Blu-Ray Review: THE SHADOW (1994)
Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?
Checking out the release date for The Shadow on IMDB I see it was released on July 1st 1994. I saw this one in a theater, and I assumed this was going to be a summer blockbuster that would result in a Shadow franchise. Man, was I wrong. And I remember liking it a lot, but apparently I was in the minority. Unfortunately I have no other specific memories. It came and went that summer and now here we are in 2014 and in the intervening decades I think this movie has garnered cult status. I admit it’s not one that readily comes to mind on any kind of regular or semi-regular basis, in fact, I hadn’t thought about it until I heard Shout! Factory had acquired it and was planning to put out a new blu-ray. When I heard that I got this warm, fuzzy feeling inside.
Before there was ever a Batman there was The Shadow!
Based on the 1930s pulp hero, Alec Baldwin plays Lamont Cranston who when we first see him is some kind of Tibetan warlord drunk on violence and evil until one day he is kidnapped by a monk who redirects his evil and teaches him to use his powers for good of mankind. Seven years later he moves to New York and begins to do just that.
Cranston’s power as The Shadow is the ability to alter his image and make himself invisible by clouding men’s minds. With his Jedi-like powers he can also control a person’s thoughts to make them do whatever he wishes. Mostly with Cranston he uses it to make people forget who he is or redirect someone from doing something stupid, like his uncle, Wainright Cranston (Jonathon Winters), who’s a police captain, from investigating these strange accounts of The Shadow.
Cranston’s main villain in this movie is Shiwan Khan, the last descendant of Genghis Khan. He was also trained by the same monk Cranston was and so has all the same powers, except in this case Shiwan killed the monk after learning all he could.
I had forgotten all the other famous faces in this movie. Aside from Winters there’s Penelope Ann Miller playing Cranston’s (telepathic) love interest, Margo Lane. We also have Ian McKellan playing scientist/Lane’s father; Tim Curry playing a nutty assistant to scientist Lane; Peter Boyle playing Cranston’s chauffer, and John Lone playing Khan. There were also some famous faces playing bit parts like James Hong and Al Leong who were both in Big Trouble In Little China (1986); Hong playing omnipotent villain, Lo-pan, and Leong a lowly Wing Kong thug. I also saw Steve Hytner (The Prophecy, ’95) as a Marine Guard and Ethan Phillips (Benson, Star Trek: Voyager) as a security guard Khan forces into suicide.
I will say I’m relieved this movie still appeals to me, despite the flare-up of odd bits of comedic dialogue. The 1930s are elegantly recreated, the action is good, the FX still holds up and seeing Baldwin in his prime when he used to be an actual movie star is most welcome. I think he would have made an excellent Bruce Wayne.
Universal released The Shadow onto DVD in the late 90s, then finally onto blu-ray summer of 2013. Now Shout! Factory was able to acquire it from them and release their own blu-ray. I can’t say how both blues compare, but the Shout version (1080p 1.85:1 anamorphic high definition transfer) is very good looking as I have come to expect all blu-rays from that company to look. No complaints whatsoever. Audio options you get are 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio or a 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio. Both sounded fine to me.
Extras include the 23-minute featurette, ‘Looking Back At The Shadow’ which manages to interview (new ones I might add) the two leads, Baldwin and Miller, the director, Russell Mulcahy, the production designer, writer and director or photography. It’s a typical making of which pretty much does what it sets out to do—educate you, to a degree, about the film and the subject matter’s source material.
Other extras include the Theatrical Trailer and a Photo Gallery (99 photos) that include production photos, behind-the-scenes photos, posters and stills.