Columbo: Blueprint for Murder

The architect as æsthete. Markham lectures on Ancient Architecture, and remembers the Egyptian engineer in his tomb guarding the secret of the pyramids; he conceives the plan of killing a recalcitrant client (“philistine,” Markham calls him—“ego trip,” says the client) and burying him in the foundation of his new skyscraper, thus securing the commission for a model city through the man’s wife, although it’s not really a question of money in itself. “You can’t put a price tag on genius,” he says.

There is a nice judgment shown here in the script, which makes this the client’s second wife and rather young, his first being a great collector of gold lamé, and himself a devoted Nashville fan.

The case is solved early in Lt. Columbo’s mind when he notes the architect’s favorite classical station on the missing client’s car radio. So it’s a matter of humoring a murderer blinded by vanity, who tells Lt. Columbo “you’re learning architecture the hard way,” until the evidence can be obtained with a piece of drama and a gambit.

A visit to the client’s cardiologist by Lt. Columbo names the æsthete as heartless.

The virtues of the direction are swiftness, a medium close-up allowing rapid expressive possibilities, and a greatly mobile POV usually in the driver’s seat, with nice echoes of Torn Curtain (the blackboards in the university lecture hall) and 2001: A Space Odyssey (the excavation as a night exterior).

Much of it was filmed at the site of one of the last buildings to go up in Century City, where a decade earlier the Clampett family had presided at the demolition of Columbia Studios by Hedda Hopper, and Milburn Drysdale had broken ground for one of the first buildings there, the Commerce Bank of Beverly Hills.