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In Tokyo, a ruthless gang starts holding up U.S. ammunition trains, prepared to kill any of their own members wounded during a robbery. Down-at-heal ex-serviceman Eddie Spannier arrives from the States, apparently at the invitation of one such unfortunate. But Eddie isn't quite what he seems as he manages to make contact with Sandy Dawson, who is obviously running some sort of big operation, and his plan is helped by acquaintance with Mariko, the secret Japanese wife of the dead American. Written by
Jeremy Perkins <email@example.com>
When Eddie Spanier (Robert Stack) is first knocked unconscious by members of Sandy Dawson's gang, Dawson tells one of his underlings to awaken him by tossing a bucket of ice on him. As he lies on the floor, however, Eddie flinches as soon as Dawson gives this command, before any ice actually hits Eddie's face. See more »
But ever since you saved this guy's neck, you've been acting funny, well I know what you're trying to do, but you're not going to get away with it, cuz I won't let you.
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has the good old B-noir spirit of Fuller, with a couple of flaws
I had fun through most of House of Bamboo, Samuel Fuller's second widescreen, first filmed out-of-the-US picture, even as I knew at the end it wasn't too special. It's got some memorable scenes with the two male leads, the kind of seemingly hard-boiled actors that probably wouldn't shake much if you hit them with some punches. And the whole plot line of the American crime ring in Tokyo in 1955 gives enough room for Fuller to realize some of the acting, camera and editing possibilities at his big-studio disposal. Robert Stack is in one of his best early parts as a would-be big crook undercover for the US army who infiltrates Robert Ryan's 'organization', where its tightly run to the point where Ryan's ready and willing to kill his own if wounded in the moment of crime. On top of this, Stack falls for a 'kimono' who was married to a late-member of the crime team. But will the deceiving remain?
The majority of the film works under the crime parts of the story, where in some scenes (maybe or maybe not in the new cinema-scope style) Fuller just keeps the camera on the scene without cutting. This room and space and time does create the right tension- and occasional humor- in the right spots. And Ryan is also up to task as the cold antagonist. Yet if there are parts of the film that are lesser than the bulk of it I'd say it would be with the 'Kimono' Mauriko, played by Shirley Yamaguchi. Her part in the story is mandatory to be sure, but it is just so-so in the writing and delivery, as far as such a formula would allow. And it is probably more of the writer's fault and even on Yamaguchi's end, arguably, than Fuller's. There are also some typical, dated bits of 'lost in translation' moments that may be part of the deal in making the very first Hollywood movie filmed entirely in Tokyo- they're 50/50 of doing the job for the entertaining parts of the picture.
Nonetheless, House of Bamboo is a more than decent example of what can be done with other material from one setting into another (both from a 40's noir, Street with No Name, and from US to Japan). There is also a sweet, if not greatly paced, climax in a wheel machine on a roof. It's gritty machismo with fun, with enough pure Fuller to suffice the studio standards.
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