[box cover]

House of Bamboo

Writer/director Sam Fuller got his start in journalism, and it informed his directorial style. His films have the take-no-prisoners eye of a man reporting facts. And as someone who knows that the salacious sells, throughout his career he's spiced up ordinary pictures with taboo sexuality. The Naked Kiss (1964) is a film about an ex-prostitute who almost marries a pedophile, while Forty Guns (1957) is chock full of phallic symbolism (just look at the title). House of Bamboo (1955) is a crime film first and foremost, but just under the surface (and under the noses of the censors) it's a story about a fatal homosexual attraction. Robert Stack stars as Eddie Spainer, an ex-Army guy living in Japan trying to enter the gangster racket after the war. After hustling a couple of pachinko palaces, he finds his way into the attentions of Sandy Dawson (Robert Ryan), the head of a criminal organization that recently robbed a train, and left two dead: one a witness, another a member of the gang. Sandy's policy is to always kill his wounded so there's no one to talk. But the dead member has a wife, Mariko (Shirley Yamaguchi), and Eddie pretends to be his old war buddy to get to know her. The two strike up a romance as his stature grows in Sandy's organization — even bucking the number two, Griff (Cameron Mitchell). But Eddie is not whom he appears to be: He's an Army cop looking to bust up Sandy's organization. Yet Sandy finds himself so drawn to Eddie that he not only does he alienate Griff, he breaks his cardinal rule by saving Eddie's life after he's shot. When evidence keeps mounting against Eddie, Sandy fails to believe it until it's too late. As a procedural it's an acceptable little noir, but House of Bamboo achieves its greatest power with its undercurrents of sexuality. Ryan wonderfully underplays his yearning — like a man in a repressed culture, his interest in Eddie comes out in strange and inappropriate ways. It's also mentioned in the commentary that Ryan (always a treasure in whatever role he had) was the only actor aware of this tension. One can see why Fuller would add this to the material — it's a remake of The Street with No Name, and Fuller injects some panache with his framing and in the robbery set pieces. But it's only the homosexual undercurrent that makes the film still worthwhile. Fox presents House of Bamboo in its first home video release, with an acceptable anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) and Dolby Digital 4.0 audio. Extras include a commentary by James Ursini and Alain Silver, two Movietone snippets presented without sound (3 min.), two trailers, and bonus trailers. Keep-case.
—DSH



Back to Quick Reviews Index: [A-F] [G-L] [M-R] [S-Z]

Back to Main Page