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THE CRIMSON KIMONO (1959 ) BLU-RAY REVIEW

Saturday, August 5th, 2017

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Stars – James Shigeta, Glenn Corbett, Anna Lee, Victoria Shaw
Director – Samuel Fuller * Reviewed by Steven Ruskin

Released by Twilight Time
Limited edition of 3,000 Units
Available at Screenarchives.com and Twilighttimemovies.com

Sam Fuller takes on a lot with this movie. There is the story of a stripper who gets shot down on the streets. She is in her full stage costume running between cars at night when she falls. We learn a lot about Sugar Torch and the act she was working on with a karate man smashing bricks before she begins to peel off her geisha styled kimono. Then there are the two cops assigned to the case, played wonderfully by James Shigeta (Bridge to the Sun) and Glenn Corbett (Route 66, Chisum), These detectives are very tight. The easy going banter between them feels like any number of later day buddy cop pictures. Shigeta in particular has a very natural style. Another character is the alcoholic painter who likes to throw beer on her paintings. Though very kooky she’s like the wise older relative to Corbett who gets advice from her. While there are compelling trips inside Little Tokyo in Los Angeles and quite a bit of time devoted to aspects of the culture there it is Victoria Shaw as Chris the attractive art student witness that sets the film on its main course.

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Both detectives fall for Chris but she falls for James Shigeta. Shigeta has a very tough time with this. He thinks his partner resents him but more for his love crossing a taboo racial line than simply winning the girl. Fuller drills down on this deep seated case of reverse racism. We can feel that the Japanese detective is uncomfortable with this from any number of angles. It certainly was not the kind of thing that movies openly dealt with then. Fuller was always one to confront racism and injustice. The theme of people mistakenly judging others frequently comes up in his films. There was the hooker trying to start her life anew in The Naked Kiss (1964). His film White Dog (1982) which dealt with a dog that was taught to attack black people was left unreleased for many years due to a misinformed backlash from groups that judged it without even seeing it. Sam Fuller also will pick up a blow torch to make his point when a match would have gotten the job done. Sometimes he makes his points with a sledgehammer swinging it like Thor against injustice. While the spirit is admirable it sometimes mars the flow of his films and sticks out a bit too much. On the other hand that is who he is, like it or not.

For a film that seems to only have a few interiors there is a tremendous amount of detail to be seen. There is an intriguing collection of porcelain figures in the detectives’ shared apartment. Later on in the film we see dozens of these intricately made dolls encased in glass cases filling a set. We even see how they are made and the woman who specializes in wigs for them. Fuller takes us inside a few dojo to see men practicing judo and karate. There are posters in these schools and in the detectives’ apartment advertising various kendo tournaments. One of the highlights in the film is the kendo fencing match between the two detectives. It is highly ritualized match that gets out of hand when one of them begins to actually attack the other. What at first looks like a shocking clash of cultures and races between a white man and Japanese man turns out to be two very good friends getting so far beyond words that only combat can express what one of them feels. It’s a powerful scene and the one in which everything in the film comes together.

The Crimson Kimono works on a lot of levels. It begins as a Noir-ish tale of a stripper being killed on the street but it ends with another woman being killed on the same street, and by then it has become several others kinds of pictures. Too much? Probably. But amidst the immersion in the Japanese culture hidden in Little Tokyo Sam Fuller mangers to get in a story about two buddies whose friendship is tested by a kind of racism that cuts deep.

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Video – 1.85:1
Much of this black and white picture looks wonderful. The way the painting fills in during the opening credits is a delight. There are occasional bits that fall short but nothing at all that stands in the way. Fuller does some interesting compositions that will leave wanting to hit the pause button for a sustained look. As noted by Curtis Hanson in the extras he moves his camera more than you might notice at first. There is one bit where the cameraman backs into a restaurant or hotel allowing the actors to move from the street to the interior in one continuous take.

Audio – DTS-HD 1.0 with subtitles offered in English SDH
All dialogue sounds fine and is easy to follow.

Extras – Twilight Time’s signature isolated music track , Sam Fuller Storyteller, Curtis Hanson: The Culture of The Crimson Kimono ,Original trailer

The extras are ported over from the Samuel Fuller Collection DVD set. Curtis Hanson who saw Fuller regularly at one time reveals some fun interactions that show off what a great storyteller Fuller was. We get a good sense of his background, too. Both of these extras are top notch and must see.

