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Cinema History of The Shadow

With The Shadow gaining popularity in both pulps and radio, it was only a matter of time that he would appear on the silver screen. In the early days, he was a narrator for a series of six short films adapted from the Street and Smith stories. In 1937, as Orson Welles was doing the role on radio, Grand National Pictures released the cinematic version of one of The Shadow's pulp adventures. The Shadow Strikes was based on The Ghost of the Manor by Walter B. Gibson. Rod La Rocque assumed the title role. Unfortunately, the movie was missing The Shadow's agents, and The Shadow himself (in costume) got very little screen time. The following year came International Crime, based on Foxhound by Theodore Tinsley (writing as Maxwell Grant). This time, the agents were featured, but The Shadow didn't show up.

A serial based on The Shadow starred Victory Jory as the title character in 1940. Like all serials, the hero is left in a cliffhanger situation at the end of each episode, only to escape at the beginning of the next one. Six years later, a trio of Shadow movies starring Kane Richmond was released by Monogram Pictures: The Shadow Returns, Behind the Mask, The Missing Lady.

In 1958, The Invisible Avenger was released by Republic Pictures. It starred Richard Derr and focused more on The Shadow's mind-clouding power. It was supposed to be one of a 3-episode pilot to be shown on television. It was never aired.

Recently, in 1994, a flashy $40-million production from Universal Pictures, introduced The Shadow to a whole new generation. Starring Alec Baldwin in the title role, the movie combined both the mind-clouding power of the radio shows and the agents and villain (Shiwan Khan) from the pulps. It featured computer-generated special effects, and an all-star cast including John Lone (The Last Emperor), Penelope Ann Miller (The Relic), Sir Ian Mckellen (X-Men), Tim Curry (The Rocky Horror Picture Show), and Jonathan Winters (The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle). Unfortunately, it did not sit well with the audiences, who were used to more futuristic heroes, and was slammed by the critics, who thought it was too corny. It made a modest box office sum (at the time) of $32 million (domestic only — domestic and foreign box office amounts totaled $48 million).

Perhaps in the coming years another attempt will be made to return The Shadow to the silver screen. Until then, one can only wonder what treatment he will be given in his future movie adventures.


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