The film apparently uses non-actors. The lead role of Nicola played by Francesco di Napoli is notable, as is the role of his screen mother toiling away to make ends meet. Nicola's dad is never shown or discussed. Francesco could go places as an actor under the right director.
Average film--nothing great
Once again Fuller proves he is very good at casting actresses and getting memorable performances from them--in the case of House of Bamboo it is the Japanese/Chinese/US actress Shirley Yamaguchi.
I can't claim to have seen a lot of Samuel Fuller directed films--but this is the best I have seen of his to date. The shots with the child at the beginning and the end are very well made. The film may not easily be recognized as a family film but it is essentially one. Is it the only role where Dickinson is on screen as a brunette? Probably so.
The power of Fuller's writing is evident is these lines "Everbody doesn't carry their lives in the face" and "You are tough enough to handle explosives but not handle life."
This is the best rounded performance of two actors--Lee Van Cleef and singer Nat "King" Cole, who actually sings the title song.
It is a complex film and the strength of Genet's written passages placed at key points add to the strength of this interesting work.
Not a film for a family viewing but for well-read film viewers, especially those familiar with Genet's writings. I hated the film on my first viewing but a subsequent viewing after 3 decades made me appreciate its finer points. Fassbinder was the director who could do justice to the material, not directors Schlesinger, Pekinpah or Schroeter who were offered the script earlier.
It is unusual because the theme song runs through the film. it is unusual because the film's run time tries to stay true to the action on screen (like "Locke", in recent years). It is unusual because a Mexican actress Katy Jurado gets higher billing than Grace Kelly. It is unusual that the notable Lee Van Cleef, whose visage opens the film even before the credits, never speaks a word in the film and it is his debut appearance in cinema.
It is also a film with interesting cinematography (Floyd Crosby) and a superb screenplay by Carl Foreman, who was blacklisted and hounded out of Hollywood for a while. Subsequently, Foreman and his friend producer Stanley Kramer fell apart, when Kramer did not support him during Senator McCarthy's witchhunt to identify "Communists" in Hollywood. Both were collaborators on this film. The film reflects the off-screen drama, in some ways, which led to Foreman fleeing USA to work in UK. Decades later, Foreman was exonerated of all the charges against him.
In the final perspective. the film belongs to Foreman, Zinneman, Cooper, Floyd Crosby and Katy Jurado, in that order.
Schlesinger's editor Roger Cherrill shows his class here. Schlesinger used him earlier in his "A Kind of Loving"--and evidently loved his contribution. He was also used by Cornel Wilde in "The Naked Prey" and as a sound editor by Kubrick in "Full Metal Jacket" and Bertolucci in "The Sheltering Sky."
Even the cinematography is notable in "Billy Liar" at times. The cinematographer Denys Coop was used by Schlesinger in "A Kind of Loving" earlier and Lindsay Anderson"s "This Sporting Life."
An important film in many respects but not a masterpiece.
What then is Hitchcock's contribution? First, the casting of the young John Gielgud and the almost unrecognizable Lili Palmer alongside the scene-stealer Peter Lorre deserve credit. The editing of the chocolate factory sequence is truly remarkable, with touches of Eisenstein's editing skills. The humour of the one-armed spy dropping an empty coffin while trying to lift it was stretching Hitchcockian humour with little purpose.
"Ex Machina" was superior to this film in many respects, including the choice of the cast. A small feather in the cap was the choice of the song 'Helplessly Hoping' by Crosby, Stills, and Nash.