Shop-Worn Bag of Tricks

In “Ransom for a Dead Man,” Lee Grant is a high-powered attorney who shoots her husband, then constructs an elaborate kidnapping plot in order to point the feds in the wrong direction. Unfortunately for her, the local cop assigned to the case is none other than Lt. Columbo. Once the kidnapping crosses over into murder and it’s under Columbo’s jurisdiction- her chances? Not so good. Interestingly, this is the second of two pilots made for the show and you can definitely see the nice details that we all come to know as Columbo-esque.  Really fun added feature to the podcast- attorney and writer Bob Ingersoll (The Law Is a Ass) is here to analyze the legal details in this one, as well as shed some light on other episodes and how well they’d stand up in court. Also guesting is the mysterious “Jim from Detroit.”

10 comments on “Shop-Worn Bag of Tricks

  1. A few things I noted that didn’t come up in the podcast:
    – How electric was it to see Falk doing the hand thing by the piano, working out the angles, in that long static scene of waiting for the ‘kidnappers’ to contact Leslie?
    – Also in that long scene: Columbo may not yet have been fully thinking “murder,” but he had absolutely already zeroed in on Leslie as the ‘kidnapper.’ From there, one short step.
    – At the start of the Beanery scene, Columbo shrugs off his pool game, ruefully, as if ‘I’m just too distracted by this darn case to play’ – but it looked to me like he was cleaning off the table.
    – Probly I’m just an idjit, but what was that metal box with the flashy light? Margaret uses it in the gaslighting scene so it must’ve been significant some how?
    – For a half a second I thought maybe Leslie had something going with the young law associate, when we were still a bit in the dark as to her motive. Or, since she demanded an in-name-only marriage, maybe she wanted to get something going with blondie.
    – Leslie may have been power-tripping Columbo during the plane ride – but Columbo stuck it out despite his discomfort, so I’d almost call it a draw.
    – I did feel bad for Margaret, in that Leslie had so clearly turned ALL of the family’s friends completely against her, judging by the chatter in the post-funeral scene. She truly had lost her home, even before Daddy died.

    1. I think the metal box with the flashy light was the beacon that was supposed to mark where the “kidnappers” wanted Leslie to drop the ransom out of the plane. Margaret had found one in the house and wanted to taunt Leslie with this knowledge.

      And yeah, Patricia Mattick (Margaret) was a little wooden, but her role didn’t give her a lot to work with. And she had to share most of her scenes with Lee Grant, so naturally she was going to suffer by comparison.

      This was a great podcast; it just flew by. And I concur in Jon’s high ranking for this episode. The writing is excellent, the cinematography is impressive, and Lee Grant is genuinely scary. You’d swear she had ice water running through her veins.

      1. Ah, that explains it. It was a fun discussion, and I’d LOVE to see the Ingersoll Minute become a regular feature of the podcast. 😀

  2. We can see Falk really developing the character that we all loved. His facial expressions and smallest gestures show us what he’s thinking. Also the wonderful to see my old friend, Bob Ingersoll, doing what he does best. Even if it’s not about comics. Great fun!

  3. Well, this one came out right on my birthday! Good timing. 🙂

    I also enjoyed Bob putting forth on the legal stuff. One thing I was kind of thinking you’d bring up was Any Old Port In A Storm. Columbo steals a bottle of wine from the man’s cellar, and arranges to have the same wine served to him at a restaurant, then says some things in order to get him to realise his entire collection of wine is ruined (as a result of turning off the A/C in the wine cellar in order to have his brother asphyxiate), and catches him throwing it away from the cliffs. Given that the guy eventually resolves to confess to the murder so that his secretary can’t blackmail him into marriage, would Columbo’s theft even come up in court?

  4. Great episode! Loved both guests and was so interesting to have the legal information so available. Was wondering what Bob would have thought of Dabney Coleman’s “Never Lose a Case” defense attorney portrayal and methods in Murder of a Rock Star.

  5. I’ve been thinking about Margaret, and there might be an explanation for her over-the-top behavior other than being a spoiled brat, an avenging daughter or the mortal enemy of her stepmother. She might just be taking after her father. Remember what Leslie said in the plane — he had a rigid code of conduct from which he never deviated. Margaret might not have the conduct down yet, but the rigidity is certainly there.

    I’m also wondering whether she and Columbo collaborated on the fake car keys to throw Leslie off the scent. We know he put the idea in her mind on purpose, but it’s unclear to me if it went any further. I can’t believe he would have had her followed and known she had visited locksmiths before she showed him the keys. That shows just a little too much foresight. And her confrontation with Columbo seemed staged to me.

    And now that we’re on the subject — how would a locksmith recreate the keys anyway? They would not have access to the car, which has been impounded by the police. And if Margaret found a spare set she could have copied, why go to a locksmith at all? Why not just hand Columbo the spare set?

    Notice too Margaret is a redhead. Her mother must have been as well, as is Leslie. Mr. Williams seems to have had a type.

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