Available on Blu-ray for the first time, 1994’s The Shadow starred Alec Baldwin as Lamont Cranston and his shadowy alter-ego with the ability to cloud men’s minds to make himself invisible. Based on the pulp hero who made his appearance more than 80 years-ago, the screenplay by Walter Koepp may be a little too cheesy for some, but Baldwin and some nice period set design help sell a film that’s far more entertaining than it has any right to be.
After the brief origin for Cranston’s brutal time in the Far East as the muderous opium warlord Ying-Ko, and his training to fight the evil in his past and learn the mystic arts which will serve him well in the coming years, the movie picks up years later with The Shadow dispensing justice in New York City. Helping The Shadow is an organization of those he’s saved over the years and a little mind control that Cranston uses to make sure his uncle (Jonathan Winters) doesn’t allow the police to look to closely into the vigilante’s heroics.
The Shadow’s latest case involves the arrival of another student of the Tulku who journeys to the United States to make war with the famous Ying-Ko. Believing himself to be the last living descendant of Genghis Khan, Shiwan Khan (John Lone) kidnaps a local scientist (Ian McKellen) and uses his research to create the world’s first atomic bomb. To save the city The Shadow will have to rely on the help of the scientist’s daughter Margo Lane (Penelope Ann Miller), who is immune to the hero’s mind-control tricks. Peter Boyle and Tim Curry also round out the cast as henchmen to The Shadow and Shiwan Khan respectively.
Earnest to a fault, The Shadow is an awful lot of fun (even if it is a little too bloodless for a movie about a character who carries around a pair of silver .45 Magnums that are certainly not for show). Baldwin is terrific selling the Golden Age earnestness of the hero and, despite the fact that I don’t like the idea of her resistance to his powers, Miller is well-cast as the spirited Ms. Lane. Lone is stuck with the goofiest of the movie’s roles, but Khan’s abilities (including being able to make an entire luxury hotel disappear) make him a suitable threat to The Shadow.
Sadly, the new Blu-ray doesn’t offer any extras, featurettes, or commentary for the film. However, it’s certainly a step-up from the Full Screen DVD edition that was previously available.
[Universal Studios, $19.98]