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Blu-Ray : Highly Recommended
Ranking:
Sale Price: $112.8 Last Price: $ Buy now! 3rd Party 105.33 In Stock
Release Date: December 19th, 2023 Movie Release Year: 2003

Columbo: The 1970s Seasons 1-7

Overview -

Poirot, Marple, Castle, Fletcher, Cale, all are brilliant detectives with their own unique methods for solving a murder, but none hold a candle to the unsuspecting diminutive Lt. Columbo. Case after case, Peter Falk headlined as the iconic detective solving some of the toughest crimes against some of the wiliest guest stars of a generation. Now at long last Columbo The 1970s Seasons 1-7 solves the crime of the missing Blu-ray thanks to KLSC. The A/V package is fantastic for a truly Highly Recommended addition to the collection.

Restored in 4K by Universal Pictures! Columbo is the landmark series that set the standard for the murder mystery genre. Remastered in 4K by Universal, Columbo: The 1970s includes the first seven seasons of this enduring classic on Blu-ray! Starring Peter Falk in his four-time Emmy-winning role as the cigar-chomping, trenchcoat-wearing police lieutenant, this 20-disc collection includes every criminally entertaining episode from the series’ first seven seasons.

OVERALL:
Highly Recommended
Rating Breakdown
STORY
VIDEO
AUDIO
SPECIAL FEATURES
Tech Specs & Release Details
Technical Specs:
20 Blu-ray Discs
Video Resolution/Codec:
1080p AVC/MPEG-4
Length:
3800
Aspect Ratio(s):
1.33:1
Audio Formats:
English: DTS-HD MA 2.0
Subtitles/Captions:
English SDH
Release Date:
December 19th, 2023

Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take

Ranking:

You’re a murderer and you’ve just committed the perfect crime. You carefully planned the event without leaving the slightest detail to chance. After all, you’ve wanted to kill that person for a long time and certainly had a motive. Now the deed is done, and all you’ve got to do is keep to your story so the police don’t suspect a thing. They even assign this scrubby-looking cigar-smoking burnout to the case who doesn’t seem too bright to be a Lieutenant let alone be a detective. You tell him your story, the facts you want him to believe, and that’s that. But just when you think you’re in the clear, Lt. Columbo ducks his head back into the room saying “Just one more thing…”

As I mentioned in my review for Monk: Season One, the fun part of a whodunnit show is seeing how our master of criminal detection is going to solve the murder and identify the killer. In the case of Columbo, we already know who the killer is, so it’s all about watching Peter Falk figure out the evidence. What is the simple turn of phrase of the little piece of evidence the killer overlooked that’ll crack the case wide open? It’s always different, it’s always interesting, and for most of the episodes, it’s a pretty clever twist. Columbo always gets his man (or woman), the fun is the “how” and with “what.”

This is where I need to ask for a measure of forgiveness with this review. I’ve had this set for a couple of weeks now and I should have turned in my coverage a while ago. Usually, my methodology for big multi-season series reviews like this is to watch at least one episode per disc (maybe two if the series isn’t too long) and then move on to the next disc. My problem with Kino Lorber Studio Classics’ release of Columbo: The 1970s Seasons 1-7 wasn’t because of an A/V issue or an encoding problem. It was because Richard Levinson and William Link’s diminutive detective show was just too much fun. Once you start an episode you can’t stop in the middle, and then when you’re done with one, hell, you might as well start the next! At two to three episodes to a disc, it was very easy to just start binging the series and not stop.

Growing up in the 80s without cable and only a crappy aerial to pull in the scant few Detriot area stations, I got to see a few reruns of Columbo, but I didn’t get into the show in earnest until my college years. My first television writing professor loved the series and she’d pull out an episode every so often for our lab class to discuss and dissect the writing. From there all I had to do was turn on TV Land or whichever channel ran late-night reruns in my dorm room and I was all set for another fix. 

Most of the episodes are damn clever, well-written, and smartly directed little “movies-of-the-week.” At almost 90 minutes without commercials, each episode doesn’t feel like your average series. Following a true cinematic three-act structure, you’re introduced to the guest star murderer and victim, you watch the crime unfold and by the time you get to the second commercial break, Peter Falk’s Columbo is on the case (and probably already has it figured out). From there, you're left to pick apart each little conversation to figure out what Columbo knows that our killer-of-the-week doesn't. 

Now, like any series, not every episode is perfect. Some Columbo mysteries hinge on a bit of luck and circumstance. A good case example would be the very entertaining episode Dagger of the Mind. A great fish-out-of-water episode, we see Falk’s Columbo travel to London to learn new methods of detection from Scottland Yard only for him to be the one teaching the Brits a thing or two. The episode is a lot of fun but when it comes time for Columbo’s signature case wrapup, it’s a little too conveniently solved. Not a bad episode, but an example of a weaker entry. By comparison to a truly classic episode of the same season Etude in Black guest-starring Falk’s buddy John Cassavetes, each piece of the episode is spot on never feeling contrived or convenient. But then an uneven episode of Columbo is still damned entertaining and worth your time. 

