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» » Columbo Ein Spatz in der Hand (1971–2003)

Short summary

Harold likes to gamble, but as a rule he loses and he is heavily in debt. His uncle is the famous Big Fred who is the owner of a football team and he is a millionaire. But Harold can't get a dime from him. So Harold decides to kill his uncle by a pipe bomb under his car. He is not surprised when he is told Big Fred is dead. He is surprised however that the death is due to a road accident. He rushes to his uncle's house and he finds Lt. Columbo getting excited about the car with the bomb...

The football footage which shows two mock American football teams are excerpts from an actual Canadian Football League game shot in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, between the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the Edmonton Eskimos.

This is the only episode in which Columbo himself is a witness to a murder he solves.

Repeated "stock footage": The film of two police cars racing to the scene of the second murder in "A Bird In The Hand", swerving around the corner by the liquor store is the same film seen in Columbo: No Time to Die (1992), as police rush to rescue Melissa. These two episodes were originally broadcast during the same year, one after the other.

A unique episode in which the killer's preparations for murder don't go according to plan because someone else commits the crime in a totally different manner, and an innocent victim is killed instead.

User reviews


  • comment
    • Author: Qwne
    Emmy winner Tyne Daly guest stars as the boozy wife of Steve Forrest, the rich owner of a floundering football team. Greg Evigan plays Forrest's nephew, a gambler that has bet against the team in a pivotal game. Evigan's character is also having a secret affair with Daly. Unfortunately, for Evigan, a last ditch effort by the often-injured quarterback secures the team a playoff berth, ruining Evigan's plans to clean up. Thus, he plans to do away with "Big Fred" (Forrest), hoping that his uncle's demise will improve his chances of paying off his debts and solidify his relationship with Daly.

    Unlike other "Columbo" films, this one has a few more twists and turns, making it engaging all the way through until the denouement. Falk, as usual, is excellent with his befuddled manner, shabby outfit, and "Oh, just one more thing..." delivery.

    Dick Benedictus delivers another masterful score.

    Another highlight is an impressive explosion midway during the film.
  • comment
    • Author: Sadaron above the Gods
    On first viewing I was rather underwhelmed and confused by this complex multi-murder mystery. But repeated viewings add more and more to the movie, making it rank as one of my Top 10 Columbo episodes of all time.

    I disagree with the poster who said Greg Evigan is a horrible actor. I think he's fantastic. His character is horrible, that's for sure, but in terms of shifty, haunted-looking characters who end up totally out of their depth, you couldn't ask for more. He just oozes desperation, which makes for an unnerving but riveting viewing experience. This is my favourite type of Columbo baddie, the ones who come across as preoccupied and on edge, even if they try to mask their anxieties with arrogant bluster. Needless to say Tyne Daly is also a joy to watch from start to finish. Bright enough to plot a murder or two, but not sharp enough to withstand the Lieutenant's questioning.

    Aesthetically this isn't a very stylish episode, with loud music, terrible hairstyles and hideous fashion sense, but as with my favourite movie Scarface, the tacky brashness adds to the sense of cheap tastelessness (in terms of the characters' lifestyles and morals). Some of the more lavish, arty-looking Columbos lack suspense and momentum, whereas this one is gripping all the way, especially as the net closes in.

    Another extra dimension of this episode is that there are two would-be murderers (one beats the other to it), so not only does that mean twice the usual Columbo cat and mouse games, it also results in an increasingly tense relationship between the two villains. The downside is that maybe at first it's a difficult story to follow, because we only really find out exactly what's been going on at the end of the movie.

    All in all this is another 90s episode far better than some of the poorer 70s ones like "Dagger Of The Mind" (the worst Columbo ever, from way back in '72). Not quite as good as "Swan Song", "Any Old Port In A Storm" or "A Friend In Deed", but not far off.
  • comment
    • Author: Kirizan
    There may be the odd unlikeable character, then again I don't think Harold McCain was meant to be particularly likable in the first place, but this is a top notch Columbo episode.

    The whole episode is striking to look again, yeah the fashions make you cringe a tad, but the scenery and photography are wonderful. And the score is excellent, especially in the scene of the explosion, which in my opinion was one of the better and more jump-out-of-your-seat moments of the whole episode.

    A Bird in the Hand is brilliantly written as well, there is some really nice dialogue between Columbo, Harold and Dolores, and the story is filled with great twists and turns that had me gripped right up the denouncement. The direction is also great.

    And the acting is excellent. Peter Falk is exceptional of course as Columbo, while Tyne Daly is terrific as boozy Dolores. Greg Evigan does play a character who isn't so easy to like at first, but he does play him really well, while Leon Singer is a delight as Fernando. Overall, a really good episode and brilliantly written especially. 9/10 Bethany Cox
  • comment
    • Author: Na
    It could be just me but I though that this was a wonderfully written Columbo movie. It's the type of story that would had also worked out for a regular movie thriller. The movie offers plenty of twists and surprises in it and slightly differs from the usual Columbo formula.

    Of course in a way all Columbo movies are mostly predictable, since they are basically all the same. This movie perfectly plays around with this. Every time you think something is going to happen in that way, it happens in a totally different way. Even the murder(s) within this movie occurs in an unexpected way. What the movie does well is building up its tension. It's really thanks to the movie its very well written script that this movie works out so solidly, despite being somewhat different from the usual successful Columbo formula.

    It isn't really thanks to the acting though that this movie works out so well. Greg Evigan is really one horrible actor, who is terribly overacting within this movie. Luckily the movie still features Tyne Daly who plays a real good and also fun role. There also are some solid supporting actors within this movie, such as Don S. Davis, Steve Forrest and Frank McRae. Of course Peter Falk is also in good form again, although he really looked quite old in this movie. It's perhaps also maybe true that he isn't as much in this movie as in most other Columbo movie entries. This movie just also focus a lot on the interaction between the Tyne Daly and Greg Evigan, which pushes Lt. Columbo a bit to the background at times but of course he still has plenty of screen time and he does all of the usual things and investigations and interrogations you expect to see him do.

    Despite not sticking entirely to the formula, the movie still features all of the right required Columbo movie ingredients, such as its comedy. It makes this movie also real pleasant and fun to watch.

    Director Vincent McEveety directed quite a few Columbo movies in the '90's and it doesn't seem like a coincidence that some of his movies are among the best Columbo movies of the '90's. His movies always slightly differ from the usual Columbo movie entries, which often make them unexpected as well as original and also perfectly watchable movies for those who aren't really familiar with the Columbo-series.

    A real recommendable Columbo movie entry.

    8/10

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  • comment
    • Author: Vonalij
    This episode may have been weakened by three people being killed off, with possible multiple culprits.

    As in some other episodes, there is delightful chemistry between Columbo and his quarry, in this case played by Greg Evigan. Evigan's reactions and timing are impeccable.

    Tyne Daly works hard, but not too convincingly at first, at being a middle-aged boozy ditz. However, when her husband is killed, she takes control of his football team and his money, the latter always needed by her younger lover, Evigan, for gambling debts; this transformation has a perverse appeal.

    Noteworthy, too, is a scene when Columbo, in his rumpled coat, walks into a very proper Rolls Royce showroom and is all over the engine compartment and underneath the car threatening to take something apart, all this to the delight of a gathering sidewalk crowd.
  • comment
    • Author: Gogul
    Harold McCain is a gambler – although he is not a very good one and he has run up big debts with mean bookie, Hacker. It would be easy for his uncle Big Fred to clear his debts – given that he is very wealthy and owns an American Football team. However Fred dislikes his nephew and has no intention of helping him, meaning that Harold must resort to other measures to get his hands on his money – namely murder. He rigs a bomb under his uncle's car but his plans are altered when his uncle is killed in a hit and run whilst jogging. Harold can't believe his luck until he realises that the bomb is still under the car and, with police all over the place he has to try and get it out and hide it. He fails to do so and someone trying to move the car dies in the explosion – giving Columbo another murder investigation while Lt Robertson picks up the hit and run.

