aka ORDER OF DEATH
(Italy - 1983; US release 1984)
Directed by Roberto Faenza. Written by Ennio de Concini, Hugh Fleetwood and Roberto Faenza. Cast: Harvey Keitel, John Lydon, Nicole Garcia, Leonard Mann, Sylvia Sidney, Carla Romanelli. (R, 101 mins)
You can't exactly say the psychological thriller CORRUPT has fallen into obscurity over the years, but it's a small miracle that it's now available in quality Blu-ray release in 2017. A staple on countless sketchy, public domain DVD sets and on YouTube for years, in crummy VHS quality transfers and often under different titles--the most dubious being CORRUPT LIEUTENANT in reference to another iconic role for star Harvey Keitel--with a myriad of truncated running times, CORRUPT was based on the 1977 novel The Order of Death by British writer Hugh Fleetwood, who co-wrote the script with director Roberto Faenza and veteran screenwriter Ennio de Concini (THE RED TENT, SALON KITTY, CHINA 9 LIBERTY 37). It was released in the UK in 1983 as ORDER OF DEATH, the rest of Europe that same year as COPKILLER, and in the US in 1984 as CORRUPT, by New Line Cinema, the B-movie and genre fare outfit that had been around for years but was about to have a breakout smash with Wes Craven's A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. Code Red recently released CORRUPT--in its 101-minute US cut, a bit shorter than the 113-minute European version--on Blu-ray and it's the first time it's been in a watchable condition since the old Thorn/EMI VHS tape that was in every video store in America in the 1980s. The film has maintained a certain degree of cult notoriety for the last 30-plus years, thanks primarily to the presence of John Lydon--then the frontman for Public Image Ltd but still best known for his days as the Sex Pistols' Johnny Rotten--in the first of only three acting roles he's tackled over his career, and he more than holds his own against the powerhouse intensity of Keitel, with long stretches of the film focused on their two characters engaging in psychological warfare in the increasingly claustrophobic confines of a nearly empty luxury apartment. There were plans to take advantage of Lydon's day job: Public Image Ltd were set to do some music for the film, but the producers ultimately opted to go with a score by Ennio Morricone instead. Some of the material that Lydon and PiL recorded ended up on the band's 1984 album This is What You Want...This is What You Get, including "The Order of Death," which would've been great in CORRUPT but had to wait several years to find a cinematic home when it was prominently featured in Richard Stanley's 1990 cult classic HARDWARE, and more recently on the Syfy series MR. ROBOT.
|UK poster under the film's original title.
this clip) that attentive viewers will spot from the Maestro's work on both Umberto Lenzi's ALMOST HUMAN (1974) and Brian De Palma's THE UNTOUCHABLES (1987). It can also be seen a more grounded, less surreal homage to PERFORMANCE, not just in the casting of a famous music personality but also in the way the protagonists (James Fox and Mick Jagger in PERFORMANCE) have dual identities and become distorted mirror images of one another as the film goes on. Even "cop killer" ends up with a reflecting flip side with "killer cop." It's also an effective, grimy NYC movie of the era done in the unique way that only Italians could, with some extensive location shooting for the exteriors (interiors were filmed at Cinecitta in Rome) and some vintage 42nd Street shots, including Keitel on a bus that passes the Lyric, then showing an incredible double bill of DOCTOR BUTCHER M.D. and SLITHIS, which would put CORRUPT's NYC shoot somewhere in the vicinity of May 1982. It's too bad Faenza didn't snag any footage of the Butchermobile cruising around.
Keitel Cry). Keitel gets a long monologue about corruption that would fit right into a Scorsese or Ferrara film. O'Connor is a total sadist in his treatment of Leo, whether he's feeding him out of a dog dish, threatening to burn him with a cigar, or stuffing his head into an oven.
CORRUPT finally rescued from the indignity of
decades as a public domain title. You get what you pay for.
|This looks legit, from the shot of Keitel from what may be
be COP LAND to the flashy cars to "John Lyndon."
|That's a mid '90s Keitel and it's not even his left hand.