Film / The Shadow
The Shadow knows...

A 1994 Universal live-action film based off the pulp hero The Shadow, the movie follows the adventures of Lamont Cranston (Alec Baldwin), who uses his psychic powers as the Shadow to hunt criminals in New York City to make up for the atrocities he committed in the past. But all is not well in the Big Apple - Shiwan Khan (John Lone), the last descendant of Genghis and fellow psychic, has come to finish his great-grandscestor's work, and he's not about to let anyone stand in his way. Margo Lane, Lamont's love interest, was played by Penelope Ann Miller, while her father, physicist Reinhardt Lane, was played by Ian McKellen.

There was a novelization by James Luceno that valiantly tries to tie the movie into the pulps and radio series. The makers were hoping to start an entire new superhero film franchise but the film performed poorly at the box office and the franchise was stillborn.

No relation to the Hans Christian Andersen story of the same name.

This film provides examples of:

  • Absent-Minded Professor: Margo's father, Dr. Reinhardt Lane.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: That campy billboard that Shiwan uses to hypnotize Dr. Lane? Those really existed.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: Alec Baldwin doesn't speak Chinese but it doesn't stop him from ordering a Peking duck.
  • The Atoner: Lamont's work as the Shadow is so he can atone for the suffering he caused as the ruthless drug lord Ying Ko.
  • Badass Boast: Numerous. As an example, Lamont whispering from the shadows at some mobsters about to murder a witness, "Did you really think you would get away with it? Did you really think that I wouldn't know?"
  • Badass Creed: "The Kha-Khan, the Power of God on Earth, Emperor of Mankind"
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: Both Lamont and Khan although Khan's is a little too small for him, showing his lack of familiarity with Western culture.
  • Big Applesauce: Justified in that Shiwan is also there to test himself against Lamont, or even better, persuade him to change sides.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: One of Shiwan's guards willingly falls to his death rather than be captured by the Shadow.
  • Black and Gray Morality: Lamont knows he's a bad person and struggles with his dark side (which he channels when he becomes The Shadow, who does bad things for good reasons), while Shiwan Khan is a brutal megalomaniac bent on total world domination.
  • Bland-Name Product: Llama cigarettes, an obvious parody of Camel right down to a period-appropriate slogan - "I'D WALK A MILE FOR A CAMEL" becomes;
  • Book Ends: "This is green. That's red." Also, "I'll know."
  • Brainwashed and Crazy: When Margo goes to her father's lab to find him, Shiwan puts her in a trance and sends her after Lamont. When he later confronts him about it, he tells him that he sent Margo to be killed, which would set Lamont back on the road to evil.
  • Brick Joke:
    • "I'd like to give you a name," Lamont says to Shiwan, as he gave the name of a psychiatrist. Guess who takes custody of Shiwan in the end? The very same doctor.
    • "Nice tie".
  • Brought Down to Normal: Shiwan is subjected to this trope when the Shadow drives a glass shard into his brain, removing his psychic powers.
  • The Butcher: Ying Ko, The Butcher of Lhasa.
  • Canon Welding: The novelization by James Luceno attempts to reconcile the differences between the pulps and the radio series while placing the film in continuity with both series.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Lamont goes through this twice.
  • Cement Shoes: The Shadow saves a science professor from gangsters who were going to dump him in the river for accidentally witnessing a crime.
  • Chekhov's Skill: More like Chekhov's Disability. Dr. Lane's red-green colorblindness leads to him nearly cutting the wrong wire in a Wire Dilemma purely by accident.
    • Lamont can be invisible, but he can't hide his Shadow, which lets his enemies know where he is. So when he goes to fight Claymore who does have knowledge of that weakness, he uses his clouding ability to make multiple false shadows giving Claymore the impression that he overcame that weakness.
  • Color Blind Confusion: This leads Dr. Lane to cut the Wrong Wire on the nuclear bomb, making the timer go to warp speed. By the time he's reconnected that wire to fix it, he's gone from having hours to having about two minutes.
  • Compelling Voice: Lamont Cranston in Shadow mode, and Shiwan Khan.
