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House of Bamboo (1955)

by on 2013/03/08

house_of_bamboo_1955“In Japan, a woman is taught from childhood how to please a man.”

* *

Zzzzz.

Sorry, I nodded off just then.

My long-awaited Noirch celebrations are already off to unsteady start. A few years ago, Hacker Renders made up the term ‘Noirch’ – a most excellent fusion of the words noir and March, to describe our seedy, crime-ridden journey into one of my favourite genres.

I do love me some film noir. So I like it when Noirch rolls around.

House of Bamboo should have been, by rights, something I’d adore. It plunks noir smack dab into the cherry festooned parks of Japan. Thugs get plugged full of lead in Japanese baths. Kimono-clad girls dance to jazz with American ex-military men.

Photographed entirely on location in Tokyo, Yokohama, and the Japanese countryside, this film has some gorgeous raw material to work with. Robert Stack (Airplane!) and Shirley Yamaguchi (Scandal) turn in believable performances. Robert Ryan is great as a smiling crime boss. There are thugs, pachinko parlours, grift, graft and cultural misunderstandings a-plenty. Ah so – which is exactly what everyone says every time Robert Stack asks them a question in gruff English.

Sheesh, why doesn’t everyone just speak American?

Unfortunately, this movie weaves and lurches like a drunken rickshaw operator – with a plot as flimsy as Japanese sliding doors. All right, I’ll stop.

It goes from a deadly dull newsreel talkie to deadly dull travelogue. I knew I was in trouble when the film began with a ponderous narration about a train robbery, you know, because the actual footage of the train robbery was both confusing and narcolepsy-inducing.

When exactly is a train robbery boring, I ask you?

There was also a troubling lot of slapping, shoving and shaking poor Shirley Yamaguchi as Mariko, the dog-loyal wife of the gunned down ex-army man who got tied up in the pachinko rackets. Not cool.

I’m not one to mince words, savvy? The House of Bamboo played me for a sap with its exotic-looking poster and promise of Japanese-based film noir.

The Unsolved Mysteries of Unsolved Mysteries is how exactly did they louse up this such a slick racket?

I so wish I could say, ‘ah so’ to that question.

* *

102 minutes

Unrated but filled with gunplay, smacking women around, drinking and punching

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  1. A Goth’s Month in Review: March 2013 | Geek vs Goth

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