There are a lot of superhero flicks out there. Some might say too many. I say not enough, however; there are plenty of superhero flicks that go either unnoticed or unloved. What started as a project for the month of January turned into something more. I'm dedicated to the idea of re-watching and shedding some light on superhero flicks that have either been largely forgotten, scoffed at or ignored by the viewing public. You won't find stuff like The Avengers on this list. No Dark Knights or Hellboys. If there's a movie you'd like to to tackle, comment and let me know and I'll do my damndest to find it and add it to the series. The criteria for this is pretty loose, if the movie features a superhero, you're in. It doesn't have to be a DC or Marvel guy. Anyways, let's do this thing.
Years ago, my sister was at a concert. It might've been Billy Joel. I don't remember. The important part of her concertgoing adventure includes standing next to Alec Baldwin, who was dating some young, cute chica at the time. My sister texted me to tell me that he was standing next to her, enjoying the concert. This was years before I'd meet him in the Hamptons. I texted her back and told her to tell him that I love him and my favorite movie of his is The Shadow.
I know what you're thinking: "Not Glengarry Glenross? Not The Departed?Huh? What? The Shadow?"
You damn right, The Shadow. One of comics and heroism's most enduring champions, made flesh by Alec Baldwin, under the fantastic and workmanlike direction of Russell Mulcahy with scripting by David Koepp. Walter Gibson's The Shadow is a vigilante who relies on psychic powers, misdirection and two pistols as well as brilliant detective skills and a network of sources and contacts deep within New York city to combat evil.
Such a simple story, given the big-time Hollywood treatment in 1994, over 60 years after The Shadow made his radio debut. Intoning "Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!" and terrifying the life out of any and all baddies who get in his way, The Shadow serves as a kind of prototype for Batman. While Batman doesn't kill, The Shadow certainly has no qualms about taking down a few thugs while on his quest to stop the final descendent of Genghis Khan, who's appeared in New York to, like most villains, destroy the city that never sleeps.
For the era, the special effects aren't too bad. It's difficult for a movie to measure up the Jurassic Park, a movie with arguably the greatest special effects ever, but The Shadow's work perfectly fine nowadays. Mulcahy relies on animation along with traditional and CG work to bring The Shadow to life, which is fantastic. All the tricks of the trade combine to make for a perfectly-executed superhero feature.
One thing that's always bothered me was how The Shadow's lower-face mask stays on while engaged in action. It's underneath his nose, covering his mouth, but it never slips. From a functional standpoint, it doesn't work, however; with The Shadow's uncanny abilities, one can imagine that through a healthy mix of psychological illusion, spirit gum and a prayer, one can see the outfit working.
Orson Welles was The Shadow on the air back in the day, and Baldwin, with his incredible voice, is the perfect guy to step into the role. I don't know much about the background of the film, whether or not it was Baldwin himself who pushed hard for this movie to come to fruition or not, but Baldwin is, quite honestly, the only guy I could ever imagine as The Shadow. I can't even fathom who could step into the shoes of The Shadow these days. Will Arnett maybe? Val Kilmer?
Anyways, there's a new cut of the film, courtesy of the mad geniuses at Shout! Factory is beautiful. I don't know how much went into the development of this new blu-ray cut, but it's really nice looking. The sound is perfect, too. There's really nothing negative to say about the disc, the extras or anything, really.
I feel like The Shadow is a movie I could pop in whenever and enjoy it immensely. The mythology of the character, the darkness of who he is as a hero, his ways of fighting crime, it's all right up my alley. I'm a junkie for a great vigilante hero, one with darker tendencies, and The Shadow scratches all those itches.
NOTE: A version of this review also appeared on JustPressPlay.net, albeit in a different format.