• Her Private Hell

    Released by: BFI

    Released on: February 20, 2012.

    Director: Norman J. Warren

    Cast: Lucia Modungo, Terence Skelton, Pearl Catlin, Daniel Oliver, Jeannette Wild

    Year: 1967

    The Movie:

    The feature length debut from famed British horror and exploitation filmmaker Norman J. Warren, 1967’s Her Private Hell was produced by cinema owner Bachoo Sen, who would also bank roll the next years Loving Feeling, another sex film directed by Warren. While the Americans and the Italians had been making racier and racier films a few years prior, it wasn’t until Warren entered the scene that Britain was graced with its ‘first narrative sex film’ – as such, the film has quite a bit of historical significance when you take into account what would come down the pipeline in later years.

    The film follows the misadventures of an Italian model named Marisa (played by the dark haired and exotic looking Lucia Modugno) who makes her way to England to pose for a photographer named Bernie (Terrance Skelton). Soon enough, Bernie’s boss, Margaret (Pearl Catlin), has got Marisa signed to a contract and her photos are making her a pretty hot up and comer. Margaret’s more difficult boss, Neville (Robert Crewdson), however, is a bit harder to please. He insists that Marisa pose for some nude shots, and after a bit of coercing, she agrees.

    Soon enough, the company is taking care of Marisa and she’s boarding in a giant house that Bernie lives in with a few other company types, mostly models. Once she’s left alone for a weekend though, Marisa hooks up with Matt (an obviously dubbed Daniel Oliver), a lab worker for the company who might actually be a better photographer than even Bernie. He talks her into heading out into the country and posing for him – though eventually one of her nude shots is published, against her will, over on the continent. This causes her to rethink everything she’s become involved with and to distrust those she thought she could trust, learning the hard way that no good will come of nudie modeling!

    While the film seems pretty tame by modern standards, its sexual content limited to some racy opening credits and a few nude topless shots scattered throughout, the film nevertheless made quite a splash when it debuted in England, playing for a year straight upon its initial release. The picture was also released in the United States with some slightly racier footage included in it for that less conservative demographic, but it remains an interesting look back at London right as it was smack dab in the middle of the sexual revolution spreading across Europe and North America at the time. The perfect example of this is the party scene, in which Michael is hoping to lure Marisa away from Bernie, who is in turn trying to make Marisa jealous by dancing a little too closely with a foxy competing model who lets her dress down and dances against some strange lighting effects. Complete with plenty of mod styles, go-go boots and a fuzzed out soundtrack, it’s a movie that could only have come from late sixties London, and we’re all the better for it.

    As far as the performances go, all involved do fine work here. Lucia Modugno, who had a couple of bit parts in a few Mario Bava films and a few interesting Spaghetti Westerns prior to taking this role, looks great here even if she comes across as naïve and maybe just a little bit of a dip. The rest of the cast are a little more convincing in their roles, with Skelton actually succeeding in convincing us of his emotional conflict and Catlin playing the queen bitch of the business with plenty of sassy style. Crewdson manages to steal the few scenes he’s in, his stand out moment when he puts Marisa in her place. She initially laughs at him, noting that he’s ‘so British’ – something which he puts a stop to right away by undoing the buttons on her top and noting to her that maybe he’s not as British as she thinks he is. When you think of Warren and company as Neville and the British film industry as Marisa, the scene becomes a little more poignant.

    Plenty stylish and well paced, this one moves on to its wacky shock ending without ever overstaying its welcome. Warren would go on to make more interesting films than this but Her Private Hell remains a good watch – plenty entertaining, wonderfully dated, and yes, historically important.


    Her Private Hell has been restored in high definition by the BFI and presented on Blu-ray in its original 1.33.1 fullframe aspect ratio in an AVC encoded 1080p black and white presentation. There are a few noticeable frame jumps here and there and some moderate print damage is evident throughout. Additionally, in order to present a more complete version of the film there are some standard definition inserts put into the movie (taken from Something Weird Video’s master), which are of noticeably lesser quality. With that out of the way, the good outweighs the bad and those accustomed to how this type of material typically looks on home video should be pretty happy with the results. Detail is generally quite good and while there is some occasional contrast blooming, overall the quality of the black and white image is pretty strong. There are no issues with compression artifacts or edge enhancement nor does there appear to have been an abundance of digital noise reduction applied here.

    The LPCM Mono track, in English with optional English subtitles, is fine for the most part. A couple of minor drop outs are present and every once in a while you might note some hiss but overall the dialogue is plenty easy to follow and the film’s score sounds great. The optional subtitles are easy to read and free of typos.

    In typical BFI fashion, the extras are pretty solid here starting with a fifteen minute featurette entitled Inside Her Private Hell which features some recently shot interviews with Warren, writer Glynn Christian and actress Jeanette Wild all of whom speak quite candidly about making this film. It might have been more interesting to get the participants online for a formal commentary track, but this’ll do – it’s well worth a watch and nicely put together.

    The BFI have also dug up three minutes of alternate footage shot for the American release of the movie (the majority of which is taken from the racy party sequence in the latter half of the movie), the film’s original trailer and four minutes of silent screen tests shot during the casting process. These are of note for including a young Udo Kier, who didn’t wind up getting a part in the film – it’s neat to see him here, however, cavorting about with a pretty dark haired actress.

    Additionally, there are three shorts here, the first of which is the half hour long Anatomy Of A Pin-Up from 1971. This originally played in British theaters with Hitchcock’s Frenzy and is a ‘day in the life’ look at Penthouse Magazine, which was operating out of London at this point. Included here are interviews with publisher Bob Guccionne as well as with different models, including the beautiful Francoise Pascal (from Jean Rollin’s Iron Rose) among others. It’s a bit dated, maybe, but it takes into the offices, into a few different photo shoots and gives us a rare look into this side of the early seventies sexual revolution. Warren fans will be impressed to see the other two shorts – his first two films, 1959’s thirteen minute inaugural effort entitled Incident and 1966’s eleven minute story of a failed love affair, Fragment. Neither film is as interesting as the feature but both are worth watching simply to get a look at Warren’s early style and to see the elements that would show up in some of his later and more accomplished work.

    Rounding out the extras on the disc are menus and chapter stops and all of the extras are in high definition. Included inside the keepcase is a full color booklet making use of some great poster art for the film and including essays by Norman J Warren, Josephine Botting, David Cohen, Lynn Barber as well as a biography for Warren, full cast and crew credits for the feature and the shorts, and credits for the disc’s production.

    The Final Word:

    Obviously realizing the importance of this film, the BFI have rolled out the red carpet for Her Private Hell, a seminal entry in the annals of British exploitation fare. The transfer is likely as good as it’s ever going to get at this point and the extras are not only plentiful but also quite interesting, complimenting the feature attraction perfectly.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Horace Cordier's Avatar
      Horace Cordier -
      Nice review Ian. This looks like a terrific package. But how could you miss a Bob Guccionne screen cap in all his tacky 70's glory?