Columbo continued to surprise and (possibly) delight viewers with innovative murder techniques in How to Dial a Murder – the penultimate episode of the show’s seventh seachild.

You are watching: Columbo how to dial a murderer

The murder ‘weapon’ in this tale of ghastly revenge was in reality a pair of doberman pinschers, named Laurel and also Hardy, that tore a guy to shreds after being conditioned to kill upon hearing the code word ROSEBUD.

Sounds intriguing, however is How to Dial a Murder a suitably thrilling, snarling assault dog of an episode? Or is it more of an irritating yapping pooch all set to be kicked right into next week? Let’s travel ago to fifth April, 1978 and also have a look…

Dramatis personae

Lieutenant Columbo: Peter FalkDr Eric Mason: Nicol WilliamsonJoanne Nicholls: Kim CattrallMiss Cochrane: Trish O’NeilDr Charles Hunter: Joel FabianiOfficer Stein: Ed Begley JrDr Garrison: Frank AletterDog: As himselfWritten by: Tom Lazarus and Anthony LawrenceDirected by: James FrawleyScore by: Patrick Williams

Episode synopsis: Columbo How to Dial a Murder

Renowned behavioural psychologist (and film memorabilia fanatic) Dr Eric Machild knows that his colleague, Charlie Hunter, had been enjoying a fling via his now-dead wife. Six months earlier, Mason’s wife died in a ‘mysterious’ car crash (i.e. Maboy caused it). Now the dastardly physician is about to complete his revenge by offing the treacherous Charlie, also.

Mason cooks up a truly diabolical murder method. He’s spent months training his neckerchiefed dobermans, Laurel and also Hardy, to respond to a phone ringing and also use of the code word ‘Rosebud‘. Upon hearing these audio triggers the placid pups fly into a preternatural rage, tearing acomponent whomever before is luckless enough to be in their method. And this particular day Charlie Hunter’s on the menu.


Revenge is sweet for the shirtless Dr Mason

Lured to Mason’s residence to play tennis, Charlie is making himself at residence once the kitchen phone rings. Mason is calling him from the hospital, where he’s having his annual heart check-up and is conveniently (for plot purposes) attached to the electrocardiogram machine.

With his dogs on high alert after hearing the phone ring, Makid is able to finagle Charlie into calling out ‘Rosebud‘ in their presence. The dogs go berserk, laying right into the luckmuch less Charlie as Maboy punches the air through glee at the various other finish of the line. As Columbo killings go, this is as frightening as they come.

Back at residence after his check-up, Makid finds his residence the scene of a major police examination headed up by one Lieutenant Columbo, that is merrily playing via the killer dogs before they’re packed off into a police van and sent out off to doggy jail.

Mason, of course, claims he can’t believe that the beloved hounds could rotate rogue favor that. Charlie have to have provoked them someexactly how, he mprovides. Columbo doesn’t think so. In fact he’s currently got a pretty clear picture of what went dvery own in Mason’s kitchen.

The wall phone receiver is dangling off the hook. Charlie have to have actually been talking to someone. Couldn’t it simply have been knocked off in the assault, Machild asks rather sensibly. No. Because the intermittent tone audible with the receiver is just heard once someone else has dialled in. This bothers the soft-hearted investigator immensely. Whoever before rung the residence need to have heard Charlie’s death screams and done nothing around it. That’s stone cold!


“Can you tell me what the cuddly-wuddly teddy bear heard once Dr Hunter was being torn to shreds?”

Someone had alerted the police, mind you, and also that perboy is scorching young psychology student Joanne Nicholls, who stays in the guest home on Mason’s home. Columbo pays her a visit, and finds her cuddled up with favourite teddy bear, Sigmund, struggling to cope via the impacts of a traumatic day.

During a brief intercheck out, Columbo discovers that Joanne didn’t hear any type of phone ringing, although she had actually been swimming underwater so her testimony is mainly valueless. He does, but, hear from her that Machild has invested many weekends amethod because the loss of his wife with simply the dogs for agency – an exciting snippet for Columbo to mentally file ameans.

