Saturday, August 01, 2020
The Crimson Kimono
Written and directed by Samuel Fuller, The Crimson Kimono is the story of two detectives who go on a case to solve the murder of an entertainer as they get involved in a love triangle with a key witness as one of the detectives is Japanese. The film is a noir-style suspense film that play into a murder mystery as well as a taboo relationship between a white woman and an Asian detective. Starring James Shigeta, Glenn Corbett, Victoria Shaw, and Anna Lee. The Crimson Kimono is a chilling yet intense film from Samuel Fuller.
The film revolves around the murder of a stripper in Los Angeles near the Little Tokyo area where a Japanese-American detective and his white partner are tasked to solve the case while they both engage into a love triangle with a key witness. It’s a film with a simple premise that plays into two men trying to solve a case as it involves characters in Little Tokyo as well as the taboo subject of interracial relationships. Samuel Fuller’s screenplay is straightforward in its narrative yet it is more about characters dealing with this case and why this stripper was killed. It is filled with some stylish dialogue as it play into the language of film noir while it also showcases some of the banter between the detectives in Detective Sgt. Charlie Bancroft (Glenn Corbett) and Detective Joe Kojaku (James Shigeta). The two would gain a key witness in a student-artist in Christine Downes (Victoria Shaw) as it would lead into an attraction from both men yet Detective Kojaku would hide his feelings fearing that his pursuit of Downes would lead to all sorts of trouble.
Fuller’s direction does have elements of style in the compositions he creates yet he aims for realism as he shoots the film on location in Los Angeles with the section of Little Tokyo being its centerpiece as well as a major character in the film. Fuller’s usage of wide and medium shots doesn’t just play into the vast locations of Little Tokyo but also in some of the conversations such as a scene where a witness is interrogated while Bancroft is in the background and Kojaku is shown from the mirror listening with the witness in the foreground. It’s among some of the most inventive bits of direction that Fuller has created while he also manages to create simple compositions including some close-ups that play into the conversations and interaction between the characters. Fuller’s direction also play into this world of Japanese-American relations in the aftermath of World War II with Kojaku feeling like he’s not fully accepted while the idea of him being with someone like Downes would only cause trouble.
Fuller also dwells into the world of Little Tokyo where it is this section in Los Angeles where Japanese-Americans pay tribute to the traditions of their home country as well as create a united front with the Americans as a form of peace. Yet, Kojaku feels like it could be ruined in being with someone like Downes as he would also start to feel like he’s a liability to the case as it relates to people involved in Little Tokyo. Especially as it play into a kimono that the stripper was going to wear for a show as it serves as a motive for why she was killed. It would play into its climax in the third act as it relates to the kimono but also the mystery of who killed this stripper and why as it would be followed by revelations for Kojaku about his own identity and how people see him. Overall, Fuller crafts a gripping yet compelling film about a Japanese-American detective and his white partner solving a murder while falling for their witness.
Cinematographer Sam Leavitt does brilliant work with the film’s black-and-white photography as it play into the look of the film with some stylish usage of shadows for some interior scenes at night as well as lights for the exterior scenes at night. Editor Jerome Thoms does excellent work with the editing as it has some style in some of the rhythmic cuts that play into some of the dialogue exchange as well as in some of the suspenseful moments in the film. Art directors Robert F. Boyle and William Flannery, with set decorator James Crowe, do fantastic work with the look of the apartment that Kojaku and Bancroft live in as well as a few places in its interior in Little Tokyo.
Costume designer Bernice Pontrelli does nice work with the costumes from the design of the crimson kimono as well as some of the clothes the women wear as well as the clothes of the stripper. The sound work of J.S. Westmoreland is superb for its atmosphere in capturing natural sound on actual locations as well as the sounds of gunshots. The film’s music by Harry Sukman is wonderful for its soaring orchestral score that feature some somber yet elegant themes emphasized by strings as well as some traditional Japanese instrumental passages based on strings and percussions.
The film’s marvelous ensemble cast feature some notable small roles from Kaye Elhardt as a nun living in Little Tokyo, George Yoshinaga as a local hood in Willy Hidaka, Gloria Pall as the stripper Sugar Torch, Neyle Morrow as an admirer of Sugar Torch in Hansel, Paul Dubov as a witness/admirer of Sugar Torch who saw her get shot, and Jaclynne Greene as the wigmaker Roma. Anna Lee is amazing as Mac as a local artist and friend of Bancroft and Kojaku who likes to drink and have fun but also a keen observer in the way the two men see Downes as she just steals the film whenever she appears. Victoria Shaw is excellent as Christine Downes as a student artist who is also a key witness due to her sketches as she deals with being attracted to both Bancroft and Kojaku. Glenn Corbett is brilliant as Detective Sgt. Charlie Bancroft as a white detective who takes part in the investigation as he falls for Downes yet becomes aware of Kojaku’s feelings for her as he tries not to create trouble in order to finish the case. Finally, there’s James Shigeta in an incredible performance as Detective Joe Kojaku as a Japanese-American detective who also investigates as he asks locals in Little Tokyo about what is going on as he also copes with his feelings for Downes but is troubled by the prejudice that might occur.
The Crimson Kimono is a sensational film from Samuel Fuller that features great performances from James Shigeta, Glenn Corbett, Victoria Shaw, and Anna Lee. Along with its vibrant visuals, study of racial prejudice and interracial romance, sumptuous music score, and an inventive screenplay. The film is an offbeat noir film that plays with its conventions while exploring some taboos at that time that played into racial prejudice and the idea of interracial romance. In the end, The Crimson Kimono is a phenomenal film from Samuel Fuller.
Samuel Fuller Films: I Shot Jesse James - The Baron of Arizona - The Steel Helmet - Fixed Bayonets! - Park Row - Pickup on South Street - (Hell and High Water) – House of Bamboo - (China Gate) - Run of the Arrow - Forty Guns - Verboten! - Underworld U.S.A. - Merrill's Marauders - Shock Corridor - The Naked Kiss - (Shark!) - (Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street) – The Big Red One - White Dog - (Thieves After Dark) - (Street of No Return) - (The Madonna and the Dragon)
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