33 user 17 critic

The First Deadly Sin (1980)

A police inspector, nearing retirement, tracks a serial killer who is terrorizing New York.



(screenplay), (novel)

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4 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Dr. Bernardi
Monica Gilbert
Christopher Langley
Captain Broughton
Charles Lipsky
Anna Navarro ...
Sunny Jordeen
Sergeant Fernandez Correlli
John Devaney ...
John Rogers
Robert Weil ...
Sol Appel
Hugh Hurd ...
Ben Johnson
Jon DeVries ...


A serial killer is stalking New York. Inspector Edward X. Delaney is an NYPD detective, nearing retirement, who is trying to put together the pieces of the case. Are the victims somehow linked? What does the brutal method of death signify? Written by Michael C. Berch <mcb@postmodern.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


He's searching for a killer. She's searching for a miracle .... And time is running out.




R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

3 October 1980 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

O Primeiro Pecado Mortal  »

Filming Locations:

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Edward X. Delaney, whom Frank Sinatra played in this film, appeared in five novels by Lawrence Sanders--"The Anderson Tapes," "The First Deadly Sin," "The Second Deadly Sin," "The Third Deadly Sin," and "The Fourth Deadly Sin." In the film version of "The Anderson Tapes," Ralph Meeker played Delaney. See more »


As suspect Blank (Dukes) is fleeing from Detective Delaney (Sinatra), he goes around a corner carrying an ice ax in his right hand but he was not holding it when approaching the corner nor right after heading toward the camera. See more »


Calvin Samtell: Hey sucker! Bang bang!
Edward Delaney: Bang bang!
See more »


Hark the Herald Angels Sing
Music by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy
Played by the Salvation Army Band outside the hardware store
See more »

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User Reviews

A confounding film to watch, several good ideas gone to waste.
9 October 2005 | by See all my reviews

The First Deadly Sin is a startlingly incongruent mix of 80s vigilante cop and old fashioned gumshoe thriller. It doesn't make a lot of sense, but there's some tension built up in between the general scenery-chewing of Sinatra and others. One wonders exactly what made Sinatra think this was a good idea- he appears pretty bored throughout the film, perhaps shooting for a Philip Marlowe weariness and falling very short. The overall tone of the movie emphasizes the darkness and bleak surroundings of the city, and admittedly the lighting and tone is very dramatic. Sinatra plays a senior police officer in New York who is just about to finish up the job and retire when a strange random murder appeals to him and he becomes the only cop who sees a pattern. His wife, played by Faye Dunaway, is hospitalized throughout the film and Sinatra's character visits her frequently to try and cheer her up as well as criticize the doctors for not doing enough for her.

The supporting cast fills in lots of gaps here and makes this fit in, albeit very strangely, with the NYC exploitation style that was current at the time. The great Joe Spinell shows up as a doorman, James Whitmore as the coroner, Brenda Vaccaro, Robert Weil, Eddie Jones, Victor Arnold and even a one-second appearance of Bruce Willis in his first film role. We see the horribly typical subtle racism of Jews and Latinos in New York City being displayed by stereotypes, as well as other policemen shown as haggard and corrupt, merely to contrast with Sinatra's "white knight" character. Sinatra is shown as the anachronism within the decay of the city- none of the police seem to be able to make any difference, so it takes Sinatra's illegal activities to reduce the story to a simple good vs. evil struggle. Sinatra is so bizarrely set in the story he dresses up like Bogart with a cocked Fedora and even is shown digging up an old Luger to carry in another scene. We never understand why he is so antiquated or what the point is of contrasting him in 1980 Manhattan.

Too many misshapen ideas clog this film-- for instance, why exactly is Faye Dunaway in the hospital throughout the film? There is an insistence on a religious overtone throughout the film (besides the title, there are crosses displayed everywhere)that is never explained. Anthony Zerbe phones in a quick appearance as a police captain who tries to reel in Sinatra, who is retiring in mere days from decades on the force. If it weren't bad enough that Zerbe appears needlessly drunk in this scene, his character is supposed to be a no-nonsense captain and when Sinatra asks if he can stay on the case, Zerbe basically says "sure, whatever". The two people who break down the murderer's identity are bizarrely the curator of the renowned Arms & Armor wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the wife of the murderer's first victim! Sinatra merely leaves the scene to let them do the work, appropriately showing his seemingly little concern for the plot of this film.

The First Deadly Sin is a very confusing film with more loose ends than a thread factory. Sinatra picked a very odd piece of work to make his last starring role and there must be some interesting story behind what happened with this obviously well-budgeted film. Sinatra was never an amazing actor but this is just a mess.

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