The Shadow (1994 film)

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The Shadow
Theatrical poster
Directed by Russell Mulcahy
Produced by Willi Baer
Martin Bregman
Michael Scott Bregman
Screenplay by David Koepp
Based on The Shadow 
by Walter B. Gibson
Starring Alec Baldwin
John Lone
Penelope Ann Miller
Ian McKellen
Peter Boyle
Tim Curry
Jonathan Winters
Music by Jerry Goldsmith
Cinematography Stephen H. Burum
Edited by Peter Honess
Beth Jochem Besterveld
Bregman/Baer Productions, Inc.
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
  • July 1, 1994 (1994-07-01)
Running time
108 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $40 million
Box office $48 million

The Shadow is a 1994 American superhero film directed by Russell Mulcahy and starring Alec Baldwin, John Lone, Penelope Ann Miller, Ian McKellen, Peter Boyle, Jonathan Winters and Tim Curry. It is based on the pulp fiction character created by Walter B. Gibson in 1931.[1]


In Tibet, following the First World War, an American named Lamont Cranston (Alec Baldwin), succumbing to his darker instincts during the war, has set himself up as a brutal warlord and opium kingpin under the alias of Ying-Ko (Mandarin Chinese for "Dark Eagle").[2] He is abducted from his palace by servants of the Tulku (Barry Dennen), a holy man who exhibits otherworldly powers and knows Cranston's identity. He informs Cranston that he is to become a force for good. Cranston objects but is silenced by the Phurba (Frank Welker), a mystical sentient flying dagger that assaults Cranston, wounding him. Cranston is unable to refuse and remains under the tutelage of the Tulku for seven years. He learns to "cloud men's minds," a form of mystical, psychic hypnosis that allows him to influence others' thoughts and bend their perceptions so he cannot be seen, except for his shadow (since light itself cannot be deceived), hence his new alias.

Cranston returns to New York and resumes his previous life. No one is aware of his past in the East; he is seen as a shallow and opulent playboy. He operates as The Shadow, a vigilante who terrorizes the underworld. Citizens who are saved by The Shadow are recruited to be his agents, providing him with informants and specialists. The existence of The Shadow is regarded by the public as nothing more than an urban legend. But The Shadow's secret is endangered when Cranston meets Margo Lane (Penelope Ann Miller), an eccentric socialite who is a natural telepath. He is intrigued, but unable to continue seeing her as he cannot keep his thoughts from her.

Cranston is challenged by Shiwan Khan (John Lone), another student of the Tulku who possesses even sharper powers, but had successfully resisted redemption and hence had stayed evil. Khan is the last descendant of Genghis Khan and plans to fulfill his ancestor's goal of world domination. He offers Cranston an alliance, sensing that bloodlust and a thirst for power still exist in his heart, but Cranston refuses. Cranston acquires a rare coin from Khan and learns that it is made of a metal called "bronzium" (an impure form of uranium) that theoretically can generate an explosion large enough to destroy a city. This suspicion is confirmed when he learns that Margo's father Reinhardt (Ian McKellen), an atomic scientist working for the War Department, has vanished.

Shiwan Khan hypnotizes Margo Lane and sends her to assassinate Cranston, hoping that Cranston will be forced to kill her, thus reawakening his darker side. Instead, Cranston breaks Khan's hold on her, but she is now aware of his secret identity. Cranston prepares to rescue Reinhardt but is thwarted by several of Khan's henchmen. The Shadow suffers another setback when he confronts Reinhardt's former assistant, Farley Claymore (Tim Curry), who has joined Khan's forces. Claymore traps The Shadow in a submersion tank, but Cranston escapes drowning by mentally summoning Margo. The Shadow learns of Khan's hideout, the luxurious Hotel Monolith, a building in the middle of the city that Shiwan Khan has rendered invisible; it appears to everyone else as an empty lot, but The Shadow can see through Khan's mental clouding. Knowing that Khan has Reinhardt hostage and the completed atomic bomb in his possession, he infiltrates the hotel for a final showdown.

The Shadow fights his way through the hotel, killing Claymore and Khan's warriors. He faces Khan but is subdued by the Phurba, sustaining multiple injuries until he realizes that only a peaceful mind can truly control the Phurba. Overcoming Khan's command of the dagger, he launches the Phurba into Khan's torso. The injury breaks Khan's concentration, freeing Reinhardt from his hypnotic state and rendering the hotel visible to everyone. The Shadow pursues Khan into the bowels of the building while Margo and Reinhardt disable the atomic bomb. The Shadow defeats Khan by psychically hurling a glass shard into his skull.

Khan awakens in a padded cell, confused as to how he got there. He discovers that his powers are gone. He learns that the doctors saved his life by removing the part of his brain that harbored his psychic abilities. He demands to be set free, but is ignored along with the rants of the other inmates. Unknown to him, the doctor is an agent of The Shadow who has ensured that Khan is no longer a threat.

Now safe from Khan, Cranston gives in to his love for Margo, but duty calls soon after, and he promises to find her later that night. Margo asks how he will know where to find her, and Cranston reassures her, "I'll know."



Publicity photograph of Orson Welles, dated 1937.
Promotional photograph of Orson Welles dressed as The Shadow, dated 1937 or 1938.
From September 1937 to October 1938, Orson Welles was the voice of The Shadow in the original radio show, upon which the 1994 film version was partially based.

Producer Martin Bregman bought the rights to The Shadow in 1982. 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.[5] 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”.[6] 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.

In an attempt to differentiate the film from other superhero films of the time, Koepp focused on “the copy line, ‘Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?’ and wondered how he knew what evil lurks in the hearts of men. And I decided that perhaps it was because he was uncomfortably familiar with the evil in his own heart”.[5] For Koepp, the film then became “a story of guilt and atonement”.[5] He picked Shiwan Khan as the film’s villain because “he was bold and he knew what he was doing – he wanted to conquer the world. That was very simple, maybe a little ambitious, but he knew exactly what he wanted.”[6] He had always been a fan of Alec Baldwin and wrote the script with him in mind: "He has the eyes and the voice; he had so much of what I pictured Cranston being".[5] Koepp also sat in on rehearsals and incorporated a lot of the actor’s humor into the script.[5]

The film was shot on the Universal backlot in Hollywood on five soundstages over 60 days with a five-day mini-unit tour of location shooting, and a week lost when an earthquake destroyed the Hall of Mirrors set. Mulcahy said, “There are a lot of FX in this film, but it’s not a FX film. It’s a character/story-driven film. The FX are part of the story.”[7]


The Arista Records label released a soundtrack album in 1994. The soundtrack featured selections from Jerry Goldsmith's score and other songs from the film.[8]

Track Listing:

  1. The Shadow Knows... 1994 (Dialogue, performed by Alec Baldwin) [:08]
  2. Original Sin (Theme from The Shadow) (Written by Jim Steinman, performed by Taylor Dayne) [6:27]
  3. The Poppy Fields (Main Title) [3:16]
  4. Some Kind of Mystery (Written by Diane Warren, performed by Sinoa) [3:48]
  5. The Sanctum [3:33]
  6. Who Are You? [4:02]
  7. Chest Pains [3:26]
  8. The Knife [3:05]
  9. The Hotel [5:53]
  10. The Tank [4:08]
  11. Frontal Lobotomy [2:28]
  12. Original Sin (Theme from The Shadow) Film Mix (Written by Jim Steinman, performed by Taylor Dayne) [5:02]
  13. The Shadow Radio Show 1937: Who Knows What Evil Lurks in the Hearts of Men? (Dialogue, performed by Orson Welles) [:29]

Significantly, Camille Saint-Saëns's 1872 composition Le Rouet d'Omphale ("Omphale's Spinning Wheel") is not used in the film's score.

In 2012, Intrada released a 2-CD package that features the world premiere of the entire soundtrack composed by Jerry Goldsmith.


Box office[edit]

The film was meant to be a summer blockbuster and the starting point for a new film franchise with toy, game and clothing lines. However, the film suffered from competition for its target audience with, among others, The Lion King (during its early run) and The Mask (later on), and it was a financial disappointment.[9][10][11] The film started off strongly, debuting at No. 2, but failed to sustain any momentum,[10][12] and grossed $32 million domestically, with a worldwide total of $48 million[13] against a budget of $40 million. The planned franchise never materialized.


The film received mostly mixed to negative reviews, with a 35% rating on review aggregate Rotten Tomatoes from a sample of 46 critics, with the consensus as "Visually impressive, but ultimately forgettable." The more detailed summary described the film as having "impressive" visuals and a story that does not "strike a memorable chord."[14] Entertainment Weekly placed the film on its "21 Worst Comic-Book Movies Ever" list.[15] However, on Siskel and Ebert, noted critic Roger Ebert gave the film a positive review.

Despite its failure, the film retained a cult following in subsequent years, as well as success on VHS and DVD, much like two other 1990s pulp/comic adaptations, The Rocketeer and The Phantom.

Other media[edit]

A Shadow video game for the Super Nintendo was developed to tie in with the 1994 film, but, after the low box office gross, was never released, though ROMS are available.

Midway (under the Bally label) released a Shadow-themed pinball machine in 1994. Brian Eddy of Attack From Mars and Medieval Madness fame designed the game. It was his first pinball game design, and it was moderately successful. Dan Forden composed original music for the game.


James Luceno wrote the novelization which went deeper into the events of the film and included many nods to the radio show and the original pulp magazines, most significantly alluding to the fact that The Shadow's true identity was Kent Allard and that 'Lamont Cranston' was just another identity he assumed.


  1. ^ "Baldwin's 'Shadow' Achieves Pale Silhouette Of Its Potential". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 2011-01-21. 
  2. ^ "The Shadow Unmasks" (1937). In print, The Shadow's real name is Kent Allard, and he was a famed aviator who fought for the French during World War I. He became known by the alias the Black Eagle, according to "The Shadow's Shadow" (1933), although later stories revised this alias as the Dark Eagle, beginning with "The Shadow Unmasks" (1937).[page needed]. 
  3. ^ "What Humor Lurks In `The Shadow'? Alec Baldwin Knows". Morning Call. Retrieved 2011-01-12. 
  4. ^ "Tim Curry Has Another Outlandish Role In 'Shadow'". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 2011-01-21. 
  5. ^ a b c d e Schwager, Jeff (August 13, 1994). "Out of the Shadows". Moviemaker. Retrieved 2007-04-16. 
  6. ^ a b Peterson, Don E (August 1994). "The Shadow Takes Shape". Sci-Fi Entertainment. 
  7. ^ Murray, Will (August 1994). "Master of Death". Starlog. Retrieved 2007-04-16. 
  8. ^ The Shadow soundtrack review at
  9. ^ Wilmington, Michael (1994-07-01). "Sumptuous Sets Can't Hide Flat Storyline Of `The Shadow'". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2011-01-12. 
  10. ^ a b Natale, Richard (1994-07-06). "Fresh Ideas Pay Off at Box Office : Movies: Strong openings boost concept films such as 'Speed,' 'The Shadow' and other original ideas, while star vehicles stall.". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-12. 
  11. ^ Turan, Kenneth (1994-07-01). "Movie Reviews `The Shadow': The Look Says It All Exciting visuals help bring film to life, but able actors can't make the writing right.". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-01-12. 
  12. ^ "Fourth of July Weekend Box Office". The Los Angeles Times. 1994-07-07. Retrieved 2011-01-12. 
  13. ^ "The Shadow at Box Office Mojo". 
  14. ^ "The Shadow (1994)." Rotten Tomatoes.
  15. ^ "20 Worst Comic-Book Movies Ever The Shadow, Alec Baldwin." Entertainment Weekly.

External links[edit]