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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 29 March 2011
House of Bamboo is directed by Sam Fuller who also co-writes with Harry Kleiner. It stars Robert Ryan, Robert Stack, Shirley Yamaguchi and Cameron Mitchell. It's a CinemaScope production with colour by De Luxe, with photography by Joseph MacDonald. Leigh Harline scores the music and the film is a loose remake of The Street with No Name (1948), where Kleiner & MacDonald were also involved. The film is exclusively shot on location in Japan.

Tokyo, 1954, and an underworld outfit of American ex-servicemen are thriving on criminal activity. Their newest recruit is Eddie Spanier (Stack), in town to hook up with an old friend, his plans go awry on the news that his pal was killed during a robbery. But he catches the eye of the mob leader, Sandy Dawson (Ryan), and so begins a relationship that will have far reaching consequences for everyone involved with the two men.

A train draws to a halt on a bridge in snowy Tokyo, at its point of stopping the train is perfectly overlooked by a snow capped Mount Fuji. It's a moment of beauty, quite serene, then violence explodes as the train is robbed and death shatters the moment. And so Sam Fuller's House of Bamboo begins. One of the first Hollywood movies to be shot in Japan post World War II, it's a film that's as gritty as it is surprisingly violent. Yet the film is very beautiful in texture, courtesy of the location photography by the talented MacDonald who utilises the Scope format to capture some incredible visual treats. For this "noir-a-like" picture there's no shadows and fog, or off kilter angle plays, what there is is a beauty beset by ugly criminal things. Add in some Fuller oddity tones, terse dialogue in the script and some memorable moments of anger, and you get a film that can now be viewed as influential. Even if it's a picture that's hard to confidently recommend to serious fans of gangland type thrillers.

Expectation, as most film lovers know, can be a burden that's capable of spoiling many a nights viewing, with that in mind, House of Bamboo comes with a warning. For in spite of the synopsis lending one to think this is a brooding nasty picture about underworld crims, it's actually more comic book than hard boiled, and a massive dose of belief suspension is needed to run with the flow. There's also an issue with some flabby filler scenes involving the relationship between Stack & Yamaguchi, so much of an issue that were it not for a great smoke bomb based escape sequence leading up to the middle third, and some splendid homo-erotic subtext in the gang, the film would find it hard to fight off charges of being melodramatic for potential romance's sake. But Fuller manages to overcome the narratives problems to finish with a most intriguing and interesting film.

His cast are very efficient, where Stack is a nice fit for his character (can't say no more because of spoilers), Ryan is ominously coiled spring like and Mitchell is a chunky ball of menace. Then there is of course the director enjoying dallying with themes of duality, betrayal and racial indifference, all captured by his wonderfully fluid camera work. And thankfully the film is crowned off by an excellent finale set on a spinning rooftop amusement park viewer, one minute a stunning view across Tokyo, the next gunshots rattling the air like intruders invading your home. Beginning with stark violence and ending in much the same way, the overriding feeling seems to be that beauty can quite quickly become ugly.

The positives far outweigh the negatives in the House of Bamboo. 7/10
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Sam Fuller never made boring films, and "House of Bamboo", his very original remake of the earlier Richard Widmark film "The Street With no Name", is no exception. Stunningly shot, Fuller moved the location of the action to Japan, the first Hollywood film to do so. Fuller loved to roam the world in search of exotic locations. The fascinating documentary "Tigrero", about a film that was never made highlights this.

The film concerns the efforts of an army investigator to infiltrate a gang of American thugs who are carrying out daring and violent robberies in Tokyo. But the closer to Caesar the closer the danger, and as the investigator closes in on his target, his own position becomes perilous. Robert Ryan gives a tour de force as the gang leader. One of the greatest American actors of his era, his performance is effortlessly sublime. The one take shot, when he casually guns down Cameron Mitchell in a bath tub, and then gives a chilling monologue over the body, is the jewel in the crown. The film is pure hokum of course. The thought that an American gang ignorant of Japanese language and customs could simply muscle in on Yakuza turf is laughable. In reality they wouldn't have lasted long. But Fuller shows an appreciation of all things Japanese in his expansive filming, and obviously fancied an all expenses trip to Japan.

Ryan is ably supported by Robert Stack in a hard boiled role that seems a precursor to his later Elliott Ness. Star Trek's original Dr Bones McCoy, AKA DeForest Kelly is also surprisingly effectve as a henchman. It was also nice to see Harry Carey jnr in a brief role outside his usual westerns. Speaking of westerns the opening scene of the train robbery is remarkably similar to one in the later "The Wild Bunch", which makes you wonder if Sam Peckinpah watched this film. I was a little disappointed with the films ending which I felt was its weakest point. The visual imagery which echoed James Cagney in his "Look Ma top of the world" scene from "White Heat" was superb, but the dimwitted actions of Ryan were totally out of character for his ruthless but very savvy gang leader. But despite this the film is splendid eccentric fun, which one almost comes to expect from a director who was one of cinemas more flamboyant characters.
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House of Bamboo isn't a great movie, but it sure is a good one, and certainly the most lavish of Sam Fuller's career. Robert Stack's hardboiled lead is pure teak - he actually makes his Elliot Ness look hip and laidback by comparison - but luckily Robert Ryan is on hand to dominate proceedings with his sheer presence and talent. Graced with a great entrance, Ryan makes much more of his quietly hubristic, possibly gay gangster than was probably ever on the page: his monologue to a man he has just murdered as he gently, sensitively holds the corpse's head above water is genuinely shocking. Throw in a great use of colour and the widescreen (this was from the days when CinemaScope really WAS CinemaScope), and you may not have a 100% classic, but you've certainly got a visual treat.
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on 2 December 2008
Although over fifty years since the making this film has stood the test of time well. A good story set in post war Japan with some scenes set in the delightfull Japanese gardens form an excellent backdrop for an interesting and entertaining watch. It is also well cast with Robert Stack as the good guy and Robert Ryan the hood and has a climax among the best Ive seen in some time. In all good entertainment for all the family.
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on 5 September 2007
They dont make this calibre of movie these days: so todays film goers have nothing to make comparisons with, now and again since this was
shot half a century ago producers have endeavoured to re-create the atmosphere of Japan in such films as BLACK RAIN & ENTRAPMENT.

