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Columbo - Season 1
Universal/Universal . R4 . COLOR . 723 mins . M15+ . PAL

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Television's longest-running detective series, Columbo, stars Peter Falk as a dishevelled, quirky, even downright eccentric Police Lieutenant who weaves a diffident spell which enmeshes his quarry before they even realise he's at work.

Here in full are the seven episodes, which made up Series One. They date from late 1971 to early 1972. The final two discs in this six-disc set carry two earlier tele-movies, made respectively in 1968 and 1971. Although they predate the series, they fully define the character.

Columbo is still with us -- the last special tele-movie was made only two years ago -- and it's great to have these earliest incarnations of a unique detective.

Peter Falk, a method-actor of strange dimensions, really buries himself in the role of the seemingly humble, not-too-bright detective who is in fact a wizard of ratiocination and deduction, who pits his wits against the cleverest of foes, and emerges triumphant.

These detective stories are games of logic and deduction, quite unlike any others in the genre. For a start, there's almost no violence. These are games of wits, not high-speed chases and biffo. And secondly, these are not your conventional who-dunits. We know from the start of each episode who the guilty party is. The pleasure comes in watching Columbo snare his prey.

I'd never seen these early episodes before, but it's great to note how quickly Peter Falk nailed his characterisation of the cannily unsuave detective. The writing, direction and acting are all at the highest level of television entertainment. And take a look at the list of guest-actors -- Robert Culp, Ray Milland, Roddy McDowall, Ida Lupino. These aren't just celebrity blow-ins. They're talented actors who lend real weight to each episode.

It's great to have the very first series, and the earlier tele-movies, in this pack. Now all that remains is: bring us the rest!

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The only extra is text notes before each episode, to highlight points such as Steven Spielberg's presence as director of Episode One.

The presentation is in standard televison full-screen format, which is the original ratio of these programs. Quality is excellent for mid-1970s programs. There is a slightly plastic feel to sets and colours (typical of that era), but overall, picture quality is first-class given the vintage of these shows. And the stereo soundtrack is clear and undistorted -- essential in these dialogue-driven shows.


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  •   And I quote...
    "Quirky, offbeat Lieutenant Columbo qualifies as America's greatest television detective. "
    - Anthony Clarke
      Review Equipment
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