Cooking with Columbo | Lovely But Lethal and Vera Miles’ Mexican Casserole

Cooking with ColumboWhen Jenny Hammerton at Silver Screen Suppers was preparing her latest cuinary adventures, Cooking with Columbo: Suppers With the Shambling Sleuth, she invited friends and fellow Columbo fans to test cook the recipes. Of course, I couldn’t resist – especially as one the episodes, Lovely But Lethal, featured Vincent Price alongside Vera Miles as the guest villain of the week.

Courtesy of Jenny, here’s the page for you check out, including the recipe, Vera Miles’ Mexican Casserole, and my verdict. You can purchase Cooking With Columbo from Amazon.

Anyone who wears an entirely white outfit topped by a pristine white turban is fine by me. The wardrobe department for this episode pulled out all the stops, and Vera Miles looks absolutely sensational in every single outfit. Vera plays Viveca Scott, Queen of Cosmetics, who is ruthless in her quest for the ultimate anti-wrinkle cream. Her business rival is played, with great panache, by screen legend Vincent Price, and the two of them take great relish in throwing insults at each other.

It’s an early morning murder-callout for Columbo, but luckily he has a hard-boiled egg in the pocket of his raincoat to snack on for breakfast. In the kitchen of the murder victim, he searches in vain for salt to sprinkle on his egg. Usually, he says, he carries a shaker in his pocket, but alas, not so on this occasion. Luckily for Columbo, while he is on his condiment hunt, he spots a clue he might otherwise have missed…

Beauty Mark is the name of Viveca’s cosmetics business. For British readers, a beauty mark is what Americans call a beauty spot. This might seem irrelevant, but nothing is lost on Columbo of course, and there is a clue bound up with Viveca’s beauty spot. Also worth pointing out to those not in North America, and too young to remember the popular 1960s song, poison ivy is a plant that causes a violent reaction when touched. Remember this refrain: “Poison ivy, Lord’ll make you itch!”

Viveca gets annoyed with the Lieutenant when he questions her about a romantic relationship she once had with the murder victim. She screeches, “I like young men Lieutenant, lots of them, and if that shocks your masculine double-standard, I’m sorry.” She thinks he belongs “in a museum,” but Columbo is not a judgmental man when it comes to the love-lives of his suspects. We know this from many other episodes.

When Columbo comes to search for evidence at Viveca’s health farm, he is suffering from poison ivy. She condescendingly asks him, “Poor thing, still worried about your itch?” But Viveca should be worried about hers. It’s the itch that will send her to the Clink.

In the newspaper article from which this recipe of Vera’s is taken, published in 1974, she is quoted as saying that she felt that there weren’t many good acting roles for women. “It’s a man’s world, and so many of the writers are men who write for men.” She must have been happy with this role in 1973 though, striding around her health farm in a bright, white jumpsuit, Viveca is the epitome of someone who “owns it.” Vera is a fabulous actress and one of my very favorite Columbo adversaries.

Viveca’s favorite tipple is apparently a tequila cocktail with organic cactus juice, so if you can get your hands on such a juice, that would be a fun thing to serve. It would fit with Vera’s Mexican inspired dish too. A super-cheesy treat with chilies.

Vera Miles' Mexican CasseroleVera Miles’ Mexican Casserole
1 lb / 450g of Jack/Gouda cheese
1 lb / 450g of Cheddar cheese
6 eggs, separated
1½ tablespoons flour
Two small cans of green chili peppers
One fresh tomato, sliced
Dash of oregano
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F / 190 degrees C / gas mark 5.

Grate the two kinds of cheeses and mix together. Beat egg whites until stiff, adding about 1½ tablespoons flour for added body. Beat the egg yolks until fluffy and gently fold into the egg white mixture. Add a dash of salt to taste.

Chop the chili peppers. Vera says: “If you desire less of a hot taste, remove some of the chile seeds, as they contain the hot flavor.” Grease a large casserole dish that would serve about five people and layer a portion of the egg mixture into the dish. Next layer part of the chopped chili pepper, ending with a portion of the cheese. Repeat until ingredients are used up. Arrange the fresh tomato over the top, and sprinkle with oregano.
Bake for 30 minutes or until mixture is set.
Serves 6 (or more according to test cooks!)

