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The UnPopular Opinion: The Shadow

06.19.2013

THE UNPOPULAR OPINION 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 LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!
 
****SOME SPOILERS ENSUE****

Back in the summer of 1994, I went to the movies to see a film that I had no prior knowledge of. Back in those days if you saw a cool trailer and a sweet poster you could go watch the movie and be completely surprised by what happened on screen. I miss those days. One reason why is THE SHADOW. Based on the pulp comic hero, THE SHADOW was the perfect combination of Tim Burton's BATMAN and Christopher Nolan's BATMAN BEGINS and should have gone on to become a huge franchise. While that didn't happen, we do have that single movie that remains atop my list of favorite superhero movies that should have gotten sequels, like UNBREAKABLE and THE ROCKETEER.

THE SHADOW takes place in the 1930s and tells the story of Lamont Cranston, played by Alec Baldwin. A playboy millionaire along the lines of Bruce Wayne, Cranston has voyaged across the world to find himself. While in Asia, he becomes a warlord and opium dealer feared by the locals. One night he is kidnapped and taken to a holy man who sees the good in Cranston and vows to teach him the skills to become a hero. Once trained in the method of clouding men's minds, Cranston returns to New York City and lives his life with the dual identity of Lamont Cranston and the hero known as THE SHADOW.

Tell me that is not a badass superhero costume.

So obviously you can draw the parallels between THE SHADOW and BATMAN pretty easily. Both are looked at as criminals by the police, both have secret lairs, and both have training based in Eastern mysticism, and both are millionaire playboys. The Shadow initially appeared in comics in 1931 while Batman showed up 1939.  Batman creator Bob Kane clearly indicated that his hero was influenced by The Shadow and other similar titles.  So, with the 1989 introduction of Tim Burton's BATMAN it seemed obvious that a few years later THE SHADOW would be looked at as derivative of what was actually its inspiration.  The same thing would happen to JOHN CARTER when everyone saw it as a copy of STAR WARS and AVATAR.

I urge you to go back and re-watch THE SHADOW and you will find that not only does it stand as a fun summer movie but it is one of the most criminally underrated movies of all time.  Alec Baldwin is perfect as a superhero, especially in THE SHADOW.  Baldwin's signature gravelly voice allows him to play both the playboy Cranston and the frightening visage of The Shadow.  While I love THE SHADOW and would have loved a sequel, it does remain a perfect audtion for Baldwin to have taken over the role of Batman when Michael Keaton left the series.  Could you imagine Alec Baldwin instead of Val Kilmer?  I can.

I'm sorry, my dear, could you repeat that?  I couldn't hear you over the sound of how awesome I am.

What works in THE SHADOW is that the world is a live action recreation of the pulp fiction source material without becoming a joke of itself.  Think more like THE ROCKETEER and less like THE PHANTOM or DICK TRACY, THE SHADOW is able to set you in a comic book world come to life.  In the opening New York sequence, the film sets a tone of being both fun and dark at the same time.  While BATMAN and later superhero films tried to ground their characters in a more real world, THE SHADOW is content to simply realize the world as it was described on the comic book page.

Director Russell Mulcahy came to THE SHADOW best known for the first two HIGHLANDER movies as well as the Wesley Snipes/John Lithgow thriller RICOCHET.  He very easily could have made THE SHADOW into a gritty superhero movie in the vein of BATMAN but instead gave us a balance of pulp and cinema.  Yes, the backdrops in THE SHADOW are matte paintings and yes there are over the top costumes and characters like Peter Boyle's cabbie Moe.  Even the supernatural elements used by The Shadow and the villain Shiwan Khan are rooted in fantasy but work in this tale.  Everything just works and you feel transported into an adventure film that can take you for a ride.

I think they are regretting going through the Mines of Moria.

