House of Bamboo Screen 14 articles

House of Bamboo

1955

House of Bamboo Poster
  • A familiar story has been transferred to a new location with no perceptible imaginative flair, and the film's manner is flashily second-hand, with a gratuitous emphasis on physical violence reminiscent of another film by Samuel Fuller, Pick Up on South Street... It takes more than an original setting to refurbish a formula.

  • Fuller seems a bit subdued in general, though he gets a rich villain in soft-spoken Robert Ryan - who kills a man, then cradles and talks to him - and some visual play with bamboo partitions (hero plunges through one when he first encounters the gang, then gets silhouetted in another so the cops can shoot him), standing for a world of subtle divisions. Handsome and hard-boiled, but something is missing.

  • One of Samuel Fuller's best, a tough, sometimes nasty, but always exciting 1955 effort in 'Scope and color that unites three of his favorite topics: military comradeship, the underworld, and the Far East.

  • The first Hollywood film shot in Japan, it is certainly one of Fuller's most beautiful works.

  • Quite simply, House of Bamboo has some of the most stunning examples of widescreen photography in the history of cinema... Fuller's visual schema represents the societal fractures through a series of deep-focus, Noh-theatrical tableaus, a succession of silhouettes, screens, and stylized color photography that melds the heady insanity of a Douglas Sirk melodrama (see, as an especial point of comparison, Sirk’s 1956 Korea-set war film Battle Hymn) with the philosophical inquiry of the best noirs.

  • The movie is famous for its gunplay—a bathtub shooting that’s sordidly funny, a police ambush of silhouettes seen through a rice-paper screen, and a climactic shoot-out on a flying-saucer-like carrousel perched on a rooftop high above the city. But, for one terrifying moment, captured in a single tense shot and embodied in Ryan’s seething, pantherish self-control, Fuller makes his fierce sympathies ambiguous as he imagines gore beyond what Hollywood mores allowed—and hints that he enjoyed it.

  • A flurry of pulp vibrancy later mined by the Nikkatsu sagas of Seijun Suzuki and Koreyoshi Kurahara..., it's a dazzling collection of screens brought down and lifted up and, above all, torn open—as befits an auteur-agitator forever bent on slamming together viewer and action, the most startling moment has the main character being slugged through a wall of rice paper and landing at the feet of the audience of gangsters watching from the other side.

  • The grand finale is a manic game of cat and mouse through a city carnival, a setting not unheard of in the annals of noir, but Fuller's denouement paints a very literal vision of America's postwar playground abroad, a visually ridiculous but altogether serious showdown that stands perfectly on its own merits.

  • Sent to Japan to make the first major studio effort there since the War (RKO had released the low-budget policier backwash Tokyo File 212four years earlier), Fuller returned with a demented and florid thriller with half-progressive, half-offensive notions of cultural exchange. (Fuller reports in his autobiography that he cast his American stars almost exclusively on the basis of height, wanting tall players to contrast with petite Japanese.)

  • Thanks to that riveting CinemaScope frame, the viewer is often placed at an awesome vantage point from which to discern the geometric grace with which Fuller stages suspense in this foreign location. One can assume that Fuller’s film would have been as much of a visual revelation even if shot (or “stuck”) in a more narrow frame. But the director at least convinces us that the journey to the other side of the world was worth the extra width.

  • Fuller masterfully exploits the Japanese location, providing a rare glimpse of post-war Tokyo, where the American crew wasn’t always welcome. Shooting in actual sites, he artfully constructs fore- and background spaces, utilizing cultural features to give weight and depth to his long takes, and interiors highlight extraordinarily complex staging, with partitioning screens and framed entrances.

  • Shot in CinemaScope and Deluxe color, it is Fuller’s most beautiful film, and the new Blu-ray from Twilight Time looks flawless. Clearly inspired by his surroundings, and backed by an A-picture budget, Fuller works variations on the slashing lines of slatted bamboo curtains, sliding doors, and the increasingly vertical Tokyo cityscape, ending in a justifiably famous rooftop amusement park ride, a deadly trip around Saturn’s rings.

  • House of Bamboo suggests a for-hire film that's been polished with flourishes so great they cumulatively transcend their potentialities as formal window dressing: They're the film's pulse, the work of a masterfully intuitive director whose artistic sensibility appears to be governed by an unusually large portion of id.

  • “House of Bamboo” (1955) may not be, as its studio claimed, the first Hollywood movie shot on location in Japan, but, clearly inspired by its surroundings, it is the most visually lush film that the great action director ever made.

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