• Bamboo House Of Dolls (Celestial Pictures) DVD Review

    Released by: Celestial Pictures
    Released on: December 4th, 2003.
    Chih-Hung Kuei

    Cast: Lo Lieh, Brite Tove, Wang Hsia, Li Hai-shu, Terry Liu
    Year: 1973
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    Bamboo House Of Dolls – Movie Review:

    A Women In Prison film from director Kuei Chih-hung (who also did Killer Snakes), Bamboo House Of Dolls takes its cues from the entries in this sub-genre that came before it but does the 'chicks in chains' thing with a decidedly Hong Kong/Shaw Brothers slant to it.

    Instead of nasty Nazis, this time around the culprits are the Japanese (a very common antagonist in Chinese cinema of this era). Their soldiers run a concentration camp for Chinese women during the Second World War. While most of the inmates are repeatedly assaulted and raped by the Japanese forces, one of the Officers (Lo Lieh of countless Hong Kong classics such as The One Armed Swordsman and Executioner From Shaolin, as well as the Spaghetti Western/Kung-Fu hybrid, Blood Money) lends them a helping hand and proves to be more sympathetic than the rest. In reality, he's an undercover spy and he starts helping some of the girls escape. There's also a subplot involving a hidden box of gold that some of the female prisoners know the location of, but none of whom are willing to tell their captors about. That's pretty much it, story-wise, it's hardly a complicated film.

    Most of the WIP clichés are all over the place in this film - a group of lecherous and sadistic male captors who are easily outsmarted by the female prisoners; a lesbian officer (Terry Liu) who isn't afraid to have her way with any of the prisoners, and of course, plenty of beautiful female inmates who are always on the receiving end of some cruel and unusual punishment which usually winds up with them naked and beaten.

    All manner of cruelty and torture is on display here and Bamboo House Of Dolls stands on its own against the better known Italian and American WIP films in that regard. Prisoners are whipped until dead, raped, beaten and degraded consistently throughout the film. In one scene an officer corners a girl and, after humiliating her, throws shards of broken glass at her until she begins to cry, and then he rapes her. Another scene finds a group of prisoners tied to stakes in the ground under the beating sun, deprived of water, kicked, and left there to bake. Another officer rapes a prisoner and when she refuses to respond to his motions, he slaps her around, eventually getting frustrated with her lack of participation. You get the idea.

    Lovely Danish blonde Birte Tove (who would later play a nurse in Lars Von Tier's The Kingdom) stands out in the cast of both Asian and Caucasian women held captive as an inmate named Jennifer. Her performance, like most of the other ladies, is sympathetic and reasonably believable. Kuei Chih-hung's direction is slick and professional looking. The camera movements are usually quite graceful and fluid and the sets show that there was quite a bit of attention paid to detail. The sex scenes were filmed with usually a slightly comic slant to them, while the torture and action sequences have a much harsher feel to them that makes them more effective than the might have otherwise turned out.

    Euro-Cult enthusiasts will notice some familiar theme music playing overtop of the opening credits lifted from one of Ennio Morricone's more recognizable scores.

    Bamboo House Of Dolls – DVD Review:

    The film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35.1 and is enhanced for anamorphic television sets. Picture quality overall is fine by the standards of DVD releases from the early 2000s, though obviously leaves room for improvement by modern standards. The transfer boasts nice bright colors, deep blacks, and only very minor print damage noticeable in a couple of scenes. There isn't much of an edge enhancement problem to speak of and compression artifacts aren't an issue either. Detail is fine for a standard definition offering, though obviously a Blu-ray upgrade would make a big difference here.

    There are two audio tracks on the DVD - Mandarin and Cantonese. Both tracks are mixed in Dolby Digital 5.1. The rears are used mainly to add some depth to the proceedings with mostly background noise like whistling wind of bird chirps relegated to the back, but there are a couple of times where they do kick in and take you by surprise. Subtitles are provided in English, Traditional Chinese, Bahasa Malaysia, and Bahasa Indonesia.

    While it's not overloaded with supplements, there are a few nice little extras on this release. A 'behind the scenes' gallery and a 'promotional stills' gallery are included and have some nice material loaded up inside of them. The original poster is also included as well as some brief production notes and biographical and filmographical information for Lo Lieh, Wang Hsia, and Kuei Chih-hung.

    Finally, trailers are included for The Bamboo House Of Dolls, Women Of Desire, The Sexy Killer, 36 Secrets Of Courtship, and Sex For Sale. Menus and chapter selection options are also provided.

    Bamboo House Of Dolls - The Final Word:

    Celestial Pictures has done a decent job remastering an older Shaw Brothers catalogue title for DVD. The Bamboo House Of Dolls is a successfully fast paced and sleazy attempt at the tried and true Women In Prison film formula that doesn’t really break any new ground in the genre but proves pretty entertaining regardless.

    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Lalala76's Avatar
      Lalala76 -
      Starring Birte Tove from the Mazurka films