It’d been a good long while since I saw any of the classic episodes. Recently I’d been watching more of the late 80s and 90s revivals so seeing the original pilot films and early episodes was a lot of fun. Generally depending on the guest star of the week, you knew how good a time you were about to have. If Robert Culp, Jack Cassidy, Robert Vaughn, Patrick McGoohan, or Leslie Nielsen appeared you know it's going to be a good one. Or in the case of the fifth season episode Identity Crisis, you got both Nielson and McGoohan (who also directed)! But then you also have guest spots from William Shatner, Donald Pleasence, Leonard Nemoy, Ray Milland, Martin Landau, Ruth Gordon, and the man in black himself Johnny Cash among many others to keep each episode fresh and entertaining and every mystery tantalizing. 




Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Kino Lorber Studio Classics solves a great Blu-ray crime by issuing Columbo: The 1970s Seasons 1-7 on disc. Spread over 20 Region A BD-50 discs, the discs are housed in five sturdy multi-disc cases (four discs to a case) with individual trays so no discs are stacked. The cases are held together with a paper slipbox case with excellent art by Tony Stella. Included in the first case is a sixteen-page episode guidebook detailing the guest star, writer, director, and a brief description of each episode.

Video Review

Ranking:

As someone who grew up watching the occasional rerun episode on television, I can’t say how much of a treat it is to have Columbo on Blu-ray and look this fantastic. When it was announced that the series was coming to Blu-ray from fresh new 4K restorations, I was worried that it’d wind up like Seinfeld or MASH and be butchered and reframed for modern televisions. Thankfully Universal held off from that attempt to modernize a classic series. In 1080p and proper 1.33:1 aspect ratio, each episode of Columbo simply looks magnificent. This is the kind of restoration you want to see for a great show such as this. While there may be the odd nick or scratch and the occasional soft spot here and there, by and large, each episode is in amazing shape. KLSC also did fans a favor by limiting the number of episodes to a disc. Since each episode runs almost 70-90 minutes, there are only ever 2-3 episodes to a disc ensuring a nice high healthy bitrate. Details are terrific with clean lines and textures. Film grain is retained with a nice cinematic appeal even if it was shot for 1970s televisions. Colors are vivid with nice bright primaries and healthy skin tones. In short, Columbo’s cheap tweed suits never looked better!

Audio Review

Ranking:

On the audio side, every episode of Columbo comes with a splendid DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio track, as well as a Score and Effects audio track. Now on the basic episode audio, like the video quality, these mixes are terrific. Vary rarely is hiss ever an issue as dialog, sound effects, and the scores for each episode are pitch-perfect. Occasionally there’s a little muffled dialog here and there or it can be pretty obvious when a line of dialog had to be dubbed into the final mix, but otherwise, there aren’t any distracting issues that would pull you out of the moment.

Now for the Score and Effects track, these I guess would constitute as a bonus feature, technically, but they’re also their own unique listening experience. As I dug through the series for my favorite episodes, I was struck by the music cues for some episodes and how moody and effective they were. So to that end, it’s pretty cool to have those tracks as well. It’s probably not a feature I’d run very often since I’m more likely to just want to watch the episode but it’s a nice bonus all the same.

Special Features

Ranking:

On the bonus features side, Columbo was unfortunately undercut at the last minute. Originally when this series was announced, KLSC had commissioned a trove of new extras with numerous audio commentaries to accompany each disc. Within mere days of that announcement, they had to, unfortunately, cancel those bonus features without an explanation. KLSC’s Fark Tarzi stopped by Cereal At Midnight and during their discussion briefly mentioned the situation but sadly couldn’t allude to what happened behind the scenes. I would love it if KLSC could figure out a way to “Rifftrax” those new commentaries. I’d gladly pay a nominal fee to be able to hear the thoughts and musings of so many personalities even if I had to manually sync them on my phone or portable device.

Now for the actual On-Disc extras that we have, it’s not a whole lot, but it’s not nothing. As I mentioned in the audio section, each episode has an optional music and effects track that is pretty cool to listen to. Some of the scores for various episodes are very stylish and atmospheric. After that, the only other traditional extra feature would be the shorter cut of Etude in Black. At about 25 minutes shorter, it plays a little leaner and tighter, but I gotta admit I enjoy the longer version more. It’s a classic episode, in my opinion, so more is actually more. But the shorter cut is certainly interesting and absolutely a case where I would have loved to hear a commentary track to explain it all. 

  • Music and Effects Audio Tracks
  • Shorter Cut of Etude in Black (HD 1:11:13)

Columbo is classic 70s television at its best. A terrific series from the start, Falk was nominated for an Emmy in the first season - and won for good reason. Falk would actually win four Emmy Awards in his time as Lt. Columbo. Thanks to Kino Lorber Studio Classics, we have the first seven seasons of the original 1970s series on Blu-ray looking and sounding better than ever. The show has always been entertaining in any format, but it’s a real treat to watch the show looking so fresh. I also hadn’t seen the original Movie of the Week Prescription: Murder before so it was a lot of fun seeing Falk looking so slick and polished in one film and then in the series pilot looking his iconic frumpy self! While I lament the loss of those canceled extra features, nevertheless, KLSC has done a masterful job with this set. It’s been difficult to not just sit here and watch them all in one go! VERY Highly Recommended