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The Shadow Knows

The Shadow Movie &

The Shadow Broadcasts
by Bill Laidlaw
The 1994 movie has little to do with the 15 part 1940 serial or the print version, though there are elements of both the radio series and the print versions of the Shadow in it.

The Shadow was first heard on the radio in 1929. An uncredited announcer* calling himself The Shadow introduced dramatized radio versions of love stories from Street & Smith romance magazines. This series flopped and only lasted one season, though I'm sure it had nothing to do with causing the stock market crash... No recordings exist but one can imagine a certain unintended sleazy quality, "Hi, I'm The Shadow. Here's a story of young lovers that I watched from the shadows."
When the series returned in 1930, gone were the romance stories. Instead, the Shadow (possibly the same actor/announcer*) introduced stories adapted from Street & Smith's Detective Story magazine. This format was a hit and ran through 1936 on the Mutual radio network, though again no recordings are known to exist of the Detective Magazine radio version of The Shadow.
* According to Ruthrauff & Ryan Advertising Agency, the first actor to play this role was announcer/narrator of Detective Story on the radio only lasted 2 weeks, then went back to Broadway and was replaced. However, the second one was so good, his voice was used for the opening and closing credits even later when Orson Welles and others played The Shadow. It was this uncredited voice from 1930 that opened each radio broadcast with, The weed of crime bears bitter fruit. Who knows what evil lurks in the minds of men? The Shadow knows." This was followed by The Shadow laugh, which was so distinctive that not even Welles was able to duplicate it. Click here for more on The Shadow pulp magazine & radio series

The Shadow movie

Alec Baldwin starred in this, Hollywood's only big-budget version of The Shadow (1994). It is easily the best version ever seen in theaters in terms of cinematography, special effects, the script and even seems to have been taken seriously by those involved. Go here for SciFi Channel description on 8-11-01

While an excellent film, let's get the negatives out of the way at the start. People say "My God" about a million times in this movie, I don't know if the script writer lost a bet or what. The only other major problem is that an opening sequence was invented in which Lamont Cranston (The Shadow) is a brutal drug lord in Mongolia, is captured and turned into a good guy by Tibetans, who also teach him how to be invisible and force people to do things using telepathy. Why Hollywood decided to make him a former drug lord, I don't know. In the radio version, The Shadow was a former adventurer named Lamont Cranston who learned the power of invisibility willingly. The print version is even more mysterious - The Shadow's true identity is never revealed to the readers: Lamont Cranston and Kent Allard (adventurer, pilot and WW1 spy) are simply names he uses as his identity whenever a rich playboy by that name is out of town (with his permission). The Shadow also uses a number of other identities, in the magazine novels.

That said, the movie is a good one and faithful to both the radio and print stories for the most part. Shrevie (Peter Boyle of Young Frankenstein) is a real person (as in the print version) instead of an idiot (as in the radio version), with Margo Lane as Lamont’s right arm person. The story itself seems to have been inpired by several radio episodes/stories:
“The Hypnotized Audience” Orson Welles as Lamont goes up against Durga Khan, who has similar mental powers
“Power Of The Mind” A scientist who’s invented a new type of bomb is kidnapped by someone with Lamont’s abilities. They are all locked behind a steel door in a ship. Lamont summons Margo (Agnes Moorehead), then escapes by mentally turning a weak-minded bad guy’s assistant against him (he was dumb, but loyal)
“The Silent Avenger” A killer uses his shell-shocked brother as an assassin. At the end, Lamont uses his mental powers to convince the killer not to let go of a hand grenade he was about to throw, falling to his death as it explodes
“The Bones Of The Dragon” Lamont and Margo investigate a grisly murder in Chinatown, that seems to point to an old friend, and a roomful of skeletons.
“The Poison Death” Bad guy threatens to destroy New York unless he gets $1,000,000
“Murders At The Museum” by a bad guy who clouds men’s minds
“Message From The Hills” Lamont lets Margo enter his mind to hear telepathic message from an island native chief under attack
“Hypnotic Death” A bad guy uses telepathy to convince people to walk into traffic after signing over life insurance, and Lamont’s the latest victim
“The Ghost Building” The city’s newest building is completed but has never had any tenants and is said to be haunted
“The Plot Murder” A mentalist hijacks the military’s new flying bomb and forces an army man to think he did it
“Séance With Death” Lamont goes after a séance racket that retaliates by sending a hypnotized woman to Lamont’s place to kill him. After the gunshots hit Lamont’s reflection in his mirror, he lets her stay in an apartment while he and Margo go after the bad guys. Or was she just pretending?
“Sabotage” Submarines and ships are being blown up on orders from a madman who can sense Lamont’s presence
With perhaps a nod to a “Boston Blackie” radio series 9-8-48 episode, “The Kingston Office Building” An investor named Kingston buys a new 15-story building but the next day it’s an old vacant lot and apparently always has been. Then the conman who sold it to him ends up dead, his wife says he just stopped the car on a bridge and jumped to his death
If you are interested in any of these radio broadcasts, I think they are all available from on tape or possibly CD. Also, KNX Radio webcasts old radio shows 7-days a week including a Shadow episode each week. Check their schedule for upcoming ep titles. Each broadcast is only available to hear free online for 24-hours.

The movie ends with the bad guy in a private mental hospital, the part of his brain used for telepathy removed. Both the radio and print versions of The Shadow ended with the bad guys in jail or dead, so this appears to have been lifted from the Doc Savage 1975 movie by George Pal, and Doc Savage print novels, in which Doc Savage had bad guys operated on to remove evil tendencies (lobotomy was seen this way in the 1930s). By the way, you may recognize the doctor who operated on Khan, as actor Max Wright, the guy who found an alien life form in his garage in the TV-series “ALF.”

Alec Baldwin has starred in a number of movies available on video or DVD, most notably “The Hunt For Red October.”
Peter Boyle has been in movies including Mel Brooks’ “Young Frankenstein,” and is most recently seen as the dad in TV’s “Everybody Loves Raymond”
Commissioner Weston is played surprisingly well by comedic actor Jonathan Winters, who in the movie seems to be related to Lamont (they are not relatives in the print or radio versions)
Penelope Ann Miller is better known now than when she played Margo Lane in this movie
Secondary bad guy Tim Curry was probably best known to American audiences previously for The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which is still in some theaters at midnight showings. He also played the Soviet official onboard who questions Sean Connery’s intentions in “The Hunt For Red October” and played Gomez Addams in 1998’s Addams Family Reunion. His most recent effort was as Mr. French in the Fox TV-series remake of “Family Affair.” Hopefully he has changed agents
And speaking of movies, in the new X-Men movie, doesn’t Mystique have a hairline strangely similar to that of Doc Savage on Bantam paperback covers? You’re right, only a Doc Savage fan like me would notice what the top of nude Mystique’s head looks like…

click here for history of The Shadow pulp magazine & radio series
click here for a short history of pulp magazines

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Trivia Question:

Name the Shadow adventure in which Lamont and Margo are passengers who are hijacked, learn that the hijackers are planning to put bombs in airplanes and fly them into New York City, and overcome the hijackers? Answer

There have been 16 issues of the Doc Savage Quest, send SASE to Bill Laidlaw, 524 Printz Rd, Arroyo Grande CA 93420 (home address) for price list until I figure out how the computer scanner works...
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