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Steve De Jarnatt
Bamboo House of Dolls (1973, 1974 or 1977, various years are given for this title) is a Hong Kong veteran Chin Hung Kuei's (Killer Snakes, Boxer's Omen, Payment in Blood etc.) women in prison flick produced by the legendary Shaw Brothers. Yes, even they got their hands into low exploitation sickies like this, and Bamboo is definitely among the worse attempts of the whole genre, even when compared to the Western attempts that usually pale in comparison with the Eastern films!
The story is about a Japanese war camp in which the Chinese women are brutalized, abused and raped by the bad Japanese (what else?) during the World War II. The girls also know a secret place in which a box full of gold is hidden and also learn that a Chinese military officer raised in Japan (Shaw veteran Lo Lieh) is actually now an undercover agent among the other Japanese and naturally helps the girls escape the hell. What follows is sequences full of gratuitous nudity, female kung fu, some nasty torture, gore, sleaze and extremely offensive anti Japan attitude that make this film pure and honest garbage that doesn't even try to be more than it is.
There are hardly any interesting elements in Bamboo House of Dolls. The occasional photography especially at the end looks nice with its sunbeams and beautiful nature but that's about it in the merits department. The fight scenes are plenty and always include half naked females hitting and kicking each other. The violence overall is quite nasty at times with several bullet wounds, misogynistic torture scenes (for example, one poor girl is brutalized on the floor filled with broken glass etc.) and extremely repulsive ending and moral behind it. Of course it is stupid to talk about "moral" when writing about this kind of film, but still there are elements I won't accept to be found from any film.
The film has also some enjoyable turkey elements for sure! For example, the gold box, filled with heavy gold, seems suspiciouly light as the weak and suffered girls don't seem to have any problems lifting and moving it, not to speak of throwing it! Also those numerous "skin fight scenes" make this quite smile inducing for fans of trash cinema. I have seen the same director's Killer Snakes (1973) which is ten times more noteworthy as a piece and even though it has many alive snakes killed for real, it is also visually more interesting and shows us some nasty sides of the other side of the big city and society. Also, it is a must for those who fear snakes.
Bamboo House of Dolls has suffered some censorship, too, which isn't a surprise considered the subject matter. The uncut version, (dubbed into a non-English language) released in Europe at least in France, Italy and Switzerland, runs 104 PAL minutes while the cut, English dubbed print released in Holland, Belgium and Greece runs only 84 minutes in PAL. From what I've heard, the cut scenes are not only violence or other graphic stuff but also dialogue and "plot development" and the like.
Bamboo House of Dolls is garbage cinema in its most trashy form and definitely something I wouldn't have liked to see from the Shaw Brothers or Hong Kong in general. Some of the Italian exploitation films of the same subject matter are much more interesting and noteworthy than this quite ridiculous, calculated and worthless piece of cinema exploitation. 2/10
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