Mike Nelson of Mystery Science Theater 3000 Reviews:
The weed of crime bears bitter fruit
Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? This big-screen adaptation of the popular 1930's comic strip and radio show stars Alec Baldwin as Lamont Cranston, a heroic crime fighter out to stop his arch enemy, Shiwan Khan — a madman who plans to hold the world hostage with a powerful atom weapon. Thankfully, Lamont has a few tricks up his sleeve — including invisibility and his famous power to cloud men's minds.
This stylish feature, which also stars John Lone (of "Iceman") and Penelope Ann Miller (of "The Relic"), was directed by Russell Mulcahy (of Highlander fame).
Additional cast: Jonathan Winters as the Commissioner, Tim Curry of Rocky Horror Picture Show as Khan's N.Y. partner and Peter Boyle of Young Frankenstein as the Shadow's taxi driver Shrevy.
Now here's Mike Nelson:
"The film begins by showing how Ying Ko (Baldwin), an industrious and committed Chinese opium dealer, is kidnapped and then bullied into becoming Lamont Cranston by a do-good holy man. The holy man espouses a kind of vague philosophy ("we are all light and shadow") but never gets down to brass tacks--is he Presbyterian, Missouri-Synod Lutheran? We never learn. Neither do we learn why Alec Baldwin is accepted by other Chinese opium dealers as one of their own, never once inquiring, "Hey, why are we listening to that guy from Massapequa again?"
"Once converted to the holy man's ways, Ying Ko is taught, according to an on-screen slate, "to cloud men's minds--to fog their vision thru force of concentration, leaving visible the only thing he can never hide: his shadow." How does that amount to a philosophy of good? What if I just went around clouding men's minds, stealing their Land Rovers and calfskin briefcases, and then claiming, "Well, I was just fogging their minds?"
"Getting back to The Shadow, the holy man outpaces his new charge, now named Lamont Cranston (after the mediocre blues band that had a hit with Upper Mississippi Shakedown), in New York City, giving him vague instructions to fight crime. He does what he can with this limited "fogging men's minds" power, but mostly he beats up doughy mobsters and laughs that annoying laugh of his. You know, the one that's supposed to be mysterious but just comes off as kind of forced. Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? Ha ha ha ha ha ha... Yeah, okay. The Shadow knows, though The Shadow seems to be having a lot more fun with it than the rest of us."
"He enlists a web of informants by pretending to be magnanimously saving their lives, but then shanghais them into his less-than-profitable organization. He's obviously aware of the limitations of his "fogging men's minds" power and is smart enough to know he needs damn good reconnaissance. He initiates communication with his web by reciting the completely inconspicuous line "The sun is shining," to which the informant must respond, "Yes, but the ice is slippery," a line that works 67% of the time in late December thru mid-January and then begins to show its strain."
The lonely Cranston meets a woman (Penelope Ann Miller) and is immediately intrigued with her because she can read men's thoughts. That's fine for him, but frankly, what woman can't read a man's thoughts? Even if she had no innate ability to read men's minds and guessed "I'd really like some ham," she'd be right most of the time. Try, "Boy, that Roy Firestone is funny," and the percentage shoots even higher."
"The Shadow's trouble begins when Shiwan Khan (John Lone), the last survivor of Genghis Khan (not counting Ricardo Montalban of course), comes to New York via a large aluminum sarcophagus in order to explode the atom bomb and take over the world. Please don't ask me who Shiwan Khan is or where he came from. It seems to be a holdover from the comic book version, and those comic book guys get really mad if you question anything. All I know is Shiwan Khan has the power to hypnotize virtually anyone he wants, and is not limited to merely "fogging men's minds." Cranston finds Shiwan in the Monolith Hotel, which Khan has hidden by hypnotizing every single person in New York City, even the guy who burned my white dress shirt and refused to pay for it."
"Shiwan and Cranston do battle, flinging sharp things at each other's skulls by using the method of concentration taught by their mutual friend "the holy man." I have no desire to raise a contentious issue, but aren't holy men, even those of the most obscure and unpopular sects, forbidden from flinging razor-sharp slivers of glass into other men's motor cortexes?"
"That remains my big stumbling block with The Shadow--I don't believe he's good just because the movie asserts that he is. He punches, shoots, and stabs people. I see no community work, no tithing or fasting; the guy's a spiritual mess."
"If Ying Do/Lamont Cranston/The Shadow can get his stuff together and figure out what he stands for, I'm ready to sit in front of the warm glow of the Philco with a bowl of treacle and wait for episode two."
Now out on DVD:
"You've Got Mail (1998) is allegedly based on an old movie and play (Little Shop Around The Corner), but was, in reality, based on a WAV file attachment in the America Online software. That WAV file doesn't hold up as a full-length movie. It should have been expanded to a JPEG file and shown to test audiences before making the leap to film."
"The Shadow" is available on on DVD from Amazon.com
Books by Michael Nelson available from Amazon.com include Movie Megacheese (used only, now out of print). Mike's episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 are also available from Amazon.com on video and on DVD, and he co-wrote the book
The last time I checked they had several used copies of Megacheese for sale. I won't sell you my copy. Don't even ask. I haven't read the Jackie Chan chapter yet, or even the Van Damme chapter and you know how much I like Van Dammege. "The Muscles from Brussels. Kick boxer. Actor. Restauranteur. Dumber than a bag of hammers...Makes Steven Seagal look like Richard Burbage." Well ok, I did read the intro to the Van Damme chapter...
"The Shadow" airs from time to time on the SciFi Channel and USA Network
Note: If you didn't like Mike's review of "The Shadow," please understand that he has been having nightmares lately where he rips his face off and underneath he's another person - John Travolta
But that's another movie...
Back to MST 3000 page at Sci-fans.com
Or visit The Spirit of the Golden Age of Comics
Click here to hear The Shadow movie theme again
© 2000 Michael J. Nelson. All rights reserved, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles & reviews. Mike Nelson is no relation to Lloyd Bridges and has never run low on air while hunting around under the sea.
Shadow movie promo trailer archived at the Internet Movie Database