Lamont Cranston (Alec Baldwin) is a former American soldier, and a veteran of World War I. Tired of being a servant to greater powers, Cranston disappears following the armistice and hides himself away in Tibet, eventually rising to power as an iron-fisted opium producer and warlord named Ying Ko. Living his life in opulence, Ying Ko sees little reason for reform, controlling the majority of the country’s opium fields and casually using brutal violence to achieve and maintain his power. One night he is kidnapped from his chambers by unknown assailants, who spirit him away from his estate and bring him before the Tulku. The Tulku, who is clearly much more than a simple holy man, confronts Ying Ko and reveals to him that he knows his true identity as Lamont Cranston. He tells Cranston that he had him brought to the temple so that he could learn to overcome the darkness in his heart in order to become a force for good; he chose Cranston because “you know what evil lurks in the hearts of men” because of the evil Cranston committed. Cranston’s objections are quickly silenced by a run-in with the Phurba, a living knife whose murderous intentions are kept in check by the Tulku’s mental abilities, and so begins Cranston’s reluctant tutelage under the powerful mystic. For seven years, Cranston is taught to cloud men’s minds, which permits him to control or alter people’s perceptions and thoughts by force of concentration. His most apparent use of this power allows him to become invisible, removing himself from people’s vision in every part except for his shadow, the only thing he can never hide.
With his newfound abilities, Cranston returns to the United States, where he resumes the life he had before the war as an opulent playboy. His alter ego, The Shadow, terrorizes the criminal element of the city and is regarded by the public as an urban legend. He utilizes a vast network of spies and agents, identified by their fire opal rings, recruited from the various citizens he saves which affords him a large talent pool to draw from should he require their expertise or knowledge. Some of the agents he recruited are: his own personal taxi cab driver Moe Shrevnitz (Peter Boyle) and NYU science professor Dr. Roy Tam (Sab Shimono) .His activities go as planned until Shiwan Khan (John Lone), the last living descendant of Genghis Khan, enters the country with his infamous ancestor’s holy crypt, arriving inside the Natural History museum. Khan, a fellow student of the Tulku, exhibits psychic powers even more focused than Cranston’s. But he remained evil and an Asiatic supremacist, and was not brought over to the side of good before he left the Tulku. Able to hypnotize others into doing his bidding, Khan is able to mull along secretly until he decides to reveal himself to The Shadow. Khan, an admirer of Cranston’s previous atrocities as Ying Ko, wishes to let Cranston in on his forthcoming plans to complete Genghis Khan’s global domination and once again allow his darker nature to rule him. The Shadow is tempted but rejects Khan’s offer. While out to dinner with his uncle, Chief of Police Wainwright Barth (Jonathan Winters), Cranston meets and is immediately intrigued by Margo Lane (Penelope Ann Miller), a wealthy socialite, who seems to have suppressed mental abilities. He cannot allow himself to interact with her, however, because she has the ability to read his thoughts without apparent effort and is immune to his hypnosis. Her father Reinhardt Lane (Ian McKellen), a scientist working for the war department, ends up missing as his implosion device is key to Khan’s plan. When she goes to find him she is mesmerized by Khan’s stronger power, and is sent, apparently to kill The Shadow in his mansion but in reality to be killed by him. When Cranston confronts her and releases her from Khan’s control, she realizes that he is in fact The Shadow. In their next encounter, Khan tells Cranston that he sent Margo not to kill him but to be killed by him, so that his instincts would reawaken and Cranston would go back to his corrupt persona.
With Reinhardt’s implosion device in hand, Khan acquires the final piece of his plan: a beryllium sphere from Farley Claymore (Tim Curry), Reinhardt’s unscrupulous assistant. Claymore actually joined Khan by his own free will in exchange for power in the new world order, and with the two devices Khan has the ability to create an atomic weapon (a decade before the Manhattan Project). The Shadow infiltrates Khan’s headquarters, a massive hotel that he actually kept invisible to the entire population of New York, just as the atomic bomb is given two hours to detonate. He kills Farley Claymore and makes his way to Khan, but when he engages him Khan’s control over his powers proves to be sharper. Using the Phurba (Frank Welker), Khan cuts away at The Shadow until he begins to lose his concentration and reverts to Lamont Cranston. Unable to keep his powers from fading. Cranston struggles with the Phurba amidst Khan’s condescensions until he is forced to regain control, overpowering the Phurba and sending it into Khan’s torso.
