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Film / The Shadow

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The Shadow knows... HAHAHAHAHA!

A 1994 Universal live-action film directed by Russell Mulcahy and 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 Khan 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, is brilliant but is either color blind or can't quite keep what is red or green straight. He also can't pay proper attention to conversations.
    Margo: I'm afraid I'll never see him again and that makes me deeply and utterly depressed.
    Reinhardt: [puttering with an experiment] Well that's nice, dear.
  • Actor Allusion: Peter Boyle as a Taxi Driver.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: That campy, smoke ring throwing billboard that Shiwan uses to hypnotize Dr. Lane? Those really existed.
  • Adaptational Superpower Change: Originally, Lamont's power was more of a Perception Filter thing; "clouding the mind" of the target prevents them from noticing him. This version of the Shadow is basically Jean Grey. (Well, Jean when not in Phoenix mode, of course.)
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  • Arrested for Heroism: This is averted early on in the film, when Lamont's uncle, the Police Commissioner, tells him that he intends to put a task force on The Shadow for "meddling in police affairs". Lamont hypnotises him into dismissing the issue.
  • 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:
    The Shadow: Did you really think you would get away with it? Did you really think that I wouldn't know?
  • Badass Creed: Shiwan Khan does this during his Large Ham announcement of his right to rule.
  • 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. This is a foil to Shiwan Khan who 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:
    • Margo's early frustration with her father's forgetfulness with red or green comes to a head when disarming the atomic bomb.
      Margo: This is green. That's red!
      Reinhardt: One of these days I really gotta write that down!
    • Lamont is asked a couple of times how he will know where to find someone:
      Lamont: [knowing smile] 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:
    • Lamont gives Shiwan the name of a psychiatrist. Guess who takes custody of Shiwan in the end?
    • Lamont gives Shiwan the name of his tailor. Later Shiwan is wearing a nice suit.
      Lamont: Nice tie.
  • Brought Down to Normal: Shiwan is subjected to this trope when the Shadow drives a glass shard into his brain and then has the doctor who saves Shiwan's life (who is actually one of his agents) complete the lobotomy, removing his psychic powers.
  • The Butcher: Ying Ko, The Butcher of Lhasa. Lamont spends the rest of his days atoning for this identity.
  • 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 as he gets a premonition of a coming rival psychic and a reminder of the darkness that lays underneath him.
  • Cement Shoes: The Shadow saves a science professor from gangsters who were going to dump him in a river for accidentally witnessing a crime.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The Shadow saves Dr. Tam from mobsters at the start of the film (after the prologue) in his Establishing Character Moment. Later in the film, Lamont shows up at Tam's house to make use of his knowledge to discover that Khan is building the world's first atomic bomb.
  • 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 has a deep and slightly echoing voice.
    • Shiwan Khan has a similar voice when he puts people under his control
  • 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 don't see much use but look fantastic when dual wielded. They are apparently powerful enough to break apart a block of concrete.
  • Cruel Mercy: This is Shiwan Khan's ultimate fate-he survives the final confrontation with Lamont, but is left without his powers in a place where nobody recognizes his supposed greatness, which is absolute hell for an egomaniac like him.
  • 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 sub-genre with its Art Deco stylings, heightened technology and grimy noir detective story.
  • Disney Villain Death: Farley gets hypnotized by the Shadow into jumping through a window to his demise.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: Margo goes barefoot indoors most of the time.
  • Don't Think, Feel: During his training with the Tulku, Lamont was never able to gain mastery over the Phurba. According to Shiwan, he always tried to make it submit to brute force rather than controlling it as an extension of himself. The turning point in the final confrontation between the Shadow and Khan comes when he finally masters it and turns it against Khan.
  • 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 is one of Lamont's most trusted associates and is a speed freak behind the wheel of his cab. His customers are glad to be out of the cab.
  • Drowning Pit: Farley shoots the Shadow, locks him in a pressure testing chamber at his lab and starts filling it with water.
  • Eagleland: Shiwan Khan makes it clear that his view of the USA is 'Murica the Boorish:
    Shiwan Khan: You Americans are so arrogant. You think your meaningless, decadent country is the new cradle of civilisation, but let me tell you something...
  • Empathic Weapon: The Phurba is a dagger with a face and sharp teeth in its handle. It responds to the will and commands of a single strong master.
  • Enlightenment Superpowers: The Shadow received his powers while training to be redeemed. Shiwan Khan also received his powers this way but he was not at all redeemed.
  • Evil Counterpart: Shiwan Khan serves as this to The Shadow by having the same source of powers and skill set as The Shadow but is unrepentent to his power-mad ways.
  • Evil Laugh: It wouldn’t quite be a film about the Shadow if he didn’t do any evil laughing, would it?
  • 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!: A paperboy shouts this on a street corner.
    Paperboy: Madman threatens to blow the city sky-high!
  • Family-Unfriendly Death:
    • The sailor who Shiwan hypnotizes into jumping off the Empire State Building. Even though we only see the jump from a long distance, we also clearly see him hit part of the building on the way down.
    • At the end of the film, Farley dies when the Shadow hypnotically influences him to jump through a window.
  • Famous Ancestor: Shiwan Khan claims to be the last descendant of Genghis Khan. Being a descendant is likely, being the last descendant is not.
  • 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.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Shiwan Khan appears polite and civil at first, trading compliments and drinks with even his enemies, but this is all a facade: he's ready to drop it the moment's notice someone annoys him - and he's quite easy to annoy.
  • Friendly Local Chinatown: Lamont follows one of Shiwan's men into a restaurant withing Chinatown.
  • 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.
  • Glass-Shattering Sound: Shiwan Khan does this twice, firstly to blast out a window so that he can safely jump out of it (avoiding Super Window Jump), and then inadvertently when he's wounded and screams out in pain, shattering every window around him.
  • A God Am I: Khan believes this fervently and his plans are nothing short of ruling the world.
  • 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: Lamont coins the phrase for the bomb years ahead of schedule.
    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.
  • 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.
    Mob Boss: They'll get over it.
  • If I Wanted You Dead...: Shiwan Khan has this attitude towards Lamont.
    Shiwan: Kill you? [chuckles] If I wanted you dead, Ying Ko, I would have your liver on a pole right now.

