The Shadow (1940)
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Jory was generally better than his material and this role is no exception. He plays three different parts, that of Lamont Cranston the crusading crime fighter, Lin Chang an undercover "Chinese" gangster and of course the Shadow. Jory's rich resonant speaking voice was perfect for the Shadow character. The Lin Chang character is a little over the top and was probably included because of the popularity of Chinese screen detectives (Charlie Chan, Mr Wong etc.) at the time.
The plot is strictly "B" movie. A master criminal called The Black Tiger is trying to take over the city through his terrorist attacks led by "B" veterans Jack Ingram and Charlie King among others. The Shadow naturally foils him at every turn. The Black Tiger has the power to turn himself invisible and does so in every chapter. In true serial tradition, his identity is not revealed until the final chapter.
You can also expect to see multiple fights, explosions, car chases and hear an ear-splitting scream or two from the heroine (Veda Ann Borg) in most chapters as well. I was amazed at the number explosions, collapsed ceilings and car wrecks that Jory walks away from unscathed. But hey, we're talking Saturday Afternoon Matinees and who really cared how the hero escaped, as long as he did.
I must correct some misinformation in the post by blackcurtain about The Original Shadow. The writer infers that this Shadow serial predates the radio series, but this it totally false. While it is true that the original Shadow on radio was a narrator for another show, he was the central character of his own series starring Orson Welles by 1937. Welles left in 1938, but the show was already hugely popular, and actors William Johnstone, John Archer, Steve Courtleigh (for a whopping 6 episodes, all of which are lost), and Bret Morrison carried the series all the way to 1954. And so, by the time the serial came out in 1940, the official radio series of The Shadow that is still famous today had already been on the air for three years.
I will, however, agree that this portrayal of The Shadow was much more in likeness to the portrayal in the pulp magazines. The 3 movies from 1946 that starred Kane Richmond are also closer to the magazines than the radio version, except for the humorous elements. In fact, the only version of The Shadow that I've seen on film that actually became invisible, other than the 1994 Alec Baldwin movie, was the hideous black and white filmed version from the 1950s called Invisible Avenger. If someone were to try to torture me, they couldn't do much worse than to tie me up and lock me in a room with nothing but that DVD set to endless repeats.
But this version of The Shadow, while not the best, is still enjoyable. It's doubtful I'd want to watch it again at over four hours in length, but I did enjoy seeing it the first time.
Originally, the Shadow was a mysterious host of a show called "The Street and Smith Dectective Story Hour." He had no character. However, the sponsor of the program eventually noticed that the host of the series was more famous than the series itself.
Thus, a series of "Shadow" novels came out. The Shadow, while lacking the ability to make himself invisible, managed to steal other people's identities. He would run around, pretending to be someone else, while not having an identity of his own.
Originally, the identity of Lamonte Cranston was just a stolen identity. Some time after the Shadow had been spun off into a comic book series of his own, Margo Lane met a man named Lamonte Cranston on a cruise. On the way back, the Shadow masqueraded as Lamonte Cranston and Margo Lane got the two confused.
This is more or less the version of the Shadow that the serial bases itself upon. The radio series started with a Shadow who had all kinds of abilities. However, the series gave the Shadow the power of invisibility and toned down all the other powers to the point that the radio version of the Shadow practically had no other abilities.
Needless to say, saying this version of the Shadow is disappointing just because it is not the Shadow of the radio series is not fair. The serial would have very likely been based on the Shadow of the pulp novels, comic books, etc, of the thirties. The radio series, which did not become popular until some time later, gave the Shadow his powers of invisibility and pretty much got rid of the rest of his abilities. This is something other reviewers do not appear to be aware of.
Victor Jory, who plays the Shadow, does a good job as Lamont Cranston. It also helps that he looks almost exactly like the one on the pulp magazine covers. The costume is good, but would have been even better if it showed Jory's nose. And his laugh is perfect, he sounds like the radio version.
The main villain in The Shadow isn't a guy with a mask like in many of the other serials, but an invisible man who speaks through the head of a "black tiger". It's a bit creepy. He's also a very, very angry and impatient man, and treats his henchmen like crap. I don't know why people want to work for this jerk.
I've seen better action scenes in serials, but the last chapter where The Shadow confronts "The Black Tiger" is pretty intense. Unfortunately, the cliffhangers aren't very interesting. Most of the time it's just explosions or falling objects that knock The Shadow out for a little while.
The Shadow isn't perfect, but it's still better than most of the action movies we have today, where the fight scenes look more like dancing than actual fighting.