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PRIVATE HELL 36

USA, 1954 (MIFF 1996, Ida Lupino - Actor)

Director: Don Siegel

One of Don Siegel's best early efforts along with his other "numbered" films of the same year Riot in Cell Block 11 this taut noir shares with Riot the building ineluctable logic of an out of control event-two cops on the downward spiral of corruption betrayal and guilt.

One thing leads to another as Detective Bruner (Steve Cochran) strolls by following signs in the silence from a slight sound to an open door to an unconscious victim finally finding himself in the midst of a cross fire heist. From here to the unthinking shoot anyone nightmare finale Bruner is at the centre of a whirlwind that he's too unfeeling and basically amoral even to perceive. Instead the emotional poles of his struggle are played out by the two characters flanking him through most of the film his married uptight cop partner Farnham {Howard Duff) in his half unwilling slide into crime and the wise cracking been around material witness Lilli Marlowe (Lupino) in her equally unwilling rise toward respectability.

A comfortable weary solidarity is established among the trio during an extended racetrack stakeout (the Lupino character's foray into good citizenship threatening to wear her to frazzle between hunting crooks by day and singing for her supper at night) For these three working stiffs the sight of thousands won or lost on a single race de-realizes money taking it out of the tightly regularized budgeted intakes and outakes of the lower middle class respectability into the fantastic realm of anythings possible — where suitcase spilled stolen bills can blow across a wrecked car straight into two cops pockets and where its increasingly hard to tell the good guys from the bad.

Private Hell 36 was The Filmmakers swan song their attempt to distribute it themselves leading to the indie production company s closing (RS)

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