RETROSPECTIVE REVIEWS: THE SHADOW (1994)

Russell Mulcahy happens to be a GREAT DIRECTOR of genre films. His direction of the initial Highlander film and it’s subsequent sequel should have been a calling card for THOR. Later in his career, Mulcahy would take a stab at PULP ICON “The Shadow” in an attempt to create a franchise for Universal Studios.






The Shadow
Directed by: Russell Mulcahy
Featuring: Alec Baldwin, John Lone, Penelope Anne Miller, Jonathan Winters and Tim Curry
Written by: David Koepp
Producer: Willi Baer, Martin Bregman and Michael Scott Bregman
Music composed by: Jerry Goldsmith
Cinematography: Stephen H. Burum
Edited by: Peter Honess, Beth Jochem Besterveld
Distributed by: Universal Studios
Release Date: July 1, 1994
Running time: 108min.
Budget: 40 million
Gross Revenue: $48,063,435 (Worldwide)

The Shadow is a 1994 American superhero film, directed by Russell Mulcahy, and based on the character of the same name created by Walter B. Gibson in 1931. Alec Baldwin starred in the title role. The film is one of many featuring The Shadow, but it is the most expensive of those productions, with an estimated $40 million budget. It was ultimately a box office disappointment grossing only $48,063,435 (Worldwide), but has achieved cult status and following on DVD.
I admit that I didn’t feel that the film would be too successful based on the fact that it was based on a pulp fiction / serial movie character barely visible in pop culture at the time. It was made during the partial superhero boom of the early nineties when the studios were looking for the “Next Batman” franchise. Universal Pictures placed solid director Mulcahy at the helm of the project and he did not disappoint staying true to the source material while adding a decidedly edgy spin on the character.



Lamont Cranston, the shadow’s alter-ego as played by Alec Baldwin begins the film as ruthless criminal and warlord in the Orient who is captured and brought before a mystical Tibetan monk known as “The Tulku.” The lama informs Cranston that he is there to be forcibly reformed and turned into a force for justice.


THE TULKU

Cranston responds by attempting to murder the Tulku who displays numerous mystical powers in this initial encounter and eventually subdues Cranston with the aid of the “Phurba,” a sentient, ancient dagger with a nasty disposition.



THE PHURBA


Thus, Lamont Cranston is rehabilitated and returned to the civilized world to fight crime as a force for good.





The Shadow’s Iconic Debut (1994)






One of the things that I appreciate about Mulcahy’s version of the character is that even after his “rehabilitation”, Cranston retains slivers of his former dark persona and coerces /forces all of the people he saves or rescues into a clandestine network of operatives top assist him in his crime fighting duties however big or small the task at hand. Each of the operatives is given a strange ring which flashes when they are needed. Also of note is that The Shadow appears to only save people he believes will be able to assist him in the foreseeable future.




Lamont Cranston spends his down time between crime fighting gigs hanging out at a local jazz club, fully essaying the “millionaire playboy” bit. This is also where Alec Baldwin shines in this feature. He is truly in his element in these scenes and is a delight to watch.

It is at this time that Cranston becomes involved with a somewhat mysterious beauty, Margo Lane played here by Penelope Anne Miller. Lane is attempting to find her father, (Ian McKellan) a scientist employed by the U.S. War department.





Note: Penelope Anne Miller’s performance is definitely the “weak link” in this production and she was obviously miscast. The film suffers heavily for it every time her character speaks. In a number of scenes, Miller gives a monotone recital of her lines.





It is soon discovered that Reinhart (McKellan) has been abducted by Shiwan Khan, a villain whose past ties directly with Cranston’s former life. Khan initially views Cranston as his equal and makes it known that he desires an allegiance with the man he claims to admire.





THE INTRODUCTION OF SHIWAN KHAN





Shiwan Khan (John Lone) provides Baldwin’s Cranston with a charismatic, even likable villain. As a direct descendant of Genghis Khan, Shiwan’s goals match his famous ancestor in scope.




Shiwan Khan is a great villain, but I feel that the character suffers from a lack of some attention to detail as his underlings prove to be stock villainous Asian stereotypes popular at the time of the Shadow’s creation during the thirties.




There are also some note worthy character performances in the film courtesy of Peter Boyle, Jonathan Winters, James Hong and last but not least … Tim Curry. Curry’s performance as Khan underling and minor villain Farley Claymore is hilarious going way over the top as times.





Is the shadow a great movie?
No … It suffers from some weak performances and a bit too much camp.

“The Shadow” is however, solid entertainment and superhero film buffs could do a lot worse on a quiet evening.



“The SHADOW”
2 ½ out of Five Stars


….shadowgeek 10 returns to the shadows (pun intended) once more…

Related:

Concept Art For 1994's THE SHADOW Starring Alec Baldwin

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