The supporting cast is populated with favorites from other films who elevate this movie.  Tim Curry shows up and chews the scenery as a secondary baddie and any movie is better with Tim Curry in it.  Penelope Ann Miller's Margo Lane is the perfect damsel in distress.  She acts as a Princess Leia in the movie in that she is a strong femaile character as well as a sex object without being relegated to a stereotype.  John Lone's antagonist Khan is a great bad guy who is later echoed in Liam Neeson's performance as Ra's Al Ghul in BATMAN BEGINS.  Hell, even Ian McKellan shows up to play Reinhardt Lane, the scientist with the key to Khan trying to conquer the world.  The cast is full of spot on performances that are played like living comic characters.  For that, THE SHADOW and Richard Donner's SUPERMAN are the closest thing to a literal comic book movie ever made.

THE SHADOW was a massive bomb and I wish people would give it a second chance.  If you go out and watch THE SHADOW now on Blu-ray you will see that the special effects are not dated at all and hold up well against the current blockbuster superhero movies.  The screenplay by David Koepp is still a fun and thrilling story that is acted wonderfully by Alec Baldwin and the rest of the cast.  So, if MAN OF STEEL or IRON MAN 3 have disappointed you for comic book movies or if you want a different Khan than STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS has to offer, check out THE SHADOW.

Oh, and if you have any suggestions for The UnPopular Opinion I’m always happy to hear them. You can send along an email to alexmaidy@joblo.com, spell it out below, slap it up on my wall in Movie Fan Central, or send me a private message via Movie Fan Central. Provide me with as many movie suggestions as you like, with any reasoning you'd care to share, and if I agree then you may one day see it featured in this very column!

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+0
3:07PM on 08/14/2013

How the heck is this an unpopular opinion?!

Every once in a while you do an entry that's just a no-bainer and is completely in line with how 95% of the people on here already feel (which seems totally contrary to the premise of the column) this is one of those entries.
Every once in a while you do an entry that's just a no-bainer and is completely in line with how 95% of the people on here already feel (which seems totally contrary to the premise of the column) this is one of those entries.
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2:57AM on 08/01/2013
I can't believe I have never seen this. I will have to give it a watch.
I can't believe I have never seen this. I will have to give it a watch.
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2:43AM on 06/20/2013
About a year ago I saw this movie on VHS at a rummage sale and I was compelled to buy it. It's a movie I hadn't watched nor gave a second thought about since I saw it when it originally came out on home video. When I was 6. I saw this article and it inspired me to finally watch it. DAMN was I impressed with how fun this was. Alec Baldwin is so damn cool, all the supporting cast is great, the action is good, and it has it subtle moments that I found hilarious (oh, THAT knife). Glad you wrote
About a year ago I saw this movie on VHS at a rummage sale and I was compelled to buy it. It's a movie I hadn't watched nor gave a second thought about since I saw it when it originally came out on home video. When I was 6. I saw this article and it inspired me to finally watch it. DAMN was I impressed with how fun this was. Alec Baldwin is so damn cool, all the supporting cast is great, the action is good, and it has it subtle moments that I found hilarious (oh, THAT knife). Glad you wrote this article or I may have never actually watched it again!
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9:32PM on 06/19/2013

The Guiltiest Of Guilty Pleasures

I've been a fan of this film since it first came out. Even got the poster. Just good ol' dumb fun.
I've been a fan of this film since it first came out. Even got the poster. Just good ol' dumb fun.
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+1
9:32PM on 06/19/2013

With so much nostalgia attached to it (for me at least)

