The Shadow (1994 film)

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The Shadow
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Russell Mulcahy
Produced by
Screenplay by David Koepp
Based on The Shadow
by Walter B. Gibson
Music by Jerry Goldsmith
Cinematography Stephen H. Burum
Edited by
Bregman/Baer Productions, Inc.
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
  • July 1, 1994 (1994-07-01)
Running time
108 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $40 million
Box office $48 million

The Shadow is a 1994 American superhero film directed by Russell Mulcahy, produced by Martin Bregman, Willi Bear and Michael Scott Bregman, and was written by David Koepp 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.[2]

The Shadow was released on July 1, 1994. Upon its release, the film received generally mixed reviews from critics, who found the villain, its script and the storyline very lame, but highly praised the direction, the acting, the soundtrack by Jerry Goldsmith, as well as the effects, its visual style and the action sequences.


In Tibet, following the First World War, an American named Lamont Cranston (Alec Baldwin), succumbing to his dark instincts, sets himself up as a warlord and opium kingpin under the alias of Ying-Ko (Mandarin Chinese for "Dark Eagle").[3] He is abducted by servants of The Tulku (Barry Dennen), a holy man who exhibits otherworldly powers and knows Cranston's identity. He offers Cranston a chance to redeem himself and become a force for good. Cranston refuses but is silenced by the Phurba (Frank Welker), a mystical sentient flying dagger. Ultimately, Cranston remains under the tutelage of the Tulku for seven years. In addition to undergoing rigorous physical training, he learns how to hypnotize others, read their minds, and bend their perceptions so that he cannot be seen—except, of course, for his shadow.

Returning to New York City, Cranston resumes his former life as a millionaire playboy. He secretly operates as The Shadow, a vigilante who terrorizes the city's criminals. He recruits some of the people he saves to act as his agents, providing him with information and specialist knowledge. Cranston's secret identity is endangered upon meeting Margo Lane (Penelope Ann Miller), a socialite who is also telepathic.

Shiwan Khan (John Lone), Tulku's rogue protégé and murderer whose powers apparently surpass Cranston's, wakes up from his tomb. He uses hypnosis to make a security guard (Fred Sanders) shoot himself in the temple after the guard refuses to join Khan's army. Khan is the last descendant of Genghis Khan, and he plans to fulfill his family's goal of world domination. He offers Cranston an alliance, 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 atomic explosion. He learns that Margo's father Reinhardt (Ian McKellen), a scientist who works on building an atomic device for the Department of War, has disappeared, and realizes that Khan needs Reinhardt and his invention to build an atomic bomb.

Shiwan Khan hypnotizes Margo and commands her to kill the Shadow. She goes to Cranston's home, but Cranston breaks his hold on her. She realizes that since she was ordered to kill the Shadow and she instinctively went to Cranston's home, that he is the Shadow. Cranston prepares to rescue Margo's father but is thwarted by Khan's henchmen, especially when Reinhardt's assistant Farley Claymore (Tim Curry) allies with Khan. The Shadow discovers the location of Khan's hideout, the luxurious Hotel Monolith, a building in the middle of the city that Khan has rendered invisible. Knowing Reinhardt has completed the bomb under Khan's hypnotic control, The Shadow enters the hotel for a final showdown with Khan.

The Shadow fights his way through the building, and hypnotically influences Claymore to jump to his death from a balcony. He finds Khan, but is subdued by the Phurba. The Shadow realizes that only a peaceful mind can truly control the Phurba and he seizes command of the dagger. The Shadow launches it into Khan's torso, creating a lapse in Khan's hypnotic control that frees Reinhardt and restoring the hotel's visibility. The Shadow pursues Khan into the bowels of the building, while Margo and Reinhardt disarm the bomb. The Shadow defeats Khan by telekinetically hurling a shard of mirror into Khan's skull.

A confused Khan wakes up in a padded cell in a mental hospital, discovering that his powers are now gone. One of the doctors—an agent of The Shadow—tells Khan that they saved his life by removing the part of his brain that harbored his psychic abilities. Cranston and Margo begin a romantic relationship and join forces to fight crime.



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.[6] 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”.[7] 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”.[6] For Koepp, the film then became “a story of guilt and atonement”.[6] 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.”[7] 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".[6] Koepp also sat in on rehearsals and incorporated a lot of the actor’s humor into the script.[6]

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.”[8]


The Shadow, Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by Jerry Goldsmith
Released July 5, 1994
Genre Soundtrack
Label Arista Records
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 2.5/5 stars [9]

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.[10]

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.

Track listing[edit]

  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 Loren) [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]


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.[11][12][13] The film started off strongly, debuting at No. 2, but failed to sustain any momentum,[12][14] and grossed $32 million domestically, with a worldwide total of $48 million[15] 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."[16] Entertainment Weekly placed the film on its "21 Worst Comic-Book Movies Ever" list.[17] 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.

In other media[edit]


James Luceno wrote the novelization[18] 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.[19]

Video game[edit]

A video game version of The Shadow for the Super NES was developed to tie in with the 1994 film,[20] but after the low box office gross, was never released. However, ROMS are available.[21]

Pinball game[edit]

Main article: The Shadow (pinball)

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.


  1. ^ "The Shadow (12)". British Board of Film Classification. July 15, 1994. Retrieved September 27, 2016. 
  2. ^ "Baldwin's 'Shadow' Achieves Pale Silhouette Of Its Potential". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 2011-01-21. 
  3. ^ "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]. 
  4. ^ "What Humor Lurks In `The Shadow'? Alec Baldwin Knows". Morning Call. Retrieved 2011-01-12. 
  5. ^ "Tim Curry Has Another Outlandish Role In 'Shadow'". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 2011-01-21. 
  6. ^ a b c d e Schwager, Jeff (August 13, 1994). "Out of the Shadows". Moviemaker. Retrieved 2007-04-16. 
  7. ^ a b Peterson, Don E (August 1994). "The Shadow Takes Shape". Sci-Fi Entertainment. 
  8. ^ Murray, Will (August 1994). "Master of Death". Starlog. Retrieved 2007-04-16. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ The Shadow soundtrack review at
  11. ^ Wilmington, Michael (1994-07-01). "Sumptuous Sets Can't Hide Flat Storyline Of `The Shadow'". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2011-01-12. 
  12. ^ 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. 
  13. ^ 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. 
  14. ^ "Fourth of July Weekend Box Office". The Los Angeles Times. 1994-07-07. Retrieved 2011-01-12. 
  15. ^ "The Shadow at Box Office Mojo". 
  16. ^ "The Shadow (1994)." Rotten Tomatoes.
  17. ^ "20 Worst Comic-Book Movies Ever The Shadow, Alec Baldwin." Entertainment Weekly.
  18. ^ Luceno, James (1994). The Shadow. New York: Ivy Books. ISBN 9780804112963. 
  19. ^ Sims, Chris (August 12, 2016). "Ask Chris #302: All The Fun Of A VHS Tape In Comic Book Form". ComicsAlliance. Retrieved 18 October 2016. 
  20. ^ "The Shadow - Super NES". IGN. Retrieved 18 October 2016. 
  21. ^ Laraque, J.A. (May 19, 2011). "Unreleased: The Shadow". Retrieved 18 October 2016. 

External links[edit]