The Bamboo Saucer (Blu-ray Review)

Bamboo-SaucerOlive Films has brought 1968’s sci fi cult classic, The Bamboo Saucer to Blu-ray.  I tried to do some research on this film for this review because I’d never seen it.  But, to no avail, there’s not a whole lot of information regarding this film’s production on the usual legitimate movie researching tools found on the web.  And after seeing the film, it became even more of a bummer that there weren’t and supplemental materials (even if it were just film historians and fans discussing it) provided on the disc.  But, as I always say, at least its on Blu-ray.  Just getting a film to this glorious format is triumph enough!

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Test pilot Fred Norwood is out flying a an experimental plane when he is chased by what appears to be a flying saucer.  The ground crew is made about his outlandish maneuvering and no one believes Fred as he’s the only one who saw it and it didn’t show up on radar.  When his brother in-law is killed trying to find the spacecraft on a flight of his own, Fred gets a meeting with FAA head honcho Hank Peters.  The US has received a sketch of a flying saucer from a peasant in communist China of one that has apparently landed there.  Norwood and a team are sent over to find and bring back the saucer.  On the way, they run into a team of Russians with the exact same intentions.  Will it be a race or will the two teams find compromise?

While The Bamboo Saucer came at the end of the 60s, its very heavily steeped in being a 1950s B sci fi picture.  So, if you’re not a fan of those, look away.  Don’t get a kick out of cheesy old B-movies?  Okay, bye bye!  And if vintage special effects bug you and you for some reason aren’t able to let your imagination flow or grant the film the conceit of being a film of its time, take a hike I suppose.  The film is full of sets, obvious matte effects, stock footage amongst other things.

Anybody still here?  Good.  This is actually a pretty solid film that kind of surprised me with its character choices and turns.  For a film from 1968 it ends up being pretty progressive.  The minute the Russians and Americans cross paths, you just assume this is going to be a movie about racing to the finish and trying to stop the enemy at all costs.  Instead, they actually come to a compromise and work together on discovering and studying the UFO.  Yes, we have a handsome American man and a beautiful Russian woman that just have to hook up because  they’re on screen together, but it goes much deeper than that.  The other characters work together and form a comradery, which leads to some actually touching moments when people start to get bumped off (lots of deaths in this).  And the characters actually show signs of compassion and caring toward their “enemy”.

The film also successfully weaves a couple different genres together.  There’s of course the UFO Saturday matinee type film.  But it also plays as a sort of spy film for a little bit too.  It also dabbles in to being a war film in the end too.  And while this film would be classified in the 50s sci fi realm, it feels a bit different because the saucer merely plays sort of a MacGuffin role for most of it.  The saucer is a device in which to bring these two very at odds groups together to learn to come together for the benefit of the future of the planet Earth.  Like I said, on its surface, this film might be easy to dismiss as cheese or silly, but look a little further and you’ve actually got a really good group character piece.

Another plus?  It’s got a young(?) James Hong in the film.  Maybe its a Lo Pan origin story and he got his powers from coming into contact with a UFO in 1968.  But, he’s always an enjoyable and fun presence to see in movies and he appears in this film.

If you’re into 60s films, old 50s sci fi or cold war era spy films this is a solid little movie.  The direction of its plot and decisions from its characters really took me by surprise and added a weight to the film that had me enjoying this more than your average B-movie.  I expected some charming sci fi cheese and I got that.  But, I also received some solid character work thrown in for good measure.  I had a good time.  Definitely a fun Saturday afternoon kind of film.

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Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1:78.1

Clarity/Detail:  This is a softer image, with a print that is in solid shape, but contains all its wear and tear flavor like grain and scratches.  You can make out some good detail like brush strokes on a door frame and clothing fabrics.

Depth:  This is more on the flatter side of things, but there are some good shots when the parked UFO is present and during the shootout at the end of the film.

Black Levels:  Black levels are decent.  This film is mostly well lit.  Black does consume and hide detail in many spots.

Color Reproduction:  Having seen a lot of high def mastering on 60s films, they usually provide some of the richest and most popping colors you could get on catalog Blu-ray titles.  Unfortunately this film’s colors are more muted than being bold.  There’s a wonderful palette of colors on display, but they almost feel like they’re just inching to pop.

Flesh Tones:  Tones are cold, but consistent. Facial features are light in detail.

Noise/Artifacts: There is plenty of grain, film scratches, dirt and streaks all over this print.  Especially during stock footage sequences.  For me it adds character and charm, for others it might prove to be an inferior product.

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Audio Format(s): English 1.0 DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: N/A

Dynamics:  This is a very analog track.  It features a vinyl sounding his that is loud and prominent throughout.  Dialogue, score and effects all sort of blend together at similar volumes.  Its a product of its time.

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction:  Voices weave in with the hiss sound.  You can make them out, they’re clear and loud, but this movie’s audio track does nothing to hide this being a 1968 film.

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There are no extras on the disc.  Kudos for a sturdy Blu-ray case featuring original artwork, though!

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Welp, if you’re going to get this one, you know who you are.  Olive Films puts together a “classic” feeling presentation of the film that will have some appreciating and others running.  I’m in the appreciator column.  As the big bummer, the film contains no bonus materials, not even a trailer making the almost $30 price tag seem incredibly steep.  If you want the film, though, this is the only way you’re going to get it.  And thank Olive Films because they even brought it to Blu-ray.  So, if you like this film and its a favorite, price shouldn’t be an obstacle.  If you’re someone who is in the blind, you might want to see it first before you buy.



Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

2 Responses to “The Bamboo Saucer (Blu-ray Review)”

  1. Eric Flapjack Ashley

    “Just getting a film to this glorious format is triumph enough!” Hilarious! Ha! And true!

  2. Brian White

    Ditto to what Eric says!