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June 27, 2011

Movie Mondays: The Shadow

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Written by: AHudson
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Title: The Shadow
Director: Russell Mulcahy
Writers: David Koepp (created by Walter B. Gibson)
Distributed By: Universal Pictures
Starring: Alec Baldwin, John Lone, Penelope Ann Miller, Ian McKellen, and Johnathan Winters
Release Date: July 1st, 1994

After fighting in World War I, Lamont Kranston (Alec Baldwin) travels to Tibet and delves into his dark side, becoming infamous opium dealer Ying-Ko. However, after being reformed by mystic Tulku (Brady Tsurutani and voiced by Barry Dennen), he redeems himself by becoming The Shadow, a fighter against crime who’s only seen by his shadow. After returning to New York, he recruits many allies in exchange for saving their lives, such as taxi driver Moe Shrevnitz (Peter Boyle); as well as finds affection for a socialite with the powers of telepathy, Margo Lane (Penelope Ann Miller). However, The Shadow isn’t the only one going to New York. Ghengis Khan’s ancestor Shiwan Khan (John Lone) plans to rule the world by creating an explosive, implosive, explosive bomb (an “atomic bomb”). Now it’s up to The Shadow to stop Shiwan Khan while avoiding his own dark side.

If there’s one pulp character that had a significant impact on comics, it’s The Shadow. Because comics, especially superheroes, are offspring of pulp fiction. And more importantly, characters such as Batman, Green Hornet, and even Darkwing Duck (Kent Allard/Drake Mallard, similar hat and clothing) were heavily influenced by The Shadow.

The Shadow is one cool badass who uses two guns (way before the John Woo era), and unlike superheroes, isn’t “above” using guns to kill.

Batman's job would be a lot easier if he just used two guns.

So it’s only fitting that The Shadow got a big nineties theatrical release. Of course, grand doesn’t always mean great. In fact, it can be a double edged sword depending on how it’s used.

Fortunately, the plot is written well enough, as long as you ignore some things. “What is this white guy doing in Tibet?” “Why is the Brooklyn Bridge completely empty at night?” “Where did he get all this money?” I don’t know, son, it’s pulp. Pulp often exchanges realism and logic for style and story. Which looks fine in novels and comics, but are a bit more apparent when translated onto film. Still, all in all they aren’t bad flaws, as long as you kick back, relax, and enjoy the show.

Use your Capital One Rewards Programs to take you to all sorts of exotic locations.

Aside from its pulp quirks, the story itself is put together decent enough. You get a good mix of action, dialog, and subtle humor. I also liked how they put a lot of different locations/scenes without it feeling like a quick cut train wreck. And while I haven’t caught up with a lot of The Shadow, it looks fairly faithful to the novels and radio drama from what I’ve seen.

The film also has quite a unique range of actors. For one thing, you have Alec Baldwin starring as Ying-Ko/Lamont Cranston/The Shadow. He’s not bad, carrying it through without much complaint. However, I couldn’t help but giggle when he tried to do “the voice” (think Michael Keaton’s Bat voice, but even sillier). And the fact that he plays a suave millionaire, made me think he was talking to Liz Lemon during some of his dialog. However, that has nothing to do with lack of acting range, but more with the fact that after a long enough career, an actor is bound to have some similar performances.

And then you have the costars, who were cast differently than you would expect but fit the buck. Penelope Ann Miller (as Margot Lane) has a solid grip on the role (although some of her lines feel stiff). And here I’m reminded about how much I miss Peter Boyle (as Moses “Moe” Shrevnitz).

Emma Frost wants her cape back.

The only character I’m really put off by, is Shiwan Kahn (played by John Lone), ancestor of Genghis Khan. If you’re expecting a tough dude who constantly yells in rage and has totally excellent combat (and hockey) skills, then you’re dead wrong. This guy mostly just Jedi Mind Tricks everyone into following him or suicide sacrificing themselves. But this is more fault to the script than the actor. I will say that it’s funny how most of the encounters between Shiwan Kahn and The Shadow are fairly polite conversations. Which is like if the Joker broke into the Bat Cave and just chilled with Batman.

Night at the Museum III

What really grabbed me into this film was the production values. The sets are amazing. I’m usually tired of New York City being the center of every goddamn thing in fiction. But here, the way they made 1930s New York City is just beautiful. Coupled with amazing lighting and fantastic sets, the cinematics arguably rival perhaps Batman 89 and Dick Tracy (or come pretty damn close).

Also, the special effects here are very impressive for the mid-nineties and even hold up today. None of that Spawn CGI. The special effects here blend in with the film without sticking out too much.

And finally, I have to give credit to Jerry Goldsmith for the composition. It fits right in with the film. And more importantly, it keeps a steady rhythm throughout the film, rather than having a Superman/Batman motif playing every time The Shadow appears.

Movie Rule #2034: If you are a hero in a nineties film, you will either be submerged in water or stuck in quicksand. Choose wisely.

Overall, I have to say that while The Shadow isn’t the best comic book film out there, it’s a good film worth a watch or two. It’s an entertaining film whose style and production values give it an edge above the standard nineties popcorn flick.

[Although next week we’ll be reviewing Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon, tune in the following week as we’ll be continuing on in pulp fiction with Flash Gordon.]

Andrew Hudson



  1. Aaron Nicewonger

    I enjoyed this movie.
    Campy, cheesy fun. Screws up a bit on the whole “staying faithful to the source material” thing.
    But if people cared about that, then movies like X-Men: First Class wouldn’t be popular.

    I wanna go watch this again. It’s been a while.
    I miss this flick.

  2. Never a big fan of this movie. Something about it always just kept putting me to sleep but maybe one day I’ll get through it.

  3. […] to our pulp fiction special on Movie Mondays. Last time we took a look at the modern adaptation of The Shadow. This time, we’re going to take a look at a pulp comic strip that had a profound impact on […]

  4. […] Nicewonger. Also, if you haven't checked it out, make sure you check out the reviews of pulp icons The Shadow and Flash […]

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