With his concentration broken, Khan’s hypnotic control over his building and underlings fails, revealing the once-invisible hotel to the surprised New York populace. Reinhardt Lane, now free, helps his daughter disarm the atomic weapon while The Shadow pursues Khan. The Shadow chases him into the subsections of the building where, among a maze of mirrors, he uses his psychic powers to tear apart the glass and send a large shard into Khan’s forehead. When Khan awakes he finds himself in a mental hospital, stripped of his abilities due to a life-saving lobotomy that apparently removed the usually-dormant part of the brain that granted him his hypnotic skills. When the attending doctor explains the situation to a frustrated and bewildered Khan, the fire opal ring on his finger reveals him to be an agent of The Shadow.
At the film’s end, Margo and Lamont are embracing and kissing when Lamont has to leave suddenly. Margo asks Lamont if he’ll know where to find her, he simply responds, “I’ll know.”
I belive this blog was started shortly after the last time I watched this film, so it has gone this long without being reviewed. However, news broke this week, that there is set to be a remake/reboot of The Shadow franchise. Now, I have not been shy about my views on remakes, but I can deal with a reboot, if they make it worthwhile. If they can’t do that, then leave well-enough alone.
I’m a huge fan of films set in the 30s-40s…the film noir type of pictures, such as The Rocketeer, The Spirit, Dick Tracy, and the like. The Shadow follows in this vein, which is something that really appeals to me.
I’m way to young to have been around when the old radio show was on. The only knowledge I have of the character, other than this film, is pop culture references in cartoons and such. I belive, though, that they got this character pretty close to spot on, but don’t quote me on that. As with any superhero, or character other mediums, I’m sure that the writers took liberties here and there so that it could be more “appealing”.
The story is not my favorite part of this film. It seems to not know whether it wants to go dark, or keep it light, or find a happy medium. Personally, I think finding that happy medium would have worked best, as it did for Dick Tracy. On top of that, it does get a bit confusing. For instance, it opens with Alec Baldwin in what appears to be ancient times, then flashes ahead to 1930s New York City. It is never reveled, or even mentioned, that he has been alive that long, save for Khan’s obsession with him. Maybe its just me, but I just didn’t get that, and the more that I watch this film, the more confused I get.
The mind control aspects of the film, though, are pretty cool, and take center stage. Not quite sure that I care too much for that, but it wasn’t a bad direction.
Action could be a bit more. Well, let me take that back and rephrase that…there could be more action. To me, there just seemed to be slim pickings n the action. Sure, there are good fight scenes, but I guess I just wanted more.
Special effects aren’t bad. The shadow effects are really cool, albeit a tad cartoony, but it works. Not everything needs to look real, if you ask me. Could the effects have been better? Sure, but you can say that about any and very film that incorporates special effects.
Casting is pretty good. Alec Baldwin was perfect for this role, but I’m pretty sure they won’t be asking him to reprise his role, due to his current, shall we say, girth. He had the look, the eyes, and the voice to pull of the Shadow. Penelope Ann Miller was a good choice for Margo, especially since she captured that old Hollywood look that they were going for. She was very elegant in this film.
I would have liked to have known a bit more about what happened with the Tulku. No, I’m not talking Batman Begins type of training stuff (that takes up half the movie), but rather a little more info on it, maybe a longer flashback or something.
This is a film that is highly underrated. It really is a shame that it was a “flop”. I think it just came out at the wrong time. Could very well be, that a release a month earlier or later, it may have very well been a big hit. Who knows? I love this film, though. It’s not the best superhero film I’ve seen, but it is really good. Should you go see it? Yes, especially with a pending remake/reboot on the horizon. No offense to Sam (or is it Ted?) Raimi, but chances are they’ll bastardize it, as every other remake tends to be. So, go watch and enjoy before the new one soils The Shadow’s legacy.
4 out of 5 stars
This entry was posted on February 4, 2010 at 11:09 am and is filed under Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Superhero Films with tags Alec Baldwin, beryllium sphere, Ian McKellan, John Lone, Jonathan Winters, Lamont Cranston, mind control, Penelope Anne Miller, Peter Boyle, Phurba, Shiwan Khan, The Shadow, Tim Curry, Tulku, Ying Ko. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.