Season 5; Episode 6; 1976.

Review by David Mackenzie.


The curmudgeonly Commodore of a boat yard is attending his retirement party. His son-in-law (Robert Vaughn) runs the yard, but the Commodore is fed up with his questionable ethics. That night Commodore is killed and Columbo's suspicion is immediately on Vaughn. However, when Vaughn himself turns up dead Columbo must work out which of the Commodore's oddball friends did it.

Was it the drunk daughter, the English gentleman lawyer with a fondness for young prostitutes, the angry manager of the boat yard or the
Commodore's nephew who finds the whole thing a joke? In classic Agetha Christie-style, Columbo, his sergeant and a young up-and-coming detective gather the suspects in a room for a final dramatic 'reveal'.

The episode looks absolutely stunning as a lot of the action takes place on location on or near boats in glorious 70's Los Angeles sunshine. All
the supporting cast play fantastic over-the-top characters that feel much more like real people than in most episodes. Add in a solid twist on the
usual Columbo formula, put Patrick McGoohan in the director's chair and this episode should be a sure-fire fan favourite.

However, if you read the comments on IMDb you'll realise this is a very unpopular episode amongst Columbo fans (with many saying it's the worst episode of all), but why? First, McGoohan was apparently experimenting with a semi-improvising technique for this episode leading to some bizarre scenes including a protracted discussion between Columbo and his colleagues about boat terminology; a lengthy faff when the detectives all try and fit into Columbo's car; a scene in which Falk and Vaughn get tangled up in a telephone cord; and a scene in which Falk struggles to keep himself from laughing as he shouts over the noise of the boat yard.

Second, Vaughn just looks tee'd off throughout. Was this how he was directed, or did he really just not want to be there?

When this episode was made, there was talk of it being the last Columbo (in fact there were two more series made before the 1980's hiatus) and I
like to think McGoohan and Falk wanted to send off the character with a flourish. In the final 'reveal' scene, Falk appears to act in a very McGoohan-like way. This is particularly noticeable when Falk clearly enunciates the pivotal "'Tisn't: It. Isn't." line.

That said, I love 'Last Salute to the Commodore' for all its experimental weirdness. I consider it to be the 'Fall Out' of Columbo episodes, and it
is definitely in my top five. I think this is more to do with me being a Priz fan than anything else!

In conclusion, then: highly recommended for Priz fans, not so much for non-Priz Columbo fans.

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