Published Feb 25, 2014Compared to the never-ending glut of superhero blockbusters that can't be churned out of Hollywood fast enough these days, there's something almost endearingly quaint about The Shadow that points to why it has managed to age so well. Working with a character that gained notoriety through pulp novels and a radio serial during the Great Depression, the film has been sumptuously designed to evoke an era when dark streets teemed with danger while rich playboys caroused with crimson-lipped damsels at opulent parties.
It opens in Tibet shortly after the First World War, where American Lamont Cranston (Alec Baldwin) is living as a brutal warlord until he is overpowered by a powerful faceless entity known as Tulku. Because he truly knows now what evil lurks in the heart of men after becoming acquainted with the darkest recesses of his own, he is given the power to cloud others' minds and dons a hat and scarf when he returns to America to battle bad guys under the guise of vigilante The Shadow.
With the help of his reliable driver Moe (Peter Boyle) and new romantic interest Margo (Penelope Ann Miller), who possesses mental powers of her own beyond what she can comprehend, The Shadow is forced to contend with the arrival of Shiwan Khan (John Lone), the last descendant of Genghis Khan. The formidable Khan has enlisted a crazy scientist (naturally played by Tim Curry) to help build an atomic bomb by somehow first obtaining the necessary hardware from Margo's kooky scientist father (a delightfully bumbling Ian McKellen).
The story is pretty silly, relying far too much on mind control and telepathy to either complicate matters or solve dilemmas, but it moves along a nice clip and has a light comic touch that makes everything a little easier to swallow. The actors are all perfectly cast, even those at the fringes of the action, with Baldwin at the peak of his days as a leading man and Lone fully committing to the underwritten villain.
In short but sweet new interviews with the cast and crew, everyone fondly reminisces about working on the film. Baldwin recalls how he was drawn to the project because of the script by David Koepp, an in-demand screenwriter at the time who had just penned Jurassic Park and who would also later go on to tackle the first Spider-Man. More interesting, though, are the film's production designer and cinematographer discussing how they created and shot some of the more elaborate sets and sequences.