Review by Gordon Justesen
Baldwin, John Lone, Penelope Ann Miller, Peter Boyle, Ian McKellan, Jonathan
Winters, Tim Curry
Director: Russell Mulcahy
Audio: DTS HD 5.1, DTS HD 2.0
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Shout! Factory
Features: See Review
Length: 108 Minutes
Release Date: February 25, 2014
“Oh, God! I dreamed.”
“So did I. What did you dream?”
“I was lying naked on a beach in the South Seas. The tide was coming up to my toes. The sun was beating down. My skin hot and cool at the same time. It was wonderful. What was yours?”
“I dreamed I tore all the skin off my face and was somebody else underneath.”
“You have problems.”
“I’m aware of that.”
The Shadow made quite an impression on me when I first saw it in theaters in 1994. It was without question one of the most visually stunning comic book adaptations to hit the screen, matching every bit with the look of Batman and Dick Tracy before it. And though it may not have been quite the blockbuster it was expected to be, it has gained something of a cult following and still holds up to this day.
This is a slick updating of the character born on both comic pages and the radio back in the 1920s. The story may not be all that engaging (heck, at points it’s a bit of a mess). But as an exercise in visual style, this is top notch quality every step of the way. Even the visual effects hold up very well for a movie made in 1994.
The movie comes courtesy of director Russell Mulcahy, who was quite an expert in action/fantasy fare in the late 80s and most of the 90s, having directed the super cult fantasy favorite Highlander. He actually helmed one of my favorite guilty pleasures of the 90s, the twisted revenge thriller Ricochet with Denzel Washington and John Lithgow. He’s also responsible for, in my opinion, the best Resident Evil installment with 2007‘s Extinction. The Shadow is without question one of his strongest efforts to date!
Alec Baldwin is very well cast in the role of Lamont Cranston, the alias of the titular crime fighter. Cranston is an uber rich playboy by day. When the night arrives, he dons a dark, wide hat and a cape, fighting crime wherever it lurks as The Shadow. In other words, he and Bruce Wayne could really get along well.
Cranston’s main nemesis is that Shiwan Khan (John Lone), who is actually the last survivor of Genghis Khan. In fact, he and The Shadow share quite a lot in common as far as mystical powers are concerned, in particular the ability to control people’s minds, resulting in the film’s many memorable moments. Khan has arrived in New York City to defeat The Shadow once and for all...and to literally conquer the rest of the world that Genghis had not already.
Complicating matters for our hero is a glowing sight for sore eyes named Margo Lane (Penelope Ann Miller, at the height of her sexiness). Their attraction to one another is linked to Margo having unrealized mental powers of her very own. Another pivotal character in the plot is Margo’s father, Dr. Reinhardt Lane (Ian McKellan, who I completely forgot was even in this movie), a slightly bumbling scientist.
I don’t recall the film garnering any Oscar nominations in various technical areas. And that’s a shame because it was very deserving of receiving nods not only in visual effects, but especially that of production design and costumes. There was a ton of effort put into these departments, and it shows massively in the finished product.
With so many superhero properties getting rebooted left and right, I’m actually quite surprised that there hasn’t been word of a reboot for this character. But that’s quite fine with me because the market is flooded with endless superhero movies, and The Shadow isn’t in need of the kind of re-tooling that other heroes have deservingly got, most notably Dredd. The 1994 take on The Shadow is easily the only version that needs to exist!
This movie actually hit Blu-ray not that long ago courtesy of Universal. I never caught that edition so I can’t offer a comparison, but I can say that this new release from Shout! Factory is most terrific in presenting this visually engaging film in the proper format. As a result of HD, the production design looks even more amazing. And the visual effects surprisingly don’t look as dated as you might expect from a Blu-ray reworking of a twenty year old movie. Skin tones appear terrific as well, and overall image detail is most impressive.
A most exceptional DTS HD mix adds quite a lot to this superhero adventure. The biggest highlight is that of Jerry Goldsmith’s amazing music score, which fully brings your surround sound system to life each time it plays. The various action set pieces get a good deal of work, as expected. Dialogue delivery is also top notch, especially whenever we hear The Shadow speak!
Being that Shout! Factory has labeled this release as a “Collector’s Edition”, I wasn’t expecting so many extras to be kept in the shadows (sorry for that). But we do get an intriguing 25 minute retrospective featurette titled “Looking Back at The Shadow”, which features interviews from various cast and crew members. Also featured is a Still Gallery and a Theatrical Trailer.
The Shadow may not be as heavily remembered as other similar big screen hero adventures, but it remains a fun little gem. The Blu-ray release from Shout! Factory delivers a grand sound and picture presentation, which if you’re a die hard fan of the movie, you will strongly appreciate!