Sunday, 3 March 2013

The Shadow (1994)

In true 30's period style and setting this comicbook/pulp adaptation visually looks awesome and captures the atmosphere of the era perfectly. If you think along the lines of 'Dick Tracy' and 'The Rocketeer' then you will get an idea of the vibe going on here. Even though the budget for 'The Phantom' was actually bigger than this film, director Mulcahy's film certainly looks the slicker and more realistic.

The character of The Shadow isn't anything really special to be honest, its just a guy in a cloak with a fedora type hat on and he carries two guns. He always did seem like a poor man's Batman in all honesty, not too distant from The Phantom or Darkman actually. The main difference with this guy is the fact he does actually have some special super powers. He can cloud men's minds (what about women?) with a kind of spiritual hypnosis that blinds people to his presence...accept for his shadow oddly enough, hence his name. Oh and he's pretty snazzy with the two guns also. This character fits his dark little world perfectly in both his crime fighting form and his alias as a rich good looking 'Bruce Wayne' type. His lair has a neat little secret entrance just like Wayne Manor to the Batcave and he lurks around in the shadows quite nicely.

The plot is an odd one, Baldwin starts off as a bad guy in Tibet after succumbing to his darker side not long after WWI (dunno why). He is then kidnapped by some wise holy man who for some reason will train Baldwin to be a good guy, unsure why really, but in the end he goes back to New York and begins his Batman-esque lifestyle. Then some other magical fellow turns up to challenge Baldwin or try and get him to join with him so he can gain world domination. This bad guy happens to be a distant relation of Genghis Khan, for some reason we have another crime fighter who must face off against a Khan. Hellboy had to face off against the actual Genghis Khan, weird how Khan seems to pop up in these fantasy films.

As you can guess from this story idea there is a lot of mystical hocus pocus going on throughout and the plot is slightly convoluted to be frank. Really the film excels with its visuals, a lovely looking old fashioned 30's New York complete with dated cars, store fronts and atmospheric swirling mist, the invisibility effects, shadow effects, hands on makeup and a surprisingly cool looking outfit for the Shadow (did someone pinch ideas for 'Dark City' here?). The sets are really well designed throughout too and look stunning I must say, beautifully presented and created, the sets are obvious but that adds to the charm and realism plus it works much better than CGI. Not too sure about the far East look for Baldwin's character though, wig was a bit crappy. There is of course some CGI present throughout which tends to swing from being reasonable (looking back now), to a bit hokey in places, bit plastic looking. Of course back in the day the effects were relatively special to a degree.

The movie is great fun and looks slick with a good casting choice in Baldwin for the main heroic/bad guy lead. He looks perfect for the part of Cranston the playboy and actually could well have been a good Bruce Wayne too I'm sure, a bit gruff maybe. This is really how 'The Green Hornet' should of been approached instead of the geeky spoof-like farce it was. Shame 'The Shadow' failed at the box office as this is another decent period superhero flick adaptation which is uniquely fresh plot wise but visuals wise was maybe more familiar. You just gotta look past the solid but cliched appearance.

Gotta love that classic film poster though huh, just like 'The Rocketeer' they really capture the essence of the old style crime caper and dare devil hero aspect. Lovely combination of colours and art work, very striking.


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