British Universities Film & Video Council

moving image and sound, knowledge and access

Producing BFI Flipside’s ‘Her Private Hell’

1968 saw the release of Her Private Hell, a low budget British feature that has now been given a new lease of life on video as part of the BFI Flipside series of releases rescuing obscure movies from critical oblivion. Jonathan rigby’s review of this video can be read here. Below the disc’s producer, Josephine Botting, discusses what was involved in bringing this little-known film to HD.

About the Author: Josephine Botting is a fiction curator at the BFI National Archive where she programmes film seasons and hosts events. She has contributed to the BFI books 39 Steps to the Genius of Hitchcock and Ealing Revisited (both 2012) and Gothic: the Dark Heart of Film (2013) as well as other BFI publications and online resources. She is currently completing a PhD on British film director Adrian Brunel. She is the producer of the BFI Flipside release, Her Private Hell.

The British Film Institute’s Flipside label is on a mission to bring to light little known British films from the 1960s and 70s, releasing them on DVD and Blu-ray with contextualisation provided in the form of rare extras unearthed from the BFI National Archive. February sees the release of a title marketed back in 1968 as ‘Britain’s first narrative sex film’: Her Private Hell, the debut feature of cult director Norman J. Warren.

Warren is best known for such independent horror films as Satan’s Slave (1976), Terror (1979) and Prey (1977), which are, in his own words, like ‘zombies that refuse to die’, enjoying regular re-releases on DVD. However, this is the first outing for his feature debut, which made a fortune for producers Bachoo Sen and Richard Schulman on its original release. Sen had just moved into production after distributing European arthouse movies for several years and took on Warren to direct his first film after seeing his short, Fragment, at Schulman’s West London cinema. Her Private Hell ran in the West End for over a year, British cinemagoers clearly ready for a homegrown adult film.

The film had been on the Flipside schedule for a while but we struggled to find adequate film material. No negative is known to exist and the well-worn release prints were no doubt junked years ago. A print apparently survived in the US but there were problems accessing it, so in the end we returned to the distribution print in the BFI’s Archive. This was supplemented with material from the director’s collection and a tape copy of the US print. This allowed some of the imperfections to be corrected, slightly affecting continuity but plugging gaps in the dialogue caused by splices in the print.

The film recounts the story of Marisa, an Italian model who arrives in London to take up a job with a fashion magazine syndicate. However, it soon emerges the kind of modelling they require is not quite what she had in mind. However, seduced by photographer Bernie, she is persuaded to pose for nude shots.

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