Columbo Prescription: Murder

Created on December 17th, 2006

Columbo Prescription Murder Title Screen

Prescription: Murder

Filmed at the Studios of Universal City MCA-TV Exclusive Distributor
A Universal Studios Production
Playing time 1 hour 38 minutes
Original Air Date: February 20, 1968

This movie was filmed during some of the worst air pollution periods in Los Angeles. In the final scenes, when Lt. Columbo and Dr. Flemming are at Joan Hudson’s home in the hills overlooking LA, almost all that can be seen outside the window is smog.


Peter Falk as Columbo
Peter Falk as Lt. Columbo

Gene Barry As Dr. Ray Flemming
Gene Barry as Dr. Ray Flemming (Psychiatrist) Murderer

Katherine Justice as Joan Hudson
Katherine Justice as Joan Hudson (Girlfriend and Accomplice)

William Windom as Dr Burt Gordon
William Windom as Burt Gordon (Friend of Dr. Flemming)

Nina Foch as Carol Flemming
Nina Foch as Carol Flemming Victim

Prescription Murder is the pilot for the Columbo series starring Peter Falk.

Synopsis of Columbo Prescription: Murder:
A wealthy Psychiatrist Dr Ray Flemming kills his wife to be with his girlfriend, actress Joan Hudson. Dr Flemming tries to create the “perfect alibi” by having his girlfriend make a scene on the airplane before takeoff, and then get off the plane so it looks like Mrs Flemming was killed while Dr Flemming was away. Sleuth Lt. Columbo sees through the cover up and catches the murderer.

Detailed storyline of Prescription: Murder
The story opens with a 10 year anniversary party for Dr. Ray Flemming and his wife Carol. Right at the moment the cake is served, Dr. Flemming’s mistress, Joan Hudson, calls on the telephone wanting him to come to her place. Dr. Flemming leaves his anniversary party to visit with his mistress under guise of going to visit a patient with an anxiety attack. At Miss Hudson’s place, the two discuss plans to do away with Mrs. Flemming.

Upon return to his home later the night, Dr. Flemming is confronted by his wife who is angry for his leaving their anniversary party. Dr. Flemming surprises his wife with plans to go to Acapulco, Mexico for a vacation on the very next day. Shortly before they are to leave their apartment to go to the airport, Dr. Flemming dons gloves, and approaching his wife from behind, strangles her to death. Dr. Flemming breaks the sliding glass door to the balcony, and packs valuable items in his suitcase to make the scene look like a robbery gone a foul.

Miss Hudson arrives, and puts on Mrs. Flemming’s blue dress, white gloves, a wig, and dark glasses to make the illusion of being Mrs. Flemming. Mr Flemming and Ms. Hudson go to the airport, and make a scene on the airplane. Ms. Hudson feigns being angry and departs the plane before take-off. Mr. Flemming continues on the vacation alone. Ms. Hudson puts Mrs. Flemming’s dress in the laundry as instruct by Mr. Flemming to create proof the Mrs. Flemming actually returned home from the airport. While Mr. Flemming is in Acapulco, he goes fishing and while distracting the boat operator, disposes of the “stolen valuables” from his home.

When Mr. Flemming returns home, expecting to find his wife dead, he instead finds Lt. Columbo waiting for him. Columbo thinks it’s odd that Dr. Flemming didn’t announce his arrival and say “Honey, ya here?”, and becomes suspicious. Lt. Columbo informs Dr. Flemming that his wife was attacked and is in a coma at the hospital. As Columbo and Dr. Flemming are walking out the door of Dr. Flemming’s apartment, Ms. Hudson calls, which makes an awkward moment for Dr. Flemming.

At the hospital, Dr. Flemming demands to see his wife. The nurse won’t let him without the administering Doctors permission. Dr. Flemming asks to speak to the Chief of Staff. While waiting, Lt. Columbo asks for a list of missing items. It’s obvious from the conversation that the police have already done a lot of background work with the airlines, including the scene on the plane and having the stewardess identify Mrs Flemming from a picture. Burt Gordon shows up at the hospital. He’s with the District Attorney’s Office, and pressures Lt. Columbo to wrap things up quickly.

Dr. Flemming gets the permission needed to see his wife, but when he gets to her room she has passed away. When Dr. Flemming asks the attending Doctor if Mrs. Flemming said anything, he replies “If it’s any consolation, the one thing she said is your name.”

Columbo visits Dr. Flemming at his office. He explains that the airline told him that on his way to Acapulco he was 13 pounds overweight, and on the way back he was only 4 pounds overweight. Columbo wants to know about the 9 pounds, and Dr. Flemming replies that they were trade journals and magazines. Lt. Columbo also asks what Mrs. Flemming was wearing that night. Mr. Flemming responds “A blue wool dress with brass buttons.” Columbo says that agrees with what the stewardess said but wonders where the dress is. Columbo makes an appointment to meet Dr. Flemming at his apartment at 5:30. When Columbo leaves Dr. Flemming’s Office, Miss Hudson is in the waiting room. Ms. Hudson explains that she didn’t put the gloves in the laundry and still has them. Ms. Hudson is to drop the gloves off at Mr. Flemmings apartment and Mr Flemming will hide them in the bureau.

Miss Hudson arrives at Mr. Flemming’s apartment on time, and brings the gloves. The two have a drink but Lt. Columbo shows up early with the drinks and gloves still on the bar. Joan Hudson hides in the bedroom and Mr. Flemming lets Lt. Columbo in. Mr. Flemming hands to gloves to Lt. Columbo, and then nervously stands in Columbo’s view of the two drinks. The phone rings, and it’s a call for Lt. Columbo explaining that they just got a confession and they admit to killing Dr. Flemmings wife.

At the police station, Lt. Columbo, Dr. Flemming and the confessor, Tommy are in an interrogation room. Tommy knows all of the details of what happened but is mixed up since he said he approached Mrs Flemming from the front, and she was strangled from behind. But this is just a set up by Lt. Columbo to see what Dr. Flemming would say and Dr. Flemming said he’s lying. Lt. Columbo also hints around that perhaps Dr. Flemming did more then fishing in Acapulco and perhaps dumped something in the ocean.

Dr. Flemming meets with Burt Gordon and Burt agrees pull some strings to remove Lt. Columbo from the case. In Dr. Flemming’s waiting room, Lt. Columbo explains that someone asks to take him off the case. Lt. Columbo hints around about the Burt Gordon and Joan Hudson relationships. They have a long conversation during which Lt. Columbo learns he’s dealing with a cool operator.

So Lt. Columbo goes to the movie studio and meets with Joan Hudson. He explains the trouble with Mrs. Flemming’s murder, and that they believe Dr. Flemming did it. He pulls out the dark sunglasses that Joan Hudson wore on the plane, and she refuses to put them on. She than says she wants to speak to her lawyer, and things go downhill. She gets flustered, and starts making mistakes such as calling Dr. Flemming “Ray”. Lt. Columbo says he knows about the dress, gloves, wig and sunglasses, overweight luggage, and generally knows what happened. Joan Hudson tries to rebuff, but Lt. Columbo responds that he’s going to follow her, hound her and try to break here down because she is the weak link.

In the next scene, Joan is leaving her dressing trailer, and sees Lt. Columbo standing there. As she leaves the movie studio, her car is tailed by another officer. Arriving at her home, we see Joan is starting to crack, and calls Dr. Ray Flemming at his house. He rebuffs her, tells her to sit tight and ride it out.

The next morning when Dr. Flemming arrives at his office he asks his secretary to call Joan Hudson’s house, and the phone is answered by the police, who say there has been an accident. Dr. Flemming rushes over to see a body being covered by the pool, and meets Lt. Columbo who says she stuffed herself with barbiturates. Lt. Columbo and Dr. Flemming get into a argument over this, and then Lt. Columbo says he won and got away with. Except he didn’t win, since he didn’t get the girl. Dr. Flemming then says that he never loved the girl and she meant nothing to him. But this was a setup by Lt. Columbo, and Joan Hudson was just standing nearby, and heard everything Dr. Flemming said. Lt. Columbo then takes the statement from Joan Hudson.

Leave a Reply