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USA 1954
Directed by
Don Siegel
81 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Private Hell 36

I have no idea why the 36 was added to this film’s title for “Private Hell” alone is enough to describe the situation of  Det. Jack Farnham (Howard Duff), a straight cop who out of loyalty says nothing when his partner Cal Brunner (Steve Cochran) impulsively pockets $80,000 after they catch a robber. As his conscience/sense of guilt eats away at Jack, Cal pursues his relationship with Lili Marlow (Ida Lupino) a nightclub singer who fully agrees that diamonds are a girl’s best friend. The men’s boss, Capt. Michaels (Dean Jagger), however has his suspicions and soon the money doesn’t seem so easy.

In this’50s noir, writers Collier Young and leading lady Lupino,a one-time husband and wife team whose company made the film although they had divorced and remarried by the time that it went into production, and director Don Siegel deliver an efficient but well-turned lesson in the wages of sin with good cop Jack jeopardising his happy marriage to Francey  (Dorothy Malone) and career and Cal casting off all moral bearings to indulge his fantasies of being a high roller with Lili as his squeeze.

Partly shot in cheap studio sets with generic L.A. exteriors adding a bit of variety as a low budget B movie Private Hell 36 is well-written and neatly directed though arguably it would have been stronger had Malone and Lupino swapped roles.  




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