    Shiwan: I would sooner destroy a Rembrandt than kill you.
  • Innocent Innuendo: Margo and Lamont have some fun banter.
    Lamont: Psychically, I'm very well endowed.
    Margo: [looking down] I'll bet you are.
  • Insult Backfire: Lamont never really gets under Shiwan's skin.
    Lamont: You, sir, are a barbarian.
    Shiwan: Thank you. We both are.
  • Jabba Table Manners: Shiwan, messily eats with his hands in the Chinese restaurant.
  • Jedi Mind Trick: One of the Shadow's powers is to psychically convince people to take unwelcome actions such as surrendering their guns.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: The cab driver who drove Shiwan Khan after his arrival in New York drives straight into a fuel truck.
    Cab driver: 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." It is not a subtle piece.note 
    • Lamont as the Shadow gives out epic laughter and withering one liners.
    • Khan gives similar evil laughs, squeals with delight over his foe's misfortunes and shouts and proclaims more than speaks.
    • Farley after his mental breakdown is turned into a raving and frothing mess.
  • Laughing Mad: Farley does this right up until he falls to his death.
  • Licensed Pinball Table: Click here for details.
  • Literal-Minded: Reinhardt Lane demonstrates this in one scene.
    Farley: The world could be our oyster!
    Reinhardt: I'm allergic to oysters.
  • Lobotomy: At the end Shiwan 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 are wealthy and classy. 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 is quite dapper in his expensive suits and well-attended hair.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Penelope Ann Miller as Margo, especially in her glamorous 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.
    "Unless you believe in telepathy!"
  • No-Sell: At the end, Shiwan Khan tries to mind-control a doctor at the hospital where he wakes up in restraints. It seems to work for a few seconds, only for the doctor - one of Cranston's civilian contacts, and the guy who surgically erased Khan's psychic powers while treating his head injury - to burst out laughing at the attempt.
  • Not Brainwashed: Farley Claymore, who signed up with Khan in exchange for power.
  • Not So Different:
    • Shiwan implores to Lamont that this is the case between the two of them.
      Shiwan: 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: In a nod to the product placement in the radio show.
    Shiwan: That is a very nice tie! May I ask, where could I acquire one?
    Lamont: [without missing a beat] Brooks Brothers.
    Shiwan: Is that uptown?
    Lamont: 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, controlling others' actions, mind-induced invisibility and the Shadow eventually manages to achieve Mind over Matter.
  • Reluctant Mad Scientist: Dr. Lane, helped along by Shiwan's mind control.
  • Saved to Enslave: 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!
    Dr. Tam: It does?
  • 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 Khannote . 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 who smuggled himself into America by hiding inside it, and he unseals it himself from within.
  • Sexy Backless Outfit: Margo has a lovely white dress that she wears to a fancy club and on her impromtu date with Lamont.
  • The Shangri-La: This serves as the base of the Tulku who keeps its location secret by clouding men's minds.
  • 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: This establishes Ying Ko's ruthlessness.
    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 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. note 
  • The Sociopath: Khan and indeed Lamont before his Heel–Face Turn.
  • Source Music: During the scene where Ying Ko is brought in to meet the Tulku, the dramatic percussion music and chanting is coming from a host of monks lining the sides of the Tulku's hall.
  • 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 sucks up to Khan at every turn and isn't even brainwashed.
  • 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: The Shadow's body is invisible to the minds of his victims but his shadow is always visible along with wet footsteps and displaced water when he is standing knee deep in a water tank.
  • Voice of the Legion: The Tulku's commanding voice seems to come from everywhere at once.
  • We Can Rule Together: Shiwan offers to make Ying Ko 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 loves the finer things in life and is knowledgeable about fine art.
    Shiwan: I would no sooner destroy you than I would destroy a Rembrandt.

    Shiwan: 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 kills one of his warriors hypnotized by Lamont.
    Shiwan: [stabs the grunt] Weakling!
  • You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!: In their second encounter, Shiwan and Lamont both fire guns at each other at near point-blank range...and the bullets collide in mid-air and fall to the ground, fused together. Both men can only stare in open-mouthed disbelief.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: With Farley Claymore's assurance that he can make copies, Shiwan Khan leaves Dr Lane in the hotel to die with his own bomb.
  • Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: Lamont feels this when Shiwan makes his We Can Rule Together offer.
    Lamont: That's not my name anymore.
    Khan: But it is nevertheless still who you are, isn't it?!


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