  • Cool Car: A slightly understated instance. The Shadow has no special vehicle but is driven about in Shrevvy's cab, a real 1936 Cord 810, the toy version of which received a full arsenal of weapons.
  • Cool Gun: Lamont's pair of 1911s.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Margo, Moe, Khan and occasionally Lamont.
  • Deceptive Disciple: The Tulku tried to save Shiwan like he did with Lamont, but ended up getting killed for his troubles.
  • Diesel Punk: Of the Diesel Noir subgenre.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: Margo goes barefoot indoors most of the time.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: Lamont as Ying Ko dreams of the Tulku before he gets abducted to his temple, and later has a nightmare about Shiwan.
    Margo: Oh, God I dreamed.
    Lamont: So did I. What did you dream?
    Margo: I was lying naked on a beach in the South Seas. The tide was coming up to my toes. The sun was beating down. My skin hot and cool at the same time. It was wonderful. What was yours?
    Lamont: I dreamed I tore all the skin off my face and was somebody else underneath.
    Margo: You have problems.
    Lamont: I'm aware of that.
  • The Driver: Moe Shrevnitz.
  • Drowning Pit: Farley shoots the Shadow, locks him in a pressure testing chamber at his lab, and starts filling it with water.
  • Empathic Weapon: The Phurba. And damn that thing is freaky.
  • Enlightenment Superpowers
  • Evil Counterpart: Shiwan Khan serves as this to The Shadow
  • Evil Sorcerer: Technically a duel between Evil Sorcerers, as the Shadow himself would be the first to admit he's a piece of work. But Shiwan Khan — the last descendant of Genghis Khan, who was taught by the same teacher (whom Shiwan then killed) as Lamont — actually makes it his ambition to top him. In the end, Lamont proves himself more than a match for Shiwan and has a surgeon friend remove Shiwan's Psychic Powers through brain surgery.
  • "Extra! Extra! Read All About It!: Madman threatens to blow the city sky-high!"
  • Famous Ancestor: Shiwan Khan claims to be the last descendant of Genghis Khan. Being a descendant is likely, being the last descendant is not (see Single Line of Descent below).
  • Fate Worse than Death: What the Shadow gives Shiwan Khan at the end. He destroys the villain's psychic abilities and then has him committed to an asylum by one of his minions which for someone as pompous as Khan would be Hell.
  • Friendly Local Chinatown: Lamont follows one of Shiwan's men into one of these.
  • Glamour Failure: The Shadow "clouds men's minds", making them unable to see him. However, he still leaves signs of a physical presence. This is used against him twice, both times ending with him getting shot.
  • A God Am I: Khan believes this fervently.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: When Lamont drives a piece of broken glass into Khan's skull, we see a brief shot of the shard floating in front of Khan's face, followed by a Smash to Black.
  • Hall of Mirrors: The Shadow chases Shiwan into a storage area full of mirrors, and ultimately uses his powers to shatter them.
  • Historical In-Joke:
    Dr. Tam: I suppose you'd call it an implosive-explosive sub-molecular device.
    Lamont: Or an Atomic bomb.
    Dr. Tam: Hey, that's catchy.
    • Which emphasizes both Dr. Lane's genius and his foolishness at the same time - He's at least twenty years ahead of his time, having built an A-bomb before Einstein established the theoretical framework for how it would work, but he also doesn't realize how dangerous the thing is.
  • Hypnotic Eyes: Lamont and Shiwan have these, invoked with contact lenses, and changes in the lighting. The Shadow has metallic gray eyes while Shiwan's are black
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: A non fatal comical one: Lamont spends his first meeting with Margo wooing her using his telepathy to find her likes. Only to find out she is telepathic as well. So he tries to spend the remainder of the movie avoiding her so she doesn't find out he is The Shadow.
  • I Have a Family: Dr Tam tries this on his would-be murderers. The leader just scoffs and says "They'll get over it".
  • I Owe You My Life: Inverted - When the Shadow saves Dr. Tam's life and enlists him as one of his agents. It's apparently how he recruits all his minions.
    The Shadow: I've saved your life, Roy Tam - it now belongs to me!
