The Curator of Schlock #347 by Jeff Shuster

The Shadow

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of Hollywood producers?

I’m going to take a break from the Arrow Home Video releases this week as Big Tom subjected me to a rewatch of his favorite movie, 1994’s The Shadow from director Russell Mulcahy. Tom had an old VHS copy that we watched on his old RCA TV. He was downing Red Ripple and pork rinds fast and furious. By the time the end credits rolled, he was gripping his right arm and passing out on the shag carpet. Mrs. Big Tom called 911. My kangaroo Edwige and I rode in the ambulance with him.

But enough about trusted friends holding on for life and limb, we’ve got a movie to review.

Somehow I had missed The shadow growing up. Maybe I sneered at another attempt to capitalize on the popularity of the Batman movies (probably due to my getting burned by Sam Raimi’s Darkman). But now having seen The Shadow some twenty seven years later, I can see if the movie stands the test of time. Oh, boy. Where do I begin?

Alec Baldwin stars as Lamont Cranston, an American who sets himself up as a drug lord in Tibet following the first World War. He’s a nasty man, cornering the opium trade and killing anyone who stands in his way. A Tibetan Monk summons Cranston to his temple, forcing Cranston to reform himself and trains him to use his dark side, his shadow, to fight evil. Fast forward eight years and we see some gangsters in 1930s New York City about to throw a poor sap with cement shoes into the Hudson River.

Here we’re introduced to Cranston’s alter-ego, a super hero with telepathic abilities. The Shadow can’t explode heads or anything, but he can cloud men’s minds, make them see and think what he wants them to think. Cranston can also change his facial features, giving himself a big nose and jutting chin.. The Shadow dons a black trenchcoat, black fedora, and covers his mouth with a a red scarf just in case.

The Shadow threatens the mobster, holding him over the bridge, and tells him to confess to the murder of a police officer. The mobster agrees. What’s interesting about this is that the Shadow has no problem murdering criminals whenever he feels like it. He doesn’t have a no-killing policy like Batman or Superman. So why spare the mobster? Who knows. What else? Cranston’s uncle is the chief of police that wants two take down “this shadow character.”  Cranston also has a love interest named Margo Lane (Penelope Ann Miller) who has the ability to read minds.

So far, so good. But then the movie’s main villain shows up. A silver coffin arrives at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a coffin belonging to late Genghis Khan. Inside the coffin is Shiwan Khan (John Lone), the self-described last living descendant of Genghis Khan. That’s funny considering the fact that Genghis has an estimated 16 million male descendants living today! Like the Shadow, Shiwan Khan has psychic abilities and puts them to work right away by telling the museum guard to blow his brains out.

Shiwan Khan calls a cab and gets annoyed when the cabbie writes down Shiwan Khan’s destination. He then tells the cabbie to drive into a gasoline truck, resulting in a huge explosion. Shiwan Khan laughs maniacally at this, but he has work to do on the world domination front. None of this makes any sense. If you have powerful telepathic abilities, why not tell the cabbie and the guard to forget you were there? Why get shipped in a silver coffin when you can just rent an airplane? Why walk around New York City in a Mongolian Warlord’s outfit from the twelfth century? All this does is draw attention to yourself. I would think a super villain with plans for world domination would try to keep a low profile during the planning stages.

But what do I know? I’m not in the movie business. What else? Oh, Tim Curry stars as a wormy scientist who pledges his loyalty to Shiwan Khan. Later, the Shadow tells him to jump out a window to his death. Again, why spare the mobster, but kill the wormy scientist? Who knows? The Shadow knows. See what I did there?


Photo by Leslie Salas

Jeff Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124episode 131episode 284episode 441episode 442episode 443, episode 444, and episode 450) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.