Columbo | A Deadly State of Mind (Season 4, Ep. 6)

Columbo gets on the case of a psychiatrist who uses hypnosis to deadly effect, in A Deadly State of Mind.

Psychiatrist Mark Collier (George Hamilton) is treating Nadia Donner (Lesley Ann Warren) with a cocktail of hypnosis, drugs … and sex.

When Nadia’s husband discovers the affair he forces a confrontation. Collier steps in to defend Nadia, killing Mr Donner in the process.

A Deadly State of Mind: the spoiler

A blind man hears Collier leaving the Donner home on the night of the murder. Columbo introduces him to Collier as an eye witness who can place Collier at the scene of the crime. Collier calls Columbo’s bluff, saying the witness can’t identify him as he’s clearly blind.

Columbo then reveals this isn’t the eye witness at all but his lookalike brother – who can see perfectly well.

Collier incriminates himself because there’s (probably) no way he would assume the witness was blind unless he was at crime scene at the time of the murder.

Just one more thing…

Columbo and Quincy M.E move in the same circles, i.e., LA crime scenes in the 70s.

The difference is that coroner Quincy specialises in underdog cases: the homeless, drug addicts, domestic abuse victims and other campaign causes. Columbo works the other end of the LA spectrum: composers, doctors, lawyers, actors – i.e., people of influence and money. Perhaps that’s why their paths never cross?

Columbo’s gift for manipulation is the secret of his success. His clumsy ineptitude masks a razor-sharp intellect. My theory is that we never actually see Columbo’s ‘true’ character.

Instead, he uses a variety of masks and role-play to mislead the murderer each time.

This explains the infamous phoney phobia: he’s sometimes afraid of heights (Murder, Smoke and Shadows), but not at other times (riding the cable car in Short Fuse).

Also of note

Columbo gets the lie of a case within minutes. First, he spots a tiny piece of metal on the rug (the flint from Collier’s lighter). He then sits down in the right place at the right time to realise the Donners would have known if a car arrived at the house.

And when he visits the hospital the following day, he spots Collier’s car and immediately clocks the thin European tires (matching the tracks outside the Donner house).

Finally, not a coincidence but a similarity to How to Dial a Murder, which came three years later. In both episodes the killer commits murder by telephone, using a trigger word to set death in motion.

This episode also draws a parallel with the pilot episode, which also features a murderous psychiatrist.

A Deadly State of Mind (1975), directed by Harvey Hart