The Shadow (Blu-ray)

February 18, 2014 7 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton and Matt Malouf

Plot: What’s it about?

One of the more forgotten adventure films of the 90’s, The Shadow stars Alec Baldwin as the title character (A.K.A. Lamont Cranston). He is battling a descendant of Genghis Khan known as Shiwan Khan (John Lone). He is building an atomic bomb with plans of world domination. The film begins in Tibet after the first World War and there’s an admittedly convoluted back-story. It takes a little while, but we eventually flash forward to 1930’s New York. I was immediately reminded Dick Tracy, Batman, and even the (similarly under-seen) The Rocketeer. The plots aren’t all the same, but the visual style is very similar among all the films mentioned. Truthfully, the visuals are just about the only thing this film really has to offer. I found it next to impossible to get involved with the story and he isn’t a flat-out superhero that I found myself interested in. Whatever plans they had for future Shadow films were quickly abolished after this film failed to bring in strong Box Office returns. Alec Baldwin is certainly a capable actor, but he feels a bit out-of-place in this film. I see him more as a villain or a side role, not the lead in a film like this. Another problem for me was the film’s pacing. It never gains momentum, the effects hold up surprisingly well, but that only gets so much mileage. There has to be an interesting story and sadly this film lacks that.

One element that needs to be present with this particular genre is that there needs to be a clear set of rules for a hero’s strengths and weaknesses. It would be nice to know just what limitations Cranston has if any. He has telepathic powers and can disappear and turn invisible with little effort, it seems. I’m sure some will be more familiar with the source material than I am and that will likely enhance one’s enjoyment, but a film should stand on its own. We shouldn’t have to have prior knowledge of a particular subject to enjoy a film. There’s a good bit of build up and the film just rushes towards a climax and is over before we know it. Penelope Ann Miller has a supporting role here and she’s a nice diversion and is certainly easy on the eyes. She’s just never as interesting as she could have been. Tim Curry also shows up as a minor villain who aids Khan. Curry is a fine actor, but isn’t given much to do here. Director Russell Mulcahy does an admirable job of recreating the 1930’s New York and that helps to keep the film from aging since it’s set during that period. There’s also a very spiffy shot of a letter as it travels from the sender to the receiver. We follow it through the pipe all the way to its destination. It’s been some time since my first viewing of The Shadow and I recall not thinking much of it on my first viewing and that really hasn’t changed. It has its moments, but overall I just can’t recommend it. There are far better similar films out there that I’d say go check those out before spending time with this one. Earlier I mentioned The Rocketeer, I’d re-watch that before this any day of the week.

Video: How’s it look?

This is one of those odd titles that’s switched studios (previously a Universal release) and now Shout! Factory has taken the reigns. That being said, the 1.85:1 AVC HD image looks to be an improvement over previous versions of this title. The movie, now two decades old, seems to possess a deeper color saturation, blacks are a bit stronger and detail has been improved. I said “improved”, but there’s still a bit lacking here. There is a bit of grain on the print, some scenes do seem to be a bit inconsistent and though this is certainly the best the film has ever looked, there’s still room for improvement to be had.  Fans should be content with this release, though.

Audio: How’s it sound?

Also improved is a new DTS HD Master Audio sound mix that’s pretty immersive. Hearing the voice, while not seeing the character on screen is certainly a dizzying experience and this is part of the enjoyment out of this track. Vocals seem to be a bit washed out in places, but Alec Baldwin’s ever-present deep voice is rarely a victim of being dissipated.  Surrounds are used and with great effect as they provide some added support and ambiance to the scenes. Again, while it can’t really hold a candle to today’s soundtracks, this isn’t that bad when it comes to uncompressed audio.  A 2.0 option has also been included.

Supplements: What are the extras?

We don’t get a whole lot here, but supplements have been lacking for this title since…well…ever.

  • Looking back at The Shadow – 1994 was known for a lot of movies like Forrest Gump, Pulp Fiction, The Shawshank Redemption and The Lion King. Sadly, The Shadow hasn’t gone down as one of cinema’s greats, but it’s good to see that the stars of the film (Alec Baldwin and Penelope Ann Miller among others) have taken the time to take a look back at this little movie. It’s nothing earth-shattering, but it’s interesting at the very least.
  • Photo Gallery – Around 100 production photos and stills from the movie are shown.
  • Theatrical Trailer – The original trailer in HD, but it’s looking rough. It shows how improved the actual movie itself is when compared to this.

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