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The Shadow

   

The Shadow (1994), starring Alec Baldwin, Penelope Ann Miller, John Lone, Tim Curry, Ian McKellen, Penelope Ann Miller

Synopsis of The Shadow

Alec Baldwin stars as the crime-fighter, The Shadow. He battles his most dangerous nemesis yet in this thriller. That, sadly, falls flat.

Review of The Shadow

I’m a long-time fan of The Shadow. Ranging from the old (and reprinted) pulp stories, to the old-time radio shows. With the voice of Orson Welles, by the way. Unfortunately, this movie was both a critical and financial failure. Much as I wanted to like it, I wasn’t surprised.

What they got right

  • The sets look authentic, as does the costuming

What they got wrong.

  • The basic characters. They totally rewrite the character of Lamont Cranston/The Shadow. They turn him into a drug dealer in the Orient. He’s forced to turn a new leaf by a Tibetan monk. This is such an insult to the character, it’s beyond belief.
  • They focus on the Shadow’s powers. In the original pulp novels, he didn’t have any. It was when he was portrayed on radio, that the author decided to give him the “ability to cloud men’s minds”. So they didn’t have to waste precious minutes explaining how he escaped detection by purely human means. In this movie, that’s all the Shadow is – mental powers.
  • One of the strengths of The Shadow is his small army of helpers. That’s reduced to 1 or 2 people here.
  • For the record, the great Genghis Khan has countless thousands of direct descendants. In the 1990’s, one of them was a bareback rider in the Ringling Brothers circus. In my Sunday school in Nevada, one of the kids is another. The idea of the “last” descendent of the great Khan is just silly.
  • The audience isn’t pulled into the movie. We don’t root for the characters all that much. And, since Lamont is a former drug dealer, who never had a change of heart …. Why should we?

Cast

  • Alec Baldwin (Beetlejuice) … Lamont Cranston / The Shadow. The protagonist, using his psychic powers to try and stop a madman and an atomic bomb.
  • John Lone (The Last Emperor) … Shiwan Khan. The Shadow’s equal, if not superior.
  • Penelope Ann Miller (The Artist) … Margo Lane. Lamont’s girlfriend. Unlike the source materials, she’s a powerful telepath.
  • Peter Boyle (Everybody Loves Raymond) … Moe Shrevnitz
  • Ian McKellen (Lord of the Rings, X-Men: The Last Stand) … Reinhardt Lane. Margo’s father, being mentally controlled by Shiwan to … Build an atomic bomb, using 1930’s technology. Seriously.
  • Tim Curry (The Coulor of Magic) … Farley Claymore. Reinhardt’s assistant, who willingly works with Shiwan.
  • Jonathan Winters (It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World) … Police Commissioner Wainwright Barth. A comedy role.

Editorial review of The Shadow courtesy of Amazon.com

A mixed bag that received mixed reviews when released in 1994, this lavish film works overtime to honor the spirit and style of the vintage pulp novels and radio shows that made The Shadow a household name in the 1930s and ’40s. Alec Baldwin plays the Shadow, a.k.a. Lamont Cranston, who arrives in New York from his decadent life in Tibet, fully reformed and disciplined in his ability “to cloud men’s minds.” A crime fighter who lurks in the dark recesses of the city, the Shadow faces his most deadly challenge when Shiwan Khan (John Lone), the last surviving descendant of Genghis Khan, hatches a plot to conquer the world.

The scheme involves a madman (Tim Curry), a hapless scientist (Ian McKellen), and various traps designed to catch and kill the Shadow, who must also contend with his blossoming romance with Margo Lane (Penelope Ann Miller), a slender beauty capable of a little mind play of her own. The movie’s art deco production design turns out to be a scene-stealer when the plot drags, and in the title role Baldwin is never given enough good material to create a compelling character. Still, The Shadow is true to the legacy that inspired it, admirably avoiding any conspicuous compromise of its 1930s style and setting. If you can’t get into the story, you’re sure to be hooked by the look of the production, which is never less than dazzling. –Jeff Shannon

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