The book is better than the film despite all the efforts of Visconti and his talented team, which included three other co-scriptwriters.
First, in the 1946 film, the killed anti-hero (Burt Lancaster) is a boxer who got mixed up with a beautiful woman (Ava Gardner) and a gang of robbers. In the 1964 version, the killed anti-hero (John Cassavetes) is car mechanic-cum-car-racing driver who got mixed up with a beautiful woman (Angie Dickinson) and a gang of robbers led by actor Ronald Reagan who went on to be the US President in real life.
The second most interesting difference is final shot in the 1964 Siegel version. It is of a bag supposed to contain looted cash opening up to reveal there is nothing inside it. Unlike the 1946 version, Don Siegel's version adds an existential element to the tale--the lust for money that turns out to be meaningless eventually.
The saving grace of the film are the tolerable performances of Lee Marvin, Dickinson and Cassavetes. The highlight of the film would be the opening sequence where the two killers wearing dark goggles visit a facility for the blind where almost all the blind folks are wearing dark glasses, to do their dirty job.
The film uses Hitchcock's childhood terror of prisons either intentionally or unintentionally--here using menacing shadows of prison bars and interiors of prisons. Similarly, Hitchcock's love to include food/meals without much reason is added in this film when an impromptu lunch with proper tableware, cutlery and crockery is presented in an office room at short notice!
There is another unnecessary sequence involving a bevy of kids and a cat crawling on top of an adult male still lying under bed covers having his bed-tea. But the children are so natural in the sequence that you forgive the director.
The film is all about building suspense and a murder that is never shown on screen. An interesting work of Hitchcock though not a major one.
Ingrid Bergman appearing in the third Hitchcock film (earlier in "Spellbound" and "Notorious") is fascinating to watch. We are encouraged to think she is psychologically unstable until it is proven otherwise. Joseph Cotten, who apparently disliked the film, is actually very interesting to watch. The ever-smiling Michael Wilding (ex-husband of Elizabeth Taylor), the third face in the love triangle is the least admirable of the three interesting performers. Then there is Margaret Leighton, who plays the wily housekeeper Milly, who was one of the caricatured women in John Ford's excellent 1966 swansong "The 7 women" and again in the little appreciated Bryan Forbes' film "The Madwoman of Chaillot," providing the fourth most important character in the film. By a coincidence, Michael Wilding married Ms Leighton in real life many years after this film was made and they never divorced!
Hitchcock being Hitchcock adds an English breakfast scene because so many of his films have characters discussing and enjoying food, even though the scene is not essential.
A scene that is never explained adequately occurs early in the film. An unknown white peddler of shrunken aboriginal heads tries to sell one such head to Sam Flusky (Joseph Cotten) who is angry with the peddler and send him packing. Much later in the film, a similar shrunken head is found on Flusky's wife's (Ingrid Bergman) bed. The connection is never explained.
This is the only Hitchcock film with cinematography by Jack Cardiff and it is very good. The film has indoor night scenes with candle lamps and yet the lighting of Ms Bergman lying on a bed with a canopy is very clear and colourful. What is not very clear but truthful are the scenes outside the "Minyago yugilla" (Why weepest thou?) manor--with horses and carriages in shadows.
It is definitely one of the better works of Hitchcock--with fear of prisons, true history of Australia, and the varied social discriminations of the day underscored. Here is a Hitchcock where marriage is seen and shown positively, in spite of the love triangle.
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.