Both of which were excellent movies but of a different genre in content.

House of Bamboo;was in a league of its own when it was first released, and its cast of accomplished Stars was impressive.

Robert Stack portrayed an under-cover investigator from the U.S. Army Intelligence, sent to infiltrate a gang of unscrupulous marauding villans
who where opperating in Tokio as black market thieves stealing and selling army supplies.

The gang was run by Robert Ryan another Hollywood heavy weight actor, with a superb inventory of class films to his credit.
Also Cameron Mitchell was a supporting player of the under world fraternity.

The story beguines with Eddy Spanier ( Stack) making himself know among the underworld hang outs as a potential wise guy endeavouring to muscle in on the unsavoury goings on in night clubs, untill he eventually makes a firm contact with the head man: played by Ryan....

Then the film get's into all the seedy goings on and the inevitable fantastic finally: all shot on and around a pleasure ground ferris wheel.

I consider this a fantastic film that is as good today entertainment wise, as it was when originally released.

Its a steal for the cost of purchasing this from Amazon. And an all action movie that fans will love. This I promise. Now site back and watch it.
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HALL OF FAMEon 3 August 2007
I was expecting a lot more from House of Bamboo than I got. On one level it's a fairly taut crime drama that takes place in Tokyo in the mid-Fifties. On the other hand, it has a lot of tough guy cliche dialogue and a performance by Robert Stack that is just not good. The story line is simple, but look out for spoilers ahead.

Sandy Dawson (Robert Ryan) heads up a gang of ex-servicemen in Tokyo who pull off robberies with military precision and complete ruthlessness. If anyone gets wounded, he's killed right then. The U.S. Army and the Japanese police join forces to crack the gang. They send in a ringer, Eddie Spanier (Robert Stack), to infiltrate the gang. Spanier is a false identity; he's actually an Army crime investigator. What follows is the story of Dawson's operation and how it works, and of Spanier gradually gaining Dawson's trust. The climax pits the two against against each other when Dawson at last learns of Spanier's real job.

The movie was shot in Tokyo and looks great. Anyone who has spent time there will recognize a number of locations. (One false note is when Samuel Fuller cuts to a scene that was actually filmed in Kamakura at the Great Buddha and at the Hachiman shrine.) Robert Ryan and, in a smaller role, Cameron Mitchell as Griff, his second in command, do first-rate jobs, especially Ryan. Sandy Dawson is a dangerous man, superficially polite and solicitous, but not far below the surface is a big ego, a streak of cruelty and what could be a hint of homoerotic feelings for Spanier. This isn't stressed, but it explains Dawson's actions concerning Spanier, and his intensity when he finds he has been betrayed. Dawson is also just a bit off. His last dialogue with a silent Griff is not that of a man who is in total command of his marbles. Ryan dominates the movie. Unfortunately, the movie is about the efforts to catch Ryan's character, and these efforts center on Robert Stack's character. Stack just isn't a good enough actor. Sam Fuller evidently wanted Stack to play Eddie Spanier like a real tough guy, but Stack can't carry it off. He "acts" like a tough guy would walk and move. He "acts" the way a tough guy would speak and sound. It's phony from the first sentence out of Stack's mouth, and it undercuts the effectiveness of the story.

The romance scenes between Stack and Shirley Yamaguchi seem stilted and almost unnecessary, but Fuller pumps up the tension on the action sequences. The train robbery, the robbery at the cement factory and the set up for the robbery of the bank bus are well handled. And the showdown between Dawson and Spanier, with the Tokyo police, at a children's fun park high on top of a business building is great. On balance, however, House of Bamboo's strong points seem to me to be a nice performance by Robert Ryan and some great scenery.
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on 9 December 2015
This film looks like it was made by someone who had never seen a film noir but instead had one described to them by a 10 year old. And this, it seems, is what the film's dialogue was based on.
Childish and naïve in the extreme - even the great Robert Ryan couldn't be bothered to try - and monotonously slow and boring, with each scene interminably longer than it needed to be.
Very disappointed that this wasn't the great addition I thought it would be, to my huge collection of 40's and 50's classics!
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on 6 February 2014
Good cast and filmed in Tokio was a plus. Seeing it when it first came out - and at a time when 20th Century Fox films were not being shown on the main cinema circuits.

Unusual robbery type film
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on 27 November 2014
Very pleased with DVD and service.
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