House of Bamboo: Sam Fuller’s Film Noir in Cinemascope

House of Bamboo was the second Cinemascope film that Samuel Fuller made for the studio. The film is a loose remake of “The Street with No Name” (1948), based on the same writer (Harry Kleiner) and cinematographer (Joseph MacDonald).

House of Bamboo

Theatrical release poster

The narration informs that the film was shot entirely on location in Tokyo, Yokohama, and the Japanese countryside. At movie’s end, an acknowledgments credit thanks “the Military Police of the U.S. Army Forces Far East and the Eighth Army, as well as the Government of Japan and the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department” for their cooperation with the film’s production.

In 1954, a military train guarded by American soldiers and Japanese police is robbed of its cargo of guns and ammunition.  Weeks later, a thief named Webber lies dying in a Tokyo hospital, shot by a cohort during a holdup in which smoke bombs were used.

Webber is questioned by military and police investigators, but he refuses to implicate his fellow gang members. Webber does reveal, however, that he is secretly married to a Japanese woman, Mariko. Police also discover that among Webber’s possessions, there is a letter from American Eddie Spanier, who wants to join Webber in Japan after release from a U.S. prison.

Three weeks later, Spanier arrives in Tokyo and makes contact with Mariko, gaining her trust with a photo taken with Webber. Spanier finally informs Mariko of his real identity as an undercover infiltrator into the Dawson gang.

Dawson sets up Spanier’s death, but that plan backfires. Dawson is chased by the police to a rooftop amusement park, and after intense gunfight, he is shot and killed by Spanier.

As usual with Fuller, the technical aspects (camera angles, sharp if distorted imagery, sounds) of film noir are stronger than the narrative, which is conventional (relying on revenge motif)  or characterizations (gallery of familiar tough guys, ruthless mobsters, and obstinate women).

Robert Ryan as Sandy Dawson
Robert Stack as Eddie Spanier
Shirley Yamaguchi as Mariko
Cameron Mitchell as Griff
Brad Dexter as Capt. Hanson
Sessue Hayakawa as Inspector Kitz
DeForest Kelley as Charlie
Biff Elliot as Webber
Sandro Giglio as Ceram


Directed by Samuel Fuller
Produced by Buddy Adler
Screenplay by Harry Kleiner and Samuel Fuller
Music by Leigh Harline
Cinematography Joseph MacDonald
Edited by James B. Clark
Production and distribution: 20th Century Fox
Release date: July 1, 1955
Running time: 102 minutes


I refreshed my memory and notes when TCM showed it on July 7, 2020.