House of Bamboo (1955)

House of Bamboo (1955)

“It’s hard for you to understand; no foreigner does.”

An American military policeman (Robert Stack) posing as the friend of a dead gangster in Japan begins to work for the gang’s leader (Robert Ryan), whose current henchman (Cameron Mitchell) isn’t happy about his number-one spot being taken over by Stack. Meanwhile, Stack has a romance with his deceased friend’s widow (Shirley Yamaguchi), who is posing as his “kimono girl”.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Cameron Mitchell Films
  • Gangsters
  • Hidden or Mistaken Identities
  • Robert Ryan Films
  • Robert Stack Films
  • Sam Fuller Films

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary writes that this “taught low-budget action picture” is “one of Sam Fuller’s best films,” explaining that “Fuller believed that WWII didn’t end with the armistice — Japan was controlled by the U.S. military and exploited by American thugs and profiteers; loyalty among war vets was of utmost importance; [and] Americans still looked down on Japanese culture.” Indeed, many critics have noted the absurdity of the story on display here, with American gangsters creating a powerful syndicate in Japan despite not speaking the language, and despite the presence of the all-powerful Yakuza. With that enormous caveat aside, the film is indeed an impressive thriller with vibrant sets, gorgeous cinematography, and plenty of tension.

Peary points out that the “storyline involving Stack and Ryan greatly resembles that between police infiltrator Edmond O’Brien and gang leader James Cagney in White Heat” — and “as in Walsh’s film, we tend to sympathize with the trusting, insane gang leader” — Ryan’s “mad ex-GI” — “instead of the man who commits the unforgivable: betrayal.”

Critics have also pointed out potential homoerotic valences between Ryan, Mitchell, and Stack — especially given a disturbingly brutal but beautifully filmed bathtub sequence later in the film. After being so disappointed by Fuller’s first CinemaScope outing, Hell and High Water (1954), I was very pleasantly surprised to see Fuller back in true form here, showcasing masterful framing and peak storytelling skills. This one remains well worth a look.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Robert Ryan as Sandy Dawson
  • Excellent use of authentic locales
  • Fine sets
  • Strong direction

  • Joseph MacDonald’s cinematography

Must See?
Yes, as a fine crime flick by a master director.


  • Good Show
  • Important Director


One thought on “House of Bamboo (1955)

Leave a Reply