Columbo: Episodes with tape recording machines

The 1970’s era tape machine,
was invaluable technology that helped Columbo crack murder cases.  Voice evidence, safely stored on unsecured magnetic media, was one of many high tech methods our favorite sleuth relied on.  Here is a list of 5 episodes with tape recording machines.

August 16, 2016.  Re-posted with new content.

For the sake of the article, we’re leaving out telephone recording machines used in “Ransom for a Dead Man” and “An Exercise in Fatality”, both examples of re-editing and re-compiling a phone call.  We’re sticking with recorded evidence Columbo reviews.

The Most Crucial Game

A self-serving private investigator puts a wiretap on Eric Wagner’s home.  What’s recorded on the tape isn’t has important as the conspiracy behind who physically put them there.  Columbo cracks the inner circle and discovers its not what you say when you’re unknowingly recorded.   It’s about what you say when you know.

Season 2, episode 3.

Double Exposure

The key to this strange case is explaining what’s not on the tape.  Columbo goes round and round with Dr. Bart Keppel, forcing him to explain what he was doing with the tape machine.  Is Dr. Keppel and cool headed man with a plan or the nervous Nelly too happy with the record button?  We all knew Dr. Keppel was preserving his alibis but it didn’t erase Columbo’s suspicions.

Season 3, episode 4.

Publish or Perish

Peek into the life of Alan Mallory through his audio recordings.  You’ll hear his imagination, his dreams, fears, and his murder.  While it establishes Riley Greenleaf’s alibis, it also paints an accurate picture how Alan was murdered and the uselessness of the mysterious key left on the floor.

Season 3, episode 5.

Mind over Mayhem

Unlike all other examples, this wasn’t exactly evidence.  It was Lt. Columbo’s experiment with voice technology replacing his old fashioned notepad.  Turns out, it was pretty effective and practically solved the case itself.

Season 3, episode 6.

Identity Crisis

Nelson Brenner’s plan includes Columbo taking him at his word, recorded on video tape.  Brenner plays the man who knew much, knowing too much about the Olympic games.   Watch Columbo pick apart Brenner’s speech.  He doesn’t go for the jugular until he sees his adversary squirm.  Thinking about fabricating your own alibis?  Try that with someone other than Columbo.

Season 5, episode 3.

Old Fashioned Murder

Dead man tells tales in this episode of family betrayal and murder.  A victim’s last words unwittingly unravels the murderer’s cover story.  Countless hours of due diligence and basic understanding of Byzantine art is all that was required to solve the case of museum mayhem.  That and false accusations of poisoning by camomile tea.

Season 6, episode 2.

How to Dial a Murder

A secret recording unlocks a subliminal message for dogs and humans alike.  Dr. Eric Mason is secretly recorded during a psychological word game.  His powers of persuasion and mind tricks are turned on him.  A murderer is sent to justice and two dogs are rescued.

Season 7, episode 4.

Caution: Murder Can Be Hazardous to Your Health

1970’s tech return in 1990 in a tale of a missing cassette tape.  The missing clue of a puzzle sends Lt. Columbo on a hunt.  Listen to Budd Clarke’s daily plans; picking up dry cleaning, investigating news, and a visit to a local adult video store.

Season 10, episode 2.


  1. BillPasadena August 19, 2016 10:22 pm  Reply

    Wasn’t there an episode with a couple dobermans and a small cassette recorder?

    • admin August 20, 2016 1:45 pm  Reply

      That was “How to Dial a Murder” (Season 7, Episode 4).
      You’re correct, Columbo covertly recorded the conversation. I don’t remember if he shared the recording with anyone other than the dogs.

  2. foggy August 31, 2017 5:59 pm  Reply

    Really late to this thread (sorry) but I have to mention my favorite one, from ‘Short Fuse.’ The answering machine that starts recording *before* the beep! but is considerate enough to wait until the caller is finished speaking before continuing its welcome message…

    Machine: There’s no one answering at the moment. This is a recording device. Would you care to leave a message?

    Buckner: Arr, these modern idiotic devices. She’s not home yet. Quincy, look in the dash there, willya?

    Machine: If so your voice will be recorded and the connection won’t be broken until you hang up.

    Quincy: Nope. What’s the matter with Benson? You sure your cigar case isn’t in your coat pocket?

    Machine: You may start your message now. Thank you.

    Buckner: Hello! Hello darling. It’s me….


  3. JHONI BUKHARI July 17, 2018 11:31 pm  Reply

    is that tape recorder can be depelop at present?

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