Private Hell 36


1h 20m 1954

Brief Synopsis

Two LA detectives get in over their heads when they get involved with a nightclub singer who holds the key to the missing loot from a New York elevator robbery. Once they find the money, they are tempted to keep it and betrayal and corruption come to run the order of things.

Film Details

Release Date
Sep 1954
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Filmakers Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
Filmakers Releasing Organization, Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Hollywood Park, California, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 20m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1

Synopsis

In New York, a man is killed and robbed of $300,000 on his way to a bank night depository. A year later, as Los Angeles police detective Calhoun Bruner is walking home one night, he happens upon a drug store burglary in process, shoots one of the two burglars and arrests the other. The police then discover that some of the money the burglar took is "hot" and from the New York robbery, for which no arrests have been made. When Captain Michaels asks the drug store owner where a particular $50 bill came from, the druggist tells them that he received it, as payment for filling a prescription, from a bartender at a local night club. The next day, Cal and his colleague, Jack Farnham, interview the bartender, who tells them that he borrowed the bill from Lilli Marlowe, a singer who works at the club. Unfortunately, Lilli can only give a very vague description of the drunk who gave her the bill. After more bills show up at the Hollywood Race Track, Michaels asks Lilli to go on a stakeout with Cal and Jack in the hope that she may recognize the man. Although several days at the track prove fruitless, a romance develops between Cal and Lilli. On yet another day at the track, while checking cars leaving the parking lot, Lilli spots the man and Cal and Jack chase after him, but the fugitive's car crashes off the road and he is killed. In the wreck, Cal and Jack find a metal box full of money and Cal takes four wads of bills. Jack does not want to be involved in this theft and after the police investigators leave, tells Cal that they must return the cash, reminding him that it is marked money. However, Cal takes him to a trailer park where he has hidden the money in a small trailer, Number 36, which he has rented, and convinces Jack to go along with his plans. Later, Cal brings Lilli to dinner at Jack's house where she meets Jack's wife Francey and their infant daughter, but is puzzled by the tension between the men as Jack is drinking heavily and is filled with self-loathing. On their way home, Lilli tels Cal that she intends to work in Las Vegas for a while, but he convinces her that they are alike and she decides to stay. The next morning, Michaels tells Cal and Jack that $200,000 of the missing $300,000 was recovered at the accident scene, but he feels that the driver may have had a partner. Later, a man identifying himself as the partner phones Cal, after having seen his name and photo in a newspaper story about the investigation. He demands the money Cal took and blackmails both Cal and Jack. Although Cal and Lilli make plans to leave for Mexico to be married, Jack tells Cal that they they are not going to give the money to the partner but will turn it in to Michaels and come clean. Cal finally appears to agree and they head for the trailer. When Jack leaves the trailer with the cash in a paper sack, Cal attempts to shoot him but is interrupted by the voice of the partner, who accuses them of a double cross. Cal tells the man to shoot Jack, but when he fails to do so, Cal shoots Jack in the back. As he attempts another shot, Cal is shot and killed. Michaels emerges from the shadows, makes Jack comfortable and tells him that one of his men had impersonated the fictitious partner as he had suspected that they had taken the cash.

Film Details

Release Date
Sep 1954
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Filmakers Productions, Inc.
Distribution Company
Filmakers Releasing Organization, Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Hollywood Park, California, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 20m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1

Articles

Private Hell 36 - Ida Lupino & Howard Duff in Don Siegel's PRIVATE HELL 36


This minor noir was put together by some major Hollywood talent: leading lady turned film director Ida Lupino, Lupino's third husband Howard Duff, Lupino's second husband Collier Young, Warner Brothers contract player Steve Cochran, Academy Award-winning actor Dean Jagger, and Don Siegel, soon to be identified as a maverick American film director in his own right and here paying his journeyman dues approximately two years before his auteurist breakout with Invasion of the Body Snatcher (1956). Produced and written by Lupino and Young (as The Filmmakers), Private Hell 36 is a surprisingly tender-hearted story of good people turning bad. Duff and Cochran play LAPD detectives, long-time partners inured to the punishing hours, scant rewards, and inherent dangers of their profession... until they seize a $300,000 booty from a dead criminal and begin to imagine what that kind of money would do for their lives. When Cochran chooses to pocket the cash, Duff reluctantly plays along, but ruptures begin to scar their friendship just as their captain (Jagger, in avuncular, pipe-smoking mode) and colleagues pick holes in their account of what went down.

