The First Deadly Sin (1980)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Released 19-Dec-2003

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1980
Running Time 107:21
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Brian G. Hutton

Warner Home Video
Starring 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
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $14.90 Music Gordon Jenkins

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Night in the city. A man is walking down a dark street. He passes another who then turns and strikes the man in the head with a instrument that looks like an icepick. These shots are intercut with scenes from an operation, where a woman (Faye Dunaway) is being cut open. This beginning of The First Deadly Sin is not for the squeamish, although the violence is more implied than explicit.

    The next morning, the police and forensic experts are out in force. Sergeant Ed Delaney (Frank Sinatra) and the coroner (James Whitmore) examine the body for clues. A wallet is found under the corpse, so robbery can be ruled out as a motive. Delaney is on the verge of retirement. His new captain (Anthony Zerbe) tells him to keep out of trouble and not make waves before he hangs up his badge. Delaney wants to crack the murder case before he retires, and discovers that a similar killing had occurred in another precinct. From the autopsy it is not clear what the murder weapon was, but it sounds like some sort of older style weapon.

    He goes to a museum to try to discover what the murder weapon was. The curator, Mr Langley, while ruling out a mediaeval weapon, becomes interested in the case and decides to help out by visiting hardware stores looking for a tool that fits the description. Meanwhile, Delaney's wife has had a serious kidney operation, as we saw in the opening sequences, so he spends time trying to come to terms with that, spends time with his wife and also has trouble getting in contact with his wife's doctor to discuss her health. On top of that Delaney tries to track down the killer.

    This is a low-key police film based on a novel by Lawrence Sanders. While I have not read the book, it seems to me that the screenplay is an attempt to transcribe the storyline of the book into a film, but fails in the attempt to make a film narrative out of it. The book must have been a combination of a detective story and a character study, and the film appears to fall between these two stools, succeeding in being neither one nor the other. Sinatra tries hard to bring the character of Delaney to life but is defeated by the material. There is not enough of the detective work shown for the film to work on that level either.

    What I liked about this film is that it does not attempt to create a dialogue between the killer and the police, as is the case in many such films of recent times. The killer does not know the detective, and he does not send clues to the police nor has he a preconceived pattern that he is following. This film is not above the average but it is sufficiently different from the current crop of similar films to be of interest. The performances are all sincere and capable, though there is nothing exceptional here. Sinatra plays much the same character he played in 1968's The Detective, with a very obvious toupee. Dunaway is wasted as his ill wife as is Brenda Vaccaro as the widow of the first victim. Whitmore is adequate as the coroner, and Martin Gabel is fine as Langley. This film is no masterpiece, playing much like a telefeature with added profanity and violence, but it whiles away the time effectively.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. The original aspect ratio was 1.85:1, and the slick states that this is the aspect ratio of this transfer.

    The video transfer is reasonably sharp. At a guess, I would say that it has been taken from a video master, as it lacks the sharpness of a digital transfer. Shadow detail is not the best, with some murky happenings on the darkened streets and in darkened rooms. The dark suits of the police show very little in the way of detail.

    The colour is much like those gritty cop shows of the 1970s, like Kojak for example, with muted colours intended to reflect the dinginess of the city. Flesh tones are close to lifelike most of the time. There looks to be a little colour bleeding from time to time, but this is fairly minor and would not be distracting unless you are looking for it.

    I did not notice any major video artefacts. There is some dirt and occasional dark flecks, but otherwise this is a fairly clean transfer. Grain levels are higher than I would have liked, with slight pixelization apparent throughout. There are minor compression problems with some very slight blockiness during the few action scenes, and chroma noise and macro-blocking appearing in the background of several indoor shots, but you would not notice unless you were specifically looking for it.

    This single-layered disc has English subtitles in white characters with black borders. They are quite readable against the background and appear to be consistent with the dialogue.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The single audio track is Dolby Digital 2.0. I did not detect anything in the way of stereo information, in fact I think this might be a mono mix. The audio is of reasonable quality, and apart from occasionally sounding thin, what issues there are with the audio arise from the original recording. For example, in the scene where Langley comes to the police station to show Delaney what he thinks might be the murder weapon, Langley's dialogue is louder and clearer than Sinatra's, indicating that the microphone was not ideally positioned. Audio sync is exemplary.

    The music score is by Gordon Jenkins, who rarely wrote for the screen and seems to have worked with Sinatra as music director. The score is variable, with effective heightening of tension using some synthesised sounds but also with some overly dramatic music that does not fit with the onscreen action, especially in the opening sequence. There are long stretches without any music, which works for the film I think.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    No extras are provided.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This film has been released on DVD in Region 1, however that version is a pan and scan 1.33:1 transfer and has a Dolby Digital 1.0 mono audio track, so Region 4 is the clear winner here.


    An average detective thriller with a downbeat story, this makes for an interesting diversion but I could not imagine anyone watching it more than once.

    The video quality is average.

    The audio quality is satisfactory.

    There are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Monday, April 26, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationYamaha RX-V596 for surround channels; Yamaha AX-590 as power amp for mains
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Richter Harlequin; Rear: Pioneer S-R9; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

Other Reviews
AllZone4DVD - OliverD

Comments (Add) NONE