As the Lieutenant decomponents, he finds Maboy hovering on the threshold. It’s the lanky doctor’s rotate to parley via Joanne – and it’s instantly clear he no longer desires her around. Turns out that Joanne has actually the hots for him, however he rejected her bid for them to be lovers. He says she need to leave and also go ago residence to her parents to aid obtain over these dual setbacks, however she doesn’t seem to be in the mood to comply.

Columbo, meanwhile, is eliciting the help of police dog training ace Miss Cochrane. Thstormy her, he learns that any type of dog can be trained to respond in a certain way to particular words – a feat she demonstrates via a police Alsatian, who deserve to attack or shower with affection on command also.

Maboy provides a living out of control words. It absolutely seems feasible that his dogs could have been programmed to kill with the correct command also word. There’s a lengthy way to go in this situation, but points are rapidly founding to compute for the Lieutenant. Only problem is that tbelow are millions of possible command also words to select from. Wright here to begin?


Dog’s career as a protector was over prior to it began

Realising that his dogs are a potential weak link in his plan, Maboy heads to the LAPD’s dog-dealing with unit to seek info on the fate of Laurel and Hardy. They’re booked for termination, however Makid receives ‘reassurance’ from a young officer that Columbo is doing whatever in his power to win them a remain of execution. It’s the precise oppowebsite of music to Mason’s ears.

Columbo comes dvery own to meet Mason, and has actually a few concerns he requirements aid via. Makid unhelpcompletely explains that he invested his weekends with the dogs walking on the beach and thinking. He additionally explains that straw uncovered on the floor of his kitchen should have come from a cprice of wine he freshly obtained – and also definitely not a straw-filled decoy Charlie he trained his dogs to kill in the kitchen, no sirree Bob!

Columbo pays Mason a visit at job-related the next day via even more queries. He’s hooked on the concept that someone can have wanted to kill Makid himself through programming the dogs to assault him on command also over a phone call. The detective also mentions the mysterious fatality of Mrs Makid, which was never addressed. Could someone have it in for both of them?

Mason rejects Columbo’s hypothesis – and also is founding to check out via the Lieutenant’s cluemuch less act. “You pass yourself off as a puppy in a raincoat, happily running around the yard, digging holes all over the garden,” he claims. “Only, you’re laying a minearea and wagging your tail.” As critical assessments of Columbo go, he’s pretty close to the mark.

Next stop for Columbo is chez Maboy (again), and one more conversation via Joanne. She reveals that, amongst his death screams, she heard Charlie calling out Eric’s name. The eagle-eyed sleuth then spots a hook erroneously solved into the kitchen ceiling. What on earth could that be for? And ultimately, he notices an identifying note on a rusty old spotlight Makid clintends to have picked up on a weekfinish ameans. This leads him to a disprovided movie lot mocked as much as look the Old West.


For as soon as the auto matched its surroundings

Here, amiddle tumbleweeds, rickety wood shacks and a totality fill of detritus, Columbo finds a hook hanging from an old saloon. There’s additionally evidence that something big was held on a structure from this hook, and also he also finds a damaged speaker lying on the ground. Curiouser and curiouser. Nevertheless, it’s an exceptional day’s work-related for LA’s best officer!

His day gets better still as soon as he encounters Makid at Charlie’s home later. The psychologist has actually snuck in to retrieve incriminating photos of Charlie via Mrs Maboy – and he pockets them simply as Columbo emerges, unannounced, from a bedroom. He’s puzzled to have discovered a trocustomers and waistcoat set, however no corresponding jacket. Maboy provides no aid and promptly retreats.

The fiendish shrink provides a beeline directly to the guest house wbelow he finds Joanne all packed up and also all set to head for residence after all. Throughout a farewell chat, Joanne reveals that she knew around the affair between Charlie and Mrs Mason. Shocked that she maintained it quiet, Maboy swears her to silence, also dropping his hands threateningly to her throat. She’s conserved from being his 3rd victim by the arrival of Columbo.

He’s keen to cash in Mason’s promise of a character assessment, so over a bottle of great red wine the 2 males play a word association game – each trying to glean some vital insight on the other. When the game is up, Machild walks Columbo to his auto and also the Lieutenant is amazed to see the actual gate from the movie Citizen Kane is just one of the doctor’s many treasured possessions. He likewise happens to own the famed sled, emblazoned with the word ‘Rosebud’, hanging on his research wall.

