Retro Hijinks: Dr. Robert Culpable – And the Mad Magazine spoof of “Columbo”

It’s one thing when Mad Magazine spoofs the movie or TV show you’re a star of. Obviously, you’re going to be spoofed too. But it’s a whole other honor to be included in the spoof of a show that you were a guest star on!

In its 60 year history, Mad Magazine has spared no television series, movie or pop culture du jour from its lampooning antics (not to mention politicians and any other public figures). Back in 1973, the popular series Columbo wasn’t spared either, getting the royal Mad treatment in “Clodumbo.”

The story line ran similar to an episode of the show, with a Mad Magazine twist of course. The story opens with Clodumbo annoying the hell out of the Police Commissioner and the rest of the department wishing for a homicide so Clodumbo can go and annoy somebody else. Lo and behold, they get a report of a homicide, which has taken place at the house of Dr. Robert Culpable.

If the name wasn’t blatantly obvious, the excellent art work by Angelo Torres is. Robert Culp, who had appeared on two Columbo episodes by the time this issue of Mad hit newsstands in January of 1973, was given the dubious honor of being portrayed as Clodumbo’s prime suspect. (And honestly, who could’ve resisted using the name “Culpable” anyway?). Dr. Culpable is drawn much like how Culp appeared as Detective Brimmer in 1971’s “Death Lends a Hand” with the striped shirt and square glasses. As another nod to that episode, Clodumbo goes to leave and walks into a closet by mistake, just as Columbo did.

And like Columbo on the series, Clodumbo aggravates Dr. Culpable to the Nth degree. Only unlike Robert Culp, who played the guilty party with aplomb, Dr. Culpable was innocent and ended up confessing to a crime he didn’t commit, just to get the pestering Lieutenant to leave him alone!

Take a look for yourself! You can click the thumbnails to view larger images.

 
 

 

 

 

Columbo: Death Lends a Hand

Originally aired: October 6, 1971

Here we go! The episode that started it all for me in being a Fan of All Things Culp.

Culp plays Brimmer, a former police officer turned private investigator who runs a very sophisticated investigative operation (indeed, he was not Jim Rockford. This firm had several operatives, a fleet of vehicles, electronic gizmos, highrise office space and support staff ). Brimmer’s latest case involved investigating the allegations of infidelity on the part of the young wife of Arthur Kennicut, a prominent LA newspaper publisher. Brimmer reports to Mr. Kennicut that his wife had a “clean bill of health” and was not having any affairs. Mr. Kennicut accepts this finding with relief but we find out after he leaves Brimmer’s office that the report from Brimmer was a total lie. Brimmer then attempts to blackmail Mrs. Kennicut, saying he would keep the proof of her affair quiet if she would provide him with inside information of the powerful people in LA that Mr. Kennicut had connections to.

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Right. Mrs. Kennicut throws Brimmer’s blackmail attempt right back in his face, saying she would come clean to her husband first and admit her infidelity – and then expose Brimmer’s blackmail attempt, turning those same powerful connections Brimmer wanted information on into a serious source of trouble, not to mention totally ruining his reputation and his business.

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Brimmer, a short tempered kinda guy to begin with, becomes furious with Mrs. Kennicut and accidentally kills her.

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Of course, he didn’t intend to kill. And once he realizes what he’s done, he knows the murder of this woman is worse than being exposed for the blackmail attempt.  Thus he does his damndest to cover it up, cleaning up all evidence of anything she touched from his beach house and then transporting her body across LA to leave her in an industrial area.

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It should’ve worked. Once her body is discovered the next morning, it looks like a mugging. Tragic and unfortunate, but she was killed for her money. Brimmer, in a further attempt to keep any suspicion possible away from himself shows up at Mr. Kennicut’s home to offer condolences and offer the services of his firm to find Mrs. Kennicut’s killer.

Yup, the whole cover up should’ve worked. Accept for this pesky, cigar chomping police lieutenant named Columbo…

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Despite all the charm Brimmer can put forth, he knows right off the bat that Columbo is going to be a challenge.

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Scratch that. Not a challenge. A full fledged pain in the posterior.

The rest of the episode is Brimmer trying to outwit Columbo and throw the Lieutenant off the trail. But it doesn’t work. After one particular conversation where the seemingly scatterbrained Lieutenant reveals a couple of innocent facts and makes a couple of innocent statements, Brimmer realizes the heat is on…

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Brimmer only digs himself even deeper when he tries to woo Columbo into leaving the police force and joining the detective agency with the promise of more money and complimenting him on his detective skills.

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Columbo says he’ll think it over, talk to the wife. Brimmer thinks he might have a chance.  Then two strange things happen. Brimmer’s car won’t work and he sends it off to the garage to be fixed. Then he gets a call from Mr. Kennicut; Columbo has requested that Mrs. Kennicut’s body be exhumed for some reason.

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Now this is where I have to apologize for not remembering exactly how Columbo set this up (were they looking for the contact lens in the casket? Were they looking to see if she had both lens still, or didn’t? Or…gah. Sorry!). What I do know, is the “missing” contact lens sets Brimmer on a search through his beach house, where Columbo shows up, “innocently” enough, says something to further unsettle Brimmer and Brimmer searches a little more once Columbo leaves. Then Brimmer decides he has to search his car – which is still in the shop.

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Brimmer breaks into the repair shop and finds his car. He searches the trunk and does indeed find a contact lens…

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…and the Lieutenant is waiting for him. Brimmer, indignant, storms away from Columbo and reaches for his cigarettes in his pocket. He then attempts to throw the empty cigarette package away when Columbo stops him, grabbing his hand before the contents are ejected into the wastebasket.

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The contact lens in Brimmer’s hand is evidence enough. Caught “red handed” Brimmer accepts being busted, admits his guilt and apologizes quietly to Mr. Kennicut, who was also present during this.

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I enjoyed watching this episode and for it being over 2 years since I saw it, the fact I can still remember the plot well enough speaks to how good it is. I capped it pretty much right after I watched it. Definitely a worthwhile introduction to Robert Culp!

“Death Lends a Hand” is available on the Season One DVD of Columbo available at Amazon.com.