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How to Dial a Murder

Some comments to it:

- take a look on first seconds of movie when you see a hand disconnecting phone plug from the socket. The plug doesn't have any cable connected to it if you will look carefully :)
- looks like Eric Mason is the cruelest ever: we actually see only one his murder (he even doesn't pull the trigger himself). But he kills Charles Hunter, we have clear clues that he murdered his wife too, also he almost strangles Joanne Nicholls (Columbo comes in last minute), he tries to kill Columbo, and he also try to kill both of his dogs! A lot of killings
- when he gives the lecture in the beggining it is funny for me, what he draws on the board. some X letters surrounded by circle, and he makes more circles while he speaks. Always funny, all this drawings which practicly mean nothing at all :)
- how lucky he was in the hospital while calling, that the doctor didn't come earlier
- Columbo also was quite lucky that he picked just the proper thing from the house - the "baby spot", among all the other things that were in the house. Was there any particular reason to pick this one? did he had some feeling that it can be important?
- Joanne must have been for a long time under the water if she didn't hear at all that phone ringing
- this officer who watches the dogs (Ed Begley Jr) doesn't seem to be very smart. Mason comes and says he want to be with dogs, and officer says, he doesn't know if that's possible, and needs to check it, and leaves the room then, leaving Mason with the dogs exactly how he wanted! what's the point of this "security" officer then?
- also Mason is not too smart here. He plans to kill the dogs. If he succeeded then it would be clear for everyone that he did it, ergo, he had reason. So very very strong reason for Columbo to suspect him
- I don't understand this chocolate thing. He wants to poison the dogs with that, and then eats by himself. Or maybe the regular chocolate is poisonous for dogs (I know almost nothing about dogs)?
- good line: "thinking is old-fashioned habit, and one well worth cultivating", then Columbo says "well, I'm gonna have to try that sometime sir" :D
- during the windy evening Joanne is running to dr. Mason's house but she found Columbo there. How did he enter? I assume he didn't have a key or a warrant?
- how did Mason know that Charlie was keeping the pictures of him and Mason's late wife? and how did he know where those pictures were? Ok, he knew where the key was, obviously he also took a jacket from the closet in the past, but how about those pictures? or maybe he found out about affair because of them? I thought he hired a detective, so that's how he found out. But if the pictures were the reason, why didn't he take them just after murder? He could have assumed that police will search a house quite soon. So as you see I have a lot of doubts about this pictures
- it took me a lot of watchings of this episode until I've noticed very that the recording device (dictaphone) is very clearly visible all the time they play word game from almost all camera angles on his raincoat's pocket
- do you think the dogs would react on "Rosebud" if not the telephone ringing before?

Re: How to Dial a Murder


Love your analyses. A couple of particular points which struck me -

(1) The 'security' cop (played by Ed Begley). Spot on. It always bothers me when he walks out, "Lemme check with Lt. Columbo, I think he's around here somewhere." Really? Walks out of a room where nobody is allowed to see the dogs. On top of that - it's kind of strange that Columbo is actually at the police station! He's never at the police station. As he said in "Forgotten Lady", "None of the murders happen there."

(2) The tape recorder. I never noticed this in Columbo's pocket either until a decade or so ago. It's an elegantly filmed scene, which fits in so nicely with the overall moodiness of this, in my opinion, terrific episode. It has many elements of a motion picture and not just a TV show, this scene being one of them.

(3). The chocolate. What bothers me is that Columbo, who's been charged with protecting the dogs, doesn't say anything when Dr. Mason says, "Even chocolate?" According to this article: the chocolate doesn't poison humans but it does damage dogs due to their inability to process the theobromine and caffeine contained in chocolate. I would have thought Columbo, a dog owner himself, would have known chocolate would be bad for dogs. A more appropriate response from Columbo would have been,

"Dr. Mason, I'm surprised you would want your dogs to have chocolate. That's very bad for them."

"Lt, I didn't know you were an expert on dogs."

"Oh, yes, sir. I have a dog. He's a low-slung model, certainly not as smart and well-trained as your dogs."

(4) "ROSEBUD" - yes, the dogs were conditioned to attack on this word. This was their 'Kill" word. The phone ringing was conditioned to get their attention and bring them to a certain spot (the kitchen phone in this case). Once alerted and in position, they were then given the kill command and would attack whoever/whatever was there. In Dr. Mason's kitchen that was originally the dummy Charlie stuffed with straw and scented by the vest. In the murder, Charlie himself was there at the phone and had to say, "ROSEBUD" in order to trigger the kill. By the pool table, Dr. Mason already had the target (Columbo) present, so he simply had to say "ROSEBUD" and point at Columbo.

Good stuff, Matti! Keep 'em coming.

Re: How to Dial a Murder

Maybe it's the point, but it's funny how Eric lectures his clients about being in control, but he thinks has to murder his best friend, and maybe his wife. Even if it is because of their affair, that isn't exactly being in control.
Since he's a psychiatrist, he needs to "own those feelings" instead of murdering people.

Re: How to Dial a Murder


I don't think Mason intends to kill his dogs. That is simply the impression of the viewer, because of the sinister character and the atmosphere of the scene. Besides, that would only accuse him (his visit would be registered) and they are going to be sacrificed by court order. On the other hand, chocolate is bad, but not lethal for dogs. I doubt that the health argument would have been taken into account (for example, in "Anatomy of a Murder", the dog drinks beer and nobody was shocked).


Re: How to Dial a Murder

Of course he intends to kill them. Mason says, "I'd like to wish you two a long and healthy life, but that wouldn't be so good for me. So, you're going to have to do me one more favor."

What else could he have meant by saying this.

Re: How to Dial a Murder

Hi again.

As I've said before, killing them would only incriminate him. For me, that "one more favor" is to be sacrificated, what would happened in a few days. But the scene of the visit seeks to produce tension in the viewer and succeeds in doing so.


Re: How to Dial a Murder

While I also thought he meant to kill them, in the italian version he also says he brought them their favourite chocolate: how can it be their favourite chocolate if they never ate it?

Generally I find it strange too that he asks them one more favour if he doesn't mean they should die for him, but the other person said chocolate is not lethal, and combined with it being their "favourite chocolate" I'm not fully sure any more he meant to kill them with it.