Columbo “Murder In Malibu” finds a killer using creative methods to get away with his crime – but he didn’t count on Columbo taking the case.

Columbo “Murder In Malibu” sees a killer concoct a twisty scheme to get away with murder – but Columbo catches him out in a bizarre way. Columbo (Peter Falk, The Princess Bride) is one of TV’s greatest detective, with the series debuting in 1971. A young Steven Spielberg directed the very first episode, with the show’s unusual formula detailing how and why the killer murdered their victim, with Columbo then investigating the crime and piecing together the clues. Suspects tend to underestimate Columbo based on his shabby raincoat and rambling train of thought, but he always catches them out in the end.

Columbo ran until 2003, with the final episode being “Columbo Likes The Nightlife.” Later episodes tended to try and subvert the classic structure, such as season 11’s “No Time To Die,” where Columbo helps his nephew rescue his wife from a twisted killer. That episode didn’t feature a murder for the title character to solve and he didn’t even meet the kidnapper. That said, “No Time To Die” is arguably one fo the show’s weakest, so breaking from formula didn’t always pay off.

Columbo’s “Murder In Malibu” is another episode held in low regard by fans for a few reasons. The set-up has a womanizing playboy called Wayne Jennings (Andrew Stevens, The Boys in Company C) proposing to his long-suffering girlfriend Theresa. She’s a successful author who Jennings only wants for her money and she rightfully suspects him of cheating with multiple women. Nonetheless, he proposes and she later reveals during a TV interview that she accepts. When Theresa later calls to say she’s withdrawn her answer and that she hates him, he goes to her house and appears to shoot her dead.

Columbo "Murder In Malibu" - Can A Man Be Convicted For "Killing" A Corpse?
Columbo “Murder In Malibu” – Can A Man Be Convicted For “Killing” A Corpse?

Appearances are apparently deceiving, as Columbo “Murder In Malibu” finds Jennings confessing to shooting Theresa – only for her autopsy to reveal she was already dead from a different murder weapon. Since shooting a corpse isn’t a crime he’s set free. Columbo continues the investigation while Jennings worms his way into the affections of Theresa’s sister Jess – who was the one who called off the proposal that night over the phone on her sister’s behalf. Columbo later figures out the scheme and confronts Jennings while he’s shopping with Jess. He really did shoot Theresa and arranged it look like he only “killed” her the second time, reasoning nobody would suspect him of the original murder if he confessed to the second one.

Jennings’ strange logic aside, Columbo “Murder In Malibu” finds him caught out in a way that’s even stranger. He dressed Theresa’s body after the original murder and after spending time examining photos and chatting with Mrs. Columbo – offscreen, of course – about women’s underwear, Columbo reveals her pants were put on the wrong way. Since Jess, who was also a suspect, would know the right way to put on underwear, Columbo reasons it could only have been Jennings, who is promptly arrested. Columbo “Murder In Malibu” suffers from an underwhelming villain and a frankly weird story structure. Even the way Columbo figures out the crime is unsatisfying, especially since it all revolves around a dead woman’s underpants.


Columbo – Complete Series DVD

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