On a scale of Poor, Fair, Good, Excellent, Classic:

Blu-Ray – Excellent

Movie – Good / Excellent

In Like Flint (1967) Blu-Ray Review

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

Stars: James Coburn, Lee J. Cobb, Jean Hale, Andrew Duggan, Anna Lee, Steve Ihnat
Director: Gordon Douglas
Released by Twilight Time
Limited Edition of 3,000 Units

Available at Screenarchives.com

Reviewed by Steven Ruskin

Right from the start In Like Flint leans far more into the camp territory than its predecessor, Our Man Flint (1965). We still get that same cool character Derek Flint, but this time he takes a little longer to make his entrance and the set up is truly wacky. While a spaceship launch is being hijacked a la James Bond we’re introduced to a cabal of the world’s most powerful women. This consortium is ensconced in a secret island hideaway. We see a trio of women who all wear the very latest in fashion and a collection of hats that are truly eye catching. These women control the fashion industry, cosmetics and publishing. Their influence is international. Through tape recorders secreted in hairdryers in beauty salons they have been slowly indoctrinating the women of the world. If all goes according to plan they will take over the earth.

When they kidnap the President of the United States on a golf course and replace him with an actor under their control their plan is reaching the finish line. However it turns out that the head of Z.OW.I.E. Lloyd Cramden was on the links with the big guy when the switch happened and he suspects something is amiss. Lee J. Cobb reprises his role as the continually flustered and put upon chief. Who’s he gonna call? Flint, of course. James Coburn is still his groovy grinning self. This time out when we meet him he is deep in conversation with dolphins. He flies to Moscow to dance in a ballet. Who else but Coburn would pull this stuff off? He looks great in that red and black outfit dancing on stage with all the Russian Ballerinas. The colors in this Blu-Ray are so bold and vibrant that the sequence becomes electric. There is another bit later on where Flint has to sneak into the secret island compound. He walks through a large underground steam bath that is cloaked in deep red hues with tantalizing silhouettes of women and carefully placed towels along the edges. Not only is the color breathtaking but there is genuine depth to the sequence. It is easy to get seduced by the look of the film.

The action scenes play out nicely. James Coburn handles his fight scenes with finesse and a lithe athleticism few other actors could bring to the role. Jerry Goldsmtih’s music is effervescent and very catchy. The costumes, as in the first one, reflect the cutting edge of fashion and revel in that mod look. However the plot line has all the depth of an episode of Batman, the TV series. At times it feels like an elongated Wild Wild West adventure. That can be fun but at 114 minutes it is just too long and overstays its welcome. The success of the Flint series gave Coburn the box office muscle to call his own shots and the first picture he used his new found power to put into production was The President’s Analyst (1967). That was a far richer satire than this. It was more subversive and had a stronger bite to the humor. However you can see Coburn stepping easily from one role to the other taking that same devilish grin and fashion sense with him.

In Like Flint is easily seen as the lesser of the two Flint films. However it still has plenty of charm. As with the first one the production design and overall look of the film will effortlessly draw you in. The bizarre hats, the wild costumes, the powerful colors and the various locations all play out beautifully. Once you’ve seen the first one it’s impossible not to take another bite. Derek Flint is a character that is so much fun to spend time with. His gadgets, his impossibly easy way with women, his world class achievements are all carried with the ease with which one would casually throw a jacket over your shoulders and grin.

Video – 2.35:1
This is eye candy from the top shelf. Right from the Bond inspired credits you’ll be seduced. Detail is strong. Black levels are deep. Colors are powerful and vibrant throughout. A few sequences like the Moscow Ballet and underground steam bath are absolute stand outs for color resolution. They bring out the very best that the Blu-Ray medium has to offer.

Audio – English 5.1 DTS HD and English 1.0 DTS HD. Subtitles are offered in English SDH.
Jerry Goldsmith’s score just shines here. Like the first one we can hear little bits of his themes interwoven into incidental music at the most fun places. It’s amusing to spot them. All dialogue is represented well including the rich tones of Coburn’s lines. He gets that undercoating of bass that feel like it does in the big movie theaters. That’s one of the nicest benefits of a well mixed track. The mono track is rightfully preserved for the purists while the new 5.1 track gives ample room for Goldsmith’s score to showboat and strut a bit.

Extras – Twilight Time’s signature isolated track. Like the other TT Flint this one is also loaded with features ported over from the previously released DVD box set
Commentary with Film Historians Lee Pfeiffer and Eddy Friedfeld , Derek Flint: The Secret Files, James Coburn: The Man Beyond the Spy, Designing Flint, Flint vs Zanuck: The Missing 3 Minutes, Take it Off, Puerto Rico Premiere, Future Perfect, Feminine Wiles, Spy School, Musician’s Magician, Spy Vogue, Screen Test and Trailers.

On a scale of Poor, Fair, Good, Excellent, Classic

Blu-Ray – Excellent

Movie – Good