The homoerotic back beat of the Cochran-Duff partnership gives Private Hell 36 an unexpected kick, even half a century later, post-Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man (1976), Reservoir Dogs (1992) and dozens of other like-minded policiers. Joking about their partnership as "going steady" and buffeting wisecracks from their fellow cops about being boyfriends, Cochran's thrill-seeking bachelor Cal Bruner and Duff's more four-square Jack Farnham are happy in their life together and resigned to the unprofitable tribulations of law enforcement... until Farnham's wife (Dorothy Malone, in a thankless cameo) and Bruner's girlfriend (Lupino, as a dodgy lounge singer) inspire the men to expect more. An allusion to Alfred Hitchcock's Rope (1948) would not be out of the question, with Cochran playing the more confident and manipulative John Dall role, Duff the uncertain Farley Granger role, and Dean Jagger in the James Stewart role of the men's mentor and conscience. All performances are spot-on and the supporting cast is peppered with such reliable types as Dabbs Greer, King Donovan, Richard Deacon, James Anderson (the venal Bob Ewell of To Kill a Mockingbird) and William Boyett, later a stock player for Jack Webb.

If Private Hell 36 falls short of noir greatness, it's largely because director-for- hire Don Siegel was still forging his signature motifs and payoffs and not yet free to balance extreme violence and mundane reality with the same exhilarating anarchy. The film works best as a pencil sketch of themes and scenes he would replay in later films, with more artistic license and more indelible results. The pharmacy burglary that sparks the first act and ends with Cochran riding hophead recidivist Donovan through a plate glass window looks ahead for sheer bushwhack outrageousness to the bank robbery in Siegel's Dirty Harry (1971) while the plot point of thieves sweating out retribution from an unseen assailant anticipates similar business in Charley Varrick (1973) and the codependent Cochran-Duff partnership sets the tone for the professional unions of The Lineup (1958), The Killers (1964), and Madigan (1968). Robert Keith's description of Eli Wallach in The Lineup as "a wonderful, pure, pathological study" could apply just as readily to Cochran here, as well as Steve McQueen in Hell is for Heroes (1962) and Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry.

Released on video cassette in 1998 by Republic Pictures, Private Hell 36 has long been nigh impossible to come by (though the online movie rental service Netflix has offered the film for digital streaming) and now makes its digital debut under the auspices of Olive Films and Paramount. This new region 1 DVD is a just-the-facts affair, burdened with no special features or extras. The image is on the high side of acceptable and the mono audio is on par, making for a satisfying viewing experience. Olive also offers Private Hell 36 on Blu- ray.

For more information about Private Hell 36, visit Olive Films. To order Private Hell 36, go to TCM Shopping.

by Richard Harland Smith
Private Hell 36 - Ida Lupino & Howard Duff In Don Siegel's Private Hell 36

