Saturday, April 11, 2020
Twitter Watch: The Shadow (1994)
Format: Amazon Streaming and tweet-along
Director: Russell MulCahy
I dunno. I still like this movie. It's a mess, but it wasn't what I was expecting when I saw it the first time, and while I would, one day, love a ahrd-edged anti-hero version of The Shadow to make it to TV or the big screen, this very-90's take on the character is okay for what it is, in my book. But I am well aware, when I went to go see stuff like this back in the day, the bar was so low, you had to dig for it.
When I first started getting *into* comics I found out you could get, for free, something called the Bud Plant catalog, which offered up stuff you weren't going to find on the Piggly Wiggly spinner rack, and they had sections dedicated to the pulp characters like The Shadow and The Spirit. The art I saw for The Shadow made The Punisher look tame by comparison (the work was Mike Kaluta's Shadow).
I didn't know, at the time, how far back The Shadow went - originally appearing as the voice of a nameless narrator on a crime fiction radio program in the 1920's, and eventually becoming a character in his own right, making the move to short stories and novellas, comics, movie serials, and more. There's zero question that he's part of the inspiration for Batman. And Orson Welles cut his teeth on a Shadow radio show.
But I'm not sure 1994 movie audiences who were there for action-figure-spawning movies were ready for the complicated world of The Shadow. So, things got really, really streamlined and the movie feels like a set-up so they can get on to sequels where more things happen. Which is usually a mistake. And while the movie did fine, it didn't do Batman numbers, and that was the end of that for everybody.
The movie certainly feels the way too many comics projects wound up in the aftermath of Batman in 1989. The look of the film seems to borrow a lot from Burton and Co., and they even try to replicate some Danny Elfman. Fortunately, I think Baldwin finds his own path to Lamont Cranston (if he's not actually Kent Allard, but let's not quibble), and it's hard to complain about the cast beyond teh fairly broad performances of the kinda all-star cast of John Lone, Jonathan Winters, Peter Boyle, Tim Curry, Penelope Ann Miller and more.
And, it's kind of fun. Baldwin's take on Cranston isn't exactly camp, but more of a battle of wits where he can't help but be a smart ass. Which, you know, he *is* a guy who laughs while in life or death situations. Not that I think there's deep character stuff going on here, but it's not a flawed performance. But it does give for some questions as to what everyone involved thought this movie was as it was being produced. It's kinda brutal in some parts even as they will have incredibly jokey parts in the next shot.
Anyway - We watched it and tweeted it! You should have been there.