Reviews & Counting
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The Shadow(1994)
Written by: The Arrow
Director: Russell Mulcahy

Alec Baldwin/Lamont
John Lone/Khan
Penelope Ann Miller/Margo
Peter Boyle/Moe
7 10
In New York, circa 1930’s; rich cat Lamont Cranston (Alec Baldwin) spends his nights fighting crime with two guns and psychic powers (he can hypnotize peeps and render himself invisible) as The Shadow. But he’s about to get more than he bargained for when the equally powerful Shiwan Khan (John Lone) drops into town with the intent of blowing it the F up. Why? Cause that’s what bad guys do!

THE SHADOW is based on a 1931 radio show (he started off as the narrator of the Detective Story Hour radio program, but then got his own Pulp series in the The Shadow Magazine created by Walter B Gibson). That eventually led to The Shadow on the big screen/on TV (in the 30's, 40’s and 50’s) and eventually to his adventures in comic books. And when the long in gestation big budget film adaptation was finally unleashed upon the public in 1994 (WATCH IT HERE); it was one of Universal’s big guns. With toys, games (Who wants to play this board game with me? Looks dope!) and t-shirts etc. being gunned out. Long term franchise was the plan! Alas the film under-performed (going against The Lion King and The Mask didn’t help) and The Shadow died right there.

They didn’t even bother officially releasing the Super NES video game (see a preview of it here) they had whipped up (it’s available as a ROM today though), opting to cut their losses instead. That's how BAD it went down. Personally, when I first saw the film upon its theatrical release; it didn’t leave much of a mark on me. I found it somewhat boring to be honest. I’ve been meaning to see it again for over 10 years and now I finally have - did The Shadow hold up better from an “adult” POV? YES! Tapping it today, a handful of elements stood out strongly with the first one being just how much it paralleled BATMAN. A millionaire trained in Asia (the opening of the film was very BATMAN BEGINS-ish) who then comes to back to civilization with a dual personality. In the daytime he’s a dashing Playboy and at night he dons a trench coat, a hat and a scarf to become The Shadow. An entity that strikes fear in the hearts of criminals. NOTE: Upon some research, I found out that Batman creators Bob Kane and Bill Finger have acknowledged The Shadow as being one of their inspirations for Batsy. END OF NOTE.

Another thing that back-handed me on this watch was the sumptuous look of the picture. WOW. The production designs were simply exquisite while the rendition of New York during the 30’s basically came off like a film set from the 30’s but “exaggerated”; giving the whole a surreal, film noir yet comic book-ish feel. Director Russell Mulcahy was on top of his game here and this is most likely one of his most visually striking films. I got all kinds of arresting framing and slick angles! At the same time, ace DP Stephen H. Burum went buck-nuts with moody lighting and a camera that was often on the move, making for an energetic eye feast. Character wise, THE SHADOW made for an enticing anti-hero. To say that Alec Baldwin was ideal for the role would be an understatement. He pulled off the handsome rich-cat thing effortlessly and the mean streak he brought to the role when in Shadow mode was esteemed by yours truly. That’s actually one thing that I dug the most about him; he was still a bit of a villain (The Shadow struggles with his evil side throughout) and had no problem whacking bad-guys (and enjoying it) in the name of “good”.

The supporting cast was able as well; intense/charismatic John Lone owned the screen as the main villain (one of Genghis Kan's descendants no less), whereas Ian McKellan, Peter Boyle, Jonathon Winters and Tim Curry all kicked in to lend levity and sturdy support. Lastly, Penelope Ann Miller has gotten a lot of flack for her showcase here over the years; I thought she did just fine with the material she was given and her classic beauty definitely scorched up the screen; so no complaints from me! Add to that; an evocative score by Master Jerry Goldsmith (kind of reminded me of Elfman’s Batman score), stellar visual effects for the time, some funny chuncks of dialogue (loved the tie bit) and lots of creativity in general and you get a flick that deserved a better fate. Watching it again today, it totally makes sense how it became a cult classic over the years; discovered on home video.

Any drawbacks. Yup! THE SHADOW was maybe a bit too corny at times for its own good (the hero laughs manically, the villain laughs manically – way too much laughing manically – it became funny). The bad guy came with his own set of WTF moments too. Like where did he find all of these henchmen and why doesn’t anybody blink when seeing a dude dressed like a barbarian walk down the street? But those are nitpicks really; for me the film’s biggest drawback is that it didn’t have enough action and simply lacked in the “memorable set pieces” department. When I think of Batman (1989) for example, the Batwing scene pops to mind, Man of Steel, the Supes Vs. Zod fight echoes in my noggin, The Shadow though… nothing... and that’s a big shame! If it would have delivered in the wam-bang department we could have had a masterpiece on our hands!

RANDOM NOTE: The confrontation in the hall of mirrors mirrors screamed Enter the Dragon and Conan the Destroyer.

RANDOM NOTE 2: Why did The Shadow once unmasked look like Daniel Baldwin (or was it a young William)? Not sure. But he looked like another Baldwin than Alex.

On the whole; I had fun with THE SHADOW and it’s a statement to the film’s qualities that even though I have one severe peeve with it (it being limp action wise), I can’t stop thinking about it and now want to purchase the recently released Shout Factory Blu-ray. Anybody else a fan? Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Arrow Knows!

We get one stabbing and gun shot wounds.
T & A
Penelope Ann Miller cleavage is as far as it went and I was okay with that. Man that dame was class!
I understand now why THE SHADOW has become a cult classic over the years. It had bang on casting, lush and stylized visuals, razor dialogue, an engaging score and mucho creativity was put into its stellar costume & set designs. And although the flick was too tacky in moments (alert - alert- maniacal laughter overload), sported a couple of WTF moments and lacked in the memorable action department; it stayed with me afterwards none the less. And the more I think about it right now, the more I like it. If you've seen the film and didn't care for it, maybe give it another chance. If you've never clocked it; I hope this drivel has inspired you to check it out. I didn't used to care about The Shadow, but this long overdue rematch has just made me a fan!
Sam Raimi wanted to make a film version of The Shadow, but was denied. That's what probably led to Darkman (who now that I think of it, dresses up like The Shadow).

The film was written by screenwriter David Koepp, the dude who penned Jurassic Park, Carlito's Way and Death Becomes Her.

James La Curto, Frank Readick and Orson Welles all voiced The Shadow on the radio.