First transmission: 1989
"You can't help but scream, 'I got you!' when he finally announces he's had enough to arrest Barsini."
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Renowned artist Max Barsini lives on the beach with Vanessa, his wife and a young local model, Julie, who is the subject of Max's "Fox Paintings". Alongside is his first wife, Louise, and the three combine to essentially create Max's personal harem. He loves having the three around and really controlling and pitting them against each other.
However, when he spies on psychologist Sydney Hammer leaving Louise's house one night, Max learns that Louise has a crush on Sydney and is about to move in with him. But that leaves a problem. Louise is the only person who knows that Max murdered his former art dealer and friend, Harry Chudnow.
Max hatches a plan to murder Louise and creates an alibi by pretending to paint a picture for Vito, the owner of Vito's Bar where Max lived with Louise. Max escapes through a window and goes to a quiet beach where Louise is swimming. He smoothes her out with a cloth soaked in paint putty, then places her unconscious body in the sea before returning to Vito's house to unveil his new work of art.
When Louise's body is discovered the next day, Columbo intervenes while Max is taken away to identify the body, which Max believes was staged to make it look like a simple case of drowning.
However, Columbo is immediately suspicious that Louise only wears one contact lens since the other was removed and put back in the case.
The ruse used by Columbo to catch the killer
Barsini does himself a disservice on this front by announcing that Columbo has an interesting face and that he would like to paint one.
This immediately gives Columbo the opportunity to observe Barsini's painting, noting many splashes of paint on the floor. He also gives Columbo the opportunity to play the Barsini recordings, in which Louise details her recurring dreams, recorded for her sessions with psychologist Sydney Hammer, which appear to Columbo to contain clues to Harry Chudnow's murder.
But when Columbo looks around Vito's upstairs room, he sees that there are no fresh traces of paint on the floor where Barsini should have painted. He later finds a patch of red paint on Louise's lip in the morgue, identified as specially made Barsini Red, said to be from the rag Barsini used to suffocate her. That means Columbo can locate you at the crime scene.
However, it is not enough to crack the alibi. How could Barsini come in with a blank canvas and leave with a completely finished painting? Columbo reveals it all: the simple matter of covering the painting with a blank canvas.
Is there enough to pan for gold and get it for Harry Chudnow's murder? Of course we will never know. But somehow we all have to doubt Columbo would ever let that happen.
The Complexity of Murder
As for the Columbus murders, that's pretty complicated. Max Barsini not only had to find an alibi, he also had to paint a picture beforehand to make it appear as if he had actually spent the entire time in an upstairs room with Vito, although of course he was outside. . And he needs to do all this in advance and know exactly where Louise will be.
How angry does the killer get at Columbus?
Barsini's desire to paint Columbo gives Columbo carte blanche to attend meetings and speak with Barsini at length. Of course, this is just a request for trouble. When will these killers find out? And of course, anyone with an artistic temperament who is a control freak will be seriously annoyed by Columbo's hunt and investigation. It's no surprise, then, that Barsini destroys Columbo in style early on, and this is amplified when Vanessa and Julie finally put an end to their feud and leave the house together.
For Columbo fans looking for serious examples of Columbo turning out to be a killer, here's a great one.
The smug wealth factor
If there were a rating out of ten for the conjecture of Columbo's murder, Barsini would be far off the scale. Here's a character who isn't happy unless she controls everyone and is clearly not happy with just one woman's attention. If you can find a more irritating, less entertaining killer in another episode of Columbo, you're a better man than me.
This man radiates only hate in the audience - in the end you want to stick him in a broth and throw rotten eggs and tomatoes at him. No moment could be happier than when Columbo finally gets it right.
Not only that, Vanessa and Julie spend most of the episode being completely unlikable people, thanks largely to their rivalry for Max's affections. The only two consistently likable characters are Sydney and Louise.
