on 5 December 2013
"Her Private Hell" is an important film in the history of British exploitation cinema but it is unlikely to provide much entertainment to those who are not fascinated by the genre. It's tame stuff and fairly slapdash, although it does have a couple of startlingly bizarre scenes. Because any film with a flash of bare breast or butt would make money at that time, directors of such films could feel free to be as experimental as they liked in the details. But "Her Private Hell" is mostly slow-moving melodrama with minimal titillation. Those, like myself, who are obsessed with these films will, never-the-less, be glad that it has been preserved so lovingly to stand as a time capsule of a culture at the crossroads.
The real treasure here, though, is in the extra features. Director Norman J. Warren's shorts - "Fragment" and "Incident" - are beautiful poetic slices of life which show that he was more than just an efficient constructor of profitable trash cinema. And "The Anatomy of a Pin-Up" is a lively documentary about the soft porn industry in Britain at the beginning of the Seventies centring around Penthouse magazine. We get to see Bob Guccione at work photographing a model in the English countryside. His assistant Lynn Barber (who would go on to write the memoir which was filmed as "An Eduction" (2009)) defends Penthouse against criticism of sexism. Barbara Cartland scolds all the young women who take off their clothes for money. And angry feminists condemn such magazines as an insult to women and men both. Models discuss the questions of whether they are exhibitionists and whether they have let their parents know what they are doing. And various men and women on the street put in their two cents worth. We also get to see many gorgeous women baring all, including cult star Julie Ege. This short is also a piece of film history because it showed in British cinemas as a support for Alfred Hitchcock's "Frenzy" (1972). The retrospective short about "Her Private Hell" is informative as is the accompanying booklet. And the test footage gives us a look at a very young Udo Kier who would go on to become a horror movie icon.
on 3 March 2012
In recent years, BFI Flipside have reissued some wrongly forgotten, and excellent pieces of British cinema. 'Her Private Hell' is not one of them. The premise itself is decent. Marisa (Lucia Modugno) comes to England in the hopes of succeeding in modeling, but cynical agency mogul Neville (in a very unconvincing turn from Robert Crewsdon) and Bernie (Terence Skeldon) have their mind set on garnering and selling some rather more hardcore shots of the naive and borderline imbecilic Marisa; who is fought over by Bernie, and young photographer Matt (Daniel Oliver, with one of the film's better performances), who seems torn between his genuine love for Marisa, and his ambition for his career. The reality, however, is rather less successful. The film is mediocrely scripted, arty but never artful with its gimmicky camerawork; and can't seem to decide if it's a cautionary morality tale against the seediness of the modeling world, or, rather paradoxically, topless modeling with an okay plot to justify it.
There are one or two positives in the film. Pearl Catlin puts in a stellar turn as the jealous, manipulative Margaret, the woman trying to pull the cogs in Neville's modeling setup. There are also one or two engaging scenes between Matt and Marisa, though the latter is rather too thin a character to give them their full potential. Perhaps worst of all though, 'Her Private Hell' has nothing of the time-capsule beauty and captivating style of British films of its epoch like 'Performance' and 'All the Right Noises', but feels clunky and dated, and its clunky, aimless soundtrack does nothing to help the film. If you like your vintage British cinema meandering, enjoy your protagonists a bit wooden and sly (like sleazy Trevor Brooking lookalike Bernie), or are pleased simply by some exposed boobs - you might find 'Her Private Hell' worth your time. Otherwise, I'd suggest you stay clear. It's not hell, but the 78 minutes do drag by slowly.
on 21 July 2012
More flotsam and jetsom from the 60s washed up and collected by Flipside. No treasure to be found in this release just the equivalent of a quaint old beer can with a half nudey woman on the back. This is a mercifully short, black and white 'expose' of the seedy side of the fashion photography business in the UK circa 1967. These days its hard to get too worked up about a topless photo being published on the sly but here its presented as a moral outrage of the first degree. Compared to the likes of Permissive, this is a pint of mild - hard to believe it broke box office records in London, how desperate were people for a glimpse of skin in those days?! Problems with this movie - the lead actress sounds like Bela Lugosi and fails to convince as a sex bomb. The cast is prone to breaking into 'groovy' 60s style dancing (frugging?!) every time the plot lags (ie every 10 minutes or so). There's a bafflingly irrelevant plot twist at the end that leaves the viewer vaguely annoyed. Still, its watchable enough and the good old BFI have dug out some extra naughty bits for the extras, including a nude modelling doc that's well worth a look. Good context setting interviews too with cast and crew plus 2 shorts I haven't watched yet, so all in all a good package of a hum drum movie.