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Eighty Fellas Tied For First

Episode Card_S01E04 (Ep 4)

Chris Sims and Matt Wilson (War Rocket Ajax and Movie Fighters) join Jon and RJ to discuss “Short Fuse,” in which Roddy McDowall plays a strange genius and heir to a chemical fortune who uses his know-how to murder his scheming uncle. In the process of unraveling the crime, Columbo has to face his fear of heights, silly string, extremely tight 1970s pants and, once again, Ida Lupino. Also, Viewer Mail and discussions for folks who may be new to Columbo.


  1. Mandi Mandi

    Fantastic episode, it’s always been one of my most favorite ones. Really enjoyed the different perspective on it. Briefly you mentioned with the explosion the idea that maybe it was a challenge, and that’s how I’ve always viewed the whole episode. I always felt that Roger prided himself on how much of a genius he was. He hated his Uncle for being in charge of a company he felt should have been given to him based on his genius alone, and because for all of his cleverness his Uncle always managed to see through his everyday disguise. He had his Aunt fooled but he could never fool his Uncle. The fact that his Uncle had managed to find a way to blackmail him and back him into a corner was the last insult. His Uncle felt he had him and was gloating about it, so the murder he planned was the final one-up, he won in a really clever way his Uncle didn’t see coming. Enter Columbo who is introduced from the start as the best in his field. That so rarely happens in Columbo. Right away then, Columbo is the new challenger. It’s a constant back and forth. Columbo’s steady slow pace constantly goading Roger into trying to do more. He was trying to constantly trip Columbo up, confuse the issue with so much other stuff that he would never be able to sift through it. The rest of the episode pacing wise plays out just like the final scene and I think that’s part of what makes the final scene so powerful. He puts the medal, the symbol of his genius, on Columbo at the end because to him it was a competition the whole time.

    Once again, I love that you had people with little familiarity with Columbo, it’s great listening to people try to piece the formula of the character together for the first time.

    And just because it got brought up, how amazing is the chemistry between Peter Falk and Martin Landau during the filming of the cooking show? One of my all time favorite Columbo moments.

    • RJ RJ

      Thank you! And I want to get to the weird Landau one sooner, rather than later.

  2. Great episode again! I loved Roddy McDowell as the aged, sour boy wonder. I also thought the scenes with the cable car were excellent.

    • RJ RJ

      Thanks! And thank you for the email, as well.

    • Landau has a gift for making every character he plays creepy or just slightly “off.” Even in Mission Impossible, his attractiveness was kind of contingent on the real or imagined relationship he had with Barbara Bain. I can’t remember if they were husband and wife, or if the Battlestar Galactica roles made my child’s brain just meld them together into a couple. Without her, he would’ve come off as a potential serial killer, he had that dangerous edge, that ability to make you nervous as to what he might do or say next, no matter how conventional the dialogue. That line, “Call it my women’s intuition,” in North by Northwest just floored me.
      My husband is positive that he’s spotted him jogging in Central Park, which gives Central Park a certain mystique it didn’t have for me before that. (I choose to believe in the Landau sitings, even though wikipedia says he lives in LA). He’s brilliant as the mediocre chef. I can’t wait to hear this podcast!

    • I think about that Dracula observation of yours every now and again, it was a great observation!

  3. Commasplice Commasplice

    Silly string wasn’t invented till about 1972. I was cracking up about the blue pants. I had posted a pic on Tumblr and I was just appalled at them.

    Any chance you’ll be doing one of the McGoohan episodes soon?

    • RJ RJ

      Thank you for looking that up!

      Yes, hopefully a McGoohan soon. Shocked we haven’t, yet. Almost did “By Dawn’s Early Light” for the pilot, actually.

      • The sweat on McGoohan’s face at the beginning of that episode deserves a show of its own. Not to mention the young John Denver in his undershirt as the totally in denial object of McGoohan’s repressed desires.

    • I can’t believe we haven’t done any Culp, Cassidy or MacGoohan episodes yet! We need to turn that around pronto.

  4. cdm cdm

    WRA listener; I’m really glad to find out about this podcast! You already covered one of my favorites with Johnny Cash and I cant wait until you get to one of my other favorites with Leonard Nemoy as a surgeon.

    • RJ RJ

      Thanks for visiting! Yeah, that one- that should be kind of nuts. Hopefully, soon.

  5. Julie Carriker Julie Carriker

    Great podcast! I first saw this episode in the mid 1970s and I’ve watched it a few times since but I’ve never thought of Roddy McDowall’s VERY TIGHT pants as creepy… of course this IS probably due to my 40+ year Roddy obsession, which causes me to have VASTLY DIFFERENT thoughts. 😉 I am somewhat surprised he could even MOVE in them, they’re so tight, and yeah, you can see pretty much everything (which is why it’s such a Roddy fan favorite!). I do know the picture you mention, I saw it on Tumblr also. An interesting aside, Roddy wore the blue puffy shirt in his “Night Gallery” episode, which was the pilot for that series. It looks much better untucked.

    The character of Roger is a sociopath, which Roddy played quite skillfully, including that maniacal laugh. He did play many sociopaths over the years so he had it down.

    I agree that the pacing is rather uneven and I wonder if there’s more footage somewhere that fills in some of the gaps.

    I guess I’ll be watching this on Netflix tonight.

    • OMG his tight pants are CRAZY!!!
      My favorite line is at the end, when he’s staring at the cigar box and his watch and is just like, why do you have to keep talking????

  6. Glenn Glenn

    One of your guests mentioned Planet of the Apes but none of you mentioned the fact that the two major characters from POTA movie Roddy McDowell and Kim Hunter had pretty major parts in Columbo episodes. Other actors from the movie have appeared in Columbo in lesser roles too.

    Short Fuse is another mid tier for me. Don’t love, don’t hate it.

    I always liked the shot where Columbo and Roger are riding the cart and he drops Columbo off and Roger sits there in the middle of the road with a huge truck barreling up behind him. Then at the last minute the truck driver swerves and honks his horn. Strange scene.

  7. I’ve been hearing a lot of comments on the podcasts about the length of the show. I love the length. The problem I’ve always had with shows are silly dialogue to get too quickly to the point. One CSI episode stands out, “Look Catherine! It’s a piece of broken tail light. That means his car rear-ended her.” Really Sherlock?! lol! The audience, I don’t think, would have ever figured that out if she had not told us.

    The thing I like about Columbo is that this is not a dumbed down show like today’s shows. We see the murderer, we don’t see him explaining it to us, though there is occasional obvious dialog, but not to the extent of things such as CSI. I prefer the lengthy-chipping-away style.

    Today everyone is in a hurry. They have instant gratification, binge watching, communicating in a variety of ways and so forth. Back then, we had nothing. If there wasn’t something on TV, then the only other option was basically reading. In that day, a longer show was very welcome.

  8. John Manier John Manier

    Roddy McDowall was not the only person to play characters arrested by both Columbo and Batman. Anne Baxter did, too. She was the murderer in season 2’s “Requiem For A Falling Star,” and actually played two Special Guest Villains on Batman — Zelda the Great in season 1 and Olga, Queen of the Cossaks in season 3 (co-starring with Vincent Price as Egghead, who was also a Columbo guest star but not a murderer or victim).

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