The Crimson Kimono

The Crimson Kimono is a 1959 film noir directed by Samuel Fuller. The film stars James Shigeta, Glenn Corbett and Victoria Shaw.[1]

The Crimson Kimono
Theatrical release poster
Directed bySamuel Fuller
Produced bySamuel Fuller
Screenplay bySamuel Fuller
StarringVictoria Shaw
Glenn Corbett
James Shigeta
Music byHarry Sukman
CinematographySam Leavitt
Edited byJerome Thoms
Globe Enterprises
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
October 1959
Running time
82 minutes
CountryUnited States

It featured several ahead-of-its-time ideas about race and society's perception of race, a thematic and stylistic trademark of Fuller.

The film is essentially about two cops, friends and Korean War veterans, Detective Joe Kojaku (James Shigeta) and Detective Sgt. Charlie Bancroft (Glenn Corbett), who attempt to solve the murder of a local entertainer. A love triangle soon develops between a key witness, Christine Downes (Victoria Shaw), and the two principal leads.


A stripper runs out onto a Los Angeles street in the Little Tokyo district, in a state of undress, mortally wounded by a gunshot. Police detectives Joe Kojaku and Charlie Bancroft, partners and bachelors who share an apartment, are assigned to the case. They find portraits of the stripper, known as Sugar Torch, dressed in a kimono as a geisha, apparently preparing a Japanese-themed act.

The cops search for a man who had been helping the stripper with her act. They interview a student artist, Christine Downes, who draws a sketch of the man for them, and Charlie develops a romantic attraction to her. They meet a man named Hansel who did the portrait of the dead woman and a wigmaker, Roma, who provided the wig for the stage act.

Joe worries for Christine's safety, that her sketch could result in the killer coming after her. He, too, begins to fall for Chris, and the interest is mutual. Charlie's facial reaction makes Joe believe that he resents the multi-racial nature of the relationship. Joe aggressively attacks Charlie during a martial-arts competition, then decides to quit the force, disillusioned after having felt for so long that his partner was free of this kind of racial bias. Charlie confronts Joe, telling him that the look he saw on his face was a flash of hatred for the envy and betrayal he felt towards Joe and his relationship with Chris, and was not racism. Joe doesn't believe him.

A shot is taken at Christine, and it is assumed Hansel is the man behind the killings. It instead turns out to be Roma, who considered the stripper a threat to her relationship with Hansel because of a look that Hansel gave Sugar Torch. Joe relates this to Charlie, and realizes that just as Roma saw what she wanted in Hansel's face, Joe projected his own struggles with racism onto Charlie. Joe asks Charlie if they can still be partners, and Charlie tells him no, that he will always have bad feelings about Joe and Chris. The movie ends with Joe and Chris embracing.



The Academy Film Archive preserved The Crimson Kimono in 1998.[2]


Critical response

The Crimson Kimono was met with critical acclaim. The film scored a perfect rating of 100% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 5 reviews.[3]

The staff at Variety magazine said of the film, "The mystery melodrama part of the film gets lost during the complicated romance, and the racial tolerance plea is cheapened by its inclusion in a film of otherwise straight action...The three principals bring credibility to their roles, not too easy during moments when belief is stretched considerably. Anna Lee, Paul Dubov, Jaclynne Green and Neyle Morrow are prominent in the supporting cast."[4]

The critics of Time Out magazine wrote of "Fuller developing his theme of urban alienation: landscape, culture and sexual confusion are all juxtaposed, forcing the Japanese-born detective (who, along with his buddy, is on the hunt for a burlesque queen murderer) into a nightmare of isolation and jealousy. Some fine set pieces - like the disciplined Kendo fight that degenerates into sadistic anarchy - and thoughtful camera-work serve to illustrate Fuller's gift for weaving a poetic nihilism out of his journalistic vision of urban crime."[5]

More recently, Ed Gonzales of Slant Magazine liked the film and wrote, "The opening is a triumph of grungy lyricism achieved through snaky cutting and blunt compositions: Sugar Torch (Gloria Pall), a stripper, is shot to death in the middle of a Los Angeles street after witnessing a murder inside her dressing room. The tenor of the film oscillates between tight-fisted noir and chamber drama, but the theme is always the same: cultural and romantic unrest. ... Fuller's feat is giving the film's nonstop interrogations, meetings and confrontations profound racial and political meaning."[6]

See also


  1. The Crimson Kimono on IMDb.
  2. "Preserved Projects". Academy Film Archive.
  3. "The Crimson Kimono". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved March 25, 2014.
  4. Variety. Film review. Last accessed: December 3, 2009.
  5. "The Crimson Kimono". Time Out London. Retrieved 25 March 2014.
  6. Gonzales, Ed. Slant Magazine, 2006. Last accessed: December 30, 2009.
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