    As with many TV film series (such as Perry Mason), if you like one or two of them then you'll pretty much like them all. This entry in the Columbo series pretty much follows the usual formula – we know the killer and the "perfect" plan but then watch Columbo follow his hunch and gradually starts to pick holes in the story he is told before eventually finding enough to prove his suspicions. However in this entry in the "new" Columbo's things are not quite that simple because the plan doesn't work at all and Harold's futures go from good to bad to worse when he kills the wrong man in front of the police. Although this essentially does set up the usual investigation, it is enough of a different first 30 minutes to make it seem that much more interesting and, although we know the car will blow up, it is still quite tense while Harold tries to get at the bomb under the noses of the police.

    The film provides some nice twists along the way but the second "big" one is a bit unlikely and asks us to accept a lot about Dolores, who up till that point had been nothing but a comedy drunk. The film isn't as good from that point on because the sudden shift of direction in the final third doesn't really work (it didn't work in Columbo Cries Wolf either) because the main mystery that Columbo was doing just ends with Harold's murder – essentially negating the 70 minutes of film beforehand. It is still interesting enough to carry itself till the end but it loses a lot of pace by changing everything so suddenly and so late. The solution to the murder is also a problem – specifically the issues over Dolores killing Harold without leaving blood in her house and being able to move a really big guy to another house unseen, but this is all part of the weakness in the final quarter.

    Falk is still good as Columbo although some scenes portray him as a bit of a clown (specifically rolling around on the car showroom floor). Normally he is a comic figure but the films always bring out his intelligence under the surface – something that this film doesn't do quite as well. Evigan may have a nasty style (cowboy boots, country music and ugly moustache) but he is a nice "suspect" character and works well with Falk. Daly is poor; for the majority she is just giving a poor drunk performance and the sudden change to scheming femme fatale just doesn't convince at all. Forrest is OK and, having just seen him spoof noisy senior police officers in Last Action Hero, it was amusing to see McRae deliver the same again! McEveety does pretty well as director, injecting tension well at places (until the material lets him down) but I must admit that I didn't think opening with the same music as the famous opening of Goodfellas was a good idea – it just made me think how great Goodfellas was.

    Overall though it is an enjoyable Columbo despite the fact that the final 20 minutes does really spoilt it to some degree – mainly by suddenly dismissing everything that had gone before. Not good enough to stand up alongside the original series but certainly one of the better modern ones.
  • comment
    • Author: Dori
    "A Bird in the Hand" from 1992 is a terrific late episode of "Columbo," but it doesn't follow the formula.

    Greg Evigan plays Harold McCain, the gambling nephew of Big Fred (Steve Forrest), the owner of a football team. In trouble with mobsters, Harold realizes he doesn't have much hope of getting money from his uncle; however, since he's been romancing his alcoholic aunt by marriage (Tyne Daly), she might be good for it. He devises a pipe bomb to place under his uncle's Rolls.

    This episode has a couple of major twists. Just don't think about the denouement. I can't say much else without involving a spoiler, but having dealt with dead weight myself, what is described would involve two people huffing and puffing.

    The acting is terrific from everyone involved, with one unsung hero - G.F. Smith, the salesman in the Rolls Royce showroom where Columbo goes to figure out how the bomb was planted. The look on his face when Columbo unfolds a sheet of paper and starts talking about "the bomb" is priceless, as are his efforts to get Columbo out of the showroom to perhaps investigate more privately. A brilliant scene.

    Very entertaining, right down to the beautiful rendition of Rags to Riches by a young Tony Bennett.
  • comment
    • Author: Landaron
    Well, it finally happened: I got to spot a little scene that had just been used in the previous Columbo episode ('No time to die', in which police cars, with lights and sirens on, cut off a burgundy red car in the streets of L.A.)! It only makes things more fun.

    For this episode, it's back to the usual Columbo mold again, with a slick male gold-digger (well played by Greg Evigan) who executes a fatal plan on the wrong guy. But there's also his 'sugar aunty' (well played by Tyne Daly), who had her own fatal plan, and things get more and more complicated from there on out. Columbo seems to be going on auto-pilot more and more, making a lot of weird faces that feel a bit stale by now, as does the final scene in which all is tied together. Luckily, the story, the settings and the rest of the cast keep things pretty interesting and fun.

