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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Columbo - The Complete Fifth Season
Columbo - The Complete Fifth Season
Universal // Unrated // June 27, 2006
List Price: $39.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Jeffrey Robinson | posted July 10, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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The Fifth Season

The television series Columbo started out as a TV movie in 1968 and later in 1971 the second TV movie aired. In that same year, Columbo aired as a television series. The series is a mystery drama that revolves around Lieutenant Columbo (Peter Falk). Columbo is a well respected LAPD homicide detective, who has a unique way of solving crimes. Unlike many others, he has the ability to see things in a crime scene that others miss. The series is one of my favorite mysteries. It is riveting, gripping, and entertaining. For more details about this show please refer to DVD Talk's reviews of season one, season two, season three, and season four.

Season five is made up of six terrific episodes. What I loved most about these stories is that they contained just about everything the past seasons had and more. There are a few distinct deviations from the common format. For instance, a few of the plotlines with twists that even Columbo didn't see coming. I thought this added a level of mysterious to the already well-crafted plotlines.

"Forgotten Lady" is the first episode in this season set. The story stars Janet Leigh (Psycho) and she gives a riveting performance. Leigh plays an aging stage theater actress who wants to be in the center spotlight once again. After making plans with her director/producer friend to put another musical together, she finds she needs to secure the funds for it. Unfortunately, her rich husband refuses to give her money for it. He wants to travel around the world. She kills him to have control over the money and once again be a famous actress. The story takes many twists and turns as Columbo slowly arrives at the truth.

"A Case of Immunity" puts Columbo in the midst of an international crisis. The head security officer at the Suarian embassy is murdered and at a glance, it looks like the crime was committed by an angry student protestor. The case, while straightforward, doesn't add up for Columbo. He works against the grain (his superiors and the State Department) to connect the Suarian representative at the embassy to the death.

In the episode "Identity Crisis", Columbo finds himself knee deep in conspiracy when starts to bark up the wrong tree. A man is found murdered on the beach with his wallet missing. It looks like a routine mugging gone bad, with the exception that the mugger took off his coat. To Columbo, it is all wrong. During the course of his investigation, he connects the murder to a CIA regional director, who is very persuasive and insistent for him to stop the case.

In "A Matter of Honor", the international reputation Columbo gained from the season four episode "Troubled Waters" lands him a job in Mexico. While on vacation, Columbo got in a car accident and the local police took his car into custody for the weekend. While there, Columbo is pushed into investigating the recent death of a man who was gored by a bull.

"Now You See Him" is about a man who has something to hide and everything to lose. A popular magician murders his boss after being blackmailed about his horrific past. The magician is a World War II war criminal and he does not want the truth to come out. Using various tricks of the trade, he kills his employer while conducting a live show at the night club. Columbo is left baffled and he, along with a fellow detective, has to uncover the mysterious of magic to solve the case.

The season finale "Last Salute to the Commodore" is, perhaps, the most intriguing episode of them all. In this story, Columbo gets a puzzling homicide, where the evidence and motive point to a single person. A wealthy owner of a ship building company is murdered and it looks as if his son-in-law, wannabe heir to the throne, is the killer. However, when the prime suspect, the son-in-law, is also killed, the case takes a turn for the worse and Columbo is left with little to go on. This episode is simply fascinating, as he and two other detectives work the case. In the end, they manage to pull together and put all the clues together to figure out the truth.

Overall, I was very happy with the season five episodes. The episodes were all exciting, intriguing, and gripping. Each passing episode left me wanting more. I absolutely loved the plot twists and subtle jokes in this season. Watching Peter Falk in action is certainly a treat. Fans of the series should definitely look into picking up this box set right away.

Episode Guide
1. Forgotten Lady
2. A Case of Immunity
3. Identity Crisis
4. A Matter of Honor
5. Now You See Him
6. Last Salute to the Commodore

The DVD
For this season, Universal did not use DVD-18s (dual-sided, dual-layered discs). Instead DVD-9s (dual-layered discs) are used. The set comes with three discs and the six episodes evenly spread across. The packaging is also different. Instead of regular sized DVD cases, slim pack cases are used. I like the slimmer packaging a lot better and not having DVD-18s is great.

Video:
The video is given in its original television aspect ratio of 1.33:1 full frame color. The picture quality is good considering its age. The image is a bit soft at times. For the most part, it looks good with a slight grain and no noticeable issues attributed with video compression.

Audio:
The audio in this release is in English 2.0 Dolby digital mono. The quality is quite good. The audio is fairly flat, which is due the show being dialogue driven and the mono track offers very little in terms of dynamics. This release also supports closed captioning and has subtitles in English.

Extras:
Similar to the third and fourth season releases, a bonus episode, "Caviar with Everything", for Mrs. Columbo is included. The spin-off series stars Kathryn Mulgrew and has her solving crimes, just as her husband Columbo, by seeing the small flaws in a crime. I think it's nice they included the episode. In a way it has its charm, but it does not compare to the likeness of Columbo.

Final Thoughts:
While season five of Columbo may only come with a meager six episodes, the episodes are far from meager. The content is television at its best with Peter Falk giving a tremendous performance as Lieutenant Columbo. Fans of the series and newcomers alike should get a kick out of watching him dredge through episodes like "Last Salute to the Commodore" and face twisted criminals.

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