Saturday, April 10, 2010

Who Knows What Evil Lurks in the Hearts of Men? has a fun look back at 1994's The Shadow starring Alec Baldwin and John Lone.

The Shadow is such an interesting character, beginning as a radio show narrator in 1930 before graduating to a radio series all his own (and being voiced by wunderkind Orson Welles), then on to pulp magazine novels, movies, television, comic books and finally a big-budget movie directed by Russell Mulcahey. The character was also one of the big inspirations behind the creation of another famous creature of the night: The Batman (created in 1939).

The movie is seriously flawed - they messed with the Shadow's origin to tie him and the movie's villain Shiwan Khan more closely together - but looks great and the costume and make-up to transform Baldwin into the mysterious avenger who "knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men" is fantastic. Baldwin is perfect for the role, convincing as a millionaire playboy and equally convincing as his alter ego, the mysterious and more than a bit creepy Shadow (complete with great use of his deep scratchy voice and laugh). But I think they spent far too much time trying to devise and execute the way the Shadow appears and disappears in scenes - the "clouding of men's minds" - rather than spending the time on the script to make it more interesting and less bloated and obtuse.

Lone, who was great in Iceman and Year of the Dragon (a hero in the first, villain in the latter) is a dull villain here, and there isn't much humor in the film (save for Jonathan Winters' performance). Penelope Ann Miller as love interest Margo Lane is pretty but doesn't have much of a character (plus they made her a telepath, which is most certainly not in the source materials). There's no spunk there, like Margot Kidder brought to Lois Lane in the Christopher Reeve Superman movies; Miller was more annoying than endearing.

Aliens had one of the best ensemble casts in genre movies; the actors fit the characters (the veteran Sgt Apone, Hicks, Hudson, "Frosty," Vasquez and Drake), unlike The Abyss where the large ensemble didn't really come together (can you name just one of the supporting characters). The Shadow's cast of supporting characters who play his various agents are more like the latter film. They may all be competent actors, but for these roles they don't do anything to really get your attention (this is one of my problems with the new V series - flat casting).

Still, The Shadow is one of those movies that you watch whenever it's on. There was potential there, but it wasn't realized to its fullest.

Perhaps Sam Raimi, an admitted fan of the character, will either direct or at least produce a more faithful, fun and adventurous version of this beloved icon.

And always remember, The weed of crime bears bitter fruit.

1 comment:

  1. "The weed of crime bears bitter fruit..."

    I get goosebumps when I think of that line--and the wonderful laugh that follows.

    Great observations from both BNFOS and FSR. I am astounded whenever I come across anyone younger than 65 who not only knows that there was this thing called "radio drama" but has actually heard it and actively enjoys it!

    (God Bless the Brits for keeping it alive on the Beeb)

    I'm also surprised, to an extent, to learn of the cult status of the 1994 movie. I saw it in the theater opening weekend and haven't seen it since. Yes there was a lot that they managed to get right to be sure--and it was important stuff like you say, but so much of what they got wrong was the story that was supposed to glue it all together. They dressed the character up perfectly and then tied his shoelaces together.

    The movie deserved to tank as far as I'm concerned. I'm tempted now to watch it again but I imagine it will be just as frustrating as it was the first time (heck just reading about is frustrating--yet another wasted opportunity).

    Wasted opportunities...did someone say "Green Hornet"???