Crimson Kimono, The (1959)

Crimson Kimono, The (1959)

“You can’t feel for me unless you are me.”

After the mysterious murder of a stripper (Gloria Pall) in Los Angeles, a Japanese-American detective (James Shigeta) and his partner (Glenn Corbett) both fall for an artist (Victoria Shaw) who has sketched an image of a suspect — but would an inter-racial relationship between Shigeta and Shaw be considered “acceptable”?

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Anna Lee Films
  • Artists
  • Asian Americans
  • Cross-Cultural Romance
  • Detectives and Private Eyes
  • Los Angeles
  • Love Triangle
  • Murder Mystery
  • Race Relations and Racism
  • Sam Fuller Films

As Peary notes, this “Sam Fuller film dealing with racism and the clash between American and Asian cultures” covers “familiar Fuller themes,” and is “ahead of its time.” He points out that it “has some exciting visuals” — including “the murder of the stripper on an LA street (Fuller didn’t inform the public that a film was being made):”

… and “the smashingly edited poolroom fight.”

However, he adds that “some terrific, offbeat dialogue is mixed with embarrassingly trite dialogue,” and argues that the film “suffers because of Shaw, certainly Fuller’s dullest, most proper heroine” (I disagree).

Peary writes that “one doubts that the two men, who’ve been around, would quickly fall for her at the expense of their friendship,” but this seems beside the point: they both do fall for her, and she for them, and entanglements ensue.

What emerges — including “feelings of paranoia… within Shigeta,” who “comes to believe that Shaw and Corbett harbor racist feelings toward him” — is of significant interest, and propels the narrative. I also disagree with Peary that “on the plus side are the supporting players, including Corbett’s cigar-smoking, bourbon-guzzling artist friend, Anna Lee”, who consistently overplays her alcoholic character:

Regardless of its flaws, however, this film is unique and bold enough to remain well worth a look. (Though I do have one question: what’s with all the apple eating?)

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Atmospheric cinematography

  • Excellent use of location shooting in L.A.
  • Intriguing glimpses of mid-century Japanese-American culture

Must See?
Yes, as an unusual outing by a maverick director.


  • Important Director


One thought on “Crimson Kimono, The (1959)

  1. Agreed. This is yet another Fuller flick that film fanatics should know; largely for its subject matter but also for Shigeta’s performance.

    I’ve seen this one maybe 4 or 5 times to date. Yes, it’s somewhat flawed (more than is usual for a Fuller movie) and, yes, Ms. Lee overdoes it. But the overriding worth of the film shines through.

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