In Tokyo a ruthless gang holds up U.S. ammunition trains. Ex-serviceman Eddie Spannier arrives from the States apparently at the invitation of one such unfortunate. But, Eddie isn't quite what he seems.
Samuel Fuller came up with one of his gutsiest "headline shots" for House of Bamboo
: Mount Fuji, in CinemaScope, framed between the boots of a U.S. soldier lying murdered on a snowy Japanese embankment. Happily, the movie that follows is no letdown. This brutal gangster film was the first American production to shoot in Japan, and Fuller exploits his locations to the max, up to and including a climactic gun battle around a Tokyo rooftop facsimile of the turning Earth. Officially the screenplay is credited to Harry Kleiner, with Fuller cited for "additional dialogue"; in actuality, the 20th Century-Fox movie transplants the basic premise of the Kleiner-scripted Street with No Name
(1948) from an American Midwest town to Tokyo, but otherwise the picture is unmistakably Fuller's own. A gang of American expatriates is robbing U.S. military ammunition and supply trains, and using military tactics to do it. They're a ruthless bunch, killing not only any troops and police that get in the way but also their own wounded. Robert Stack has a satisfyingly dark-edged role as an American drifter who's drafted into the gang, and Robert Ryan is mesmerizing as the psychotic crimelord. The action is tough--there's a genuinely shocking killing in a bathhouse--and Fuller's canny deployment of the newly widened screen is just as forceful. It's great to have this early-CinemaScope classic in widescreen DVD. --Richard T. Jameson