Order of Death

Virgin Films 1983

review by George X, May 1999 (First published F&F 9)
© 1999 Fodderstompf.com / F&F Publishing

Brief Synopsis

Copkiller: Italian Lobby Card: JL MeNew York.

A cop killer is praying on corrupt narcotics detectives, the police have no idea who it is.

The killer wears a police uniform and a ski-mask, and slashes his victims throats with a bread knife after dirty drugs deals, leaving no clues.

Police Lieutenant Fred O'Connor (Harvey Keitel), an obsessive control freak shares an expensive apartment over-looking Central Park with another cop, they are obviously corrupt, using aliases, keeping the apartment a secret.

Leo Smith (Lydon) a strange young Englishman begins to stalk O'Connor, asking for him at the secret apartment, he then turns up confessing to the cop killings, O'Connor doesn't take him seriously, but worried by Smith's knowledge of him he beats him and keeps him prisoner in the bathroom.

O'Connor's partner Bob argues to let Smith go, O'Connor accidentally kills him, then tells Smith to cut his throat, in return O'Connor claims he'll let Smith go free, Smith reluctantly does, and then escapes after a failed attempt by O'Connor to kill him.

Smith returns to the apartment and begins to take control of the situation and also of O'Connor.
O'Connor visits Bob's widow Lenore, which upsets Smith, he orders O'Connor to kill her fearing O'Connor will tell all, O'Connor can't go through with it and leaves a gun with her, he tells her of the apartment.

Lenore suspects O'Connor of being the cop killer and goes with the police to the apartment.
Smith has convinced O'Connor into being the cop killer, racked with guilt he commits suicide by slashing his throat with the bread knife, but not before Smith confesses to O'Connor again that he really is the cop killer.

The film ends with Smith staring out the apartment window over the city night.


Copkiller: Italian Lobby Card: Granny Rotten First off, lets get things nice and sparkling clear, this isn't the best film ever made, far from it, but at the same token, neither is it the worst... It's quite a complex film, and very claustrophobic. The use of the dual identities and aliases adds to the paranoiac secrecy (Fred O'Connor uses the alias Frank at the apartment, and Leo Smith uses Fred Smith at the beginning of the film). The dual identities are very interesting, they are both hiding their true identities, in able to live out fantasies. We don't really know who the cop killer is, even at the end.

There are also a strong hints of homosexuality, firstly between Keitel and his partner, and then between Lydon and Keitel. Lenore (Sylvia Garcia) , the only woman character is strongly disliked by Smith, who sneers about O'Connor having "a nice time with pretty Lenore". Harvey Keitel is as good as he always is, strolling through this film, O'Connor's sense of order and angst coming easy to him. The big surprise is Lydon, he's really rather good. Ok, the odd line is a bit iffy but when he's good, he's great, I mean it... The scenes where Keitel slaps him around in the bathroom are really convincing (unlike Lydon's running!), but all together it's a very good performance.

Guilt plays a strong role in the film. Smith having previously confessed to crimes he did not commit , confesses to being the cop killer but is never taken seriously. Smith is riddled by guilt because he inherited a large amount of money after his parents accidental death, and believes the money to be cursed, he feels he needs to be punished, he even seems to enjoy it. Fred begins to feel guilty about his initial treatment of Smith, he then punishes himself for killing his partner, almost confesses to it, and then eventually kills himself for release. Is there something profound in the fact that Lydon confesses to the crimes, isn't believed, then denies being able to commit them, but did them all along? He was right all along when he was lying, wasn't he?

The film is also very voyeuristic. Smith watches O'Connor from a distance, Smith's bedroom is surrounded by video cameras monitoring his every movement, and when held prisoner in the bathroom, O'Connor watches Smith through a spy hole. The voyeuristic slant adds to Lydon's well documented natural paranoia, and could maybe even be an ironic joke about being scrutinised by the media.

The film probably seems standard indie fare, but it's a little gem, almost a cult-classic. The fact that it's rarely seen, is Lydon's only real film role, and has three different titles, which cause all sorts of confusion (UK: Order of Death, Europe: Cop Killer, USA: Corrupt), adds to it's cult status. Check it out! Though one last last thing, PIL should have done the soundtrack.

Lydon's Worst Moments

The waking up scene, and the fake yawn!
"Mad, Mad, Mad!"
His 'running'!
"I'm as American as you are"
Dressing up like Smith's grandfather

Lydon's Best Moments

The apartment scenes, the bathroom scenes.
Keitel to Lydon: "I bet you like rock music don't you"
The cigar, the park scene
"I think we should get a television"
The newspaper, "Me" and "You're special aren't you O'Connor"
"Had a nice time with pretty Lenore"
Dancing while listening to his radio
The slaps, the dog bowl
The stare at the end, the whole final scene


Picture Credits: (Top to Bottom)
Copkiller: Italian Lobby Cards
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