"The Shadow: Collector's Edition"
Shout Factory Blu-Ray Review
Starring Alec Baldwin, John Lone, Penelope
Ann Miller, Tim Curry, Peter Boyle and Ian McKellan
Color/1994/1 Hour 48 Minutes/PG-13
Aspect Ratio: 1:85.1 Non-Anamorphic
Audio 5.1 HD-Master Audio English
In 1994, "The Shadow" was released in the middle of a crowded summer that had already featured box office hits such as "Speed", "The Lion King", "The Flintstones", "The Mask" with the film then facing very stiff competition with Oscar Winner "Forrest Gump" and "True Lies". The film based on the 1930's radio serial (this was way before television, internet, laptops and wifi!) revolves around a mysterious vigilante with the abillity to read and cloud the minds of men as he's ridding New York City of crime and bringing them to justice his way. Bringing the film into the 90's wasn't a bad idea, but it didn't help that anyone but fans of the radio show and the novels based on the character only knew who this hero was which was at best a minor hit that has become a bit of a cult classic after numerous airings on television and home video in the years since the films' release have certainly helped its' reputation for the better.
The film revolves Lamont Cranston, a suave millionare New Yorker and a former war hero who had disappeared for seven years in Tibet only to become a feared and ruthless criminal drug lord enjoying the spoils of his evil empire. He's soon abducted by a holy man known as the "Toku" who soon uses the abilities of his blackend heart to bring justice to who do evil using the teachings of the "Toku" to read and cloud people's minds of their thoughts while fighting crime under the persona of "The Shadow", who has agents all over the city which basically consist of common people like his personal cabbie/driver Moe (Peter Boyle, "Taxi Driver") help him fight crime in whatever way possible. When the descendant of Ghenghis Khan, Shiwan Khan (John Lone, "The Last Emperor") arrives to New York City with a neferious plan to hold the city hostage with an implosive/explosive device that he hopes will conquer North America much like his ancestor conquered Asia. With the help of a brainwashed government physasist Reinhart Lane (Sir Ian McKellan, "Lord Of The Rings") and the slimy Farley Claymore (Tim Curry, "Stephen King's It"), Khan's plan is in full swing. "The Shadow" gets some unwanted, but very attractive assistance from Lane's daughter Margo (Penelope Ann Miller, "The Artist") who has the same ability as Cranston, which is reading people's minds and happily finishing his sentences before he can finish uttering his thoughts. Khan and "The Shadow" face each other as barbarian advisaries matching power vs. power so that Cranston can put an end to Khan's devistating plans for New York.
The film was stylishly directed by former rock video director Russell Mulcahy, who had helmed the exciting and unique sword and sorcerery cult classic, "Highlander" and it's wacky sequel "Highlander 2", along with the Denzel Washington action-thriller "Ricochet" and many television shows and other B-movies really did a great job with this film along with the strong support of cinematagrapher Stephen H. Burum who perfectly captured the grand visual style of the 1930's that also showcased the work of production designer Joseph Nemic III to create the beautiful eye candy that makes the film a visual marvel in that regard. While the performances were fine in particular Baldwin and Lone matching wit for wit and facial tick for facial tick along with some comic puns in between, but Miller was a tad bland at times in her performance but yet visually stunning and has a good sense of comic timing. David Koepp's original script is a very solid work that really should've faired alot better than it did box office wise and the film becomes a little too heavy handed for its' own good as it loses a lot of the energy that it displayed early in the film in a frenetic final half hour that seems to want to wrap everything up so neatly in a hurried rush. Despite all of this, the film is campy and fun and all of its' great attributes shouldn't be overlooked in anyway.
While Universal released what for alot of fans of the film, a very disappointing release of the film on Blu-Ray over a year ago, Shout! Factory has decided to rescue this fun film from the bowels of bad high definition transfers by sporting a rather healthy and vibrant looking picture for this release. This is the second time the film has been released in widescreen form as the original DVD was only in full frame which was very solid since the film wasn't shot anamorphically which is a major gripe that Burum has all these years later due to the effects work. I happen to agree with him that the film was better served if it was shot 2:35.1 anamorphically to get more out of Nemic III's stunning production design. The sound is also very solid which does major justice to the late Jerry Goldsmith's exceptional and exciting score for the film that really sings during the action-scenes which has never sounded better than it does here.
Shout! Factory's Collector's Edition sports a nice 23 minute documentary that looks back twenty-years later on the making of the film which sports interviews from Baldwin, Mulcahy, Nemic III, Burum, Miller, and a few others which I had wished was a little more longer and touched upon Goldsmith's contribution to the film as well along with its' nice technical aspects. As-is, it's a very polished and informative documentary that is very good for what it is. The film's theatrical trailer is also included.
What's also disappointing about this release is the lack of a commentary by Mulcahy that probably would've delved into the production in detail all these years later and added something special to the Blu-Ray. Even if it wan older one from say a laserdisc or something it really would've helped it even further. "The Shadow" is a fun, little film that is enjoyable for what it is: which is campy superhero fun with a marvellous visual style that production designers should look back on for inspiration and this blu-ray does correct and does justice to Stephen H. Burum's work as well which is why I do recommend this release highly.