You can almost see where Alec Baldwin would have been a wonderful Bruce Wayne and Batman at some point in his career. Early in his life, Baldwin was heavily considered for the part of Bruce Wayne and Batman in the first cinematic incarnation of the Dark Knight. Back then Baldwin was thing, dark, had a sense of mystery to him, and garnered a raspy gravelly voice that made him sound mystifying. Unlike Batman, The Shadow operates on an entirely different code of ethics and crime fighting, and is never above using his two trademark hand guns to instill justice on the slime of the city.
Alec Baldwin does a stellar job for a character that was once portrayed by Orson Welles, and as Lamont Cranston also known as The Shadow, Baldwin reveals the potential he had to take on the Dark Knight. When we meet Lamont Cranston, he’s already become an evil dictator, who satisfies his appetite with murdering innocent men and judging lives. By the work of a mystic and a magical knife, Cranston learns the ways of the hero, and uses the teachings of magic and mind control to help him serve the forces of good and fight crime in hopes of atoning for his sins. When Cranston returns home, he’s now a dashing playboy and shallow aristocrat whose life is lived by day as a party goer, and by night as the dreaded Shadow.
Using his talents of mind manipulation, and clouding the minds of those around him, Cranston wields his two handguns and takes down vicious criminals around New York, while warming up to a young woman named Margot Lane, who may be a mental challenge for Cranston. Recruiting his own league of informants out of victims he’s saved, The Shadow is a hero constantly on the verge of evil. Cranston and The Shadow both have to avoid the urges to commit pure evil and bloodlust, and are constantly teetering on the edge of darkness. This is what makes The Shadow such a fascinating hero, because as much as he can help those, he can also inflict great pain if given the right mental trigger.
Cranston comes across another student of his master Tulku, Shiwan Khan, who is seeking to dominate the crime world with his own powers of manipulation, and with the use of The Shadow’s only Achilles heel: The magical knife Phurba. Penelope Ann Miller is gorgeous as the heroine Margot Lane, who provides Cranston with a lure for heroism, who poses a somewhat interesting rivalry in the realm of his special abilities, and also may also be instrumental in stopping the dark force of Shiwan Khan. There are also a slew of welcome supporting performances from Tim Curry, Peter Boyle, Sab Shimono, and Ian McKellan, respectively. Director Russell Mulcahy does a bang up job of directing, providing us with a gritty and noirish New York City, that channels the atmosphere of Tim Burton’s Batman movies, while also carving out its own identity.
Much of Batman’s roots lie within the character of The Shadow, and the producers thankfully never shy away from those elements, amplifying them to offer audiences an adventure like Batman, while also exemplifying why The Shadow is the forefather of the Dark Knight. “The Shadow” is a very underrated and incredibly entertaining action fantasy that never forgets what made the original serials and comic books so darn entertaining. It’s a shame this never progressed in to a full fledged cinematic series, as it’s definitely one of the best superhero movies ever made.