Convivial chat over, Columbo has actually another try at coaxing a reactivity out of Laurel and Hardy. He has actually secretly taped the word association game, hoping against hope that Maboy will have actually dropped his command word into conversation. He plays the tape to the dogs to no avail.

That’s until the dog handler’s phone rings. The dobermans’ heckles climb, and also Columbo leaves the tape playing as he goes to soptimal to the judge to beg for a stay of execution for the dogs. And it’s during that conversation that the magic happens. The dogs go fully primal, transforming into Hounds of Hell. But what was the trigger?


A combicountry of cigar smoke and rustling sandwich wrapper drove the dogs wild

We uncover out the following day. After a sleepmuch less night in the agency of Miss Cochrane (all above board, you filthy-minded beast!), Columbo is all set to challenge Machild – and also he does so in confident fashion, rigging up a straw male dressed in Charlie’s clothing in Mason’s very own kitchen.

He theorises that Maboy programmed the dogs to kill Charlie and over a game of pool outlines to the physician all the proof he has actually amassed versus him – not least the reality that he knows Maboy took the photos from Charlie’s home, because he had taken one himself just prior to the physician arrived.

He’s likewise managed to get organize of Mason’s ECG results from the day of the crime. At 3pm – the precise time Charlie was slain – there was a enormous spike in Mason’s heart rate.

Slotting house pool balls via abandon, Columbo concludes that Maboy committed the killing by means of the phone contact. The detective goads the psychologist, saying: “I have to say I uncovered you disappointing. I mean, your incompetence. And for a man of your intelligence, sir, you got captured in most stupid lies.”

Makid, yet, believes he’ll be the one having actually the last laugh. “I think you deserve the entirety package, Lieutenant,” he retorts, bringing the dogs to heel. “Everypoint you need to make your situation complete.” Pointing at Columbo, Maboy roars ‘ROSEBUD!’ At when the dogs are snarling monsters, that rush at and also leap up on the detective, pushing him back on the pool table. Sudepend it’s a grisly end for our TV hero?


Even a bent cue didn’t sheight Columbo spanking Dr Maboy at pool

Not a little bit of it! It’s Machild who gets a shock once he sees that instead of tearing Columbo’s throat out, they’re actually licking his challenge. You view, with Miss Cochrane’s aid, the dogs were reprogrammed to ‘kiss not kill’ when they heard the code word. And Columbo had found the word once his voice-set off tape recorder had picked up Mason’s reference to ‘Rosebud’ in the time of their conversation around Citizen Kane.

Thoroughly outmatched, Machild admits defeat. Columbo, meanwhile, renders one last, failed attempt to pot a pool ball making use of WC Fields’ bent cue as credits roll…



How to Dial‘s ideal minute – kiss not kill

Columbo’s raincoat waterproofing was tested by a quart of doggy slobber

For the second episode in a row, a murderer attempts the unthinkable in doing their best to kill off the dear Lieutenant. Last time round it was Paul Gerard’s poisoned glass of wine, but this time it’s a much more robust effort: Dr Maboy is hoping to view Columbo torn to ribbons by his attack dogs.

We recognize that Columbo has actually determined great swathes of the situation (including motive and also opportunity), however we don’t know yet that he’s totally cracked the code word that controls the murderous mood of the dobermans. So he has to wheedle it out of Maboy, whom he expertly manoeuvers into a edge to force the doctor’s hand also.

Believing in his own psychological superiority until the last, Maboy indeed applies the final evidence eluding the Lieutenant, calling out ‘Rosebud’ and ordering the dogs to attack. Given that the viewer hasn’t seen how Columbo reprogrammed the dogs to ‘kiss not kill’ when they heard the command also word, this is a supremely tense moment that really gets the blood pumping.

My thoughts on How to Dial a Murder

To give the writers of Columbo‘s seventh season due credit, they came up with some delighttotally artistic murder approaches to keep viewers guessing. Three prior episodes have actually offered up an airtight safe and also blow fish poiboy as murder tools alongside a common-or-garden shooting – and they pushed the watercraft out aobtain below through pre-programmed killer dogs.

