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July 1994


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Donald Larsson <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 13 Jul 1994 07:09:19 -0600
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In reference to Lee Elliott's astute posting about THE SHADOW, I'd agree
with most of his assessments, especially in regard to the film's keen and
evocative sense of style.  In reference to the rather obscure plot and
character developments, it strikes me that the writers and Mulcahy simply
forgot that not too many people have read the original stories.  Most people,
if they know The Shadow at all, know him from the radio series, with Orson
Welles as the original (and best) voice.
I've only read a couple of the books, which were reprinted in the late
1960s during the wave of nostalgia for the 1930s (!), but they made much of
some of the elements of the film--the secret hideouts, the network of
informants, the cape, the hat, and the "fiery-red girasol [?] ring."
The stories were originally published under the name "Maxwell Grant," a
pulp pseudonym for the actual author, whose name I foret, but who is
given credit and has the film dedicated to him under his real name.  Anyway,
all the obscurity is somewhat less obscure for those who have read some of
the works.  Of course, large sections of the public now probably have not
even heard of the radio show, which raises interesting questions about the
role of reference in film.  For example, SINGIN' IN THE RAIN evokes past
MGM musicals in the both the songs being sung and certain plot devices
(eg., Kelly and co. decide to "put on a musical and save the studio," just
like Micky Rooney and Judy Garland) and WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT works much
better if you've seen a few dozen Disney, Warners and MGM cartoons, but none
of that seems to matter to much to audiences without those frames of
reference.  In the case of THE SHADOW, such  lack of reference may not be
compensated for by the film's style.  (A good thing, some might say, in
light of the film's--and stories'--orientalism.)
--Don Larsson