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House of Bamboo

Samuel Fuller

House of Bamboo
Manny Farber once described a Sam Fuller movie by saying "the film is sincere about inexplicable mush." So it is with House of Bamboo, a crime thriller set in occupied Japan for purposes that we mortals may never know for sure. Reworking the far less interesting Street With No Name, it features furrow-browed Robert Stack as the cops' inside man infiltrating a group of ex-G.I. criminals led by Robert Ryan. The complication this time is Shirley Yamaguchi, the Japanese girlfriend of one of Ryan's victims, who falls for Stack only to be shunned by her gaijin-hating neighbours. There's no mistaking Fuller's sympathy for bi-racial couplings and flair for socko compositions; there's also no divining what the hell it's saying about the Japanese, Americans in Japan, or anything else having to do with the human race. There's no real exploration of the post-Occupation situation, no real delving into Japanese culture and, inexcusably for a Tokyo-set crime film, no mention of the word Yakuza — they could have shot it in Cleveland for all they do with the setting. No Fuller film is without its points of interest, such as Ryan's terrifically ominous performance and an impossibly brilliant reveal after someone gets thrown through a paper screen. But though it makes hysterically personal what Street made poker-faced and remote, I'm clueless as to what it's so worked up about. James Ursini and Alain Silver provide another "Fox Film Noir" commentary, which is excellent at mapping the many confusing thematic threads; apparently, Fuller allowed a crowd to beat up on Stack when they mistook him for an actual criminal. Also included are a couple of audio-free newsreels involving the principals, and the American and Spanish trailers. (Fox)

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