Thursday, May 16, 2013

Private Hell 36

Private Hell 36. Image: from the Movie Poster Shop.

Rikollisen tuho / Dollarit ovat kuolemaksi / Poliisin helvetti / Heta pengar. US © 1954 Filmakers Productions, Inc. [not Filmmakers]. Original distributor: Filmakers Releasing Organization, Inc. P: Collier Young – associate producer: Robert Eggenweiler. D: Don Siegel. Ass. D: James Anderson, Leonard Kunody. Dialogue D: David Peckinpah [= Sam Peckinpah]. SC: Collier Young, Ida Lupino. DP: Burnett Guffey – b&w – 1,85:1. AD: Walter Keller – set dec: Edward Boyle. Makeup: David Newell. M: Leith Stevens – orchestra: Arthur Morton, Shorty Rogers. Song: "Didn't You Know?", comp. and lyrics: John Franco. S: Thomas Carmen, Howard Wilson – RCA Sound Recording. ED: Stanford Tischler – ass. ED: Noel Coppleman. Technical advisor: Thad H. Brown.
    C: Ida Lupino [(Lilli Marlowe)], Steve Cochran [(Calhoun Bruner)], Howard Duff [(Jack Farnham)], Dean Jagger [(Captain Michaels)], Dorothy Malone [(Francey Farnham)], [Richard Deacon (druggist)], [Dabbs Greer (bartender)], [King Donovan (burglar at drugstore)], [Kenneth Patterson (police lieutenant], [Chris O'Brien (Coroner)], [Jerry Hausner (nightclub boss)], [George Dockstader (man on the run)], [Jimmy Hawkins (errand boy)], [Bridget Duff (Farnham's baby)].
    Production started in early June 1954, Republic Studios. Loc: Los Angeles, including Bronson Canyon (Griffith Park) and the Hollywood Park racetrack.
    Helsinki premiere: 8.7.1955 Edison, distributed by: California Films Oy Ab – PCA 17084 – VET 42492 – K16 – 81 min.
    A vintage KAVA print with Finnish / Swedish subtitles viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Carte blanche à Tapani Maskula), 16 May 2013

An offbeat crime movie produced and written by Ida Lupino and Collier Young's Filmakers Productions. Shot on a low budget, on too rushed a schedule and with three main actors often drunk (according to the director Don Siegel) it's not a fully realized accomplishment.

Howard Duff and Steve Cochran play the unglamorous L.A. cop duo, risking their lives for little pay. During a desperate chase they stumble upon a large stash of stolen, marked cash... After what happens then the burden of the crime gets even heavier than the burden of poverty.

The women's roles are interesting. Dorothy Malone plays the married cop's wife Francey. Every night she is in fear: will her husband Jack return home tonight? Ida Lupino is the night club singer Lilli Marlowe (if not Lili Marlene), worldly and realistic, amused at Cal's attentions but not taking him too seriously.

Dean Jagger plays Jack and Cal's boss. His antennae alert him that there is something wrong, and he sets a trap to them. He belongs to the Porfiri tradition of detectives: willing to trust to the end, always on the alert.

There are some fine action scenes, most prominently in the beginning and in the conclusion. In the intimate scenes between Francey and Jack there is a feeling of emotional reality. Lilli and Cal seem to have fun, for instance when Lilli lets Cal rub her feet. The most impressive sequence is the one where the policemen try to catch the stolen dollar notes flying in the canyon. Their looks are telling.

Private Hell 36 is more character-driven than action-driven. The burden of guilt is the main theme. The dialogue is well written.

There is a good jazz score by Leith Stevens.

Burnett Guffey does a great job with his downbeat cinematography. He has a gift of producing suspense and menace in gray daylight.

Shot in full frame and meant to be screened in 1,85:1 widescreen, we showed the print in full frame because of the oversized double subtitles.

The vintage print has been in heavy use, and the starts and the tails of the reels are rather thrillingly battered (and one minute's worth has melted away by vinegar syndrome due to too tight winding by the distributor), but never mind: there is true bite and a strong sense of the original visual concept in the print, which mostly looks very good.

No comments: