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No, It’s Really Good: The Shadow (Film Review)

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?

The Shadow Knows.

The 1994 big budget feature film adaptation of the seminal radio/pulps/comics/serials character known as The Shadow was, at the time considered a faliure. It failed to launch a video game, toy, and clothing line all designed to take your hard earned 1994 money. The film was panned  by critics, and failed to make enough money to justify a sequel. However, the film isn’t actually bad. It’s weird, and changes things about the titular character but it’s dark, has an amazing score and written with more care than is usually afforded to these updates/reboots/rehashings of classic pulp characters.

The film The Shadow follows Lamont Cranston as he changes from a bloodthirsty drug baron in tibet to a cloaked avenger, struggling against the forces of evil.

What’s so interesting about the Shadow is that it doesn’t give two shits what you thought about the Shadow. It tries to overpower you with ‘cool’. It has style bleeding out of its eyesockets. The movie has an insane visual kinetisism, thanks to director Russel Mulcahy. The film also take large liberties with the origin of The Shadow, something I’m totally ok with. I love the fact that they gave Lamont Cranston an air of tragedy. That he has the beast inside of him that he can’t cage. He’s essentially a  superpowered Dexter in the 1930’s in the big screen adaptation.

The alterations to the Shaodw’s origin are quite substantial. In the original radio show/pulps he was just a globe trotting billionaire playboy type who settled in Tibet and was trained by a monk to ‘cloud men’s minds’ and thus he became the Shadow. He fought crime because it was the right thing to do. Truth, justice and war bonds! The Shadow smokes Camell lights! They’re good for your T-zone. The Shadow loves Blue Coal, it burns the best! In the feature film adaptation he was in Tibet running an opium cartel. He was taking, raping, pillaging, and killing. He was a mad man who, in order to tame the beast inside himself, agreed to study with a monk named the Talku. This gives the Shadow an even more desperate air to him. It really helps the audience buy into the narrative. Even if it is a bit more extreme then the blind patriotisim of the original incarnation.

The film also boasts an amazing cast. Alec Baldwin, in the titular role is so good it’s criminal, along with John Lone, Penelope Anne Miller, Ian McKellan, and Tim Curry. The film’s casting is picture perfect.

The most haunting element of the film  is without a doubt the score. The decending melody coupled with the meloncholy themes make this the perfect Shadow theme. It’s right up there with John Williams’ Superman theme and the Imperial March. Any time I hear the Shadow’s theme song it is instantly recognizable and iconic.

The Shadow, unfortunately, didn’t make boatloads of cash, like Universal wanted, so a sequel never materialized. The would-be franchise never became anything other than a cult film that pulp enthusiasts and comic book lovers dote on in private.

The Shadow deserves more than it gets. It’s a sold film, with an outstanding cast, and a great narrative. The film captures the essence of another time and infuses it with the sensabilities of a modern context. The films gorgeous sets and amazing soundtrack are enough to give it a re-watch by themselves.

The Shadow is one of the superhero films that has been overlooked by most of the current audiences. It’s a film that has been slowly building cult momentum. If one of the major studios decides to by the rights to make another go at The Shadow, expect this film’s visibility to increase dramatically. Until then, we’ll just have to be satisfied by the film as is.

4 / 5 stars     

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About the Author

on MUSIC IS MY OXYGEN WEEKLY.

Dave Baker, originally from the drug-infested wasteland that is Arizona, lives in Los Angeles. He has a degree in Visual Communications with an emphasis in Illustration. Logically, he makes a living as a writer. Dave has written comic books and the moving pictures. Dave also enjoys talking about himself in the third person, not cooking, and taking long walks around his apartment. If you'd like to read more of his writing or comics they can be found at http://theactionhospital.com

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Posted in: Cult Movies, Featured (Film), Film, Super Hero Movies


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