Before Columbo‘s 1971 pilot, audiences were introduced to Peter Falk as the iconic detective through 1968’s television movie Prescription: Murder. A psychiatrist uses a patient to help create an alibi for the murder of his wife. In this podcast Gerry and Iain look at Columbo’s beginnings and how well this story holds up against the subsequent series.
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Now that the Columbo Podcast has considered all of the show’s original run it seemed fitting to take some time and look back on the 1968 TV movie that, although not a pilot, can be seen as a building block for the series that followed a few years later. Gene Barry is exceptional as calculating killer Dr Ray Flemming, who disposes of his wife Carol (Nina Foch) with the assistance of a seemingly malleable patient, Joan Hudson – portrayed here by Katherine Justice.
Outside these key players and William Windom‘s Burt Gordon – a senior lawyer and friend of the Flemmings who works in the DA’s office – the remaining cast are very much minor supporting roles, with Virginia Gregg appearing as Flemming’s secretary, Andrea King briefly present as Gordon’s wife Cynthia and Sherry Boucher playing the air hostess whose evidence helps cement Flemming’s alibi.
Richard Irving directed both this movie and the eventual pilot, Ransom for a Dead Man. Richard Levinson and William Link took the writing credits both for the teleplay and the original play on which it was based. Their future involvement with the series requires no repetition here!
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Prescription: Murder was released in 1968. It is 100 minutes long and originally aired on the NBC network. This episode is not available on Netflix, but can be found as an ‘extra’ in the Season 1 or complete collection DVD box sets from Universal.