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THE F*CKING BLACK SHEEP: The Shadow (1994)

May. 26, 2011by: Ryan Doom

THE BLACK SHEEP is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATH. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Dig in!

The Shadow (1994)
Directed by Russell Mulcahy

“Baldwin brings it here, showing that he could have been Batman.”

Comic book movies are a funny thing. And I don’t mean that they were once called funny books. No, no. They’ve always been around, but suddenly it’s the top tier form of entertainment on the big screen. A-list casts. A-list directors. They are the summer blockbusters as there’s nothing else (well, minus Twilight and Harry P) that counts as an event flick. Obviously, however, this wasn’t always the case. Back in the last century (1989 to be exact), Tim Burton gave birth to this new genre (I’m not counting Superman because he was the only game in town for a decade) and every studio tried to cash in. Few succeed until the 2000’s.

Funny thing though (again, no pun intended), studios suddenly thought old pulp characters was gonna be bigger than January Jones’ ego (see TMZ). Maybe it was the “gothic” setting of Gotham that studios thought was the trick, but regardless, if it looked like the 1930s, studios made it. The Phantom, Dick Tracy, Rocketeer, and The Shadow. And of those, the one that’s been unfairly ignored and forgotten is The Shadow. Yes, before Alec Baldwin hawked credit cards, called his daughter a pig, and made millions laugh on NBC, dude was the next big action star. Huge hit with Hunt for Red October. Carried big, respectable flicks like Married to the Mob. He was the guy most thought should have been Batman, so it only made sense to hand him a franchise that had survived in radio, books, and comics for roughly 60 years. Problem was that no one cared about the movie. The thing flopped, earning about $32 million in the States.

Boom…forgotten. Franchise dead. In fact, while he never stopped working, Baldwin only had minor hits here and there after The Shadow. Point, you ask? Well, don’t blame The Shadow for his downfall. It should have been bigger as Baldwin brings it here, showing that he could have been Batman. Hell, he could have taken on any role because it seemed as if he had no limit during this time. Here, he plays Lamont Cranston, a man about town who has the power to manipulate the minds of others. Sort of like Professor X, except The Shadow carries twin pistols, kills, his face alters when in the Shadow getup, and he can walk. Anyway, the film doesn’t waste much time on Cranston because like Bruce Wayne, it’s just a shell to give the character humanity. You never know much about him minus what we learn at the start of the film. He was a drug dealer pimping long hair until some monk dude gave his life purpose. He made The Shadow into a man who controls the city with an army of men who help out. Also, he doesn’t mind f*cking with people’s minds as he battles the resurrected descendant of Genghis Khan as his attempt to use a bomb in the middle of NYC. All in good fun!

Beyond the Baldwin factor, the movie also has Ian McKellen in a secondary role as a scientist take control by the baddie. Although this is a few years before he became a household name, he’s still good. Plus, there’s Penelope Ann Miller as the love interest (looking hot), Peter Boyle randomly as a taxi driver, Jonathan Winters trying to be serious, and Tim Curry having a hellva of a good time as the second villain. There ain’t a thing wrong with that cast as the acting is all top notch. In fact, everything here looks damn good despite the relatively small budget of $25 million.

Of course, I’m not going to sell you a sandwich and not reveal there’s a little shit sprinkled on top. The Shadow has its troubles. For one, it’s a little too obvious that Universal wanted the “Tim Burton look.” I think director Mulcahy could have done a little more to establish his own world even with the similar setting, especially considering the imagination he brought to Highlander. The movie could have done more to separate itself from the Caped Crusader, even if the Shadow came first. Regardless of my bitching, at least another generation learned his damn cool catchphrase: “Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of men? The Shadow knows…” And now you know too, sucker. Disagree? Get the DVD and discover for yourself.

GET THE SHADOW DVD HERE

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10:47AM on 05/31/2011

In Addition

This is on Netflix streaming in HD if anyone is interested.
This is on Netflix streaming in HD if anyone is interested.
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1:14PM on 05/27/2011
I remember liking this, even though I only saw it once. I went through a period of being big into the 1930s cars, big city, Tommy guns and stuff like that. And this movie delivered. But I haven't revisited it since I was little.
I remember liking this, even though I only saw it once. I went through a period of being big into the 1930s cars, big city, Tommy guns and stuff like that. And this movie delivered. But I haven't revisited it since I was little.
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9:25AM on 05/27/2011

I'll tell you why it bombed...