It’s a gruesome and terrifying method of killing that’s distinct to the series, making it a very memorable murder for Columbo fans. But if I’m being completely hoswarm, I discover that the remainder of the episode struggles to live as much as this level of promise and excitement, and inevitably delivers one of the least thrilling situations of the classic era.


The Makid vs Columbo blink fight went on for a 7 hrs before the Doc realised the detective was cheating by relying on his glass eye

The Lieutenant himself arguably summarises my own feelings in the direction of this episode finest when he describes Dr Maboy as ‘disappointing’ and ‘incompetent’. Those two adjectives quite amount as much as me why this episode is no fun to watch: Makid is a lifemuch less killer whose carelessness hands the instance to Columbo on a plate. It hardly renders for a satisfying spectacle.

I store it simple as soon as reviewing and also ranking Columbo episodes: I desire to be entertained and also reap the viewing endure. It’s one factor why By Dawn’s Early Light, admittedly a brilliantly created, filmed and also performed piece of television, is much less to my liking than a much more obtainable, rib-tickling tale such as Double Shock or Negative Reaction.

How to Dial a Murder combines the cardinal Columbo sins of a boring killer and also an open-and-shut instance. There’s no thrill of the chase at all. And worse, there’s negligible chemistry between the leads.

How to Dial a Murder eventually delivers among the leastern thrilling instances of the classical era.”

Cast as Dr Eric Mason, Nicol Williamkid provides for an interesting research. Legendary British playwbest John Osborne him as “the best actor considering that Marlon Brando”. Similarly, revered Irish writer, poet and also theatre director Samuel Beckett shelp Williamboy was “touched by genius”. I’m not saying they’re wrong, however I am saying his performance below doesn’t justify any such grand statements. It’s an extremely level effort.

Williamson’s Makid is a charisma-complimentary zone and I haven’t felt less interested in a Columbo killer given that Jose Ferrer’s Dr Cahill in season 3’s Mind Over Mayhem. I accept that the series requirements killers of all personality types, yet compare Williamson’s revolve to the joie de vivre of Jack Cassidy, the simmering rage of Robert Culp, the cheekiness of Ruth Gordon or the dangerous mania of Laurence Harvey and there’s nothing to compose house about.

I discover it amazing to note that once Williamboy was interperceived around his Columbo experiences by Mark Dawidziak for The Columbo Phile book in the 1980s that he might barely remember his appearance right here. He had undertaken a divorce in 1977 and asserted he had actually taken the function bereason he “had to have actually the money”. He definitely doesn’t seem to have been the most enthusiastic of participants.


“Can we acquire this over with? I’ve got a divorce to pay for.”

A double murderer who’s also willing to let his supposedly cherished pets be put to sleep to safeguard his own ago need to be a seriously loathsome visibility. On-screen, Machild is sadistic, sure, not to mention even more than a little sinister, but I don’t feel anypoint as soon as watching him various other than a mild feeling of ennui – also though he’s arguably obtained a far better motive for murder than many.

The ideal Columbo killers wring an emotional response from the audience. We deserve to love to hate the likes of the slimy Paul Gerard and also the uncompromising Milo Janus simply as we can sympathise through the terminally ill Grace Wheeler and the oppressed Beth Chadwick. Mason’s character have the right to possibly best be defined in a single word: Meh.

This lack of charisma provides it simpler to alert the weaknesses innate in Mason’s crime – and also the distinctive absence of effort he put in to suitably extending his tracks. Admittedly Columbo catches on to the programmed dogs’ idea more conveniently than anyone might rightly assume, but Makid can have actually been a lot more thounstable in stemming the flow of evidence.

Undoubtedly it was clumsy to carry home an incriminating spotlight back from the abandoned movie lot, then leave it conspicuously round his residence for a snooping detective to uncover. The same applies to unplugging the living room phone and leaving straw from the Charlie dummy on his kitchen floor (terrible sweeping skillz, Doc). Far worse, though, was the idiotic decision to remove the photos of Hunter and Mrs Machild from Hunter’s desk drawer after the murder was committed.