  • If I Wanted You Dead...:
    • "Kill you? *chuckles* If I wanted you dead, Ying Ko, I would have your liver on a pole right now."
    • Also: "I would sooner destroy a Rembrandt than kill you".
  • Innocent Innuendo:
    Lamont: Psychically, I'm very well endowed.
    Margo:(looking down) I'll bet you are.
  • Insult Backfire:
    Lamont: You, sir, are a barbarian.
    Shiwan: Thank you. We both are.
  • Jabba Table Manners: Shiwan, in the Chinese restaurant.
  • Jedi Mind Trick: One of the Shadow's powers.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: The cab driver who drove Shiwan Khan after his arrival in New York drives straight into a fuel truck. His last words are "This must be my lucky...".
  • Large Ham:
    • Taylor Dayne's "Original Sin (Theme From The Shadow)" over the end credits - "Produced, Written And Arranged By Jim Steinman." Any questions?
    • Lamont as the Shadow.
    • Khan. Just Khan.
    • Farley after his mental breakdown.
  • Laughing Mad: Farley, until he falls to his death.
  • Licensed Pinball Table: Click here for details.
  • Lobotomy: At the end, the villain is lobotomized in such a way that all he has lost is his psychic powers.
  • Male Gaze: In-universe. Farley Claymore can't seem to tear his eyes off Margo Lane's "clever neckline".
  • Man of Wealth and Taste: Both Lamont and Shiwan Khan. Khan admires Lamont so much he even buys the same brand of suit and tie.
  • Master of Illusion: Both Shiwan and the Shadow, but Shiwan is such a master that he clouds the minds of everyone in New York at the same time. Specifically, he hides a hundred-story five-star hotel — smack-dab in the middle of the city — just to have a luxurious lair for himself.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Lamont (Alec Baldwin) was quite dapper in the scene when he meets Margo.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Penelope Ann Miller as Margo especially in her white dress.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • Shiwan asking where Lamont got his tie is a spoof of the product placement used in the radio show.
    • Mrs. Tam thinks The Shadow was made up to make people listen to the radio more. Well, it was a radio show...
  • Nightmare Sequence: The first time is a warning about Shiwan's arrival, the second time is a nightmare about him pulling his face off, revealing Shiwan underneath, and the third time is a Flashback Nightmare of his time as Ying Ko.
  • Never Recycle a Building: Inverted - Shiwan made everyone believe that the building got torn down, though no one can remember when. Or if.
  • 90% of Your Brain: When Shiwan Khan awakes from the surgery that removes his powers, he is told that the surgeons removed a part of the brain that no one ever uses.
  • Not Brainwashed: Farley Claymore, who signed up with Khan in exchange for power.
  • Not So Different:
    • "Accept the truth - there is no light without shadow, and you and I are that shadow."
    • Lamont's dream, in which he rips his own face off like a mask to reveal Shiwan's underneath.
  • Pinned to the Wall: The (invisible) hero is pounding the tar out of some Mongol Warriors in a lab. One of them grabs a flashlight, scans the room, and finds him. A few well-placed arrows stick the Shadow to the wall...until the fully three-dimensional Shadow emerges from out of his own shadow, Guns Akimbo.
  • Pretty in Mink: Margo wears a white fox wrap to a club.
  • Product Placement: "Brooks Brothers. 75th and Madison."
  • Psychic-Assisted Suicide: Shiwan uses his powers to off a museum guard who saw him in Genghis's coffin, a cab driver who took him to his lair, and a marine who insulted his fashion sense. The Shadow later uses his powers to make Farley Claymore jump through a third-story window.
  • Psychic Powers: Primarily Telepathy, although the Shadow eventually manages to achieve Mind over Matter.
  • Reluctant Mad Scientist: Dr. Lane, helped along by Shiwan's mind control.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Played with. A museum receives a silver sarcophagus from a mysterious source, with an inscription on it saying it's the coffin of Genghis Khan. When the security guard is left alone with it the coffin starts to shake around and eventually opens up to reveal a man in the dress of a Mongol warrior, who telepathically forces the security guard to shoot himself. However, it turns out it's not actually Genghis Khan, but a modern-day descendant.
  • Sexy Backless Outfit: Margo
  • The Shangri-La
  • Shoot the Bullet: Happens by accident when Khan and Lamont confront each other in the Chinese restaurant. They're both visibly stunned at what just happened.
  • Shoot the Hostage:
    Li Peng: (having just taken Ying Ko's accountant hostage) Even your men are not marksman enough to shoot around him!
    Ying Ko: You're right. (to the accountant) Wu, you're a wonderful friend. You're like a father to me.
    Wu: Thank you, Ying Ko.
    Ying Ko: (to his marksmen) Shoot through him.
  • Shown Their Work: The crew was able to acquire a real 1936 Cord 810 taxi, modified slightly for filming yet still (noticeably) keeping the front wheel drive.
  • Single Line of Descent: Shiwan Khan is somehow the "last descendant of Genghis Khan". Genghis Khan was a prolific shagger with more wives than you can shake a stick at. The world is filled with his descendants (some estimates put 1 out of every 200 people on Earth today in his family tree), so Khan would presumably have to kill millions of people around the world, even if we were only talking about male lineage alone. Then again, in his arrogance, Khan might have just pretended he was the last to sound cool, or he may believe he's the only one who deserves the name.
  • The Sociopath: Khan and indeed Lamont before his Heel–Face Turn.
  • Super Window Jump: Shiwan escapes the Chinese restaurant by jumping out a window after breaking the glass with his powers. Farley later dives through a glass mural, after the Shadow made him think it was an exit, with less pleasant results.
  • Sycophantic Servant: Farley Claymore.
  • Unobtanium: Bronzium, believed by the Chinese to be what the universe was made of, and what Shiwan uses for his bomb. It may actually be enriched uranium or even plutonium, though how you would get the latter with 1920's technology boggles the mind.
  • Villain Ball: Shiwan sends Farley Claymore, a Non-Action Guy and the only person who can build more atomic bombs for him, to fight the Shadow, whom he has no chance against.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Farley Claymore has an excellent one, first The Shadow, a man he thinks he left to die is stalking him. Next he tries shooting at his shadow everywhere it goes. Unlike last time, it doesn't work. To make matters worse as he empties his tommygun he is laughing, sweating and obviously scared out of his mind. The only time he grows a pair, is when he demands The Shadow to come out of hiding and fight like a man. When he does come out of hiding, Claymore is reduced to a giggling, stuttering drooling scaredy cat. Fortunately, he doesn't live long.
  • Visible Invisibility
  • Voice of the Legion: The Tulku.
  • We Can Rule Together: Shiwan offers to make "Yingko" his partner.
    • A slight subversion as Shiwan's idea of ruling is sharing half the world with Lamont so that they can go to war with one another for kicks.
  • Wicked Cultured: Shiwan, later on. "I would no sooner destroy you than I would destroy a Rembrandt." Also, "That is a very nice tie! May I ask, where could I acquire one?"
  • Wire Dilemma: Dr. Lane is forced to disarm the bomb without knowing how he built it. And did we mention that he's colorblind?
    Margo: (strained, nudging the green wire) This is green. (nudges the red wire) That's red.
  • Wrong Wire: When Dr. Lane first tries to disarm the bomb, he accidentally makes the timer go to warp speed, and fixing it leaves him with only two minutes. Finally, he decides that it's "usually green"... and pulls the red wire.
  • Yellow Peril: Fortunately averted. While the villains are Mongols, Dr. Tam and the Tulku are also Asian. Inverted with Dr. Claymore, who is white, and Lamont, also white, before his redemption. As Ying Ko, Lamont was a drug-lord who was terrorizing Tibet and its people.
  • You Have Failed Me: Shiwan killed one of his warriors hypnotized by Lamont.
    • Probably more pragmatic than the usual spitefulness. A minion who's vulnerable to your enemy's mind control is a definite liability.
  • Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: Lamont feels this when Shiwan makes his We Can Rule Together offer.
    Lamont Cranston: That's not my name anymore.
    Shiwan Khan: But it is nevertheless still who you are, isn't it?!