When an American army sergeant is killed during a Japanese train heist, the U.S. military and Tokyo police hook up to find out what happened. Unfortunately for this review, to reveal much more about House of Bamboo is to spoil its numerous deceptions and surprising developments. Fortunately for anyone who watches the film, those deceptions and development make it riveting viewing.
Sam Fuller is the mastermind behind this 1955 mash-up of noir mystery, gangster, military, and romance movie elements. With a genius for injecting soft-boiled humanity into hard-boiled genres, the director delights in confounding our expectations from the broad points of who our characters are to the smaller details, such as when a traditional Japanese dance suddenly mutates into a wild jitterbug.
Fuller also luxuriates in ravishing locations and sets and the bright colors that undermine the noir clichés that all but melt away by the Hitchcockian climax atop a rotating globe high over Tokyo. While Fuller usually worked in black & white during this period (though he’d just come off the color Hell and High Water), the locations and sets in House of Bamboo are simply too vibrant and detailed to reduce to monochrome. Star Robert Stack brings similar vibrancy and detail to a character who enters the film as a cliché-spouting and rather charmless thug, and ends up taking unexpected turns in keeping with so many of the film’s other elements.
Twilight Time’s new blu-ray really does justice to the DeLuxe Color and CinemaScope breadth of House of Bamboo. Presentation is natural and devoid of a single blemish. This is a beautiful picture. Bonuses include Twilight Time’s standard isolated film score and commentary track with Julie Kirgo and Nick Redman, as well as an additional commentary from filmmaker and noir historian Alain Silver and his frequent collaborator James Ursini. Units are limited to 3,000, and you can purchase one on Twilight Time's official site here.