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Private Hell 36 (1954)

Approved | | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir | 3 September 1954 (USA)
When 2 detectives steal $80,000 from a dead robber, one of them suffers from a guilty conscience which could lead to murder.


Don Siegel


Collier Young (written for the screen by), Ida Lupino (written for the screen by)


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Complete credited cast:
Ida Lupino ... Lilli Marlowe
Steve Cochran ... Cal Bruner
Howard Duff ... Jack Farnham
Dean Jagger ... Capt. Michaels
Dorothy Malone ... Francey Farnham
Bridget Duff Bridget Duff ... Bridget Farnham
Jerry Hausner ... Hausner, Nightclub Owner
Dabbs Greer ... Sam Marvin, Bartender
Chris O'Brien Chris O'Brien ... Coroner
Kenneth Patterson Kenneth Patterson ... Det. Lieutenant Lubin (as Ken Patterson)
George Dockstader George Dockstader ... Fugitive
Jimmy Hawkins ... Delivery Boy


Two detectives are investigating a robbery in which $300,000 was taken. Their investigation leads them to the main player and they find the cash, but one of them has meanwhile fallen hard for a woman with expensive tastes, and though he desperately wants to keep her, he knows that a cop's salary isn't going to be enough for her. Written by frankfob2@yahoo.com

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


These are night faces... Living on the edge of evil and violence! See more »


Crime | Drama | Film-Noir


Approved | See all certifications »






Release Date:

3 September 1954 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Baby Face Killers See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

The Filmakers See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Sound Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


About half way through the film there's a brief high-speed car chase--two cops in an unmarked '54 Ford chase the fugitive who's driving a '46 or '47 Packard. The picture was made in '54 so the Ford is new and the Packard is at least 7 years old, but both are in good shape. A couple of times there is a close look through the windows at the drivers of "both cars." Actually the cops and the fugitive are shown in the seat of the same beat-up car with dents in the metal window frames, a shabby cloth head liner and broken weather stripping around door edges. The studio must have had a stationary car that "rocked" to resemble the movements of a real car speeding over bumps and around curves, which they used for both the cops and the fugitive. See more »


At the very end, when Farnham is leaning wounded against the trailer, he says he recognizes the voice of a police officer as being the voice of the "partner", the mysterious man who called to get the money back. However, it is Bruner, and not Farnham, who had him on the phone. Farnham would not be able to recognize his voice. See more »


Jack Farnham: What do we look for now?
Cal Bruner: First we look for a haystack then we look for a needle.
See more »


Featured in Pulp Cinema (2001) See more »


Didn't You Know?
Written by John Franco
Performed by Ida Lupino (uncredited)
See more »

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User Reviews

Hard-edged late noir unfurls through character rather than incident
7 June 2003 | by bmacvSee all my reviews

Strolling home one night, Los Angeles police detective Steve Cochran interrupts a robbery in progress at a drugstore. He fatally shoots one of the perps and books the other. A marked $50 bill in the loot came from $300-grand robbery-homicide in New York. Cochran and his partner Howard Duff trace the bill back to the pharmacist, the bartender who passed it to him, and Ida Lupino, coat-check girl and part-time singer at the bar. She claims a drunk tipped her with it one night after she sang him `Smoke Gets In Your Eyes' five times; the cops don't quite believe her, but it doesn't matter. Cochran is falling for her, even though his cop's salary won't snare her the diamond bracelets she's after.

Over the next week, they drag her to a racetrack where more of the marked cash is being uttered, in hopes that she'll spot her tipsy tipper. When she does, Cochran and Duff go off in hot pursuit. The getaway car hurtles down an embankment, killing the driver but leaving cash blowing around the ravine. Cochran pockets about $80-grand and turns over the rest, leaving Duff angry but not angry enough to break the inviolable code: Never rat out your partner. Cochran makes Duff an unwilling accomplice by giving him a duplicate key to a rented trailer where he's stashed the money; it's parked in slip #36. But then Cochran gets a phone call from a stranger who claims the cash is his and wants to make a deal....

Opening with an initial burst of two brutal robberies, director Don Siegel then slackens the pace but not the tension; he moves the story forward through character rather than incident. The square-rigger Duff tries to dissolve his guilt in alcohol, to the distress of his wife (Dorothy Malone, in too skimpy a role); Cochran and Lupino seesaw up and down, back and forth in their more volatile liaison. The fifth major player, Dean Jagger, as the detectives' canny superior, senses that their story doesn't quite add up.

Written by Lupino and her ex-husband Collier Young, the movie departs from the usual formula by not making current spouse Duff Lupino's love interest; perhaps in consequence, Duff loses the cocky, ingratiating mien he often adopts, while Cochran runs off with the meatier role. Private Hell 36 stays lean and hard-edged (with help from cinematographer Burnett Guffey); it's among the better offerings from the latter years of the noir cycle.

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