Vera Miles' Mexican CasseroleJust one more thing… Stalwart test cook Peter Fuller, curator of the Vincent Price Legacy UK, made a rather deluxe version of Vera’s casserole, searing fresh chilies over a naked flame and scraping off the charred flesh before adding them to the dish. His feedback was as follows, “My tasters called it a glorified cheese toastie (grilled cheese sandwich), minus the bread. And I have to agree. It certainly should not be viewed as a main, rather as a side dish. I would suggest after baking, to cut it into small bite size pieces as a warm side dish, hors-d’oeuvre, canapé, or amuse bouche depending in what country you’re celebrating. As for reheating leftovers, this doesn’t work in a microwave as it turns into a slab of hot cheese. Best to reheat under a grill.”

I think it is fair to say that this is a super cheesy dish that might be TOO cheesy for some. Test cook Samantha Ellis’ husband, put it like this when he sampled a slice, “just tastes of cheese,” so you might need a big salad with a sharp dressing or a ton of vegetables alongside this dish to cut through the cheesiness.



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The Last Man on Earth | Touring the original Italian film locations in Rome

In the winter of 1961-1962, Vincent Price starred in the first cinematic adaptation of Richard Matheson’s novel I Am Legend, re-titled The Last Man on Earth. Although ostensibly set in Los Angeles, the film was actually shot in Rome, Italy, making effective, atmospheric use of the Immortal City’s unique business and residential district, EUR.

This area was originally conceived as the Esposizione Universale Roma, Benito Mussolini’s grand plan to celebrate 20 years of fascism for the 1942 World’s Fair. But it remained unfinished due to the Second World War, and was finally completed in time for the 1960 Olympics in Rome.

The austere new buildings that rose up became symbols of a new wave of Italian rationalism inspired by ancient Roman Imperial town planning; with the most iconic being Marcello Piacentini’s travertine-marble clad Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana (or Square Colosseum). Today it’s the HQ for the Fendi fashion label, and has featured in quite a few films, but The Last Man on Earth was the first to use the location, followed by Federico Fellini’s Boccaccio 70 segment Le tentazioni del dottor Antonio in 1962.

On a recent visit to Rome, I decided to start tracking down the original locations used in the film, and I was surprised to find quite of few. Some, however, remain elusive owing to the passage of time. But here are the ones I have found – so far.

The film begins with the sun rising over an unidentified suburb in Rome, with vista shots of the Tiber, deserted streets littered with corpses, tower blocks and a freeway overpass (to link it to LA obviously), a petrol station, supermarket and a Community Church displaying a sign The End Has Come.

The Last Man on Earth

The Last Man on Earth

This is Santi Pietro e Paolo a Via Ostiense in Piazzale dei Santi Pietro e Paolo 8 in EUR, which was completed in 1955 and was intended to be Mussolini’s mausoleum, but is now where Cardinal Priests are appointed. In my Now shot, my travel companions were quite willing to play ‘dead’ while the odd churchgoer passed by.

The camera then pans on a bungalow where Price’s eponymous Last Man, Robert Morgan resides. Now,  I’m unsure whether this was a set or not, but scenes of Morgan driving towards the entrance reveals an incline and a wood or forest in the distance, so the jury is out on that one.

The Last Man on EarthWhile heading to dispose of his latest ‘victims’, Morgan passes Santi Pietro e Paolo a Via Ostiense and a couple of tower blocks, and ends up on the outskirts of Rome where the burning plague pit is situated.

The Last Man on Earth

The Last Man on EarthAfter picking up some chilled garlic at a modern (1950s style) supermarket, Morgan tracks stakes some more sleeping vampires. A montage reveals a new housing development, an amusement park (most probably the same one that appears in 1966’s Dr Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs) and a large sporting arena.

The Last Man on EarthThe Last Man on EarthThe Last Man on Earth

This Then/Now shot shows the Palazzo Dello Sport, which was completed in 1960 for the Summer Olympics in Rome, and is today known as PalaLottomatica, the home of the Vitus Roma basketball team.

Morgan then falls asleep while visiting his wife’s mausoleum, a modernist building at a cemetery under construction, where he finds himself fighting off a band of vampires. This another location I have yet to find.

The Last Man on EarthThe Last Man on EarthThe Last Man on EarthFlashbacks reveal Morgan’s family life (which takes place in a villa with a terraced garden) and his work at the Mercer Institute of Chemical Research (an unidentified 1930s office building lined with columns), while army trucks drive through EUR’s wide streets.

The Last Man on EarthThe Last Man on EarthBack in the present, Morgan gives chase to a black dog, heading down the street from his home, over a verge (where the same two columns we see at the beginning of the film can be seen), and onto the steps of the Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana.

