The Shadow (1994 film)

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The Shadow
Directed byRussell Mulcahy
Produced by
Screenplay byDavid Koepp
Based onThe Shadow
by Walter B. Gibson
Music byJerry Goldsmith
CinematographyStephen H. Burum
Edited by
Bregman/Baer Productions, inc.
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
‹See TfM›
  • July 1, 1994 (1994-07-01)
Running time
108 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$40 million[2]
Box office$48 million[3]

The Shadow is a 1994 American superhero film from Universal Pictures, produced by Martin Bregman, Willi Bear, and Michael Scott Bregman, and directed by Russell Mulcahy. It stars Alec Baldwin, supported by John Lone, Penelope Ann Miller, Ian McKellen, Jonathan Winters, Peter Boyle, and Tim Curry. The film is based on the pulp fiction character of the same name created in 1931 by Walter B. Gibson.[4]

The film was released to theaters on July 1, 1994, received mixed reviews and was a commercial failure. Critics found the villain, screenplay, and storyline lacking, but praised the film's direction, acting, special effects, visual style, action sequences, and its music score by Jerry Goldsmith.


In Tibet, following the First World War, American Lamont Cranston, succumbing to his dark instincts, sets himself up as a warlord and opium kingpin under the alias of 'Yin-Ko' (said to mean 'Dark Eagle' in a Mandarin Chinese dialect).[5] He is abducted by servants of the Tulku, 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', a mystical, sentient, flying, three-edged dagger. Ultimately, Cranston remains a student under 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 for his shadow.

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

Shiwan Khan, the Tulku's rogue protégé and a murderer whose powers apparently surpass those of Cranston, wakes up inside the sarcophagus that once held his ancestor, the Mongol Empire founder Genghis Khan, retrieved from his unmarked burial site. Khan uses hypnosis to make a security guard shoot himself in the head, after the guard refuses to join his army. Khan plans to fulfill his ancestor's goal of world domination. He offers Cranston an alliance, but the latter 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 also learns that Margo's father, Reinhardt (a scientist working on building an atomic device for the Department of War), has disappeared. Cranston deduces that Khan needs Reinhardt and his invention to complete an atomic bomb.

Khan hypnotizes Margo and commands her to kill The Shadow. She goes to Cranston's home, but after trying to kill him, Cranston breaks Khan's hypnotic hold on her. Because she was ordered to kill The Shadow and instinctively went to Cranston's home, she now realizes that he is The Shadow. After Reinhardt's assistant Farley Claymore allies with Khan, Cranston prepares to rescue Margo's father, but is thwarted by Khan's henchmen. The Shadow finally discovers Khan's location: the luxurious Hotel Monolith, a building in the middle of the city that Khan has rendered forgotten and invisible to everyone. Knowing Reinhardt has completed the bomb under 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 from a balcony to his death, after Claymore attempts to kill him. Finding Khan, The Shadow is subdued by the Phurba. He realizes that only a peaceful mind can truly control the mystical dagger, and he finally seizes it. The Shadow launches it into Khan's torso, creating a lapse in Khan's hypnotic control that frees Reinhardt and restores the hotel's public 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 broken shard of mirror glass into Khan's frontal lobe.

A confused Khan awakes in the padded cell of a mental hospital, and discovers that his powers are gone. One of the doctors (also an agent of The Shadow) tells Khan that they were able to save his life by removing a part of his brain 'that nobody uses', which in reality controlled Khan's psychic abilities. Soon after, Cranston and Margo begin a serious relationship and join forces to fight the criminal underworld.



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.[8] Robert Zemeckis had been involved with a film adaptation in the 1980s, while Sam Raimi's pitch was ignored. Universal allowed Raimi to develop an original treatment inspired by The Shadow in 1987 with the development of Darkman.[9] David Koepp had listened to the radio serial of The Shadow as a child, when CBS re-ran it on Sunday nights. Koepp was hired in 1990 to write a new draft, and was able to find the right tone that the studio liked.[8] 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.'[10] 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 Shadow 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 [the Shadow] 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.'[8] For Koepp, the film then became 'a story of guilt and atonement'.[8] 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.'[10] 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.'[8] Koepp also sat in on rehearsals, and incorporated a lot of the actor’s humor into the script.[8]

The Shadow was shot on the Universal backlot in Hollywood on five sound-stages over sixty 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.'[11][12]


The original score for The Shadow was composed by Jerry Goldsmith, who used his (at the time) signature music style for big orchestra, supported by a prominent percussion section, and musical effects with the help of instruments, especially synthesizers. Among the leitmotifs of his score are a romantically dark, yet lush heroic melodical main theme for the protagonist, which is accompanied by several secondary themes. For the antagonist, rather than a fully developed theme, Goldsmith used a musical effect in horns and synthesizers imitating a howling sound, a technique that would later echo in his scores for The Ghost and the Darkness (1996) and The Edge (1997).

