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Kino on Video presents

The Red Kimona (1925)

"This is a true story. Much of it is on record in the Superior Court of California. If it contains bitter truths, remember that I only turn the pages of the past."- Mrs. Wallace Reid (herself)

Stars: Pricilla Bonner, Tyrone Power Sr., Mrs. Wallace Reid, Theodore von Eltz, Virginia Pearson, George Siegmann
Director: Walter Lang and Mrs Wallace Reid

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for adult themes, gun violence
Run Time: 01h:17m:00s
Release Date: 2008-04-22
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer


DVD Review

Another installment in Kino's "Early Women Filmmakers" series, The Red Kimona (sic) features a film spearheaded by Dorothy Reid (billed here as the rather unfeminist Mrs. Wallace Reid) and written by Adela Rogers St. John, from a story by Dorothy Arzner. Reid produced the film, and though the box art lists her as a co-director, she is not given onscreen credit. Reid also appears in a framing device to tell the story of the film, placing herself as an agent of change, given the topic of the film.

The Red Kimona based its tale on the true story of Gabrielle Darley, a one-time prostitute who murdered the man who led her astray. In the film, we meet Gabrielle (Priscilla Bonner) a New Orleans prostitute lamenting the disappearance of boyfriend/pimp Howard (Carl Miller). Tracking him to Los Angeles, she finds him buying an engagement ring for another woman, snaps, and shoots him. At the ensuing trial, we learn what brought Gabrielle to this point: picked up by Howard in her small town, she is quickly seduced by his charming ways, never mind her loveless family, who are only too happy to one less mouth to feed when she leaves. Lover boy Howard quickly begins pimping her once they reach New Orleans, which naive Gabrielle endures and eventually accepts, until Howard's eventual betrayal. Her subsequent attempts to lead an honest life run into the heartlessness of the times, where getting a second chance proves crushingly difficult.

As a character, Gabrielle doesn't especially shine, aside from the early sequence in which she kills Howard. There, Bonner excels, especially in her acting after the murder, where she demonstrates a fading grasp on reality very well. Since the film's goal is education rather than pure entertainment, character development appears to be less of a concern. Still, the direction is quite fine, best in the race against time final sequence, where Gabrielle's descent back into prostitution seems assured, unless suitor Freddie (Theodore von Eltz) can reach her in time. At 77 minutes, the film moves along quite well, building to a satisfying ending (prior to more sermonzing by Reid). Some attempts at injecting religion (describing Gabrielle as a modern-day Mary Magdalen) do fall flat though.

This film has an interesting side story; the film trumpeted its basis in fact, using the story of the real Gabrielle to teach its lesson, but Mrs. Reid neglected, or simply didn't bother, to find out if the real life Gabrielle wanted her story to be paraded across the screen, especially as she had started a new life. Gabrielle sued Reid, leading to an important early decision in privacy law. I learned about this only through doing some background research; it seems the ideal thing to have added a few text screens about on the disc, but alas.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Though a bit soft, the transfer looks acceptable, with the film suffering from relatively few major defects. Certain shots feature hand-tinting, which comes across as garishly, as was no doubt intended.

Image Transfer Grade: B

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0music onlyno

Audio Transfer Review: The engaging piano score is in 2.0, and it's perfectly fine.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+ 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 6 cues and remote access
Packaging: unmarked keepcase
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: Zilch.

Extras Grade: F

Final Comments

A thoroughly entertaining melodrama, The Red Kimona fulfills its didactic purpose yet steers clear of preachiness. The DVD from Kino is fine if unexceptional.

Jeff Wilson 2008-04-28