If Makid kbrand-new they were tright here, why not rerelocate them all beforehand and deny police the chance of stumbling onto them? His long-term revenge plot against wife and friend shows up to have actually been time consuming and intricately plotted, making his amateurish oversights seem at finest a display of incongruous lackadaisicality and at worse poor composing.

Certainly it’s exciting that Columbo referenced the ‘incompetence’ of these shortcomings verbally in the time of the gotcha scene, bereason it’s exactly as if he’s addressing viewer concerns around the logicality of the composing. I have no proof of it, but I have the right to imagine those lines were added in to the manuscript late on at Falk’s research to cover the episode’s earlier.


As for Falk, I’d say his performance is OK yet no more than that. It’s a much more restrained rotate than his overcooked, irritating theatrics in Murder Under Glass, but is a few procedures additionally down the road towards pastiche than we experienced in Make Me a Perfect Murder. Similar to most what’s going on below, there’s little that stands out in his occupational.

How to Dial‘s Columbo appears more choose a force of nature than a genuine humale being. It’s not unwidespread for killers to run into the Lieutenant here and there throughout the course of an episode, but here he pops up almost everywhere Dr Makid is. Can we review into this that he’s embodying the revered behavioural psychologist’s conscience? Perhaps, although I’m not convinced Maboy has a conscience.

More likely than not, his consistent visibility at Mason’s shoulder is the episode’s way of mirroring us that Columbo is playing psychological games via the doctor – a design template of the episode that underscores a lot of the action, whether that be the manage of the dogs, Mason’s intended mastery over weaker minds and also the cerebral sparring he enjoys through the Lieutenant.

“As for Falk, I’d say his performance is OK yet no more than that.”

Their confrontation must have actually been a firecracker, through both males ‘playing the game’ as they say, but it peters out rather than sizzles as Mason’s trail of breadcrumbs leads Columbo straight to his door. Tbelow is, however, a nice exchange between the two as they enjoy a bottle of great wine by a blazing fire and endeavour to acquire the measure of each other with a word association game.

And also though that dispute ends through honours even, Columbo’s bright idea to record the conversation with a voice-triggered tape recorder eventually pays dividends and also permits him to outflank and rout his commemorated foe and indulge in a somewhat melodramatic disclose over a game of pool at Mason’s home.

I wouldn’t price the gotcha as a classical, specifically given Mason’s negligence throughout, yet there’s something satisfying around watching Columbo symbolically slam residence pool balls as he brings his adversary’s human being crashing down. And of course that does cause Mason’s initiatives to rid himself of Columbo using the attack dogs – arguably the just really satisfying minute of the whole episode.


“You’ll have to stop up… I can’t hear you over the snarling and screaming… Hello? HELLOOO-OOOO?”

The murder itself is likewise worthy of mention due to its unique nature. The dogs we’ve checked out in Columbo up to now have been practically totally of the cute and cuddly persuasion, so it’s rather a novelty to see some truly terrifying killing machines baring their fangs. Certainly, I attribute my lifelengthy wariness about dobermans to having watched How to Dial a Murder at a very early age. I’d absolutely never before say ‘Rosebud’ in earswarm of one, just in case…

I wonder, too, whether How to Dial‘s murder method was an affect to Thomas Harris when he used an eerily comparable technique – just with killer pigs – in his book Hannibal as a prospective fate for Dr Hannibal Lecter. His arch-villain in that book was one Machild Vergere. Coincidence? Sudepend not. If you’re analysis this, Thomas, fill us in on your trick Columbo fandom!

Elsewhere, it’s good to watch 2 rising stars of the televisual people given roles here: namely Kim Cattrall and Ed Begley Jr. As the breakable psychology student Joanne Nicholls, 21-year-old Cattrall has lengthy referred to this as a breakthrough duty for her on her journey to Sex & The City mega stardom by means of Mannequin and also Star Trek VI.

Spurned by Dr Maboy, she’s in incredibly real risk of becoming his 3rd victim in the direction of the end of the episode as his hands remainder on her throat while he alerts her versus ever informing anyone around the affair in between Dr Hunter and also Mrs Mason. She has actually a really lucky escape when Columbo comes a-knocking.