There's no Columbo-related subplot here, but Harry Chudnow's disappearance (and murder) and the references to it in Louise's dream recordings offer some interesting distractions from just how irritating and arrogant Barsini is.
Mention of Dona Colombo
It's not a large sum, although Columbo seems quite pleased when Barsini declares that he wants to paint Columbo's portrait, proclaiming with a big smile on his face, "Wait till my wife hears about it"!
With that, we're assuming she's obviously a huge fan. But everyone seems to love Max Barsini, so chances are Columbo was no different. Although we really don't know because it's never explicitly mentioned. But let's assume.
What does Columbus learn about this episode?
Not much, really. He gets a little introduction to painting techniques, but no more than in the previous episodes.
Has anyone been given sedatives?
No, unless the diluent has been classified as a tranquilizer. While it has the effect of putting your ex-wife to sleep for a while, it's not directly available by prescription.
Deviations from the norm and inconsistencies with other Columbo episodes
regular cast appearances
A tavern called "Bar do Vito" needs someone to serve their customers and preferably someone named Vito. So who more than regular Columbus sweetheart Vito Scotti? It's all so obvious.
Sherea Danese, the real-life wife of Peter Falk, makes her third appearance in Columbo to play the obnoxious Vanessa, and actually manages to play her with such aplomb that she has appeared in similar roles in two subsequent episodes of Columbo. 🇧🇷
And of course we should all enjoy ourselves, because the always wonderful dog is in the episode too, although Barsini refuses to paint him alongside Columbus.
It has to be said that this is one of the most scandalous storylines in an episode of Columbo. To call this a bit of an exaggeration would seem like an understatement. I mean, an artist who essentially has his own harem? Even in the rich, selfish worlds that most of Columbo's villains live in, that seems a bit far-fetched.
But there is something very nice about this episode, mainly because of the quality of the cast (you can't think of anyone who plays Barsini better than Patrick Bauchau) and the direction. There are some fantastic accents, a prime example being the flashback sequences when Louise's dream recordings are played.
Shown in black and white, of course, there is a brilliant touch in the fact that each shows Columbus seated for his portrait, while Barsini paints him, both poses entirely static. One moment the two are in an alcove at Vito's Bar when Louise walks in, the next moment they're upstairs in the same pose as Barsini eats some fruit.
And it has a fantastic reveal. Colombo eliminates Barsini, slowly but surely revealing his cards. You can't help but yell "Gotcha!" when he finally announces that he's had enough to put aside the rather unpleasant job that is Barsini. Thank God.
Posted Mar 28, 2012 at 3:46pm
My husband and I still enjoy looking at the Columbo urns whenever we can. Almost everyone we knew identified with Columbus. Even though Peter Falk was Jewish, I thought he was at least partly Italian since he was so good looking and played the role so well. He was a very popular American actor. Rest in peace Peter Falcon.
Posted on 11/23/2012 at 9:39 p.m
I think the critics have a fondness for the nineties show. This may be one of the best in ABC's Colombo series, but it still falls short of the heights of the 1970s series. I mean how do they get 5 cigars and the classic 'Etude in Black' gets 3 cigars?
Posted on Nov 26, 2012 at 8:48 am
I can't deny it, I prefer the latter. They just look a little crazier and that usually appeals to me!
Posted on 12/15/2012 at 7:57 p.m
Does anyone know where the portrait of Columbus from this episode ended up? Someone out there must own it!
I wish it was available as a poster or transfer to canvas, like Kramer's famous portrait of Seinfeld.
Posted Sep 8, 2013 at 1:39pm
I never get tired of watching the same Columbo movies over and over again, I even have the box set. I love Peter Falk, nobody could have played Columbo that accurately, he's evolved the character over the years. I would love Murder's portrait - a self-portrait
Rest in Peace Peter X
Chama by Elaine
Posted Sep 9, 2013 at 10:52 am
Nobody mentioned the wonderfully clever scene where Columbo interviews the psychologist and subtly turns out to be the psychologist himself! pure shine
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