Columbo: Robert Culp

Robert Culp (1930-2010),
gave four performances on Columbo.  We pay a long overdue tribute to the actor known for his epic villainy.

Investigator Brimmer in “Death Lends a Hand”

Playing a successful owner of an investigative firm, hot-head Brimmer plays blackmail one too many times.  Under the thumb of news tyrant, he doesn’t notice Columbo has read his fortune.  Brimmer is an ambidextrous marksman, likes fillet of sole, and spending time in his beach house.  Brimmer may have ruined many lives by digging into their secrets.  Ironic, his career ends with a potato.  (First aired 1971)

Paul Hanlon in “The Most Crucial Game”

Paul Hanlon runs sports dynasties out of L.A.  His shrewd methods span North America with football, basketball, and hockey.  He sees greatness if only the owner would stay awake and sober.  Hanlon needs a steady supply of money to make more money.  Franchises must be paid for and elaborate venues built.  His dream can’t come true if his boy-king gives his kingdom away to charity.  Hanlon’s empire crashed because one person couldn’t get their ding-a-ling ice cream in the middle of nowhere, Los Angeles and called to complain about it.  (First aired 1972)

Dr. Bart Kepple in “Double Exposure”

Dr. Kepple engages in psychological warfare.  He knows what you’ll do next before you’re thinking about what you’ll do next.  If his subliminal string-pulling isn’t effective, he’ll go with reliable blackmail.  Dr. Kepple likes the advertising business.  He’d rather talk about how to sell than sell the product itself.  Dr. Kepple may been ahead of his time with identity based marketing.  He can gauge spending habits with just a picture and the uptight attitude you take with you inside a Safeway.  But karma has its way biting back.  Those who blackmail get blackmailed.  Those who kill by the subliminal cut die by the subliminal cut.   (First aired 1973)

Jordan Rowe in “Columbo Goes to College”

While Culp doesn’t murder, he just kills it with his characterization of Jordan Rowe, the villain’s father.  No less smug, Mr. Rowe gives Lt. Columbo a dressing down.  He’d break every bone in his son’s body to get way.  He follows up on conspiracy theories regarding organized crime up and down the Pacific coast and enjoys dinners in San Francisco.  We never did get to see his smugness wipe clean from his face when Justin is arrested.  We’ll have to use our imagination.  This was Robert Culp’s fourth appearance on Columbo, sadly his last.  (First aired 1990)

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