• Crimson Kimono, The



    Released by: Twilight Time Releasing
    Released on: July 18th, 2017.
    Director: Samuel Fuller
    Cast: Victoria Shaw, Glenn Corbett, James Shigeta, Anna Lee, Paul Dubov, Gloria Pall
    Year: 1959
    Purchase From Screen Archives

    The Movie:

    When Samuel Fuller’s 1959 pictures The Crimson Kimono opens, a stripper named Sugar-Torch (Gloria Pall) hears a gun go off in the dressing room of the L.A. nightclub where she works. She runs out into the street to get away from it and is promptly killed.

    From here we meet two detectives, Charlie Bancroft and Joe Kojaku (Glenn Corbett and James Shigeta), both veterans of the Korean War. Not only do these guys work together, but they’re close friends and roommates too. When word gets out that Sugar Torch is dead, they wind up having to protect a woman connected to the case named Christine Downs (Victoria Shaw), an artist who recently painted the victim wearing the titular garb. It doesn’t take long for both men to fall for her. She’s beautiful and charming. As they try to work the case and solve Sugar Torch’s murder, the details of this love triangle start to make things difficult for all involved, including Christine’s hard drinking friend Mac (Anna Lee).

    This one opens, in typical Fuller fashion, with a scene that grabs you by the throat and ensures that, no matter where the story goes, you’ll be paying attention for the duration. From there, the movie bobs and weaves a bit, playing with elements of crime stories, police stories, romance and drama. It meshes these different genres well and winds up creating a film as memorable for its casting as for its story. In the mainstream Hollywood of 1959 it was more than a little bit unusual to see a Japanese man cast as a lead character, let alone in a film where he becomes romantically involved with a white woman. Leading man James Shigeta, who passed away in 2014, was of Japanese descent but born in Hawaii. He was also a Marine during the Korean War in real life, which makes him a great choice to play Kojaku in the picture. In many ways this is his film, as the story plays out in such a way that we get to at least partially better understand his plight and some of what his Japanese background means he’ll experience. We get a feel for this in the settings where much of the film plays out – Los Angeles’ ‘Little Tokyo’ district, complete with some Japanese themed restaurants and bars and even a kendo fighting scene.

    The performances in the film are solid. Shigeta plays his troubled cop really well, we believe in him and we can feel his conviction. Neither man wants to go up against the other over a matter of the heart, particularly when there’s a case to be solved, but sometimes these things can’t be helped. He and co-star Glen Corbett have a strong screen presence in the film, though Corbett often times does better emoting with his facial expressions and his eyes than he does with some of the longer, more drawn out stretches of dialogue that were written for his character. As to Ms. Shaw, well, she’s not only gorgeous but more than capable of making her character her own. We can see early enough in the film the connection her character shares with Shigeta, making the events that transpire later in the film make perfect sense. It’s also worth noting how good Anna Lee is as Christine’s occasionally inebriated friend – Anna Lee steals a few scenes from the rest of the cast in this picture.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    This Blu-ray reissue of The Crimson Kimono presents the film in an AVC encoded 1.85.1 widescreen transfer that shows excellent detail and texture with nice depth evident throughout. The image is very clean but has a nice amount of natural looking grain evident, the kind that reminds you this was shot on film. The picture never looks overly processed, there’s no evidence of noise reduction or edge enhancement, and the image is free of compression artifacts. Contrast is spot on and we get nice clean whites and strong deep blacks. The image is also very clean, there’s virtually no print damage here to note at all. The transfer is a strong one.

    The English language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track is also of very good quality. Dialogue is clean, clear and easy to follow and the score has nice depth and range. Hiss and distortion are never an issue and the levels are properly balanced throughout. Optional English subtitles are provided.

    Carried over from the DVD release via Sony from a few years back is the Sam Fuller Storyteller featurette, a twenty-four minute long look back at the director’s work. This is made up of interviews with Martin Scorsese, Curtis Hanson, Tim Robbins, Wim Wenders as well as with Fuller's wife and daughter. Also included on this release is a nine minute piece called Curtis Hanson: The Culture Of The Crimson Kimono (again, carried over from the older DVD release) wherein the director of L.A. Confidential director (and co-writer of Fuller’s own White Dog)offers up his thoughts on Fuller’s directing style and provides some insight into what makes the film as interesting as it is.

    Outside of that we get an isolated score in DTS-HD format, two original theatrical trailers, menus and chapter selection. Inside the keepcase accompanying the disc is a full color insert booklet containing liner notes by Julie Kirgo that offer up a nice summary of what makes the film work while also providing some interesting details about its history and its politics.

    The Final Word:

    The Crimson Kimono may not be the film Fuller is best remembered for but it’s a cracking suspense picture absolutely worth seeing for anyone with an interest in the director’s output or vintage American film noir pictures. Twilight Time’s Blu-ray debut carries over the extras from Sony’s DVD release and provides the picture with an impressive upgrade in the audio and video departments.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!