The Shadow (1994)

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Released 15-Nov-2000

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action None
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1994
Running Time 102:46 (Case: 101)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Russell Mulcahy
Studio
Distributor

Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Alec Baldwin
John Lone
Penelope Ann Miller
Peter Boyle
Ian McKellen
Jonathan Winters
Tim Curry
Case Brackley-Trans-No Lip
RPI $36.95 Music Jerry Goldsmith


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
Portuguese
Danish
Finnish
Swedish
Norwegian
German
Dutch
Turkish
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Based on the pulp novel series and radio show from the 1930s, The Shadow was brought to the screen at a time when caped crusaders were all the rage: every studio had to have one, and it looks like Universal threw the cheque book at this one - gorgeous production design and lavish sets result in a ravishing art deco New York reminiscent of Gotham City with a lot more colour.

    The movie opens somewhere in the opium fields of Tibet where Ying Ko (Alec Baldwin) is a bad, bad drug lord. He is kidnapped by a mystic, who informs him that it is time to pay the piper - he is condemned to roam the earth seeking out those with hearts as black as his own to punish them.

    Fast forward seven years, and Ying Ko has resumed his former identity of rich playboy Lamont Cranston, but with one small change - he is now The Shadow, and upon donning his signature scarf, hat, cape, and somewhat larger nose, he has the ability to "cloud men's minds", that is, become invisible but for his shadow.

    Swanning around drinking martinis at the Cobalt Club, Cranston meets the somewhat telepathic Margo Lane (Penelope Ann Miller), daughter of a scientist working for the war department (Sir Ian McKellen). Next up comes his nemesis, and he is none other than the last remaining descendant of Gengis Kahn, Shiwan Kahn (John Lone) who has an even stronger control over the minds of men. He recruits the scientist and his assistant (Tim Curry) to build, you guessed it, an atom bomb, and he proceeds to hold the city to ransom. The rest is strictly by the numbers (including the obligatory plot holes), and before you know it, the movie's over and if you weren't taking notes like I was, you've forgotten what it was all about.

    Alec Baldwin (The Hunt For Red October) cuts a fine figure as Lamont Cranston: all stylish good looks and excellent wardrobe, and although his Shadow is suitably heroic, his portrayal of Lamont Cranston is a little too gormless. John Lone (The Last Emperor) gets to dress in some pretty funky Mongol costumes, and he hams it up, but his villain also has no real personality, and a "fiendish plan" which quite frankly sucks. Penelope Ann Miller (Carlito's Way) for me is the quintessential 30s dame, with her full, red lips and porcelain skin, but at the risk of droning on... the script lets her down, too.

    In support, Tim Curry (The Rocky Horror Picture Show) is suitably bug-eyed as the sycophantic "Number 2", but again, he looks the part but unfortunately hasn't been given much of one. As the obligatory bumbling scientist, Sir Ian McKellen (Richard III) could have done with quite a few more pages of script, and Peter Boyle (Red Heat) suffers a similar fate as The Shadow's trusty driver.

    Director Russell Mulcahy (Highlander) gives us a great-looking movie with lashings of his trademark stylistic direction, but unfortunately there's no substance: the talent was there, and with some decent material to work with, The Shadow could have escaped the perennial problems that seem to plague movies of this genre.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and features 16x9 enhancement. Despite the dual layer formatting, the absence of extras, and thus the consistently high video bitrate, I felt that the transfer overall was lacking detail a little, particularly in the backgrounds.

    Shadow detail was reasonably good, and this is of great importance in a movie that is essentially a noir piece. Low level noise was absent. There is, though, a strange phenomenon that occurs in certain shots where The Shadow is about to strike someone, and he is but a "cloud". A heavy grain becomes apparent, and colours become a little oversaturated. It is difficult to determine whether this is a problem (or a desired effect) of the source material, but on balance I would say it is related to the source as it occurs with regularity when the "cloud" effect is utilized. The first of these instances occurs at 10:49, and it happens again a couple of times at around the 51:00 mark, and again wherever the effect is used. More "regular" type grain appears at about 7:30 to 12:00.

    Showing off the gorgeous art direction, colours were represented beautifully. From the bright yellows of The Shadow's trusty cab, to the deep blood reds of Penelope Ann Miller's lipstick, the art deco world of the 30s is brought to life faithfully.

   Film artefacts are an almost constant problem with this transfer, and this is unacceptable coming from source material of such recent vintage. At 27:25, there is a thick smattering of black film artefacts for about 10 seconds, and then again at 28:55 and yet again at 80:28. There are many more less distracting instances of such artefacts throughout the remainder of the feature. Aliasing becomes apparent, but when it does, it is only slight in nature. The most notable of these instances are at 27:25 on some Venetian blinds, 22:55 on some garage doors, and at 33:08 on a taxi's front grille.

    This disc is stated to be RSDL formatted, but much to my frustration I couldn't spot the layer change.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The best thing about this DVD was the audio transfer. I listened to the default English Dolby Digital 5.1 track, and had a sonic peek at the French and Spanish 5.1 tracks.

    I had no problem understanding any of the dialogue, however on a couple of occasions The Shadow's booming laugh was on the edge of distortion: it slipped over the edge a little at 11:37. Audio sync was not a problem.

    The Jerry Goldsmith (The Mummy) score was suitably "super-hero", with plenty of deep, majestic brass to get the blood going.

    Although lacking in the ambience department, use of the surrounds for directional effects was excellent during the action and fight scenes. Particularly notable was the voice of The Shadow (and of Kahn where appropriate), which swirled around the soundstage, as well as the odd gunshot and whoosh of crossbow fire. Outside of these scenes, however, the soundstage collapsed to pretty much stereo, despite ample opportunity to increase the immersion factor with the scenes set in restaurants and in the busy New York traffic.

    The subwoofer ably supported the bassy score and assisted some of the fight scenes, but I would have liked to hear just a little more of it in the climactic scenes where a giant steel ball was bouncing around.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

    The menu is static and silent, featuring the cover still.

    Otherwise, the lights are on, but unfortunately there's nobody home.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;     The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;     Although it would be nice to sample the dts soundtrack (or at least find a review of it), I personally wouldn't sacrifice the 16x9 enhanced widescreen presentation. Therefore for me, Region 4 gets the honours here, although you may feel differently about it. Note: a Dolby Digital 5.1 version is also available in Region 1. The two Region 1 versions appear to be identical except for the soundtrack format.

Summary

    Overproduced and underscripted, The Shadow was a fairly average movie, given a transfer befitting of a minor release. The total lack of extras leads me to feel that the distributor felt the same way I did about the quality of the feature. Fans of the original may enjoy this one, but I say rent Batman again instead.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Anthony Curulli (read my bio)
Thursday, October 26, 2000
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba 2109, using S-Video output
DisplaySony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-D608
SpeakersFront: Yamaha NS10M, Rear: Wharfedale Diamond 7.1, Center: Wharfedale Sapphire, Sub: Aaron 120W

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