House of Bamboo

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House of Bamboo

Post by kingrat »

Finally got around to watching the tape of HOUSE OF BAMBOO (1956). Samuel Fuller makes the most of his opportunity to shoot on location in post-war Japan. The film has documentary interest for that reason, apart from Fuller's cinematic virtuosity. Robert Stack plays a new recruit to a gang of Americans, former GIs, led by Robert Ryan.

To me, the film has two problems. The first is Robert Stack, who wakes up in the bath scene and the massage scene--maybe he does his best acting without a shirt!--but otherwise is rather dull. Neither his face nor his voice is very expressive. He's another of the stoic heroes so popular in the 1950s: Gary Cooper, Randolph Scott, Alan Ladd, Jack Webb. It's strange how a very minimalist actor, Alan Ladd, somehow works in THE BADLANDERS, recently on TCM, but Stack doesn't.

The other problem, oddly enough, is Fuller's virtuosity, which distances us from the characters rather than drawing us in. There are few close shots in this film. For instance, the important scene where Robert Ryan confronts Shirley Yamaguchi, who he thinks is cheating on Stack, is in long shot, featuring the decor more than the characters' emotions. To my mind, by keeping the camera so remote from Ryan's reactions, Fuller fails to utilize Ryan's talent. The final confrontation, quite well filmed on an observation tower overlooking an amusement park, would register much more strongly if we cared more about Stack and Ryan. The finale in NORTH BY NORTHWEST is so powerful because the characters have been developed so well.

I don't want to sound too negative, because HOUSE OF BAMBOO is worth seeing both for the glimpse of Japanese life and for Fuller's camera angles, camera movement, and editing. Like Karlson's THE BROTHERS RICO and the late films of Fritz Lang, HOUSE OF BAMBOO is a film that could have been, but wasn't, shot in film noir style, which must have seemed old-fashioned by 1956.
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Re: House of Bamboo

Post by JackFavell »

I simply couldn't get through this film.....I tried, but this distancing problem of Fuller's was the main reason I simply couldn't get into it. Stack seemed so cartoony to me. Ryan didn't seem to get the screen at all, but maybe it was because he had no close up shots. I think this would have improved the film greatly, kingrat. Give Ryan more time on film, Stack less. Also, the suspense involving Shirley Yamaguchi disturbed me so much that I finally turned it off.... maybe next time I can get further along.
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