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a la Mod:
One key character is an actor named Lynn Loring who does a one-man show. "I'm famous for my Treplev," Loring tells Downs, who is clueless as to the reference, but we later find that the well-read Quentin Lee is able to explain in full to Lieutenant Columbo (he tells Columbo that Treplev is "a young and rather impetuous poet in Chekhov's play -- The Seagull").
At one point in the story, Quentin Lee has taken over hosting duties for Downs' talk show for a special tribute to Downs, of which the script naturally takes a cynical view. Columbo visits the set during taping to ask Lee some questions, and Lee tricks him during a commercial break, so that Columbo suddenly finds the bright lights shining on him as he uncomfortably becomes part of the show. This of course makes it all the easier for Lee to include his conversation with Columbo as part of his video diary of the "perfect crime." Prior to this scene, Lee once tries to tape Columbo, who has arrived unannounced at the author's apartment, and Columbo tells him to stop. "Uhh," says Columbo, "would you mind not doing that, Mr. Lee? I get awful self-conscious. I don't even let my wife take home movies of me." Lee presses Columbo to make a statement about the murder on tape, and effectively chases him out the door with his camera.
Loring's glossy headshots lead to a Blow-Up-style investigation of some photographs, and get this-- the photographer's name is Spielberg. This was in 1973, before Steven Spielberg had made Jaws and become a household name (otherwise, the reference may have been too obvious). Spielberg had directed one of the earliest episodes of Columbo in 1971. Titled Murder By The Book, Spielberg considers it one of his two best TV episodes. A later 1974 episode of Columbo did feature a boy genius character named Steve Spielberg.
In Shooting Script, Spielberg is one of three graduate students who are shadowing Columbo as he investigates the crime. Their first names are never mentioned, so they are known as Chapman, Brooks, and Spielberg. "May I ask you a question," Columbo says to Spielberg early on. "Why is it you don't ask any questions?" Spielberg replies, "I'm into electronics. Surveillance devices. Photographic equipment." The Spielberg character seems very much like the De Palma surrogate played by Keith Gordon in De Palma's Dressed To Kill, and while he doesn't say much, when he finally does have something to say, everybody perks up-- it is Spielberg who provides the spark of the idea that allows Columbo to finally catch Quentin Lee. When Columbo and the graduate students are trying to figure out how they might find Quentin Lee's incriminating video tapes, it is mentioned by Chapman that keeping the tapes at his apartment would be too obvious. "I think that's exactly what he'd do," Spielberg suddenly chimes in...
Taken on its own terms, the film works as a character-study of fortysomething, mild-mannered, workaholic Gilderoy (Jones) - first name or surname? - a fish out of water amid these tempestuous southern-Europeans. The film-within-the-film The Equestrian Vortex - directed by the flamboyant Giancarlo Santini (Antonio Mancino) and seemingly modeled on Argento's masterpiece Suspiria - of which we see only the amusingly ludicrous opening-titles. We watch Gilderoy and company, including bad-tempered producer Francesco (Cosimo Fusco), watching the movie - for which the Studio, in accordance with typical practices of the day, provides the entire soundtrack.