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  First Deadly Sin, The Don't It Make Your Blue Eyes Red?
Year: 1980
Director: Brian G. Hutton
Stars: Frank Sinatra, Faye Dunaway, David Dukes, George Coe, Brenda Vaccaro, Martin Gabel, Anthony Zerbe, James Whitmore, Joe Spinell, Anna Navarro, Jeffrey DeMunn, John Devaney, Robert Weil, Hugh Hurd, John DeVries, Eddie Jones, Victor Arnold
Genre: Drama, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Ageing detective Edward Delaney (Frank Sinatra) has been called out to this New York street one night as winter begins to draw in, because there has been a body found in the gutter which needs investigating. He and his colleagues soon work out that this was no accident, it was murder as someone has advanced on the victim with some kind of sharp instrument and repeatedly planted it in his skull, but Delaney wonders if this is an isolated incident or whether there is a serial killer at large in the city? However, just as he is about to start delving into recent cases, he is called to the hospital because his wife Barbara (Faye Dunaway) has been taken ill...

Whereupon Miss Dunaway must have wondered if the prestige of starring in a movie with singing legend Frank Sinatra was really worth it since she spent every one of her handful of scenes lying in bed in a near stupor thanks to her character suffering a kidney ailment that is sapping her life away. As if that was casting a pall over the rest of the film, the manner in which this meandered onto the screen was similar to watching a feature length television pilot which started at a shuffling pace and only wound down from there: The First Deadly Sin was punishingly slow, in a way suggesting you were not here to enjoy yourself if you had sat down to watch this.

Nope, you were here to soberly consider this vale of tears we call life, and Sinatra at his most doleful, his age showing on his features so strongly that he appeared way past retirement age from the force, was essaying his final starring role. He still had that considerably less serious cameo in Cannonball Run 2 to shoot, but this was really his last appearance in a movie where he was asked to put in a proper performance, and if he had been instructed to play it as if the weight of the world were on his shoulders to the extent that he was starting to buckle, then you could judge him very effective here. What that didn't make for was much in the way of entertainment in a production halfway between serious crime drama and rogue cop yarn.

Delaney, against advice from his stupid chief (Anthony Zerbe, laying the groundwork for a whole decade's worth of stupid chiefs in action flicks), continues to investigate the serial killer case as if to take his mind off the state of his ailing wife, apparently because he subconsciously sees beating the evil stalking the streets will improve Barbara's health, however that would work in practice. At least that's the best way you can connect the two strands of plot, since they do not marry up in any other way, but if nothing else this reminded you of the days when a serial killer could be depicted as a pathetic creature rather than some genius supercriminal as David Dukes put in a portrayal of an outwardly slick businessman who is in fact a snivelling, murderous wretch.

This trudged its way to a conclusion as Delaney turns vigilante by tracking Dukes' character, but there were occasional compensations, such as the elderly weapons expert, Langley, who becomes an occasional sidekick to the cop as he takes care of trying to find out what the weapon used is, played with great style by theatre actor Martin Gabel, making magic out of unpromising material. There was also the chance, novelty as it was, to see Sinatra act out scenes with one of the screen's classic sleazeball actors in Joe Spinell, this the same year as he starred his notorious pet project Maniac, and here playing the doorman to the villain's posh apartment building. Veteran James Whitmore appeared as a coroner, a very messy one at that because he seems to get blood all over his apron at every opportunity, though bizarrely the actor looked to have had his hair permed for his role. Really, The First Deadly Sin was so dejected that it took a particular sensibility to get much enjoyment out of it, or maybe to wonder what original director Roman Polanski might have made of this. Music by Gordon Jenkins.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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