Remembering a Columbo-Inspired Student Film

When I heard the news this weekend of actor Peter Falk's death, I recalled his performances in It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, Murder By Death, The Great Muppet Caper, The Princess Bride, and of course his most famous role which he played numerous times over the decades, the crime-solving Lt. Columbo.  I also recalled a student film my friends and I did in high school.  Written and directed by my friend John as part of an Italian class project, Colombo: The Next Generation, was all at once a spoof of and an homage to the frumpy but brilliant detective.

I played a thief and had a cool getaway scene in my 'vette (um, Chevette).  Looking back on it now, it was great fun, almost as much fun as watching Peter Falk bring that classic character to life as he solved so many mysteries, starting with 1968's Prescription: Murder.  He defined the part and if anyone ever tries to reboot the premise with another actor as Columbo, they will never do it justice.  Falk made the role his own.  Others have played the part (Bert Freed in an episode of The Chevy Mystery Show, Thomas Mitchell in a stage version of Prescription: Murder, and Dirk Benedict in a revival of that play), but the part will always be linked with Peter Falk, from his ever present raincoat and cigar to his gravelly voice and lazy-eyed face which deceptively hid a keen mind unmatched by any other fictional detective, except maybe for Sherlock Holmes. 

To call Columbo stories "mysteries" is a bit misleading.  We always knew who the murderer was.  The joy came from watching Lt. Columbo figure it out and reveal how he did it to the guilty party -- but not before asking that one last question.  It was a familiar formula that Falk made look easy and fresh each and every time.

I'll always cherish that little student film we made, and I'll always remember Peter Falk as a great character actor who brought one of the greatest crime solvers ever imagined to life.

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