I think the unpopular opinion lies with those who do not like this film.
I think the unpopular opinion lies with those who do not like this film.
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8:22PM on 06/19/2013
I was excited to see THE SHADOW when it opened in 1994. I think one of the main reasons it got lost was that it opened opposite FORREST GUMP. I remember because I chose seeing THE SHADOW over FORREST GUMP. And I STILL stand by my decision! THE SHADOW is a wonderful and fun movie and I'm glad it was aknowleged here. Thankyou!
I was excited to see THE SHADOW when it opened in 1994. I think one of the main reasons it got lost was that it opened opposite FORREST GUMP. I remember because I chose seeing THE SHADOW over FORREST GUMP. And I STILL stand by my decision! THE SHADOW is a wonderful and fun movie and I'm glad it was aknowleged here. Thankyou!
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8:20PM on 06/19/2013
I was excited to see THE SHADOW when it opened in 1994. I think one of the main reasons it got lost was that it opened opposite FORREST GUMP. I remember because I chose seeing THE SHADOW over FORREST GUMP. And I STILL stand by my decision! THE SHADOW is a wonderful and fun movie and I'm glad it was aknowleged here. Thankyou!
I was excited to see THE SHADOW when it opened in 1994. I think one of the main reasons it got lost was that it opened opposite FORREST GUMP. I remember because I chose seeing THE SHADOW over FORREST GUMP. And I STILL stand by my decision! THE SHADOW is a wonderful and fun movie and I'm glad it was aknowleged here. Thankyou!
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11:24AM on 06/20/2013
I don't remember it opening up against Forrest Gump. But I understand what you mean as Gump was a runaway success that basically crushed most films that summer. Too bad.
I don't remember it opening up against Forrest Gump. But I understand what you mean as Gump was a runaway success that basically crushed most films that summer. Too bad.
7:05PM on 06/19/2013

Great Review, Great Movie...

couldn't agree more my friend. I loved "The Shadow" when it first came out and wished that they had done a sequel.

Baldwin owned this part!

couldn't agree more my friend. I loved "The Shadow" when it first came out and wished that they had done a sequel.

Baldwin owned this part!

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2:58PM on 06/19/2013

cool movie

brought this on DVD a while ago for one English pound. very underrated picture and should have got at least one sequel.
tid bit Penelope Anne Miller was an awesome sidekick and as hot as hell.
brought this on DVD a while ago for one English pound. very underrated picture and should have got at least one sequel.
tid bit Penelope Anne Miller was an awesome sidekick and as hot as hell.
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+2
2:40PM on 06/19/2013
Oh, this has been one of my favourite superhero movies since 1994.
And it has the best Jerry Goldsmith music ever (not just the main titles but the whole filmscore).
Oh, this has been one of my favourite superhero movies since 1994.
And it has the best Jerry Goldsmith music ever (not just the main titles but the whole filmscore).
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2:20PM on 06/19/2013

Waited so long to see this again!

I loved "The Shadow" when I saw it in the summer if 1994. I watched it again when it hit home video back in the mid 90's but have not seen it since. It came out on DVD but I decided to wait for bluray to see this again. It was with the wait. What an awesome film! It should of gotten a sequel!!
I loved "The Shadow" when I saw it in the summer if 1994. I watched it again when it hit home video back in the mid 90's but have not seen it since. It came out on DVD but I decided to wait for bluray to see this again. It was with the wait. What an awesome film! It should of gotten a sequel!!
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11:15AM on 06/19/2013
No unpopular opinion here, this movie is great. In-line with Phantom.
No unpopular opinion here, this movie is great. In-line with Phantom.
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12:46PM on 06/19/2013
Oh yeah, The Phantom is very underrated. An idea of triple feature - The Rocketeer, The Shadow, and The Phantom.
Oh yeah, The Phantom is very underrated. An idea of triple feature - The Rocketeer, The Shadow, and The Phantom.
10:51AM on 06/19/2013
Don't usually comment on the UPO thread but I had to in this case. I always got a kick out of this movie. It felt like a comic book movie. It respected the source enough without going too tongue in cheek. It had a cool yet creepy villain, an awesome setting and great performance especially by Baldwin and Lone. It's one of those that in spite of itself it remains a fun watch every time.
Don't usually comment on the UPO thread but I had to in this case. I always got a kick out of this movie. It felt like a comic book movie. It respected the source enough without going too tongue in cheek. It had a cool yet creepy villain, an awesome setting and great performance especially by Baldwin and Lone. It's one of those that in spite of itself it remains a fun watch every time.
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10:46AM on 06/19/2013

Couldn't agree more.

I still have the Dual-Pistol Packin' Light-Up Lamont figure on my shelf.
I still have the Dual-Pistol Packin' Light-Up Lamont figure on my shelf.
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10:05AM on 06/19/2013
One of my favorites from my youth. I loved John Lone in this. Whenever I need gas I will sometimes say aloud, "I need fuel," in Khan's voice (I'm a dork). And how amazing was Jerry Goldsmith's score? The music when the hotel is revealed is so haunting and amazing.

