Plot: What’s it about?
As you may already know, I am a big fan of the Twilight Time distribution label. They specialize in releasing films on Blu-Ray from studio catalogs with pristine transfers that the big studios have no interest in releasing. This is why the name of their label is Twilight Time, because the time for physical media seems to be coming to an end. I am lucky enough to be acquainted with these gentlemen (Brian Jamieson and Nick Redman) through correspondence, and I am constantly excited with their decisions on what they decide to put out. They are the exclusive home of numerous films by Woody Allen, Francois Truffaut, Oliver Stone, and many others. One of the directors that they have been pioneering in the new format is maverick director Samuel Fuller. Samuel Fuller is an interesting director. He was very prolific, writing numerous television shows and films. The reason that people return to his films time and time again is his loose ability to stylize what can best be described as B-movies – noir films with a little bit of exploitation and lots of big ideas. Twilight Time’s recent release of The Crimson Kimono fits right in with Criterion’s releases of The Naked Kiss and Shock Corridor and Twilight Time’s release of House of Bamboo.
The Crimson Kimono revolves around two policeman in Los Angeles, Detective Sargeant Charlie Bancroft (Glenn Corbett) and Detective Joe Kojaku (James Shigeta.) They are more than partners, best friends that saved each other’s lives in the big war. When a dancer named Sugar Torch is murdered, the men descend on the case. The only clue is a bullet in a painting. To unwrap the mystery of who killed her, the men will need to engross themselves in Japanese areas of Los Angeles. Along the way, both men begin to fall in live with a painter named Christine (Victoria Shaw.)
This film is quintessential Sam Fuller. It is a noir film that seems like it would be a police procedural, but it is really about love, friendship, and Japanese identity after World War II in America. It must have taken some balls for Sam Fuller to make the hero of his film an Asian American so soon after Japan and America had been to war. The actors in the film are all perfectly cast. Glenn Corbett is great as the All-American Boy Scout cop, but the real standout is the fantastic James Shigeta (audiences will remember him best from his role in Die Hard.) Watching a Sam Fuller film is always an experience. Nobody in real life talks like characters in a Sam Fuller film, and the plots are always a bit over the top. How many films from the Fifties have two policemen fight in the Kendo style. At first, I had trouble understanding what the draw to a Sam Fuller film was, but as I continue to make my way through his films, I am starting to find the real enjoyment to be had. I think this film would be an excellent introduction for any newcomer.
Video: How’s it look?
Twilight Time is working with a new transfer of the film using an MPEG 4 AVC codec of a new 2K restoration. This new transfer was sourced from Sony working with the original black and white Columbia film negatives. Sony is incredibly adept at restoring films, and this is another sterling example of that. Clarity is excellent. I did not notice any lingering issues, even though the film has numerous darker scenes. This transfer is essentially blemish free. A job well done.
Audio: How’s it sound?
Twilight Time have provided a very capable DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 track that has excellent clarity and fidelity to the original elements. Given that it is a Mono Track, there is not much in the way of immersion. That said, the dialogue is crystal clear and I did not detect any excessive hiss or dropouts in the audio. Fans will be pleased.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Sam Fuller: Storyteller – Martin Scorsese, Tim Robbins, Curtis Hanson, Christa Fuller, Wim Wenders, and Samantha Fuller discuss Sam Fuller’s early life and film career. I love features like this one and enjoyed their anecdotes about the man. Very enjoyable.
- Curtis Hanson: Culture of the Crimson Kimono – The late great director Curtis Hanson (L.A. Confidential) discusses the features of The Crimson Kimono that make it distinctly a Sam Fuller film. Short but sweet.
- Theatrical Trailers – Two 35mm trailers accompany a 16mm.
The Bottom Line
The Crimson Kimono is an extremely entertaining and fun addition to Twilight Time’s already fantastic lineup. Sam Fuller was an incredibly interesting guy, and the supplemental features provide illuminating glimpses into his process. The transfer is impeccable. I would recommend beginning with this Sam Fuller film and then working your way through the rest. With each film I watch from him, I grow in appreciation of how different his films really were. Recommended.