Camille Saint-Saëns's 1872 composition "Le Rouet d'Omphale" ("Omphale's Spinning Wheel"), which introduced the radio serial, was not used within the film's score.

The Shadow, Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by
ReleasedJuly 5, 1994
LabelArista Records

For the album and end credits, Jim Steinman composed the pop-song "Original Sin", performed by Taylor Dayne - this had originally appeared on the album of the same name, recorded by the girl group Pandora's Box. Diane Warren also composed a period-style big-band piece, "Some Kind of Mystery", performed by Sinoa during the film's night club scene.

Professional ratings
Review scores
Allmusic2.5/5 stars [13]

Original album[edit]

The Arista Records label released a soundtrack album in 1994. The soundtrack featured selections from Goldsmith's score and the songs from the film, "Original Sin" appearing in two different versions.[14]

Track listing[edit]

  1. 'The Shadow Knows', 1994 - Alec Baldwin (0:08)
  2. Original Sin (Theme from The Shadow) - Taylor Dayne (6:27)
  3. The Poppy Fields (Main Title) (3:16)
  4. Some Kind of Mystery (Warren) - 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 - Taylor Dayne (5:02)
  13. 'Who Knows What Evil Lurks in the Hearts of Men?' - Orson Welles (from The Shadow Radio Show, 1937) (0:29)

Complete score release[edit]

In 2012, Intrada released a two-CD package that features the world premiere of the entire soundtrack composed by Goldsmith, and (among other bonus tracks) the complete original album cut on the second disc.

The Shadow, Complete Motion Picture Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by

Track listing[edit]

CD one[edit]
  1. The Poppy Fields (3:41)
  2. The Clouded Mind (6:43)
  3. I'll Be There (3:55)
  4. No Shadow (0:33)
  5. Secrets (3:08)
  6. Don't Open It! (4:15)
  7. Do You Believe? (2:24)
  8. The Sanctum (3:34)
  9. Who Are You? (4:46)
  10. The Code (0:59)
  11. The Call (2:36)
  12. No Thought (1:19)
  13. Chest Pains (3:27)
  14. A Mission (2:35)
  15. Nice Tie (2:49)
  16. The Knife (3:06)
  17. What I Know (4:48)
  18. The Jumper (1:21)
  19. The Tank (4:06)

Total Time = 60:09

CD two[edit]
  1. The Dream (1:59)
  2. Get Dr. Lane (1:05)
  3. The Hotel (5:55)
  4. Fight Like a Man (4:13)
  5. The Mirrors (4:58)
  6. The Mirrors (Alternate Version) (4:04)
  7. Frontal Lobotomy (2:30)
  8. Wild Drums (0:19)
  9. [Source music] Dinner Source (Dennis Dreith) (1:06)
  10. [Source music] Bart's Bounce (Dennis Dreith) (2:06)
  11. [Original album] 'The Shadow Knows', 1994 - Alec Baldwin (0:08)
  12. [Original album] Original Sin (Theme from The Shadow) - Taylor Dane (6:27)
  13. [Original album] The Poppy Fields (Main Title) (3:16)
  14. [Original album] Some Kind of Mystery (Warren) - Sinoa (3:48)
  15. [Original album] The Sanctum (3:33)
  16. [Original album] Who Are You? (4:02)
  17. [Original album] Chest Pains (3:26)
  18. [Original album] The Knife (3:05)
  19. [Original album] The Hotel (5:53)
  20. [Original album] The Tank (4:08)
  21. [Original album] Frontal Lobotomy (2:28)
  22. [Original album] Original Sin (Theme from The Shadow) Film Mix - Taylor Dane (5:02)
  23. [Original album] 'Who Knows What Evil Lurks in the Hearts of Men?' - Orson Welles (from The Shadow Radio Show, 1937) (0:29)

Total Time = 74:56


Box office[edit]

The Shadow was meant to be a summer blockbuster and the starting point for a new film franchise with toy, game, and clothing lines. It suffered from competition for its target audience with, among others, The Lion King (earlier during its run) and The Mask (later on), and was ultimately a financial disappointment.[15][16][17] The film started off strongly, debuting at No. 2, but failed to sustain any momentum,[16][18] and grossed $32 million domestically, with a worldwide total of $48 million[3] against a budget of $40 million. The planned franchise never materialized.

Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, The Shadow film has an approval rating of 35%, based on reviews from 48 critics. The website's consensus states: 'Bringing a classic pulp character to the big screen, The Shadow features impressive visual effects, but the story ultimately fails to strike a memorable chord.'[19] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade "B" on scale of A to F.[20]

Owen Gleiberman, writing for Entertainment Weekly gave the film a grade 'D', adding: 'The trouble with setting a special-effects fantasy in the low-tech ’20s is that unless the American-kitsch elements are injected with something approaching Steven Spielberg's speedy bravado, we become all too aware that the actors are simply standing around B-movie sets spouting cardboard dialogue.'[21] (Entertainment Weekly would later place the film on its list of the "21 Worst Comic-Book Movies Ever".[22])

Michael Wilmington, writing for the Chicago Tribune, gave his take on the film: "The Shadow shows what can happen when you overdress pulp. You wind up with something gorgeous and suffocated, bejeweled trash floundering in its own over-splendid stuffings."[15] Roger Ebert, writing for the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 3 out of 4 stars, and said: 'If you respond to film noir, if you like dark streets and women with scarlet lips and big fast cars with running boards, the look of this movie will work some kind of magic.'[23]

The Shadow has developed a cult following in subsequent years,[citation needed] a result of its video success on VHS, DVD, and Blu-ray - much like three other 1990s pulp/comic adaptations, Dick Tracy, The Rocketeer and The Phantom.

Year-end lists[edit]

In other media[edit]


James Luceno wrote the novelization[26] which went deeper into the events of the film and included many nods to the radio serial of The Shadow and the original pulp magazines, most significantly alluding to the fact that true identity of The Shadow was Kent Allard, and that 'Lamont Cranston' was just another identity he assumed when needed.[27]

Video game[edit]

A video game version of The Shadow for the Super NES was developed to tie in with the 1994 film,[28] but was never released (despite being completed) due to the film's disappointing box-office gross.[29] ROM files of the game were later leaked onto the internet.

Pinball game[edit]

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 its original music.


  1. ^ "The Shadow (12)". British Board of Film Classification. July 15, 1994. Retrieved September 27, 2016.
  2. ^ "The Shadow (1994) - Financial Information". The Numbers (website).
  3. ^ a b "The Shadow". Box Office Mojo.
  4. ^ "Baldwin's 'Shadow' Achieves Pale Silhouette Of Its Potential". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved January 21, 2011.
  5. ^ "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].
  6. ^ "What Humor Lurks In `The Shadow'? Alec Baldwin Knows". Morning Call. Retrieved January 12, 2011.
  7. ^ "Tim Curry Has Another Outlandish Role In 'Shadow'". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved January 21, 2011.
  8. ^ a b c d e f Schwager, Jeff (August 13, 1994). "Out of the Shadows". Moviemaker. Archived from the original on November 14, 2006. Retrieved April 16, 2007.
  9. ^ Parker, Ryan (August 20, 2020). "'Darkman' Turns 30: Liam Neeson, Frances McDormand and More Remember the Arduous Making of Sam Raimi's Influential Superhero Film". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved August 25, 2020. Cite has empty unknown parameter: |1= (help)
  10. ^ a b Peterson, Don E (August 1994). "The Shadow Takes Shape". Sci-Fi Entertainment. Cite has empty unknown parameter: |coauthors= (help)
  11. ^ Murray, Will (August 1994). "Master of Death". Starlog. Retrieved April 16, 2007. Cite has empty unknown parameter: |coauthors= (help)
  12. ^ Will Murray. "Master of Death". Starlog Magazine. No. 205. p. 27 – via Internet Archive.
  13. ^
  14. ^ The Shadow soundtrack review at
  15. ^ a b Wilmington, Michael (July 1, 1994). "Sumptuous Sets Can't Hide Flat Storyline Of `The Shadow'". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on September 17, 2011. Retrieved August 24, 2019.
  16. ^ a b Natale, Richard (July 6, 1994). "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". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 12, 2011.
  17. ^ Turan, Kenneth (July 1, 1994). "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". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 12, 2011.
  18. ^ "Fourth of July Weekend Box Office". The Los Angeles Times. July 7, 1994. Retrieved January 12, 2011.
  19. ^ "The Shadow (1994)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved August 26, 2019.
  20. ^ "SHADOW, THE (1994) B". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on December 20, 2018.
  21. ^ Owen Gleiberman (July 8, 1994). "The Shadow". Entertainment Weekly. The movie has all the coherence of a bad acid flashback.
  22. ^ EW Staff (April 29, 2009). "21 Worst Comic-Book Movies". Entertainment Weekly.
  23. ^ Ebert, Roger (January 1, 2000). "The Shadow Movie Review & Film Summary (1994)". Chicago Sun-Times.
  24. ^ Elliott, David (December 25, 1994). "On the big screen, color it a satisfying time". The San Diego Union-Tribune (1, 2 ed.). p. E=8.
  25. ^ MacCambridge, Michael (December 22, 1994). "it's a LOVE-HATE thing". Austin American-Statesman (Final ed.). p. 38.
  26. ^ Luceno, James (1994). The Shadow. New York: Ivy Books. ISBN 9780804112963.
  27. ^ Sims, Chris (August 12, 2016). "Ask Chris #302: All The Fun Of A VHS Tape In Comic Book Form". ComicsAlliance. Retrieved October 18, 2016.
  28. ^ "The Shadow - Super NES". IGN. Retrieved October 18, 2016.
  29. ^ Laraque, J.A. (May 19, 2011). "Unreleased: The Shadow". Retrieved October 18, 2016.

External links[edit]