In the 1930’s China, a wealthy American has risen to the top of the underworld, and no act is too ruthless if it means keeping his power. The Tulku (Brady Tsurutani), a holy man, sees greater potential in Lamont Cranston (Alec Baldwin) than existence as merely a cold and powerful drug lord, and he has decided, willing or not, it is time to reclaim Cranston’s soul from the darkness he has embraced.
“You know what evil lurks in the hearts of men, for you have seen that evil in your own heart. Every man pays a price for redemption; this is yours.” ~The Tulku
Lamont returns to New York a changed man with a dual life. Some, like his uncle Wainwright (Jonathan Winters), know him simply as one of the city’s most eligible and seemingly dissolute bachelors. Others know him as the mysterious figure who has taken it upon himself to rid the city of every last criminal… The Shadow. Anyone in the city might be a secret agent of the Shadow for many owe him their lives, and if anything shady is happening in his hometown, rest assured he knows about it!
When Shiwan Khan (John Lone), the last descendant of Ghengis Khan, arrives in New York bent on world domination, Lamont finds himself facing a truly worthy adversary for the first time. Shiwan Khan has also learned the extraordinary abilities that allow the Shadow to cloud and manipulate the minds of others, but unlike Lamont, he has rejected his chance at redemption. The beautiful Margo Lane (Penelope Ann Miller) attracted Lamont’s attention from the moment she set foot in the Cobalt club, but the destructive capabilities of her father’s (Ian McKellan) energy research have drawn the lethal attention of the power-hungry Shiwan Khan.
Will Khan dominate even the puissant mental powers of the Shadow? Will Margo’s uncanny ability to pick up on Lamont’s stray thoughts reveal his double life? Can Lamont unravel Khan’s well-laid plans in time to stop him? The Shadow knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men… but will his knowledge be enough to save the world?
~~~ My Thoughts ~~~
This 1994 film directed by Russell Mulcahy is a wonderfully nostalgic look at the life and adventures of one of America’s earliest superheroes. The Shadow was perhaps best known through an enduringly popular radio program that ran throughout the ‘30s and ‘40s where additional characters, like Margo Lane, were introduced. The monthly novels were originally written by Walter B. Gibson, and this mysterious hero first appeared in 1931. The Shadow magazine ran until 1949 as is still considered to be one of the most successful works of pulp fiction ever. Gibson was a professional magician who went on to write over 100 books on topics like magic, psychic phenomena, hypnotism, and true crime. He even served as a ghost-writer for books on magic and spiritualism for such famous figures as Harry Houdini and Joesph Dunniger.
The nature of the Shadow and his adventures is captured very well by writer David Koepp, who combined elements from both the radio program and the written works. The time from which the Shadow emerged formed a rather outrageously patriotic and undeniably kitschy figure for today’s audiences. Some may find the dialogue overblown or stilted by today’s standards, but aficionados will recognize these as essential pieces of the Shadow’s original character. The well-done CGI fits the overall feel of the film, and despite being over 10 years old, can actually hold it’s own in terms of quality.
I often wondered how many of the actors were able to deliver their lines or participate in certain scenes with a straight face, but they do manage wonderfully! Jonathan Winters is so deadpan serious that you can’t help expecting him to slip a sly joke in somewhere. Baldwin’s ability to deliver lines like, “Hey, that’s the US of A you’re talking about, pal!”, or my personal favorite, “Psychically, I’m very well endowed.” with utter seriousness is rather astounding. The late Peter Boyle was a flawless foil for the Shadow as his loyal driver and sidekick, Moe Shrevnitz.
Tim Curry as the weaselly Farley Claymore embraced the role with all the enthusiasm of an eight-year-old boy in the midst of some serious make-believe, although it is impossible not to see glimpses of some of Curry’s more frightening roles echoed in some of his deliveries. This added a curiously ominous and wickedly delightful undertone to an essentially cowardly and simplistic character. I was particularly impressed by John Lone’s portrayal of the supremely arrogant and commanding Shiwan Khan. He made a potentially difficult role to feel natural and believable.
Considering that the DVD has, sadly, absolutely no extras, deleted moments, bloopers, or even a glimpse behind the scenes, it makes one doubly curious as to the unseen laughs that surely had to erupt somewhere during the making of this film. From casting to costumes and sets, great attention to detail was paid throughout the film, and these elements help to recreate a bygone era. I found the costuming to be especially beautiful and enriching.
I have heard that Sam Raimi is involved in creating a new Shadow film. I know Raimi has wanted to get his hands on the Shadow for quite some time, and the possibilities there are quite intriguing. The champion troubled by the darkness found within himself has a very compelling and human appeal, which becomes more attractive when life events grow increasingly chaotic and grim. I can’t help wondering just how much influence this character may have had on other heroes like Batman or even Obi-Wan Kenobi. The Shadow certainly illustrates Jung’s concepts on Shadow material quite well! Altogether, this 1994 production of The Shadow is a delicious and entertaining treat for audiences looking for a fantasy adventure. A must-have for comic book fans and those who collect memorabilia from the Shadow’s era.
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