Maybe Everyone Involved Was Just Under The Evil Mental Influence of Shiwan Khan? – The Shadow (1994)

shad1In 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.

shad3No, not really.

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.

shad2Okay, 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:


Classic Television Thursday #44 – The Pulp Heroes (A Proposal)

(A couple of months ago, I was in my local McKay’s bookstore and happened across a handful of Shadow pulps for less than $1 apiece. I’ve had a lot of fun reading – or in a couple of cases re-reading – them, and that’s what led to this post.)

p1Something different this week. Instead of covering a classic television show, I’m going to propose a new one based on some classics from the past.

One of the genres that sees to be very hot right now on TV (and in the movies, of course) is the superhero show. On the CW we’ve got The Flash and Arrow, Fox has Gotham (which, at the moment is really more of a cop show that a superhero show, but it is set in the world of Batman, so it qualifies), ABC has Marvel’s Agents of Shield, CBS will soon be debuting Supergirl, and there are more on the way.

Plus you have Netflix which dove in head first with Daredevil and will soon be releasing Jessica Jones on the world, again with more series waiting in the wings.

p3Also, there is the trend toward more anthology type series, with limited runs telling one story per shortened season then moving on to another one, such as American Horror Story or True Detective.

All of these trends make me think that the time is right for a new set of shows based on the pulp characters from the 30s and 40s.

Think about it. These characters, while quite often somewhat outlandish in and of themselves, for the most part operated in the kind of grounded world that television loves to set shows like Arrow or Daredevil in, and though many of them are the prototypes for the kind of anti- or quasi-hero that seems so popular today, most of their adventures would not require a whole lot of special-effects work because they really didn’t have super powers per se.

p5Plus, there are many different ways they could be approached. You could take the Sherlock route and do a series of mini-movies with them, you could go Netflix style and do say a 10 episode season featuring one of them, or you could even do what I would really like to see, a rotating anthology under the umbrella title of The Pulp Heroes, which would feature say four different characters each with their own self contained episodes with, oh, The Shadow on the first week of the month, Doc Savage on the second, The Avenger on the third, and The Spider on the fourth. Then in months where you had a fifth week, that could be used as a try-put for a different character who, depending on the response, might eventually get his own slot or show.

Another thing in favor of this proposal is that there would be no shortage of material to draw from. Why there were 325 pulp stories featuring just The Shadow.

And finally, if you need any more convincing, well, just look at some of the covers for these mags adorning this article.

Yeah, I’d say this idea is a blast from the past whose time has finally come.

(Plus, who knows, maybe we could finally erase the stigma that accompanies this:)

(Y’know, I really do need to revisit that one sometime soon just to see if it really deserves the bad rap that it’s gotten over time. Though re-watching just the trailer really makes me think it probably does.)



Old Time Radio Thursdays – #017: A Halloween Mystery Sampler

The short intro: For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, Old Time Radio is the phrase generally used to refer to the time when radio was (mostly) live, and was full of a variety of different shows, as opposed to simply being a means for record labels to use robots to promote the top records of the day. Old Time Radio Thursdays is my chance to explore some of those old radio shows, their connections (both old and new) to movies, and hopefully to encourage some of the rest of you to take a look at a probably unfamiliar source of entertainment that I truly love. If you want more info on OTR, and some examples of the variety of shows that were made, be sure to check out this introductory post.

A couple of weeks ago we listened to a sampling of comedy shows with a Halloween theme. Last week, we had a creepier sampling with, a variety of different horror offerings from the Golden Age of Radio. This week, I thought we’d bring the detective and mystery shows into play, so here is a selection of dramas all somehow related to the spookiest holiday of the year.

Next week we go back to our usual format, focusing in on one particular radio show. Which one? Well, in keeping with today’s theme, I think I’ll let that remain a mystery.

Until next time, Happy Listening!