Columbo's a Cadet Again
Colonel Lyle C. Rumford (Patrick McGoohan) is very proud of the military academy he commands and is against any sort of change especially when William Haynes (Tom Simcox), the owner of the academy, decides it is not doing well enough and wants it to become a co-ed college. To prevent this from ever happening Rumford arranges for a ceremonial cannon to back fire during the founders day ceremony, killing Haynes in the process. With death arrives Lt. Columbo (Peter Falk) to investigate matters and immediately he becomes suspicious of Colonel Rumford and with Mrs. Columbo away the lieutenant moves in to the academy whilst carrying out his investigations.
I have now watched the majority of "Columbo" and to be honest I have been wondering what there is left I could say then it comes to "Columbo: By Dawn's Early Light". I mean that whilst all episodes were different they also had a certain familiarity, it was part of their appeal as you watched knowing what you were getting but also knowing that it would be entertaining. And that is what you get here, the usual high level of writing and performance which makes "Columbo: By Dawn's Early Light" as good as any of the episodes from the 70's series.
But whilst I could mention all the usual stuff that I always write about an episode of "Columbo" there is one thing which really stands out about "Columbo: By Dawn's Early Light" and that is the character of Lyle C. Rumford. Here is a man who kills but not out of hatred of a man but to protect his way of life, eliminating the threat that this man presents due to his plans to change the academy. But then you have Patrick McGoohan giving Rumford various layers so whilst he is a stickler for tradition he seems to be more attached to maintain an all boys academy for more reasons than just tradition. There is this ambiguity about his reactions making you wonder whether he has a fondness for the boys under his supervision or whether he enjoys the discipline side of things. It makes Rumford one of the most intriguing men to have appeared in an episode of "Columbo" and it is McGoohan's performance alongside the writing which makes this episode.
What this all boils down to is that "Columbo: By Dawn's Early Light" is as good as any episode of "Columbo" you might chose to watch and delivers all the usual elements which made the series so good. But this episode also features a brilliant performance from Patrick McGoohan and some wonderful writing when it comes to creating a fascinating, multi layered character.