10,000 Bullets   Exploring the world of Cinema from the Arthouse to the Grindhouse™

Bamboo House Of Dolls, The 
Written by: on March 30th, 2010

Theatrical Release Date:
Hong Kong, 1973
Director: Chih-Hung Kuei
Cast: Birte Tove, Lieh Lo, Hsieh Wang, Terry Liu, Roska Rozen, Niki Wane, Hsia-ying Lo

DVD Released: December 4th, 2003
Approximate Running Time: 107 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Rating: NR
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1 Mandarin, Dolby Digital 5.1 Cantonese
DVD Release: Celestial Pictures
Region Coding: Region 3 NTSC (Hong Kong)
Retail Price: $10.30 ($80 HK)

Synopsis: During the Japanese occupation of Chinese territory, women are captured and kept in concentration camps to service the troops. Six prisoners band together: three Caucasians and three Chinese. Among these, one is blind and another knows the location of a vast fortune of stolen Chinese gold but can’t remember where it is. Everyone wants it, with our heroines caught in the middle – except one is a spy.

For a Cat IIB rated flick this is strong stuff, with the rapes and torture and brutal execution of innocents, but Japanese committing atrocities was easily palatable given the prevailing Chinese attitudes of the time. The tortures are mostly filmed in the art house style that made many Japanese films of questionable content highly entertaining, as the output of Teruo Ishii and Norifumi Suzuki demonstrate – thus glorifying and condemning Japanese culture at once. The tortures are not merely gratuitous; the pre-credits massacre immediately makes the villains inhuman and the situation desperate, the other scenarios serve to quickly establish the key personality traits of the six main prisoners and the sadistic officials.

Personalities aren’t the only thing fleshed out here, there is abundant nudity as demanded of any good [or usually not] women-in-prison flick. Swedish blonde bombshell Birte Tove is beautiful, charismatic, and on display. All the performances are competent at the least, but the hero of the piece emerges as none other than Lo Lieh (King boxer), despite the low hand-to-hand martial arts content. Casting includes many Japanese, with the gritty concentration camp and scenic landscapes making this look more like an Italian film with Japanese influences than a typical Hong Kong production.

The DVD:

A quality (anamorphic, English subtitles) but out-of-print region 3 release by Deltamac / IVL, this film demands re-release (Dragon Dynasty, Image, anyone?).

Despite and because it mixes every convention in the WIP genre with drama, epic action, and plot twists galore, this is THE contender for title of #1 Best WIP Feature Film. Is it Bamboo House Of Dolls, or Female Prisoner #701 Scorpion? May I have the envelope please . . .

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