Crimson Kimono, The (1959): Samuel Fuller’s Crime Noir with Liberal Racial Message

Samuel Fuller directed The Crimson Kimono, a film noir with a liberal racial message, starring James Shigeta, Glenn Corbett and Victoria Shaw.

The tale concerns two cops, friends and Korean War veterans, Asian American 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 white key witness, Christine Downes (Victoria Shaw), and the two principal leads.

A stripper runs out in the Little Tokyo district, mortally wounded by a gunshot. Police detectives Joe Kojaku and Charlie Bancroft, partners and friends, are assigned to the case. They find portraits of the stripper, known as Sugar Torch, dressed in a kimono as a geisha, while preparing a Japanese-themed act.

In the end, Joe realizes that he had projected his own struggles with racism onto Charlie.

After arresting the killer, Joe asks Charlie if they can still be partners, to which the response is negative.

The movie ends with the interracial couple of Joe and Christine embracing.

James Shigeta as Detective Joe Kojaku
Glenn Corbett as Detective Sgt. Charlie Bancroft
Victoria Shaw as Christine Downes
Anna Lee as Mac
Paul Dubov as Casale
Jaclynne Greene as Roma
Neyle Morrow as Hansel
Gloria Pall as Sugar Torch
Pat Silver as Mother
George Yoshinaga as Willy Hidaka
Kaye Elhardt as Nun


Produced, directed, written by Samuel Fuller
Music by Harry Sukman
Cinematography Sam Leavitt
Edited by Jerome Thoms
Production company: Globe Enterprises
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date October 1959
Running time: 82 minutes


TCM showed the movie May 13, 2020.