|The pop-up matchbook. Wild.|
How apropos that our question-creating machine spit this one forth today, replete with the picture of 1994's The Shadow. This was a movie that I drooled over ahead of its release; I had the teaser poster, with its "who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men" poster on my wall; I savored every tv commercial for it (including a great one that I remember running during the M.A.N.T.I.S pilot).
Why was I so eager to see this movie? In the year previous, I had discovered old time radio shows (then available on cassette tape by a few vendors). The Shadow in its original radio form was a bit crude, as it was produced in the mid 1930s; the golden age for radio production being, in my estimation, from 1945 until the end of the 1950s. Nonetheless, it was enjoyable, with a pre-Citizen Kane Orson Welles and Agnes Moorehead and the strange, almost otherworldly commercials for Blue Coal.
I distinctly remember seeing the Alec Baldwin starrer with my brother and uncle, in a theater which is now an IHOP. It had the pedigree of a winner: July 1 release, ample marketing campaign, Alec Baldwin 4 years removed from Red October and two years removed from Glengarry Glen Ross, a Jerry Goldsmith score, and supporting roles filled by Jonathan Winters, Peter Boyle, and Tim Curry. Oh, and did I mention that Ian freakin McKellan is in it too? All of that mixed with the luxurious production design and Russell Mulcahy's impressive action resume and care for a throwback, 1930s sensibility was sure to make this film a winner.
You know that sinking feeling that you can get watching a movie when you see that it simply is not working? The one that is a result of a fundamental lack of the parts jelling? That was watching The Shadow.
|It's like a bat... man.|
When it came to geek movies of the 1990s, studios needed their bacchanalia of Batman codpieces, zany Phantoms, and yes, lousy Shadows. They needed to swear off the fat of pulp stories, so that, six years later, the same pulp sources would start to be treated earnestly and seriously. It started with Bryan Singer's X-Men starring, ironically, the very same Ian McKellan who had moved from comic boob in The Shadow to a metaphorical Malcom X.
Thus is the legacy of The Shadow: necessary tomfoolery before the serious work began.