In this week’s Classic Television Thursday post, I mentioned 1994’s Alec Baldwin-starring movie The Shadow, noting that I needed to rewatch it sometime soon to see if it really is as bad as it is reputed to be.
Yeah, it really is.
There’s really so much bad here that it’s hard to pinpoint exactly where it went wrong. There’s the plot, the dialogue, the acting, the characterization, the special effects, the opening scene, the climax, and pretty much everything that comes in between the two.
And remember, I was watching this again with hope that it would redeem itself.
As I said in that earlier post, I just happened upon some copies of the paperback reprints of the original Shadow pulps at a local bookstore recently at a really cheap price, and have been having fun reading – or in a few cases re-reading – them.
One of the hopes that I had was that maybe part of the film’s reputation came from those who were fans of the radio incarnation of the character but who were not aware of the radically different original incarnation of the character and that the film perhaps took its interpretation of the character from those stories.
Perhaps the creators were going for some kind of amalgamation of these two versions, but even given that doesn’t excuse the mess of a character that made it to the screen. It seems more like someone who had a vague knowledge of the character described him to screenwriter David Koepp (perhaps using Google translate to change it to and back from Mandarin along the way?) and then Koepp decided to also put his own spin on it.
Actually, according to Wikipedia, which I didn’t consult until after I’d written the above paragraphs, my guesses (well, except for the Mandarin part) aren’t that far off, as the site states
Screenwriter David Koepp had listened to The Shadow radio show as a child when CBS radio re-ran it on Sunday nights. He was hired in 1990 to write a new draft and was able to find the right tone that the studio liked. Bregman remembers, “Some of them were light, some of them were darker, and others were supposedly funnier – which they weren’t. It just didn’t work”. Koepp’s script relied predominantly on the pulp novels while taking the overall tone from the radio show with the actual plot originated by Koepp himself in consultation with Bregman.
“It just didn’t work.” Yeah, that pretty well sums things up.
Okay, I could keep going on here, but I think you get the idea. Even given the usual “Hey, some changes have to be made to bring a character from the printed page to the big screen” allowances, The Shadow really “just doesn’t work” in so many ways.
(Oh, and in what incarnation of the character is Margot Lane psychic? Really?)
Okay, I will give the producers one bit of credit. When we do see Baldwin actually in costume in a couple of “hero shots”, they did get the look right. At least as long as he’s standing still. (Though I’m still not sure how putting on the Shadow’s cloak and slouch hat also gives Baldwin such incredibly bushy eyebrows and completely changes the shape of his nose, but I guess we can just chalk that up to the whole “clouding men’s minds” thing.)
Now if only I could meet someone who could cloud my mind and make me forget that I saw this.
Here’s the trailer: