YouTube Noir — Noirvember Day 8: Private Hell 36 (1954)

Today’s YouTube pick is (yet) another personal favorite – Private Hell 36 (1954), starring Steve Cochran, Ida Lupino, Howard Duff, and Dorothy Malone.

There’s a lot to love about this underrated feature, starting with the rather unusual opening, which fades in on a dark, downtown city night, accompanied by a jazzy score. We’re then taken inside one of the buildings, where an elevator door opens to reveal a dead body on the floor and a uniformed man escaping in a waiting car, with a leather satchel under his arm. What’s going on? We don’t have to wait to find out, as the voiceover informs: “The crime: murder. The motive: money. Three hundred thousand dollars, which never reached the bank’s night depository. The place: New York City. The killer and the money vanished, a slick, cold-blooded job.” We then meet the film’s protagonist, L.A. police detective Cal Bruner (Cochran), and learn that there were no leads in the case until a year later, when Bruner entered the picture. And it’s not until this point, a full minute and 12 seconds after the opening reel, that the credits start to roll and we’re given the name of the film. It’s a cool, inventive way to pull in the audience and keep ‘em hooked until The End.

One more thing about the film’s first scene – it serves up one of the best fist fights I’ve seen in a long time. Maybe THE best.


Did I forget to mention Ida Lupino’s role in all of this?

Following a series of fortuitous leads, Bruner and his partner, Jack Farnham (Duff), work to track down the money from the theft described in the opening scene. When the thieves end up in a car crash, Bruner and Farnham find a cache of cash in the vehicle, and Bruner convinces his family-man partner to join him pocketing the bulk of the bills. What happens next? Well, you may remember what I mentioned in an earlier post about the best-laid plans…


Private Hell 36 was produced by The Filmakers, an independent production founded by Ida Lupino and her second husband, Collier Young. By the time this feature was filmed, Lupino and Collier were divorced and Lupino was married to her co-star in the film, Howard Duff. (Interestingly, Collier Young was the executive producer of the TV sitcom Mr. Adams and Eve, which aired on CBS from 1957 to 1958 – and starred Lupino and Duff.)

This scene was totally not in the movie. But I love it. You’re welcome.

Don Siegel directed the film. He would go on to helm a number of well-known features, including Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), Dirty Harry (1971), and The Shootist (1976).

Today’s movie is my second consecutive pick that features an appearance from The Dick Van Dyke Show’s Richard Deacon.


Join me for my next YouTube recommendation on Day 9 of Noirvember!

~ by shadowsandsatin on November 8, 2020.

6 Responses to “YouTube Noir — Noirvember Day 8: Private Hell 36 (1954)”

  1. Love Steve Cochran in this one. And I love that title.

  2. YouTube is a treasure hunt. When the ‘net is working at the clinic, I look for these noir treasures to while away my dialysis treatments. We could double bill this with Cry Danger for a noir trailer sub-genre.

  3. I love Ida Lupino film noirs! I am blanking on whether I’ve actually seen this or not, but I will put this on my list to watch (or rewatch, as it were)! Thanks for sharing this film with us!

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