P.S. I still have one of the action figures from the movie on my desk at work that I use as a subject for camera tests.
One of my favorites from my youth. I loved John Lone in this. Whenever I need gas I will sometimes say aloud, "I need fuel," in Khan's voice (I'm a dork). And how amazing was Jerry Goldsmith's score? The music when the hotel is revealed is so haunting and amazing.

P.S. I still have one of the action figures from the movie on my desk at work that I use as a subject for camera tests.
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9:34AM on 06/19/2013

I see why you can like it but

It was the most forgetable film I ever saw. I can distinctly remember going to see it with friends during one of their birthdays and apart from a few details and a scene or two I could not for the life of me remember what the movie was about for years. It was just a black hole in my memory until I saw it on tv recently. Now this should be a film I love. I loved the Batman films and the Rocketeer. I love pulp action films like these. And it has a lot of cool ideas and concepts as well as some
It was the most forgetable film I ever saw. I can distinctly remember going to see it with friends during one of their birthdays and apart from a few details and a scene or two I could not for the life of me remember what the movie was about for years. It was just a black hole in my memory until I saw it on tv recently. Now this should be a film I love. I loved the Batman films and the Rocketeer. I love pulp action films like these. And it has a lot of cool ideas and concepts as well as some fun preformances. But something about this I just don't like and I think it's Baldwin. Honestly I don't think I've ever taken Alec Baldwin serious in any role he's ever been in. And the scene where he saws "Someone's coming" Had me laughing my ass off and not in a good way. And yes the costume is awesome but unfortunately the ridiculous prosthetic nose kills it for me. It's too bad, I really wished that I would love it. But oh well.
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9:30AM on 06/19/2013
This is probably the most apt UnPopular Opinion written to this day.
This is probably the most apt UnPopular Opinion written to this day.
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9:12AM on 06/19/2013
such a great movie, but there is some of the violence in it is a bit much for the kids who would be the primary audience on a superhero flick. Sadly we never got a sequel, but I'm sure we could talk Alex Baldwin into it.
such a great movie, but there is some of the violence in it is a bit much for the kids who would be the primary audience on a superhero flick. Sadly we never got a sequel, but I'm sure we could talk Alex Baldwin into it.
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8:23AM on 06/19/2013
Always end up rewatching this when it's on TV. Also Tim Curry does some of his finest insane-guy acting in this film.
Always end up rewatching this when it's on TV. Also Tim Curry does some of his finest insane-guy acting in this film.
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6:51AM on 06/19/2013
No homo but Alec Baldwin was a handsome devil back in the day
No homo but Alec Baldwin was a handsome devil back in the day
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5:50AM on 06/19/2013

Grew Up On This

This was a movie that was a regular watch in my household growing up. My mom was a huge John Lone fan and I of course was a big superhero fan so it was something we could both easily agree on. Baldwin is great here and I never thought of him as a good Batman candidate until you mentioned it. Too late now unfortunately. I would not mind this one being rebooted, however I fear that due to the failure of this one, the campy and somewhat cheesy elements that make it so much fun will be replaced by
This was a movie that was a regular watch in my household growing up. My mom was a huge John Lone fan and I of course was a big superhero fan so it was something we could both easily agree on. Baldwin is great here and I never thought of him as a good Batman candidate until you mentioned it. Too late now unfortunately. I would not mind this one being rebooted, however I fear that due to the failure of this one, the campy and somewhat cheesy elements that make it so much fun will be replaced by the reality-grounded seriousness that pervades today's superhero fare.

Bournefan2 already mentioned this, but it was Denzel Washington in Ricochet not Wesley Snipes. Hopefully Alex will notice it in the posts and edit it.
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5:44AM on 06/19/2013
I like that movie a lot! Whenever I have the chance I like to watch it again. So for me your opinion is not unpopular after all.
I like that movie a lot! Whenever I have the chance I like to watch it again. So for me your opinion is not unpopular after all.
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4:47AM on 06/19/2013

Those badass '40s-age superheroes.

They get bum wraps, I personally consider THE PHANTOM to be in my top ten superhero films and THE ROCKETEER isn't too far behind. Characters like THE SPIRIT and THE SHADOW are so freaking cool; I wish they would get more attention/proper love. THE SHADOW IS a lot of fun though, and the cast is phenomenal.
And I totally agree, any movie IS better for having Tim Curry!
They get bum wraps, I personally consider THE PHANTOM to be in my top ten superhero films and THE ROCKETEER isn't too far behind. Characters like THE SPIRIT and THE SHADOW are so freaking cool; I wish they would get more attention/proper love. THE SHADOW IS a lot of fun though, and the cast is phenomenal.
And I totally agree, any movie IS better for having Tim Curry!
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4:22AM on 06/19/2013
I agree 100%, not only did I love this movie back in 1994, I saw it 5 TIMES in the theater and I'm baffled to this day that it not only wasn't a hit but is hated by so many people.
I agree 100%, not only did I love this movie back in 1994, I saw it 5 TIMES in the theater and I'm baffled to this day that it not only wasn't a hit but is hated by so many people.
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4:17AM on 06/19/2013

The sun is shining.....but the ice is slippery.

I fucking LOVE this movie. It deserves to be up there with the Rocketeer as one of the best of the 90's superheroes. Baldwin nailed it and it's such a fun flick. There's a company right now called Shout Factory that are preparing a special edition Blu-Ray release later this year and I can't wait.
I fucking LOVE this movie. It deserves to be up there with the Rocketeer as one of the best of the 90's superheroes. Baldwin nailed it and it's such a fun flick. There's a company right now called Shout Factory that are preparing a special edition Blu-Ray release later this year and I can't wait.
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7:32AM on 06/19/2013
My day's friend and I greet each other with the "sun is shining" line whenever we see each other. I hope you're right about that Shout Factory release, because I need that!
My day's friend and I greet each other with the "sun is shining" line whenever we see each other. I hope you're right about that Shout Factory release, because I need that!
7:59AM on 06/19/2013
I usually do double feature of The Rocketeer and The Shadow on some rainy days.
I usually do double feature of The Rocketeer and The Shadow on some rainy days.
+4
3:26AM on 06/19/2013

Always loved this movie!

Yeah, this was a great superhero flick and absolutely deserved a franchise. As did the Rocketeer and I would argue the same for the Phantom.
Yeah, this was a great superhero flick and absolutely deserved a franchise. As did the Rocketeer and I would argue the same for the Phantom.
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+0
2:25AM on 06/19/2013
I haven't seen this movie in years and years, but I remember loving it when I first saw it. Looking back, I can now see how some parts of it were a bit odd (like if the whole tower is invisible to everyone, why do they need guards stationed out front?), but overall I still remember it being a fun time.
I haven't seen this movie in years and years, but I remember loving it when I first saw it. Looking back, I can now see how some parts of it were a bit odd (like if the whole tower is invisible to everyone, why do they need guards stationed out front?), but overall I still remember it being a fun time.
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+2
1:51AM on 06/19/2013

Gotta Strikeback on this one

I wanted to like this film. Big Shadow fan, and there have been so many different interpretations of the character in the pulp books, any small changes made for the sake of a movie doesn't really bother me. It's the tone is all off. Like the slapstick stuff with Margo Lane and her father, i.e. the bomb rolling down the hallway....Also, the filmmakers really didn't have a handle on the who the character is or what his 'powers' are. For example, he has the power to cloud your mind, not the
I wanted to like this film. Big Shadow fan, and there have been so many different interpretations of the character in the pulp books, any small changes made for the sake of a movie doesn't really bother me. It's the tone is all off. Like the slapstick stuff with Margo Lane and her father, i.e. the bomb rolling down the hallway....Also, the filmmakers really didn't have a handle on the who the character is or what his 'powers' are. For example, he has the power to cloud your mind, not the power of invisibility. So, Tim Curry would have not seen his foot steps in the water, because....his mind would have be 'clouded' to the Shadow's presence. If the Shadow lost his 'hold' on Mr. Curry, then he would have appeared fully to him. There are good moments in it. Alec nails the Shadow with his look and voice. The transformation in the cab is dead on......One Sheet was nice. Too bad....Coulda been great. Should be remade.
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+4
1:50AM on 06/19/2013

