Samuel Fuller’s The Crimson Kimono (1959) is a lesser- known film during the filmmaker’s most active period, and one that can hold its own alongside the best of his output such as Pickup on South Street (1953), Shock Corridor (1963) and The Naked Kiss (1964). The film centers around two detectives, Joe Kojaku (James Shigeta) and Charlie Bancroft (Glenn Corbett) investigating the murder of stripping sensation Sugar Torch. Historically speaking, it is most famous for being filmed on location in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo—a rarity for its time—and the footage’s journalistic grit still emanates strongly. It is this attention to detail that most concerns Fuller, whose attitude towards the plot can only be described as ambivalent: often it seems as though the director is saying (while chomping on a cigar), “We all know the story, so let’s just get on with it.” This fast-paced, elliptical style of filmmaking was clearly an influence on the French New Wave films such as Breathless (1960) and Shoot the Piano Player (1960), films that echo Fuller’s fondness for eschewing logicality and patience for tabloid-like sensationalism. The Crimson Kimono pulses like a hot item coming over the wire, straight to the press with no time wasted on any after thoughts.
Cullen Gallagher is a Brooklyn-based writer, musician, and curator whose work has appeared in The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Life Sentence, Moving Image Source, Bright Lights Film Journal, Beat to a Pulp, NoirCon, Crimefactory, Film Comment, The L Magazine, The Brooklyn Rail, Fandor, Not Coming to a Theater Near You, Hammer to Nail, Spinetingler, Between Lavas, Reverse Shot, and Guitar Review. He records instrumental music as Modern Silent Cinema and plays in the hardcore band Night Squad.