    A small 7 out of 10.
  • comment
    • Author: Hinewen
    A BIRD IN THE HAND... is one of my least favourite COLUMBO TV movies thus far, and I blame that on the quality of the writing. Although this episode is unique in terms of the intricacy of the murder - the actual murderer's plans go awry when his intended victim is in fact killed by somebody else - the execution is strictly so-so, and disappointing considering the quality of the detective's other stories.

    What we get here is Peter Falk on autopilot, going through the motions rather than getting to the heart of his character as he does elsewhere; he's good in the goofy humour scenes (like the car showroom highlight) but elsewhere nothing special. Even worse is the supporting cast: there are two 'guest stars' here, and both are poor. The moustachioed Greg Evigan is an unpleasant scheming villain, while Tyne Daly's performance as a horny drunk is, frankly, embarrassing.

    It turns out that the complexity of the opening murder(s) is the best thing about this story, which is otherwise unfocused and somewhat strained. The clue-solving stuff is simplistic and things particularly fall apart in the final act, ending in a most ordinary fashion. Columbo could do better, and he frequently did.
  • comment
    • Author: adventure time
    Of course, I love Columbo. I must have seen this episode a few times whether on network or cable television. It is still worth watching. You have to love watching Peter Falk. Of course in the real world, murderers are not that smart as they appear on Columbo. But this is fiction and a detective show, the criminals are more than cardboard characters. This film is quite a mystery and I do miss Columbo episodes even the newer episodes today. Tyne Daly is one of America's best recognized actresses. I have seen Tyne on Broadway in Gypsy and she is still one of the hardest working actresses today whether film, television or stage. Tyne plays against type in this film and I won't spoil the plot for anybody. I love Greg Evigan and I'm from his hometown so I'm a little biased toward him. Of course, the episode could have been better but I still love Columbo and I always will have a soft spot in my heart for him. He reminds me of my own father in some ways.
  • comment
    • Author: Fordregelv
    I found "A Bird In the Hand " a refreshing change from my addictive Columbo habit. Yes, there is a lot less of the great Peter Falk, but Tyne Daly is wonderful to watch, and as others have said, the photography is fine, and the story kept me interested. The initial "bad guy", nephew of a wealthy sports team owner, was well played, and good looking at least; certainly not unappealing, and overall, the action moved along at a good pace. Good show.
  • comment
    • Author: Mohn
    Here we go again with the all knowing Columbo is back. This is good fun though not a great Columbo and you do get the impression that Peter Faulk is really playing it by numbers. This being a 1992 episode has not dated particularly well. The basic premise of Columbo investigating the death of the owner of an American football team is not a great one and unusually for Columbo the supporting characters are not too great either. However it is good to see Tyne Daily playing against type as the female lead and one of the main suspects 'Dolores'. As usual our hero in the dirty mac seems to play with all the suspects but does so in an entertaining style. Whilst not great this is fun but not really worth a second viewing.
  • comment
    • Author: Froststalker
    Early in the show the Stallions win a football game. This is actually a Canadian Football League game between the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the Edmonton Eskimos.
  • comment
    • Author: Berkohi
    PLOT: A gambler with huge debts (Greg Evigan) plots to kill his rich uncle (Steve Forrest) via a vehicle pipe bomb in order to smoodge his boozy wife for money (Tyne Daly); but the uncle is unexpectedly killed in a mysterious hit-and-run. Then the gardener... um, you'll see.

    COMMENTARY: This episode's rather unique in that it features more of a freestyle filmmaking vibe than other installments and this is augmented by a few clever twists that stray from formula. Tyne's face looks good & youthful despite her plumpness while Evigan makes for a handsome, but particularly conniving antagonist. The first hour is quite good if you can handle the freestyle approach, but the flick starts losing its mojo in the last 35 minutes. The creators needed to work out some kinks, but unfortunately didn't have the time/money. It's still a worthwhile segment for its uniqueness and other highlights, like the shocking explosion. The mullets are dreadful, but amusing.

