Movie of the Day – The Shadow

You know, I just about forgot about this pulp comic gem.  It wasn’t until me and co-worker were coming up with ridiculous Fedora jokes (sparked by a co-worker who was wearing a fedora that was larger than her head) that I reached way back into the realm of film characters who were Fedoras, that The Shadow came up all of a sudden.  Alec Baldwin as Lamont Cranston, a man draped in the shadows of the night, right wrongs and stopping madmen from taking over the world.  I remember seeing this ages ago, in fact, the movie came out 17 years ago.  The special effects were cool, it had this retro pulp vibe and it was enjoyable.  Now that I look back on the movie, the story was shit, it was all over the place and the dialogue was choppy and stilted.  What the hell did I care, I was a kid when I saw it.  But the fedora joke and my connection to the film makes me want to go back and revisit it.  I am a lover of the pulp comics and a fan of films that takes this stylistic approach to making the reality.  So grab your fedora and get ready for The Shadow.

Alec Baldwin stars as Lamont Cranston, a murderous opium dealer reformed by a Tibetan mystic, who teaches him how to use his keen mental powers to manipulate others. As penance for his past misdeeds, Cranston masquerades as a degenerate New York City playboy by day and secretly plays the heroic Shadow by night, staving off evildoers with a network of agents and a cab-driving sidekick (Peter Boyle). A greater challenge arrives when Cranston must fight Shiwan Khan (John Lone), the final descendent of Genghis Khan, who has received training from the same Tibetan master who instructed Cranston. Shiwan plans to use atomic weapons to take over New York and then the world. At the same time, Cranston meets socialite Margo Lane (Penelope Ann Miller), and, although he’s instantly enamored of her, he discovers that her psychic abilities render his secret identity vulnerable.  Karl Williams, Rovi

Now the story for the movie is all over the place.  We are jumping to a muddled back story that if you are familiar with the comics and radio show (I doubt anyone is old enough to even remember those, me included) then you get the back story and his history.  But aside from the story, I kind of like the characters presented in the movie.  It’s this eclectic mix of pulpy characters from the sidekick driver, the dame who can see through our hero, and a historical villain.  All these elements might seem campy, but it fills the adventure aspect of pulp comics very well.  They would normally seem out of place in a movie, but they all vibe well with the offbeat style of the movie and story.  Again this doesn’t make up for the movies shortcomings, but it lessens the impact if you just sit back and enjoy.

The thing that captured my mind as a child was the look of the movie and effects.  You have a man who can blend into and become the shadows of the night, which means he is cloaked in darkness.  The effects were pretty cool, having The Shadow kind materialize out of thin air and have this smokey aura when he interacted with objects.  It made the movie have some degree of weight and you can buy into the premise of the film.  The other aspect was the gorgeous settings of the movie.  You have this opulent, art deco style building structure, making them seem larger than life.  It looked sharp, stylish, and made them a character all their own.  Every thing down to the cars, the club and clothing pulls you into this alternate, Ayn Rand feel.  If you have seen movies like The Rocketeer or The Phantom, those also share similar styles as they are from the pulp comic genre.

I think pulp comics are interesting, given the serialization of the comics and the constantly shifting adventure story lines, but they ultimately don’t make for great movies.  Story wise you are trying to condense a large backlog of history with the characters and it gets lost.  It’s campy on the pages for a reason and the dialogue will come out campy as well.  But where they succeed though is in the art direction and set design.  Watch this movie and tell me it doesn’t grand and vibrant.  And what luck as the movie is available on Netflix Instant Stream.

About Nick
I am just another blogger putting his thoughts into a website. My love is movies so most of my musings will be movie related. I work as an online marketer for an advertising company and when I am not earning a paycheck, I moonlight as a vigilante film blogger.

2 Responses to Movie of the Day – The Shadow

  1. H.E. ELLIS says:

    Oh my God is that Tim Curry in that picture?! I don’t know how I missed this. I thought I saw everything he was in. I know what I’m watching this weekend.

    • Nick says:

      He plays a sleazy scientist, typical back stabbing traitor in the movie. Although being Tim Curry, he plays it very well. Kind of like his role in Congo. Speaking of which I know what I am watching now.

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