house of bamboo
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Film Year: 1955
Film Length: 102 minutes
Aspect Ratio:[*] 2.55:1 CinemaScope
Colour/B&W: Colour by DeLuxe
Audio:[*] English Dolby Digital 4.0 surround[*] Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 mono[*] French Dolby Digital 2.0 mono
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Closed Captioned: Yes
SLP: US $14.98
SLP: CDN $16.98
Release Date: June 7, 2005
Film Rating: /
Starring: Robert Ryan (Sandy Dawson), Robert Stack (Eddie Kenner/Spanier), Shirley Yamaguchi (Mariko), Cameron Mitchell (Griff), Brad Dexter (Capt. Hanson), Sessue Hayakawa (Inspector Kito)
Directed by: Samuel Fuller
I’ve been looking forward to this second wave of Fox Film Noir titles since the last three were introduced about two months back. These well-known film noirs have been restored in both the audio and video departments and the results are fantastic. When House of Bamboo arrived at my doorstep, I was eager to begin my screening.
This story begins in a post World War II Tokyo when Americans troops still occupied Japan. It is 1954; a military supply train carrying American ammunition is the focus of a robbery. Stolen are guns and ammunition belts. Dead is an American soldier. Both the Tokyo Police and Americans are called to investigate. It appears the murdered American was knee-deep in organized crime and someone is needed to investigate it.
Off of the boat from America into the Tokyo harbour comes Eddie Spanier, a man we are to know has ties with the murdered man. With his weathered trench coat and battered hat, he’s trying to be the new tough guy in town. He was discharged dishonourably from the military and has a record of shady accusations. He’s the new man for Sandy, the leader of the team of violent thugs who robbed the train. Eddie is convinced to work with them on new projects.
With trust from a beautiful kimona girl, Eddie reveals he is an undercover U.S. Army Agent infiltrating the gang. As he gains the trust of these criminals, their relationships become one of lies and internal rivalries leading to danger and death, and a final conclusion of man vs. man.
Filmed on location in Japan, we can accurately see Tokyo as it once was; before the technology and the business that is booming today. The film has awkward narration in the beginning of the film and disappears partway through. The narration actually announces where the film was shot and then speaks about the plot immediately afterwards. It’s strange, but it’s there.
In typical noir style, there is the undercover agent, the thugs, the violence, and the beautiful mistress. It’s interesting to note that this film was based on the script of the other noir title in this wave, The Street with No Name. But rather than doing a remake, the script was changed around by Sam Fuller to make a new movie. This is a very entertaining film and like the other titles in this series, is highly recommended for its quality of story, acting, and viewer engagement.
VIDEO QUALITY /
Presented in a wide 2.55:1 aspect ratio, the image is detailed and offers very good perception of depth. This is realized with the use of an HDMI connection between the DVD and the display device. I am now viewing the image using a Denon DVD-3910 DVD player through the top-of-the-line Monster M1000 HDMI cable and the image is strikingly good. Using an HDMI video link at home is a new reference for me because my comparisons are usually with analogue component video. A veil of noise has been lifted from unnecessary video processing and a D/A – A/D conversion and is clearly evident when switching from analogue component to Y/Pb/Pr HDMI for this title.
I’ve found that colours in this film are nicely rendered and contrast is excellent. Detail is very good although there is just a slight amount of edge haloing noticeable that wasn’t there with other titles I was playing around with when watching through HDMI. Aside from a little bit of film grain evident throughout the picture (that looked slightly digitized), this is an excellent looking disc.
AUDIO QUALITY /
Encoded in Dolby Digital 4.0 surround (L,C,R,S), this is a modest surround track with a very wide stereo soundstage. The first thing that stands out is the directional dialogue and effects. Dialogue is spread across the three front speakers in relation to where the actor is on the screen. Sometimes the center channel is used to create phantom images between Left-Center and Right-Center. This works great if your speakers are along the same horizontal plane, but it might sound a little awkward if they aren’t. I choose to listen to this my turning my center channel to phantom mode on my Mirage LFX-3. This let my left and right speakers handle all of the imaging and I found this to be more precise on the soundstage and preferable.
Still, the dialogue isn’t always focussed either. Sometimes it bounces around across the soundstage as if the actor is moving when he isn’t. It seems like whoever mixed the dialogue couldn’t decide exactly where to place the dialogue so it shifts occasionally. It doesn’t sound thin or unnatural, but the Japanese guys’ voices in English are clearly dubbed and sound uncharacteristic of them.
The music by Leigh Harline sounds unrestrained, unveiled and excellent. It is spread out across the main channels and provides a bit of the ambience in the mono surround channel. There are very few, if any, noticeable effects coming from the rear channel. While the soundtrack never sounded thin, the bass provided in this soundtrack is just light enough to provide a bit of bottom-end fill.
SPECIAL FEATURES /
I will first comment on the excellent commentary by Alain Silver and James Ursini who are acclaimed authors of film history. Much of their talk is focussed on the director of this film and they seem to have a bottomless pit of knowledge regarding Fuller and this film. It is definitely a must-hear commentary after viewing this film.
Like the rest of the Fox Studio Classics and the Fox Film Noir titles, there is the Fox Movietone News clips about a minute in length. I love these little clips and I’m glad they are consistently included on these discs. On this title, we get to see silent behind the scenes footage and a landing in Japan, all featuring Shirley Yamaguchi, Sam Fuller, Robert Stack and others.
This disc also has trailers in both English and Spanish as well as trailers for other Fox Noir titles such as Laura, Panic in the Streets and The Street with no Name. It’s interesting to note that the Spanish theatrical trailers looks a lot better in picture quality that the English trailer (and is also in 2.35:1 compared to 1.85:1).
IN THE END…
House of Bamboo is a film of culture clashes of the time; showing the differences of Americans and Japanese cultures as Eddie hits the streets of Tokyo and as his relationship with Mariko strengthens. This is a slightly more violent noir film that is entangled with suspicion and betrayal. Much better than many new films today, this title is recommended.
May 29, 2005.