Columbo: The Complete Fifth Season

In his fifth season, the LAPD’s Lieutenant Columbo finds himself investigating such characters as a faded starlet (Janet Leigh) and a bullfighter (Ricardo Montalban). The Ill-fated Sal Mineo and a (barely) pre-comic Leslie Nielsen also appear. Police Lieutenant Columbo is the role for which Peter Falk won four Emmys. The oft-parodied policeman lures killers into a false sense of security with his dopey, misinformed façade, beneath which lurks calculating bravura. With furrowed brow and cigar nub, Columbo offers suspects mistaken conclusions in return for revealing foot-in-mouth corrections, trapping his prey with their own hubris. Taking on the role in 1971, Falk was already a veteran of film and television work as diverse as guest spots on Dr. Kildare and leading roles in art fare such as Strick’s The Balcony. His Columbo is weary but noble, crusading against clever, self-righteous degenerates. Most reliably, the fifth season delivers an excellent set of criminal performances, including turns from Robert Vaughn, Robert Loggia and Hector Elizondo. The three-disc set features all six episodes of the series’ fifth season. The transfers are a definite step-up from the faded television broadcasts familiar from Columbo’s syndicated runs. There’s only one bonus feature, however — the inclusion of an episode of the short-lived Mrs. Columbo, featuring Star Trek: Voyager’s Kate Mulgrew as the Lieutenant’s reporter wife. The universes of Mrs. Columbo and the Lieutenant never collided, except in passing references, making this a sort of unrivalled showbiz sham marriage. (Universal)