Columbo: An analysis of “Columbo Likes the Nightlife” part 5

Columbo’s investigation leads him to the den of Justin Price.
Los Angeles is much different than the 1970’s.  Even during sunlight, the streets are home to the weird if not dangerous.  This is part five of our analysis of “Columbo Likes the Nightlife”.

Easy to miss, in the last few frames of Columbo’s visit to Justin Price’s warehouse clubs, he’s seen picking up the phone before fade-to-black.  This is the connection between the phone number of the grand opening promotion and visiting the new club.

Columbo is introduced like a phantom, haunting Price and his new place.  Columbo steps out from a red, ominous doorway.  The doorway, as we see it from the inside, is perhaps not a gateway into the underworld but out.  Columbo is stepping into hell-under-construction where logic and reason do not exist.  Justin is caught under the influence of moving art, communicating with it.  He’s instructing his staff to synchronize the music as if he was appeasing it.  When he greets Columbo, the Lieutenant doesn’t hesitate to question the loud music.  On the surface, it looks like an old man who doesn’t like the music of the young.  It’s also a story of a visitor who does not want to be here.  A very subtle hint of something that will be revealed much later. 

During Columbo’s interview, Justin gives him exactly what he’s looking for: the man who wants to think Coben’s death was a suicide.  The investigation and the episode takes a new turn.  From here, its all about chiseling Justin’s alibis.  With new camera angles, Justin remains shadowed by “loud art”.  The gods of the underworld are watching closely.  One thing I can’t overlook is Columbo’s backhanded compliment of Justin’s “step up” opening a new rave club.  His words wasn’t enough as he followed giggling at himself.  I’d rather not think Peter Falk was mocking the script or showing hints of senility.

“Well congratulations, I suppose.” – Lt. Columbo.

During the interview, Columbo notices Justin’s pager.  It’s something that will resurface later as his albatross.  After Columbo says his goodbye and exits, Justin makes a call to Vanessa.  Again he is shadowed by chaotic and illogical art.  Even when he steps to our right, new art shadows him. He cannot escape it.  Even Vanessa is caught between the glass of her windows and reflections of her pool.  Like the opening two scenes, loud art and glass still imprison them.  The theme of cutting off a conversation escalates.  Justin wants to cut off talking with Vanessa until the end of Columbo’s investigation.   It takes visual meaning when the scene ends with an extreme wide shot of Vanessa, alone.

Columbo visits, I presume, the office of the National Inquisitor.  I admit, I tried to find some Stanley Kubrick-like message within the magazine’s cover.  And here it goes.  Let’s take a look at the headline “BONE COLLECTORS MAN & WIFE UNEARTH DINOSAUR WHILE HIKING”.   Unearthing bone is a symbol a revealing a buried secret, likely representing death.  Notice the headline is not “Husband & Wife” but “Man & Wife”.  The man is Justin.  The wife is ex wife, Vanessa.  The discovery while hiking is an accidental find.  Tony Galper’s death was an accident.

This is part five of an analysis of the Columbo episode, “Columbo Likes the Nightlife” directed by Jeffrey Reiner.

Pt. 1  Pt. 2  Pt. 3  Pt. 4  Pt. 5  Pt. 6  Pt. 7

1 comment

  1. Danny May 8, 2018 11:19 am  Reply

    I personally like this one far better than “Murder with too many notes”, unfortantly it’s a bit of a whimper rather than a bang.
    Peter Falks battle dementia really put an end to any more.

    As a side note, this wasn’t actually his last in character scene as columbo, there was a short ALIAS spoof in 2004. I like knowing the character went out with a smile.

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