An emasculated husband goes to extreme lengths to escape a miserable marriage. In this podcast Gerry and Iain look at Columbo’s difficulties in ruling out a framed man and the errors that lead him to the true culprit.
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No introduction is required for Dick Van Dyke, who skilfully portrays double-killer Paul Galesko. Galesko is a man driven to extreme lengths by the continuation of his intolerable marriage. Killing his wife, Frances (Antoinette Bower), then framing and killing ex-con Alvin Deschler (Don Gordon) seems an ambitious and risky alternative to divorce, but Galesko’s plan is strong and it takes all of Columbo’s skills to unravel the threads, even then requiring a dramatic final showdown to gather vital evidence.
Van Dyke is famed for a number of roles across a long a decorated career. A winner of Primetime and Daytime Emmys as well as a Grammy Award and a People’s Choice Award, Van Dyke is perhaps best remembered for his roles in Mary Poppins and Diagnosis Murder. He remains active, with 2014’s Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb his most recent big screen outing in a career that will soon stretch sixty years, despite only commencing in his thirties.
This episode is one that centres largely on Columbo and the killer, but there were entertaining roles for Larry Storch as a nervous driving examiner named Weekly; and for Joyce Van Patten as a sympathetic nun seeking to care for Columbo at a neighbourhood soup kitchen. Vito Scotti was excellent as ever as Thomas Dolan, a vagabond who finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Alf Kjellin returned as director for the second and final time after helming Season 3’s Mind over Mayhem, while writer Peter S. Fischer took a third consecutive writing credit for his work on the episode.
During the episode we asked if any listeners had insight into whether ransom notes composed from cut-out newspaper lettering ever existed outside of television and the movies. If you have thoughts on this or any other aspect of Negative Reaction please share them below, or find us on Twitter at @columbopodcast.
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Negative Reaction was released in 1974. It is 91 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.