The Crimson Kimono is a classic film noir from writer and director Samuel Fuller. Fuller is an interesting artist that tackled some interesting topics and pushed the boundaries with his films and this one is no different.
Glen Corbett and James Shigeta play police detectives. Not only are these two partners, but also best friends. They even live in the same apartment and have fought side by side in the war. Corbett plays white detective Charlie Bancroft while Shigeta is Japanese detective Joe Kojaku. This film was released in 1959 and I don’t know if this is the first buddy cop film with a white police officer and a minority partner, but it has to be one of the earliest.
This film starts out with a stripper being shot and killed in the street. When a painting of the stripper in her dressing room is also shot and the only lead to the case, our two detectives track down the artist. Victoria Shaw plays Chris, the artist of the painting. When both of our detectives fall in love with the lovely Chris and Chris falls in love with Joe Kojaku, the drama starts. Will our heroes be distracted by Chris? Will they solve the murder?
Fuller dives into the Japanese culture in this film with a lot of Japanese martial arts being highlighted as well as a Japanese community parade. The big topic this film tackles is a biracial relationship. I liked how the criminal motives and Joe’s inner struggles parallel each other. The pull of love over friendship as well as Joe trying to figure out what is right and what is wrong for him and those he cares about is well portrayed.
Fuller was a pioneer in many ways in this film, taking themes and subject matter like martial arts, minority cultures and interracial relationships and using them in a story line. Common themes we almost expect in films today, but in 1959 this had to be new to the audience.
I like this film overall, but felt the love triangle was rushed or forced at first. This could be because of editing or budget and time constraints on the film. An interesting film for those looking for for something unique to watch and fans of Fuller.