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House Of Bamboo

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    Ian Jane
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  • House Of Bamboo



    Released by: Twilight Time
    Released on: August, 2015.
    Director: Samuel Fuller
    Cast: Robert Ryan, Robert Stack, Cameron Mitchell, Brad Dexter, Shirley Yamaguchi
    Year: 1955
    Purchase From Screen Archives

    The Movie:

    Directed by Samuel Fuller who co-wrote the script with Harry Kleiner, 1955's House Of Bamboo is set in post-World War II Tokyo. Here a gang of criminals are holding up American military trains carrying ammunition - if anyone is hurt or injured during the robbery, the other gang members will put them out of their misery. This is no small time operation and the guys behind it mean business.

    Enter a tough guy named Eddie (Robert Stack), a former G.I. who has arrived in Tokyo from his home in the United States. He's been invited here by one of the men involved in the raid - but it just so happens that before Eddie set foot on Japanese soil that man was injured and, well, his cohorts took care of him. Soon after his arrival, Eddie meets up with Sandy Dawson (Robert Ryan),a big time operator who may or may not have something to do with the aforementioned robbery and the affiliated murder. Eddie starts trying to figure out just what's going on here and what really happened to his friend, a mystery that leads him to connect with Mariko (Shirley Yamaguchi), the widow of the dead man who has more or less remained a secret. Understandably, Mariko is quite suspicious of Eddie and she figures he's in with the thugs who offed her husband, but it doesn't take long before he wins her over.

    To try and sort out the truth behind the killing, Eddie starts snooping around and he's able to tie Dawson to some pachinko parlors. Seemingly unaware of what Eddie's actually up to, Dawson hires the new arrival to work for him, much to the dismay of his right hand man, Griff (Cameron Mitchell). As the truth behind Eddie's arrival in Tokyo comes to light, his relationship with Dawson and Griff becomes not only strained, but dangerous…

    Although the actual storyline is fairly basic and at times even predictable, Fuller's execution is a different story. Shot in scope, every frame of this movie is alive with energy and the film, shot entirely on location, is truly a sight to behold. The use of color is fantastic throughout and for a North American audience still very unfamiliar with Japanese cultures and customs in 1955, the costumes and locations used for this must have been pretty impressive. And they still are. This is a fantastic looking film with the wide frame used to show off Tokyo in some impressive ways, particularly during the finale that takes place atop the tower.

    At the same time, Fuller is savvy enough to make sure that his characters don't get lost in all of this, though just as much of the credit for that should go to the cast as much as to the director. Stack doesn't exactly scream 'dynamic leading man' here but his sometimes subtle take on the character fits the story well and the approach that Eddie takes to the events that play out. He's well cast here, as is Robert Ryan as the heavy and Cameron Mitchell as the enforcer type. The interplay that comes out between these three men, each a fish out of water in a way, is pretty interesting to watch. These guys never take things too far over the top and instead seem to opt for an effective 'less is more' approach to the character development that the script provides them with.

    When it's all said and done, this is fine entertainment. Fuller offers us the right mix of action, suspense, intrigue and character development and he sets it all against a beautifully shot assortment of exotic background locations. It's a very tightly paced film and a very well made picture that holds up well. This is definitely one worth revisiting.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    House Of Bamboo looks gorgeous in this AVC encoded 2.55.1 widescreen 1080p high definition transfer from Twilight Time. The elements used were obviously in great shape as there is virtually no print damage, while a natural amount of film grain is evident and never smeared or scrubbed away. As such, detail is strong throughout and there's a lot of nice texture here. Color reproduction is also spot on as are black levels and there are no obvious issues with compression artifacts or edge enhancement.

    English language tracks are provided in DTS-HD 5.1 and 2.0 Mono, with optional subtitles offered up in English only. The 5.1 mix does a good job with channel separation during the scenes where the movie asks for it (think action scenes) and in placing the score in interesting spots but it keeps the dialogue properly upfront in the mix so it feels true enough to the film's age. The mono track obviously reels in the separation and directionality but both tracks sound very good with good levels and clear dialogue.

    The main extras are a pair of audio commentaries, the first of which is from Alain Silver and James Ursini. Originally included on the Fox DVD release from a few years back this is a nice history of the picture with some good information on the director, the cast and the culture and climate in which it was made. Film historians Julie Kirgo and Nick Redman contribute a new track exclusive to this disc that can't help but cover some of the same ground as the first mix, but which also goes into more detail in regards to the score, some of the themes that the film deals with, its influence on later pictures and quite a bit more. Both tracks are well paced, interesting and quite informative.

    Twilight Time also include two Fox Movietone Newsreels, the one minute Group In Japan and the two minute Consul Visits Set , both of which relate to events that took place around the time of the movie. We also get an Isolated Score Track in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, the film's original theatrical trailer, static menus and chapter selection. Inside the keepcase is a full color insert booklet containing some nice archival artwork and an essay on the picture from Kirgo offering up a concise history of the picture alongside some astute critical observations as to what makes it work as well as it does.

    The Final Word:

    House Of Bamboo is a rock solid thriller, a movie ripe with cool characters, solid suspense and some fantastic location footage. Twilight Time's Blu-ray presents this tough as nail Fuller film in a nearly flawless transfer and with some great extras too. A fantastic release, through and through.

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






















    • Paul L
      #1
      Paul L
      Scholar of Sleaze
      Paul L commented
      Editing a comment
      I love this film. The hardboiled sensibility reverberates through every frame. Nice review, Ian! I'll have to put some money to one side to import this disc, methinks.
    Posting comments is disabled.

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