Super Hero
The Shadow
Dir: Russell Mulcahy
Star: Alec Baldwin, Penelope Ann Miller, John Lone, Tim Curry
Cert / Year: 12 - R / 1994
Format: VIDEO

Who Know's what Evil Lurks in the Hearts of Men?.......The Shadow Know's!"

Abducted from his fortress home in Tibet feared drug lord and controller of the opium trade in Asia, Yin Ko is taken to the holy man known as the Tulku. Unable to see the huge temple at first Yin Ko soon learns that the clouded mind sees nothing as its expansive silver and gold facade is revealed to him.

The Tulku knows that Yin Ko's true identity is Lamont Cranston Alec Baldwin a millionairre playboy who after the war indulged his bloodlust and hunger for power and became the vicious and brutal Yin Ko who soon took control of the opium trade in Asia. The Tulku has other plans for Cranston and wants him to use his dark nature for good and in return he will earn redemption for his crimes in his past life.

"The price of redemption for Cranston was to take up mans struggle against evil. The Tulku taught him to cloud mens minds, to fog their vision through force of concentration, leaving visible the only thing that he can never hide....his Shadow. Thus armed Cranston returned to his homeland, that wretched lair of villainy that we know as.....New York City.

To mark the use of his darker side for the purpose of good, Cranstons appearance changes and he dons a hat and a scarf to conceal his new appearance and armed with his pearl handled pistols he terrorises the bad and the evil in his fight against crime. The criminal elements of the city soon realise that the reports that they hear of the mysterious "Shadow" are true as more and more of their criminal friends fall foul to his crusade and leave the rest of them in fear.

A surprise arrival of a carved solid silver coffin at the New York Museum of Natural History has the experts baffled. The coffin, according to it's inscription was the burial casket of none other than Genghis Khan. Instead of housing the remains of Genghis Khan it contains his last living descendant, Shiwan Khan (John Lone) also a former student of the Tulku but his teachings were not as effective on Khan, who killed him before traveling to the United States in Genghis Khan's coffin in order to absorb his power.

Genghis Khan managed to conquer half of the world before he died, Shiwan Khan intends to do a lot better and the only thing standing in his way is of course The Shadow, the only other person in New York that can read and cloud mens minds.

Taken from the 1930's radio plays and pulp comics written by Walter Gibson "The Shadow" was one of the first of the crime fighting super heroes and was certainly the most popular of the time. During the resurgence in the early 90's of interest in psychic powers and Far East mysticism the Shadow was a good film to make as it encompassed all of these attributes. However it didn't receive a lot of the credit that it is really due, making a movie of such an old and for most an unheard of character is risky and if a lot of your target audience are more interested in space ships and laser guns then you fight a losing battle. The Shadow is a cool film with the title character who is gifted with telepathy doing his bit against crime and not relying on impractical and excessively far fetched gadgets and a utility belt or a jet powered car, he is just a man who uses his head and not an unbeatable kung-fu master in a bullet proof suit.

To the credit of Russell Mulcahy he directs the pre-war super hero most effectively and as a film in general it is a nice package. I found some of the sweeping aeriel photography of New York a little remiscent of Blade Runner with the dark atmospherics of the city, if a little less imposing but it does look good. As you would expect with Russell Mulcahy the film contains his trademark of exploding glass and windows which as usual is used to the extreme for dramatic effect, although one or two of the effects look a little inferior to the rest of the film it all meshes well together.

I couldn't have imagined anyone other than Alec Baldwin playing the lead in the film as he has that charming playboy look and yet can switch around to the more disturbing psycho next door presence with such ease. (just like Michael Keaton, but a little less intense) Baldwin puts in a good performance and seems quite at home with the role, admittedly I wasn't sure until I saw the film but he works well and with the addition of some very cool contact lenses he provides a memorable performance. Unlike the camp and almost childish performance of John Lone as the Shadow's nemesis Shiwan Khan who has very few good scenes that he doesn't spoil and as for the rest they are just painfully bad. Lone is unfortunately like a fish out of water in this film which is a pity as he can be a good actor, evidence of this may be seen in The Last Emperor acting alongside Joan Chen.

Penelope Ann Miller provides an acceptable performance as Margo Lane the love interest character and daughter of Dr. Rheinhardt Lane Ian McKellan whom is kidnapped by Shiwan Khan. Although I must admit that any flaws in her acting performance may well have been overlooked due to her penchant for wearing revealing evening wear with clever plunging necklines and figure hugging qualities. A superbly impish supporting performance by the one and only Tim Curry as Farley Claymore which I just had to mention for any fans of his uniquely amusing style.

The Shadow was essentially an inspiration for many of the super heroes that we know today and elements of the story have been used again and again, the millionaire playboy with an alternate personality being just one of them. The transition of the radio plays from the 30's and 40's I feel is a good one and obviously with the added Hollywood Gloss courtesy of Russell Mulcahy the movie is visually stimulating and well directed. A typically ominous and dramatic soundtrack written by maestro Jerry Goldsmith maintains a dark feel to the film and this has to be one of Mulcahy's better films, for me the best has to be Highlander.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Reviewed by Logan Back Top Home