...because they tried to go tongue-in-cheek/camp half-way through. When the bad guy, in the middle of revealing his insidious plans, suddenly stops dead and breathlessly says, "I like your tie"... you know the tone has shifted. I love the movie, but for me, that part makes it cringe-worthy.
...because they tried to go tongue-in-cheek/camp half-way through. When the bad guy, in the middle of revealing his insidious plans, suddenly stops dead and breathlessly says, "I like your tie"... you know the tone has shifted. I love the movie, but for me, that part makes it cringe-worthy.
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+2
1:44AM on 05/27/2011
Haven't seen it in many years but I remember loving this movie when I was younger.
Haven't seen it in many years but I remember loving this movie when I was younger.
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11:53PM on 05/26/2011
I liked the movie and watched it again recently. I thought the casting was good and especially liked John Lone as the villain, Shi Yuan Khan. Sure the dialogue was a little cheesy, but have you ever listened to the original radio play?
I liked the movie and watched it again recently. I thought the casting was good and especially liked John Lone as the villain, Shi Yuan Khan. Sure the dialogue was a little cheesy, but have you ever listened to the original radio play?
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11:52PM on 05/26/2011
Jerry Goldsmith's score.....nuff' said
Jerry Goldsmith's score.....nuff' said
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6:36PM on 05/26/2011
Yeah, the movie hasn't aged well but it's still a fun popcorn flick. I enjoy it through and through. Baldwin is awesome in this movie.
Yeah, the movie hasn't aged well but it's still a fun popcorn flick. I enjoy it through and through. Baldwin is awesome in this movie.
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4:35PM on 05/26/2011
There's no shame in seeing this I find. Sure it is kitsch to the core, but that was the spirit it was going for. Plus these were the final years that Alec Baldwin was hot.
There's no shame in seeing this I find. Sure it is kitsch to the core, but that was the spirit it was going for. Plus these were the final years that Alec Baldwin was hot.
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4:29PM on 05/26/2011
Haven't seen it for years but I do remember Jerry Goldmsith's classic score. Had a great theme tune.
Haven't seen it for years but I do remember Jerry Goldmsith's classic score. Had a great theme tune.
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4:04PM on 05/26/2011
This movie is definitely overlooked. if it hadn't been such a flop, the sequel, would have probably fleshed out the back story a little better.
This movie is definitely overlooked. if it hadn't been such a flop, the sequel, would have probably fleshed out the back story a little better.
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2:58PM on 05/26/2011

"The weed of crime...

... bears bitter fruit". I totally enjoyed this movie. 100% popcorn film, but big fun just the same. Oh, and Penelope Ann Miller never looked better.
... bears bitter fruit". I totally enjoyed this movie. 100% popcorn film, but big fun just the same. Oh, and Penelope Ann Miller never looked better.
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2:32PM on 05/26/2011
I saw The Shadow in theaters and I liked it, sadly the movie hasn't aged well and all the downsides of this movie can be put on the director.

It is a good popcorn movie and first time viewers should watch it with a grain of salt and remember this is a 90's film not a Chris Nolan masterpiece.

PS Gandalf(Ian McKellen) is in this movie and does a good job.
I saw The Shadow in theaters and I liked it, sadly the movie hasn't aged well and all the downsides of this movie can be put on the director.

It is a good popcorn movie and first time viewers should watch it with a grain of salt and remember this is a 90's film not a Chris Nolan masterpiece.

PS Gandalf(Ian McKellen) is in this movie and does a good job.
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2:20PM on 05/26/2011
I also liked this movie. It's not great but, it was fun and entertaining.
I also liked this movie. It's not great but, it was fun and entertaining.
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2:05PM on 05/26/2011
I always enjoyed this movie; it even had nice origin act, which is so popular now. Much better than The Phantom, even though that has both Kristy Swanson and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
I always enjoyed this movie; it even had nice origin act, which is so popular now. Much better than The Phantom, even though that has both Kristy Swanson and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
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+0
1:29PM on 05/26/2011
You know, The Shadow is one of those 90's films that I really enjoyed. It was a fun adventure piece that wasn't really great, but just a good time. I agree it never got the attention it deserved. But then, I was a fan before it, having listened to tapes of the radio program my father had. Like so many others, I had forgotten about this film. That seems to have happened with many a 90's films, like The Rocketeer, another film I really enjoyed. But, I also hear that there has been talk of doing
You know, The Shadow is one of those 90's films that I really enjoyed. It was a fun adventure piece that wasn't really great, but just a good time. I agree it never got the attention it deserved. But then, I was a fan before it, having listened to tapes of the radio program my father had. Like so many others, I had forgotten about this film. That seems to have happened with many a 90's films, like The Rocketeer, another film I really enjoyed. But, I also hear that there has been talk of doing another Shadow, which would be cool. We need another, good old fashioned adventure film.
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12:56PM on 05/26/2011
I've always enjoyed this film, not great but fun. I remember I saw this and Speed at the theater one after the other. Fun day!
I've always enjoyed this film, not great but fun. I remember I saw this and Speed at the theater one after the other. Fun day!
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11:15AM on 05/26/2011

Love this movie immensely...

Baldwin was badass and it's just a fun dark campy superhero movie.
Baldwin was badass and it's just a fun dark campy superhero movie.
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10:59AM on 05/26/2011

Too bad

It's a very underrated movie, but a very good review. Maybe now some people will start paying more attention to it. It's no 1989 Batman and it really shouldn't have tried to be in the first place (and yeah, the creation of the Batman character WAS in fact absed on the Shadow and Zorro). If they had tried their own style, maybe it would've worked...or it could've been a copy of Judge Dredd. Nevertheless, this movie is a damn fine piece of entertainment for a sunday night (not saturday!).
It's a very underrated movie, but a very good review. Maybe now some people will start paying more attention to it. It's no 1989 Batman and it really shouldn't have tried to be in the first place (and yeah, the creation of the Batman character WAS in fact absed on the Shadow and Zorro). If they had tried their own style, maybe it would've worked...or it could've been a copy of Judge Dredd. Nevertheless, this movie is a damn fine piece of entertainment for a sunday night (not saturday!).
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10:40AM on 05/26/2011
I saw this in theaters and hated it. I have it on DVD though, maybe it's time for me to give it another chance...
I saw this in theaters and hated it. I have it on DVD though, maybe it's time for me to give it another chance...
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