Columbo: An analysis of “Make Me a Perfect Murder” part 8

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By 34:54, Columbo gets a quick lesson in cue-blipping by Walter Mearhead.   We also get a closer look at Walter’s ship.  Columbo pays closer attention than Kay.   Here is a  man with a special attention to detail.  Every move is carefully planned.  He wears gloves to avoid having glue stuck to his hands.  Walter makes a positive impression on Columbo.

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Columbo discovers the rubber glove.  As he’s pondering about why Kay was left alone, he’s isn’t too surprised to see it.  We might have thought Kay has forgotten about her glove, she enters the projectionist room and tries to pull the trick a second time sending Walter out to return the reels.  But Columbo has beaten her to them.  They are deadlocked at the doorway, a physical symbol that Columbo stands in the way of her plans like no one.  The reels are gone and so is her glove in which she does not acknowledge Columbo is holding.

Columbo follows Kay to begin a second round of combat.  He wonders Kay asked Walter to collect screen tests from”The Broad Land” if Flanagan has already chosen to hire Clay Gardner.  Kay places the responsibility and blame on verbal instructions from a dead man, Mark.  Columbo is forced to concede.   Kay exits through the elevator floor stranding Columbo in the hallway.  Point – Kay.

Unrelenting, Columbo shows us he’s as fast as an elevator catching up with Kay outside the front doors of the network.  We get what we first think is a poor if not unorthodox angle of him coming down the stairs.  We only identify him by his head – his source of wisdom and knowledge.  We never see his body until it manifests itself from around the corner.  Perhaps, they were not stairs at all considering we never see steps or anyone else using them.   It is a slightly supernatural explanation how he catches Kay.

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Kay escorts Lt. Columbo to a studio somewhere on the network’s premises.  We immedietly see a portal through a camera’s television monitor.  With patriotic red, white, and blue, the stage is filled with actors in military uniforms.  The first thing we notice is there are no flags.  Other than the colors and stage columns designed like banners, there are no convincing patriotic symbols here.  Only primary colors.  It is a subtle hint of conflict.

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Kay is whisked away to meet the director leaving Columbo standing in front of a large, self-ag’grandizing banner.  The stage is overrun with absurdity and absence of logic and order.  Columbo does not yet notice the “Valerie!” banner he stands next to mindlessly repeating itself like an annoying mime pretending to yell at you again and again.  The banner pleads for attention yet is already a failure.  A dancer dressed up in Army green, shushes Columbo, as if the uniform grants him a certain amount of authority.

Authority is disturbed here.  While dancers give orders to silence police, Kay and the entire crew look upwards waiting for the director, perched in his chair, to come down from the heavens.  It is Luther, who grants everyone a 5-minute break but it is up to Kay to decide if Valerie gets the boot.

While Luther predicts Valerie won’t make it, pleading with Kay to replace her, Columbo is fascinated with the set.  We get another look at the camera monitor.  The monitors sees the cast differently, as extremely bored.   Columbo begins to see that television is as much a witness as any other person and can see people who they really are.

Kay hears but does not listen to Luther and is almost insulted when he describes Valerie’s work as “lousy”.  She heads to Valerie’s dressing room, the cameras follow her every move.  Look closely at the monitors, only Kay is moving.  There is lifeless misery on the set, the cameras capturing everyone’s doldrums.    Cameramen have their feet planted.  Luther depends on a mechanical arm to elevate him as he is locked into his director’s chair.

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Up in the director’s booth, Columbo gets a private tour from one of the technicians.  (A cameo appearance by George C. Scott)    Columbo is left alone after learning Kay is a master the control panel.  Curious, Columbo starts pressing buttons and becomes entranced by lights and music.  It is a long and obtuse scene with dancing vectors and classical music.   It is not important what we see.  The shapes and lights are abstract.   It’s about Columbo hypnotized.   The more important question is “what does Columbo see?”

He is having an out-of-body experience looking through the eyes of Kay behind the panel.  He feels the power and excitement creating new universes and worlds with a touch of a button.  He is almost lost in it.  Like all fictional worlds they come to an end and Columbo easily distances himself from the panel but not without satisfaction.

We conclude part 8 at 44:16.  Revisit part one by clicking here.

This is the 8th part of the series, an analysis of “Make Me a Perfect Murder” directed by James Frawley.

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