Pairing wine with movies! See the trailers and hear the fascinating commentary for these movies and many more at Trailers From Hell. I awoke to news that some 70 million bottles of Italian wine are being turned into hand sanitizer. This pandemic, before it’s all over, may reduce me to pairing alcohol gel with movies.
This week’s offerings are three films by Samuel Fuller, with whom I share a last name. There is no DNA trace here – about which I am aware – so I have no stories about ol’ uncle Sammy misbehaving after downing too much Beaujolais Nouveau at Thanksgiving dinners. We do, however, have a celluloid history of his penchant for making movies on topics many other filmmakers wouldn’t touch.
In the 1959 noir classic The Crimson Kimono, Fuller takes on the relationship between race and romance. Two L.A. cops both fall for the same girl in Little Tokyo, and she chooses the one who happens to be of Japanese descent. That was Fuller’s hallmark, the choice of material that made mainstream Hollywood – and mainstream America – uncomfortable.
The film’s one-sheet leans into the titillation factor – “a beautiful American girl in the arms of a Japanese boy” – and wonders what his “strange appeal” is for American women. The movie can only be seen in an anachronistic light now, possibly partly because of its impact. The two cops are friends – roommates, even – but friction develops between them when the white cop doesn’t like the idea of the girl going for the Asian guy.
Now, a wine pairing for The Crimson Kimono. It’s a shame that Open Kimono wines – a Washington Riesling and a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc – appear to be unavailable now. You can try a sake – basically rice wine, but it’s brewed – or something with more of a Los Angeles connection. For years, the Wilson building on Wilshire at La Brea had a huge ad sign on its roof for Asahi beer. It is a very film-friendly brew.
1952’s Park Row has been mentioned as a low-budget Citizen Kane due to its newspaper-based storyline. While it’s scale wasn’t as grand as that of the Welles classic, it was about two competing newspapers, and it was in black and white.
The volume of booze which could be put away by those known back in the day as “newspapermen” is the stuff of legends. I knew of an ink-slinger who used to get his liquor store bill at the newspaper office each month. On the envelope, the merchant had written, “Pay me, mother****er” for all to see. Rather than shaming him, it was a sort of badge of courage for the colorful writer, whose reputation was built on such instances.
Those bills were no doubt for hard liquor, so any readily available bourbon would go nicely with a movie about the newspaper business. There is also a British company which packages in a gift box a vintage Bordeaux alongside an old newspaper. I’m not kidding about that. However, if you’re looking to make headlines, there’s Headline Wines. The line is aimed at the age group who may not have ever actually read a newspaper, but know that wine comes in cans and boxes now.
1959’s Verboten! is in Fuller’s wheelhouse. It’s a war movie, dubya dubya two. It’s about as subtle as a fist in the face, and that is for the best when telling a story of Nazi Germany. The title came from the pages of the U.S. Army code of conduct, which forbade the fraternization of U.S. soldiers and German women. The story revolves around a love triangle involving a G.I., a German woman and a former German soldier who didn’t quite get the memo that the war was over.
“Verboten” means “forbidden” in German. In Spanish it’s “prohibito,” “interdit” in French and “zakazana” in Polish. Someone, somewhere, probably translates the title as “oh no you don’t, not with her.” Paul Anka croons the theme song from the movie: “Verboten, verboten, our love is verboten…” I don’t recall hearing that on American Bandstand.
Colorado’s Verboten Brewing takes its name from the “forbidden” ingredients rejected by the German Purity Law for beer. As for a wine pairing, make it a Riesling, the German export that Angela Merkel is heavily involved in pushing right now. Doctor Heidemanns ”Blitz” Riesling translates as “lightning,” by the way.