The Shadow Collectors Edition Blu-ray Review (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, March 10, 2014
When I look back at the 1994 film, The Shadow I do so with one part fondness and three parts disappointment over what could have been. As a fan of The Shadow for many years I was especially enthusiastic about the production since it had been nearly 50 years since the character last appeared on screen in a “B” movie The Shadow Returns. On paper the film had a lot going for it…Alec Baldwin in the title role was one of Hollywood’s biggest starts of 1990s and was surrounded by a cast featuring John Lone, Penelope Ann Miller, Tim Curry, Peter Boyle, and a pre X-Men and Lord of the Rings Ian McKellan. It also had a screenplay written by David Koepp who had previously written successful films such as “Jurassic Park”, “Carlito’s Way”, and “The Paper”. Yet despite all that it had going for it The Shadow failed to connect with fans or critics. While the film made back (barely) its $40 million dollar budget, Universal films considered it a disappointment and a potential franchise never materialized.
Now, nearly 20 years after its theatrical release Shout Factory delivers a new Collector’s Edition Blu-Ray featuring a 1080p High-Definition Widescreen transfer and new bonus material. Well, calling this a Collector’s Edition might be somewhat of an ambitious title. The only bonus material included other than the original trailer and still gallery is a new interview with the director and cast which we will talk about later. The HD transfer looks gorgeous but the film always did look great and it is only 20 years old.
Still the cinematography and set design are the film’s strongest points. The look and feel of the glamorous 1930’s is perfectly captured with his glitzy nightclubs, women dressed in flowing gowns and men in tuxedos. The streets, the set pieces all help bring the pulp hero’s era to life. Koepp’s script build’s a backstory to Lamont Cranston, aka The Shadow showing us his dark background and how he is able to know the “evil that lurks in the heart of men”. The Shadow’s first appearance, rescuing a man from being murdered by a gang of mobsters and using his signature twin .45s, was one of the highlights of the film.
Unfortunately, things would derail from there. The Shadow’s rival is Shiwan Khan (Lone) a descendent of Genghis Khan who has same mental/supernatural abilities as the Shadow does. Mulcachy tries to hit a grand slam with no runners on base however. Rather than keeping it simple he goes overboard with a plot involving Khan’s plan for world domination and kidnapping an atomic scientist (Mckellan) to build a nuclear weapon to destroy New York. The plot is further muddled by giving Margo Lane (Miller) telepathic abilities to read Cranston’s mind yet he cannot use his powers on her. The over complication of plot elements prevents the film from truly embracing its gritty pulp magazine roots.
While there has been talk of producing a new Shadow film, including by Sam Raimi, at this time nothing is in the works. The 1994 had its share of faults but it remains a gorgeous looking, and generally well-acted film that could have and should have been much better.
Looking Back at the Shadow (23:44) – This new documentary was produced for the collector’s edition blu-ray and features interviews with Alec Baldwin, Penelope Ann Miller, Director Russell Mulcahy, and screenwriter David Koepp. All share their memories of working on the film.
Mania Grade: B
Starring: Alec Baldwin, John Lone, Penelope Ann Miller, Ian McKellan, Tim Curry, Peter Boyle
Written By: David Koepp
Directed By: Russell Mulcahy
Original Year of Release: 1994
Studio: Universal Studios
Special Features: See Below