What do you expect from a movie based on an old radio serial? From yet another cartoon movie? Nothing. You expect another bore like Batman, another conglomeration of noise and stupidity like Darkman, or another silly abomination like The Crow. What little story exists in The Shadow is really lubricious and not particularly clear. In a nutshell: The Shadow was apparently some kind of Tibetan warrior who killed people every second and loved it. He gets abducted by some monk-guy who saves his soul, shows him the light and teaches him the power of telepathy, among other things (The Shadow's powers are never made clear or explained, which is a major drawback in some scenes). Now he's fighting crime in old NY (his operation is so haphazard you can't believe this guy could find a criminal in jail) and who should come along, but the last remaining descendant of Ghengis Kahn, complete with Mongol warriors (where they come from is anybody's guess). Are you still with me? Sounds like crap, right? Well, for the first fifteen minutes it looks as if The Shadow will be just that. In fact, it looks like it might be worse--a kind of combination of Bill & Ted and Big Trouble in Little China. But then something happens. We are transported from the opium fields of Tibet (where the film senselessly begins) to The Big Apple circa 1936 and the movie gets its bearings, gathers its sense of humor, and really struts its sense of style. This is, to say the least, very surprising. The director, Russell Mulcahy, is a hack. His last film was the Kim Bassinger vehicle The Real McCoy. Yeesh. His best work to date was the Duran Duran video "Rio" and his first flick, Highlander. Highlander was very flashy, enjoyable nonsense and The Shadow works on the same level except it's even prettier. He's still a hack, but with The Shadow, he's a hack with a lot of flamboyance and he's obviously studied all the other "comic book" films quite diligently to weed out what doesn't work. Mulcahy is aided considerably by many factors, not the least of which is the cast. John Lone is good as Kahn and this villain gets his in a very satisfying way. Jonathan Winters has never been used better for comic effect and Mulcahy keeps him on a tight leash to prevent him from being overbearing. Well done. Peter Boyle is amusing as the Shadow's cab driver and Tim Curry is very funny as a nuclear physicist ("You never thought I'd be friends with a conqueror, did ya?"). Penelope Anne Miller is adequate as the moll and Alec Baldwin proves again, as he did in Glenn Gary Glenn Ross, that he's not horrible all the time and can deliver a line with the right sense of irony. While the script is bad on story and clarity, it does provide some gems in the dialogue department. Kahn: "I will succeed" Shadow: "You know, of course, I going to stop you." Kahn: "You Americans, you're all so arrogant. You think this decadent, ill-informed society you've made is the high point of civilization..." Shadow: "Hey! You're talking about the U S of A now." Kahn and the Shadow have several good exchanges. Any movie in which Alec Baldwin says "I'm psychically well-endowed" can't be all bad. However, the true strength of the film is its production design and its visual effects. It took four different companies and 500 people to achieve the visual effects in the film and ILM was not among them. ILM has a few films left this summer (read: True Lies) to wow us, but they face some stiff competition from Fantasy II film effects which really makes The Shadow spectacular. There are several panoramic shots throughout the film of 1936 New York-- from the air, from the vantage point of a skyscraper, from the ground, at night and most impressively, during the day. They are all flawless, complete with air traffic that consist of biplanes, vintage automobiles in the street and historically accurate architecture (the Empire State Building and the Chrysler building top the skyline, the Flat Iron Building and the Ansonia Hotel are also visible in many shots. I believe you even see the hippodrome). There is an effects sequence in the film that virtually assures it of an Oscar in which we follow a message container through the Shadow's elaborate matrix of pneumatic tubes covering the city. It starts out in an office building and flies outside along the edges of buildings, through building foundations, etc., eventually finding its way to, what we assume, is the Shadow's headquarters. (As we said, clarity is not the strong point of the film.) The camera follows it along like a rollercoaster above NY at dizzying heights. This one shot accomplishes the flair that Batman tried to achieve with its city scapes and the awe that The Crow went for with its camera acrobatics and beats them both by miles. Its almost worth seeing just for this alone. If anyone knows anything more about Fantasy II Film effects, I'd love to hear about them. They also did some work way back when on The Abyss. It seems to me like they're quite a company and I'm just curious about the creative talent behind it.