    GRADE: B-/C+
  • comment
    • Author: Cordanara
    This isn't a Columbo that you would normally expect, and he isn't

    entirely in form with regards to the evidence, but it is quite

    entertaining anyway, as many things happen during the episode, and the investigation leads into many fun trails. Also, our leading criminal has quite a character...
  • comment
    • Author: Ericaz
    Three different killings happen during the course of this Columbo story. Just as Peter Falk and the rest of the LAPD starts on one, another occurs.

    The first is that of Steve Forrest multi-millionaire owner of a football team whose death would solve the problems of his wastrel nephew Greg Evigan. He's run down while jogging on his block in fashionable Beverly Hills. Looks very much like a hit and run, but of course Falk holds out for a bigger story.

    While trying to get that gardener Leon Singer is blown up along with the late Mr. Forrest's car after Columbo asks him to move it. There's a very funny scene while Columbo is at an auto dealer's shop trying to simulate how a bomb would be placed. Just doing that action yields him a valuable clue.

    Finally Evigan himself is shot to death and at that point it all falls in place after Falk traces his movements the 24 hours before he's killed.

    Tyne Daly is in the cast as a most needy wife and one who has every indication of charting her own course when she's a widow.

    Lots of twists in this Columbo tale, more than usual still great viewing.
  • comment
    • Author: Mikarr
    Greg Evigen stars as Harold McCain, a young gambler who always loses and as a consequence is always in debt, so he decides to kill his fed-up (and wealthy) Uncle Fred(played by Steve Forrest) who owns a Pro Football team. Trouble is, Fred is killed in an apparent road accident, but the bomb he left still goes off, and the accident was anything but. Tyne Daly also stars as Dolores McCain, the widow with an eye for Harold and the desire for the inheritance money. Lt. Columbo(Peter Falk) isn't sure which of the two is responsible, though the abrupt fate of one of them sure makes up his mind... Meandering episode with two miscast guest stars drag this one down, despite its potential.
  • comment
    • Author: Hirah
    This episode is not the typical formula for a couple of reasons. First- Columbo is actually working on 3 different murders and solving them at the same time. Second - the audience is slightly led off course early on in this one by an important small clue. Third - there is no real explanation on how the last victim could have been murdered without a trail of evidence larger than Columbo finds.

    It is good fun though Tyne Daly is the only notable guest in the cast,must be NBC was low on guest cast money. Spoiler - the small clue the viewer must catch is why Big Fred's car is moved?. The bomb being planted in the car kind of makes you miss this why question.

    Nephew Harold McCain is a big loser whose is being bailed out by Uncle Big Fred who owns a football team. Actually it is Delores, his wife, who bails him out for some amorous activities. Harold wants to run things so he thinks he can maneuver Delores based on past history to give him everything he wants if Big Fred dies. So he makes a pipe bomb and plants it in his Rolls.

    Big Fred dies but he is hit by a gardeners truck jogging. Meanwhile, Columbo is found digging into the car with the bomb in the driveway. Then the Gardener gets blown up in the car. Delores pulls out her fangs and tells Harold he is getting squat. Harold has put together what really happened with Big Fred and decides to blackmail Delores. Harold is death number 3.

    Tyne Daly does a nice acting job playing the roll with just the right amount of acting. Columbo does get to use his "Just one more thing" trademark line a few times and gets it all right in the end.
  • Episode cast overview, first billed only:
    Peter Falk Peter Falk - Columbo
    Tyne Daly Tyne Daly - Dolores
    Greg Evigan Greg Evigan - Harold McCain
    Frank McRae Frank McRae - Lt. Robertson (as Frank Mc Rae)
    Don S. Davis Don S. Davis - Bertie
    León Singer León Singer - Fernando (as Leon Singer)
    Michael Gregory Michael Gregory - Mr. Hacker
    Steve Forrest Steve Forrest - Big Fred
    Stephen Liska Stephen Liska - Casino Manager
    G.F. Smith G.F. Smith - Salesman
    Carol Swarbrick Carol Swarbrick - Casino Waitress
    Ed McCready Ed McCready - Ed
    John Petlock John Petlock - Medical Examiner
    Joel Beeson Joel Beeson - Clyde
    Kay Perry Kay Perry - Honey
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