It is a rather odd partnership between Mason and also Joanne, mind you. She has occurred a romantic attachment to him, but he’s not interested – possibly one more instance of Maboy sadistically getting pleasure with manage of another being. Interesting, too, that Mrs Makid reportedly sanctioned Joanne’s relocate into the guest house. Perhaps she was also lived in by romping via Dr Hunter to treatment that a bikini-clad hottie was eyeing up her husband…?

Begley Jr, meanwhile, in the little function as Officer Stein, is noteworthy in that he is just one of only two Columbo guest stars to be actors as both a police officer and a murderer in various episodes. He would certainly return as Irving Krutch in 1994’s Undercover, joining Dabney Coleman in the exclusive club after the latter starred as a sergeant in 1973’s Double Shock and a murderous attorney in 1991’s Columbo and the Murder of a Rock Star.


We need to additionally not overlook the existence of the lovable ‘Dog’, who adds a splash of fun to an otherwise mainly humour-cost-free episode once Columbo queries whether the basset hound has what it takes to become a guard dog capable of protecting Mrs Columbo while the Lieutenant functions night shifts.

Predictably the slovenly mutt doesn’t seem cut out for such a life, instead preferring to provide Columbo a good old licking once urged to ‘kill’ in what is a lighthearted foreshadowing of the episode finale.

How to Dial a Murder is also a loving nod in the direction of the golden age of cinema, playing ample homage to comedy good WC Fields, Citizen Kane, timeless horror flicks and also even more with Mason’s repertoire of movie memorabilia. The irony of it all is that Machild, for all his emphasis on psychological manage, can’t resist feeding his addiction by picking up a baby spotlight that will eventually doom him, the silly boy. Perhaps he doesn’t exercise what he preaches?

There’s not a lot else to say. For the many component, How to Dial leaves me so unrelocated that I’m struggling to even come up through ‘side-splitting’ one liners around its shortcomings. I won’t claim that it’s a devastating piece of tv, however via a dialled-in performance from a dreary antagonist and also a situation so straightforward that also Sergeant Grover could crack it, How to Dial a Murder is a million miles from being considered the Citizen Kane of the Columbo opus.

Did you know?

Despite his regular reliance on his trusty raincoat, How to Dial a Murder is one of only three classic era episodes in which we check out the Lieutenant actually recorded in the rain.


The just other times we check out Columbo gaining a drenching are during his visit to gloomy London in 1972’s Dagger of the Mind, and in The Bye-Bye Sky High IQ Murder Case four years later, once he instead shelters beneath an umbrella as the heavens open.

The episode’s multiple nods to the gold age of cinema were even more ostentatiously recognised in the original version of the story, too, which was quite heavy-handedly entitled The Laurel and Hardy WC Fields Citizen Kane Murder Case.

How I price ’em

How to Dial a Murder is among the initially episodes I can remember watching, however unchoose a number of others in that category that I still treasure (Bye-Bye Sky High, Try & Catch Me, Deadly State of Mind chief amongst them), I’ve never before warmed to this one – mainly bereason of Williamson’s unamazing portrayal of Eric Makid.

Tright here may be facets of it that are technically ‘better’ than a variety of episodes rated immediately above it in my chart however in regards to individual enjoyment, this one leaves me stone cold and also it’s one I almost never pick to watch from my arsenal.

Check out any type of of my previous reviews via the web links below.

See more: What Does The Name Kaitlyn Mean In The Bible, Kaitlyn: Name Meaning And Origin

How to Dial a Murder

Love or hate How to Dial a Murder, share your opinions of it below. I’m aware that many fans enjoy it a entirety lot even more than I perform, so if that’s you please let us all recognize what it is that floats your watercraft.

The following episode marks the finish of a televisual era as the Columbo curtain falls for what looked prefer forever before in the form of IRA drama The Conspirators. A blockbuster finale for the classic era, or about as a lot fun as a live ‘limerick-off’ via a whisky-totting drunk in an Irish pub (which, involved think of it, actually sounds favor a riot!)? Check back soon…


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