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.”

14 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. Hello! I think Patricia Mattick did a good job as Margaret Williams, the daughter of the “dead man.” I am always hearing how “uber-catty” and over the top she played the Margaret character. Well, she is supposed to be a teenager- in real life Mattick was 19 when the episode was filmed; this was her second outing as an actress- after a small part in Room 222. She was sharing the action with 2 seasoned actors- Peter Falk ( he was nominated for 2 Oscars in the 1960s) and Lee Grant (she was nominated for an Emmy for this episode) so Mattick was going to suffer by comparison anyways. That said and from what I have read (as much as been able to find online, as well as books such as “The Columbo Phile” by Mark Dawidziak and “Columbo: The Series- 1971-1978” by Scott Palmer- the role was a minor one, placed in the script as a foil to Leslie and as an ally for Columbo to help him bring her down. I wish I had seen this episode when it first was aired in 1971, but was only 2 y/o.
        She did a fine job in my opinion; Patricia Mattick went on to many TV roles in the 1970s, theater in the 1980s and 1990s. Very sad she passed away from cancer in December 2003.
        These are my 2 cents- thank you for the opportunity to give my opinion.

  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.

  6. Just listened to the podcast and loved it. Really hope Bob comes back for some more law in sights. Also would be interesting to get a cop or detectives input.
    Two things to note. You were trying to remember another Colombo where the crime is committed so quickly. Well in a Friend in Deed (one of the best Colombo’s) the first murder is committed before the show even starts and we just see the murderer standing over his dead wife’s body.
    Also you wanted to know of another episode where Colombo gets slapped. At the end of Rest in Peace Mrs Colombo, Vivian Dimitri gives him a smack for spoiling her plans and catching her in such a cruel way.

  7. I believe Patricia Mattick did a decent job as Margaret- it was her second acting experience. She was only 19! You guys are tough on her- she was working with 2 experienced actors, Peter Falk and Lee Grant. She was mostly a TV actress, and passed away in 2003. Thank you for the podcast, truly enjoyed it,

    Ed from Miami

  8. Hello everyone!

    I believe Patricia Mattick (Margaret) did a decent job as Margaret- this was her second acting experience- only 19 in 1971. She was working with 2 experienced actors- Peter Falk and Lee Grant- from what I have read she was mostly a TV actress, did some theater and passed away at only 52 in 2003. I really enjoy your podcast, truly appreciate it. Best regards, Ed from Miami

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