Private Hell 36 - Ida Lupino & Howard Duff in Don Siegel's PRIVATE HELL 36

This minor noir was put together by some major Hollywood talent: leading lady turned film director Ida Lupino, Lupino's third husband Howard Duff, Lupino's second husband Collier Young, Warner Brothers contract player Steve Cochran, Academy Award-winning actor Dean Jagger, and Don Siegel, soon to be identified as a maverick American film director in his own right and here paying his journeyman dues approximately two years before his auteurist breakout with Invasion of the Body Snatcher (1956). Produced and written by Lupino and Young (as The Filmmakers), Private Hell 36 is a surprisingly tender-hearted story of good people turning bad. Duff and Cochran play LAPD detectives, long-time partners inured to the punishing hours, scant rewards, and inherent dangers of their profession... until they seize a $300,000 booty from a dead criminal and begin to imagine what that kind of money would do for their lives. When Cochran chooses to pocket the cash, Duff reluctantly plays along, but ruptures begin to scar their friendship just as their captain (Jagger, in avuncular, pipe-smoking mode) and colleagues pick holes in their account of what went down. The homoerotic back beat of the Cochran-Duff partnership gives Private Hell 36 an unexpected kick, even half a century later, post-Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man (1976), Reservoir Dogs (1992) and dozens of other like-minded policiers. Joking about their partnership as "going steady" and buffeting wisecracks from their fellow cops about being boyfriends, Cochran's thrill-seeking bachelor Cal Bruner and Duff's more four-square Jack Farnham are happy in their life together and resigned to the unprofitable tribulations of law enforcement... until Farnham's wife (Dorothy Malone, in a thankless cameo) and Bruner's girlfriend (Lupino, as a dodgy lounge singer) inspire the men to expect more. An allusion to Alfred Hitchcock's Rope (1948) would not be out of the question, with Cochran playing the more confident and manipulative John Dall role, Duff the uncertain Farley Granger role, and Dean Jagger in the James Stewart role of the men's mentor and conscience. All performances are spot-on and the supporting cast is peppered with such reliable types as Dabbs Greer, King Donovan, Richard Deacon, James Anderson (the venal Bob Ewell of To Kill a Mockingbird) and William Boyett, later a stock player for Jack Webb. If Private Hell 36 falls short of noir greatness, it's largely because director-for- hire Don Siegel was still forging his signature motifs and payoffs and not yet free to balance extreme violence and mundane reality with the same exhilarating anarchy. The film works best as a pencil sketch of themes and scenes he would replay in later films, with more artistic license and more indelible results. The pharmacy burglary that sparks the first act and ends with Cochran riding hophead recidivist Donovan through a plate glass window looks ahead for sheer bushwhack outrageousness to the bank robbery in Siegel's Dirty Harry (1971) while the plot point of thieves sweating out retribution from an unseen assailant anticipates similar business in Charley Varrick (1973) and the codependent Cochran-Duff partnership sets the tone for the professional unions of The Lineup (1958), The Killers (1964), and Madigan (1968). Robert Keith's description of Eli Wallach in The Lineup as "a wonderful, pure, pathological study" could apply just as readily to Cochran here, as well as Steve McQueen in Hell is for Heroes (1962) and Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry. Released on video cassette in 1998 by Republic Pictures, Private Hell 36 has long been nigh impossible to come by (though the online movie rental service Netflix has offered the film for digital streaming) and now makes its digital debut under the auspices of Olive Films and Paramount. This new region 1 DVD is a just-the-facts affair, burdened with no special features or extras. The image is on the high side of acceptable and the mono audio is on par, making for a satisfying viewing experience. Olive also offers Private Hell 36 on Blu- ray. For more information about Private Hell 36, visit Olive Films. To order Private Hell 36, go to TCM Shopping. by Richard Harland Smith

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

A 3 November 1954 Daily Variety news item reported that it was possible that Edmond O'Brien would be cast opposite Ida Lupino and Howard Duff. Producer Collier Young was Lupino's ex-husband, but still a partner in their The Filmakers company. At the time of this film's production, Lupino was married to Howard Duff, and their infant daughter Bridget made a brief appearance in the film. Some reviewers were disturbed by the film's depiction of corruption among police officers. The Hollywood Reporter reviewer complained that "the movies are in great danger of over-doing the crooked policeman cycle and, at a vital time, of creating a false and unfavorable impression of American law enforcement methods in foreign countries. This is the third film to be previewed on this subject in as many days." Private Hell marked the first feature film credit of director-screenwriter Sam Peckinpah (1925-1984). Peckinpah, whose full name was David Samuel Peckinpah, was credited as David Peckinpah on the film.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Fall September 1954

Released in United States Fall September 1954