The Crimson Kimono

Released Oct. 21, 1959: THE CRIMSON KIMONO, starring Glenn Corbett, James Shigeta, Victoria Shaw, and Anna Lee. Directed by Samuel Fuller (Pickup on South Street, House of Bamboo, The Naked Kiss). This is a somewhat odd and unexpected film that definitely has Fuller’s stylistic fingerprint all over it, from the immersive in-your-face feel to unconventional compositions and tight facial close-ups. TheCrimsonKimonoThe film opens with a loud brash bang as a stripper (Gloria Pall) frantically runs from an unknown gunman, plunging her way through a busy downtown sidewalk at night, only to be shot dead as she tries to dive through traffic. One of the detectives investigating the murder is Japanese (James Shigeta) and the other is his best friend and roommate (Glenn Corbett). The Japanese aspect is significant because the stripper was working on a new Japanese-themed act that involved members of the Japanese community, and the investigation leads the detectives to the Little Tokyo area of Los Angeles, where they visit a martial arts studio, Buddhist temple, and other locations that must’ve seemed exotic to viewers at the time. Kudos to Fuller for prominently featuring Asian actors and extras, and including scenes with extensive Japanese dialog. A decade earlier, these sequences would’ve been handled with much less authenticity. About a third of the way through the film, the focus drifts away from the murder investigation and turns to the personal lives of the detectives, specifically the tentative romance developing between Corbett and a pretty witness he’s protecting (Victoria Shaw). After a while, the murder investigation is all but forgotten, and the story gets an unexpected jolt as smoldering feelings of love emerge between Shigeta and Shaw. This of course, results in a tense love triangle, and when the situation finally comes to a head between the two detectives, it turns into an issue of racism for Shigeta. Fuller doesn’t compromise, and addresses the racial subject matter with direct, unflinching frankness. Despite its meandering quirkiness, it’s hard not to like this film. The scenes move so quickly and the locations and people are interesting enough, that you don’t have time to get hung up on bits of awkward dialog, occasional stiff acting, and the abandoned murder investigation (don’t worry, all loose ends get sewn up at the end). It’s not a perfect movie, but it should keep you happily engaged. We give The Crimson Kimono 3.5 out 5 fedoras.

3.5 Fedoras

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