Underrated for sure

I still remember watching the Shadow at the theater back in 94, walking out and thinking, a little predictable, a little silly but not bad. Issues I had with the movie were flaws in the editing. You got scenes where a mogul warrior got out of a taxi in new york (because that happens all the time), or when you get Kenny G playing in the Cobalt Club (This is the 1930's, right?) or some silly dialogue with Baldwin defending the US of A. These kind of things deterred me from the movie. You also get
I still remember watching the Shadow at the theater back in 94, walking out and thinking, a little predictable, a little silly but not bad. Issues I had with the movie were flaws in the editing. You got scenes where a mogul warrior got out of a taxi in new york (because that happens all the time), or when you get Kenny G playing in the Cobalt Club (This is the 1930's, right?) or some silly dialogue with Baldwin defending the US of A. These kind of things deterred me from the movie. You also get the same old Asian stars who have played in Ace Ventura or Die Hard and it makes the movie seem somewhat on a predictable plane of existence.

This aside, despite Goldsmith trying to impersonate a very Danny Elfman Batman score, some nice touches are added. The visual effects are very good. John Lone is awesome as Shiwan Khan. The costumes were also nicely personified and overall, this, although not brilliant, proved to be a rather decent movie that has grown on me over the last few years. Did it deserve it's walk of shame? Absolutely not! Although visible in its flaws, the Shadow is trly an underrated superhero movie. A great popcorn flick in the tradition of the Saturday Night Matinee's & fun for the whole family. It's not too late. Give it a rent.
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1:37AM on 06/19/2013
LOVE this film. It's criminally underrated with a terrific story with a spot on Alec Baldwin as The Shadow.

It's one of the more fun, under appreciated superhero films out there. And I could have easily have seen Baldwin as the next Caped Crusader after Keaton based off of this film and performance.
LOVE this film. It's criminally underrated with a terrific story with a spot on Alec Baldwin as The Shadow.

It's one of the more fun, under appreciated superhero films out there. And I could have easily have seen Baldwin as the next Caped Crusader after Keaton based off of this film and performance.
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1:31AM on 06/19/2013
I get the kick out of this movie as much as I watch The Rocketeer as The Shadow is a perfect companion to that movie. I love Alec Baldwin's voice as The Shadow. He has the charisma of Lamont Cranston and that brooding characteristics for The Shadow. Penelope Ann Miller was fatally hot in the movie too. 2 scenes that I like best - The Shadow vs. Tim Curry in the water tank and The Shadow vs. John Lone's Villain in the hall of mirror.
I get the kick out of this movie as much as I watch The Rocketeer as The Shadow is a perfect companion to that movie. I love Alec Baldwin's voice as The Shadow. He has the charisma of Lamont Cranston and that brooding characteristics for The Shadow. Penelope Ann Miller was fatally hot in the movie too. 2 scenes that I like best - The Shadow vs. Tim Curry in the water tank and The Shadow vs. John Lone's Villain in the hall of mirror.
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1:24AM on 06/19/2013

Hmmm...

I'm not a hater of The Shadow, but I'm not a fan of it either. I thought it was a little boring and it annoyed me when another Baldwin came in to play "The Shadow" (Go back and see, it's clearly not Alec) I agree, I thought Baldwin was pretty good here. It is interesting to know that the character was influential to Batman. I don't know I may have to give it another shot, maybe something's changed. Also, it was Denzel and Lithgow in Ricochet.
I'm not a hater of The Shadow, but I'm not a fan of it either. I thought it was a little boring and it annoyed me when another Baldwin came in to play "The Shadow" (Go back and see, it's clearly not Alec) I agree, I thought Baldwin was pretty good here. It is interesting to know that the character was influential to Batman. I don't know I may have to give it another shot, maybe something's changed. Also, it was Denzel and Lithgow in Ricochet.
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