Sunday, March 11, 2018

You'tube Theater: THE SHADOW STRIKES (1937)

Here’s the good news: This first film version of The Shadow was based on the pulp magazine rather than on the radio show. (The pulp character, by my reckoning, is the real Shadow, and the other guy an imposter). The movie is based on the novel “The Ghost of the Manor” from the June 15, 1933 issue.

But the bad news is: Despite the cool title, The Shadow never really Strikes. In fact, he’s hardly present at all. This is really just an average low-budget mystery in which the hero twice dons a cape, for a total screen time of just over a minute.

As the film opens, we meet an unnamed gentleman and his aide. The gentleman is examining the bullet that killed his father, a high-profile attorney killed by the racketeers he crusaded against. The gentleman professes a desire to learn who fired the bullet.

Our hero spends the rest of the film solving a couple of mundane manor house murders and pretending to be an attorney named Chester Randall. Why this Randall persona was necessary is more than I can figure. In the pulp story, The Shadow was masquerading as Lamont Cranston, currently vacationing in Timbuktu. Anyway, it’s pretty tame stuff. A couple of guns are fired, but no one is shot on camera, and we don’t even get a fist fight.

In The Shadow’s first brief appearance, he wears a normal narrow-brimmed fedora and has a cape draped casually over a shoulder or two. Though his face appears to be in full view of the bad guys, they immediately know him as The Shadow. Hm.

Next time he pops in, he has the high collar of his cape turned up, so folks see just his eyes. This is more effective, but all he does is stand there, point a gun, and vamoose.

Only at the very end of the film, via a newspaper article, do we learn that our gentleman hero is amateur criminologist “Lamont Granston.” Yes, Granston with a G. Why? I’ve no idea. Unlike the Cranston we know from the magazine, he doesn’t know anybody and nobody knows him, so he parades around in his own face without being recognized. The mystery of who shot his father is never resolved, though the film ends with him studying a bullet recovered during the case.

Rod LaRocque makes a decent film detective. He always wears a slightly amused look, like a slightly older and fleshier version of Warren William. This adds a little comic relief, and we get more from the byplay between him and his aide. Trouble is, he’s not Lamont Cranston, or even Granston.

The film is otherwise not horrible. It’s a typical cheapie, with passable acting and occasionally good dialogue. A musical soundtrack would have helped a lot, but I guess that wasn’t in the budget. It’s only really bad if you watch it expecting to see The Shadow.


TC said...

Well, at least he does appear in costume, if only briefly. The other one, International Crime, was more like an imitation Thin Man.

I assumed that the ending, where he is still working on solving his father's murder, was a set-up for a sequel.

IMHO, the best Shadow movie was the serial with Victor Jory. The B features with Kane Richmond were OK, but they were based more on the radio show than on the magazine.

TC said...
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