- Apr 24, 2006
- Charlotte, NC
- Real Name
- Matt Hough
A gorgeously set and shot crime drama inside of postwar Japan, Samuel Fuller’s House of Bamboo is such a mixture of the familiar and the offbeat that it sets its own standard. Peopled with a glowing cast of unique character actors playing out one of the postwar era’s most unusual love triangles, House of Bamboo offers rich storytelling and unconventional characterizations amid such directorial flair that it makes for breathtaking viewing and is not to be missed.
Distributed By: Twilight Time
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.55:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 1 Hr. 42 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-rayclear keep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 08/11/2015
The Production Rating: 4.5/5
[The following synopsis may contain spoilers for some of the early surprises found in House of Bamboo.]
An ex-solider arrives in Japan with an offer of work from an old buddy of his, but upon arrival Eddie (Robert Stack) learns that his friend is dead and his friend’s widow Mariko (Shirley Yamaguchi) can’t furnish much information on the identities of his killers. Attempting to start his own shakedown racket in Tokyo, he’s abducted by American gangster Sandy Dawson (Robert Ryan) who already has Tokyo sewn up and warns Eddie to leave the city, but later on, Eddie is brought back to Sandy with an offer to join his crew, an offer not enthusiastically received by Sandy’s second-in-command Griff (Cameron Mitchell). Quickly, the balance of power shifts when Eddie becomes Sandy’s favorite and Griff is demoted to number three in the pecking order. When a bank robbery must be aborted before the crew can strike, Sandy suspects that Griff has ratted on the team to the police not knowing that it’s Eddie, who’s actually an undercover military police officer, who has spilled the robbery information to the cops and has been trying to bring down Sandy and his men since arriving in Tokyo.
Due to the Production Code being fully in force during the most repressive era of the 1950s when the film was produced, the Harry Kleiner-Samuel Fuller screenplay setting up the homosexual love triangle at the center of this intense crime drama couldn’t be overt but must be shaded in layers of subtext and innuendo, but it’s clearly present for those willing to look behind the kimono girls who hover around two of the three main male characters but have actually very little to do with them romantically. Years later, Fuller made sure that everyone knew his intentions, but with that knowledge in hand, the film makes a lot more sense understanding those motivations behind the actions especially of Sandy and Griff (the final scene between Sandy and Griff in his bathroom, Sandy cradling Griff's head in his hand as he explains his disappointment, is an acting tour de force for Robert Ryan). Samuel Fuller’s direction is a master class in widescreen framing and interesting shot compositions. He uses Cinemascope to perfection in framing designed to show off the city and its people stretching from end to end, and he takes his camera over the heads of his tall cast members quite often and shows us glimpses of Tokyo on the verge of its economic explosion that are staggering in their impact and clarity. Being the first American studio film shot in Japan after the war, House of Bamboo couldn’t offer viewers any greater ambiance of the city and its people whether we see marketplace shots, scenes in pachinko houses, baronial homes, fields at the foot of Fugi, or the waterways of Tokyo, and that climax on the roof of a department store which houses an extraordinary amusement park for kids is certainly one-of-a-kind.
Robert Ryan’s voice control and minimalistic acting style makes his Sandy one of the screen’s most subdued psychotics and one of his greatest-ever performances. Robert Stack effects the tough guy look and mannerisms that would hold him in good stead in his Emmy-winning role as Eliot Ness in The Untouchables a few years later, but the genesis for it is clearly here. Shirley Yamaguchi offers tenderness and concern as the distraught widow who’s willing to do anything to bring down the men who murdered her husband even if it means she must disgrace herself living with an American without the benefit of marriage. (The vapid final fadeout suggesting a conventional romance for Eddie and Mariko seems likely a bone thrown to audiences who had been denied much in the way of a romance between the leading man and woman throughout the movie, but the film plays better if it simply stops after the rooftop amusement park shootout.) Cameron Mitchell does great work as the jealous henchman resentful of losing his place at his boss’ right hand and DeForrest Kelley as another henchman is also good while Brad Dexter and Sessue Hayakawa in small roles as police authorities assisting with the undercover operation are effective without being standouts.
Video Rating: 5/5 3D Rating: NA
The early Cinemascope aspect ratio of 2.55:1 is beautifully captured in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. A new 4K scan has brought forth a stunning looking movie with sharpness that’s outstanding and color values that will make one sit up and take notice with their solidity and beauty. Skin tones are especially impressive. Black levels are quite something, and contrast remains consistent throughout. The movie has been divided into 24 chapters.
Audio Rating: 4/5
The original four channel sound design is represented here in a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix. It features directionalized dialogue throughout and a beautiful handling of the Leigh Harline background score through the front soundstage. The rear channels are only intermittently used for music and atmospheric effects spillover, but the movie is engrossing enough that one won’t notice their absence very often. No age-related problems are present in the mix.
Special Features Rating: 4/5
Audio Commentaries: the informative if somewhat bland Alain Silver-James Ursini commentary has been ported over from the last DVD release, but it pales in comparison to the ebullience and enthusiasm of film historians Julie Kirgo and Nick Redman’s track, by far the more interesting of the two.
Isolated Score Track: Leigh Harline’s arresting and lovely score is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo.
Fox Movietone Newsreels (1:07, 2:06, SD): two newsreels feature the cast landing in Japan and the consul visiting the film set.
Theatrical Trailer (2:19, SD)
Six-Page Booklet: contains a nice selection of black and white and color stills, original poster art on the back cover, and film historian Julie Kirgo’s passionately positive analysis of the movie.
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
One of the great crime dramas that's not nearly as well-known as it should be, House of Bamboo finds director Samuel Fuller working at the top of his game, and Twilight Time’s Blu-ray release of the film is one of the more exquisite offerings in the company’s catalogue. There are only 3,000 copies of this Blu-ray available. Those interested should go to www.screenarchives.com to see if product is still in stock. Information about the movie can also be found via their website at www.twilighttimemovies.com or via Facebook at www.facebook.com/twilighttimemovies.
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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