At the four corners of the podium of the iconic Square Colosseum are placed four equestrian sculptural groups by Publio Morbiducci and Alberto de Felci, representing the Dioscuri, the two mythical Greek heroes, sons of Zeus and Leda. Other films shot here include Peter Greenaway’s Belly of an Architect (1987), Hudson Hawke (1991) and Titus (1999) with Anthony Hopkins.

Here’s a fun pic of myself beside one of the statues that grace the podium, with Vincent’s Morgan in situ.
Fusing elements from the original film with what the Square Colosseum looks like today. It’s now the HQ for the Fendi fashion label.

Morgan then runs across a road flanked by a colonnade. This can be found beside the Santi Pietro e Paolo a Via Ostiense.

The next sequence features another iconic EUR structure, Il Fungo, which is situated on a hill across the road from the Palazzo Dello Sport.

This Piezometric water tower was completed in 1960 and continues to supply water to the EUR gardens today. In 1961, tenor Mario del Monaco turned the top of the tower into an exclusive restaurant (although it probably wasn’t open at the crack of dawn when Price filmed his scene). Il Fungo was also used in the opening scenes of Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’Eclisse in 1962.

Here’s Vincent in front of Il Fungo today. Note that the street lights are the same ones that you see in the film.

Following shots of a street featuring a statue similar to the ones adorning the Square Colosseum, Morgan finds three vampires staked at a clearing. This is a hill bearing two rows of trees and some white building in the distance. Here, Morgan encounters Ruth who proves his undoing.

In the final eight minutes, Morgan tries to evade capture by the new order of human/vampire hybrids by taking refuge in a unidentified building before being cornered and killed on the altar of a church.

The Last Man on Earth

The film’s climax takes place at the modernist-designed St Pius X Catholic Church via Attlilio Friggeri 87 in Trionfale, Balduina, which was built in 1961. Apart from some recent modernisation, and the installation of the pipe organ (in 1969), the interior has hardly nchanged.

I’m currently putting together a video of my film location finds, but until that’s completed, I shall leave you with one last montage.

Our final picture fuses Vincent’s big death scene with what the altar looks like today.

The Last Man on Earth









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The Spring 2018 Newsletter

With Spring is almost upon us, here’s the latest news from the Vincent Price Legacy UK.

April 21-April 22, 2018
Thanks to everyone who registered to join me and some friends for a weekend away visiting the locations used in Witchfinder General, which will be celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. We now have our van full (sorry if you missed out) but if you want to still join us and have your own means of transport, then do email me:

Amsterdam &Vienna | The Two World Capitals Tour 
September 22 – September 30, 2018

Inspired by the 90th anniversary of Vincent’s Seven Capital Tour of the Art Capitals of Europe, Victoria Price and myself invite you to join us on a cultural tour of two of the cities that Vincent visited in 1928: Amsterdam & Vienna. We’ve planned an exciting cultural itinerary, which will be attractive to both travellers who have never been to Europe before, as well as for seasoned visitors.

Our new company ESC TOURS creates unique itineraries that include both travel highlights as well as unique cultural experiences that allow travellers to get beneath the tourist experience and develop a deeper connection with each country. This two-city tour includes museums and castles, World Heritage sites, exploring parks and neighbourhoods, food adventures, musical entertainment — and much more!!

If you are interested in finding out more about this trip, please sign up following this link: 

You can also email us with questions at

For those of you who have travelled with us before and consider yourselves the more adventurous type, we are also offering an Off the Beaten Track: Austria & Germany trip from 30 September 30 – 9 October. We will only have a limited number of seats for this trip, and first priority goes to previous ESC travellers. If you are interested in this trip – or both trips – please let us know vie email as soon as possible.

Victora is currently on the road promoting her inspirational memoir The Way of Being Lost: A Road Trip to My Truest Self, which is available in the US from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Indiebound.

I am working with the publisher on bringing Victoria back to the UK for a book tour, where all of the Price Family Legacy titles will be getting their first-ever UK print run in November.

These will include Vincent’s visual memoir, I Like What I Know, his tribute to his canine pal The Book of Joe, and all of his cookbooks, including Cooking Price Wise. I am ooking for suitable venues to host Victoria.

So, if you know of a great little bookshop, art gallery, cinema or restaurant in your area of the UK or Ireland that might be able to help, then do get in touch with me at:

Well that’s all for now folks – hope you are enjoying the snow.

Best regards
Vincent Price Legacy UK








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