• The Shadow (Umbrella Entertainment) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: Umbrella Entertainment
    Released on: August 7th, 2019.
    Director: Russell Mulcahy
    Cast: Alec Baldwin, Peter Boyle, Sab Shimono, Penelope Ann Miller, John Lone, Ian McKellen, Tim Curry
    Year: 1994
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    The Shadow – Movie Review:

    Directed by Russell Mulcahy and based on the long running pulp star of the printed page, the radio and countless comic book adaptations over the years, the 1994 big screen major studio adaptation of The Shadow begins in China sometime in the 1920s. Here a mysterious and cruel Caucasian man lords over the locals as he violently controls the drug trade in the area. His life changes when he learns how the clouding of men's minds prevents them from seeing what's really there. On altercation with mystic later and we cut to New York City where a trio of thugs are about to toss a man clad in some cement boots over the Brooklyn Bridge. Before they can do that a mysterious man in a black hat, cape and coat appears, laughing ominously before dealing out justice in his own ruthless style. He's picked up by a cab driver named Moe (Peter Boyle) along with the man he's just saved, Doctor Tam (Sab Shimono) and told that as he owes his life to him, he is now one of his agents.

    Cut to a swanky upper-class restaurant where top cop Wainwright Cranston (Jonathan Winters) waits for his perpetually late playboy nephew, Lamont Cranston (Alec Baldwin). It turns out Lamont was late because of an incident on the bridge. When Wainwright espouses his intentions to get an NYPD task force on this ‘Shadow' character Lamont uses his abilities to cloud men's minds to talk him out of that. From there he meets a beautiful young woman named Margo Lane (Penelope Ann Miller) but after meeting her and realizing she can read his mind, his interest quickly wanes. She, however, digs him and isn't going to just let him wander off like that.

    Meanwhile, a strange crate arrives at the museum and inside a massive silver sarcophagus is found. After it opens under its own power, Shiwan Khan (John Lone) pops up. Once he adapts to his surroundings and meets The Shadow, he quickly realizes who the mysterious avenger really is. When The Shadow refuses to join him, they wage war across New York City. Khan, with some help from Margo's father, a scientist named Doctor Reinhardt Lane (Sir Ian McKellen), and his slimy business partner, Farley Claymore (Tim Curry), sets about building a device capable of leveling the city while The Shadow and his agents race against time to stop him.

    Well-paced and completely stylish from start to finish, The Shadow is a whole lot of escapist fun. Not to be taken too seriously, the movie nevertheless plays things pretty straight. Sure, there's some witty dialogue and moments of humor here, but the cast pull it off without ever feeling the need to wink at the camera or let us know that they're in on the joke. What makes the movie a lot more fun than a lot of the more sour-faced superhero movies Hollywood has crammed down our throats as of late is a palpable spirit of adventure and the decision not to shy away from the character's pulp roots. While the movie does take a little too long and go a little too far in explaining how and why Lamont Cranston became The Shadow in the first place (this is a character better served by mystery than by explanation) it's otherwise quite successful in nailing the feel and tone of character and his roots in pulp fiction.

    Making very good use of a solid cast, Mulcahy gets a great performance out of Baldwin. While now he may be content doing Capital One commercials and talk radio on NPR, it wasn't that long ago that he was an A-list marquee star and he is very well suited for the lead role in this picture. He has that sense of smug awareness and self-entitlement you expect out of a spoiled rich kid but when the tux comes off and the nickel-plated twin .45's come out, he's just as effective as the cold-hearted enemy of crime. Penelope Ann Miller is also pretty good here. Not only is she a stellar looking woman but her looks suit the era, she has a classic beauty about her that really just works in the context of the story being told. When she first appears on camera in that white evening gown, you can't blame Lamont for losing track of his conversation with his uncle, she demands your attention. She and Baldwin have a good on-screen chemistry here, they make a good couple. Throw in solid supporting efforts from Tim Curry and Sir Ian McKellen and some fun work from John Lone as the principal antagonist and it's easy to see how and why the movie was cast this way.

    Though the limited use of CGI in the movie shows its age and limitations and a little too much mystery is left exposed and explained, The Shadow remains an entertaining take on one of pulp fiction/comicdom's most enduring characters. It might not be a perfect film, but it definitely is a fun one.

    The Shadow – Blu-ray Review:

    The Shadow arrives on a 50GB Blu-ray disc (with the feature taking up just under 32GBs of space) from Umbrella Entertainment in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 1.85.1 widescreen, which is the film’s original theatrical aspect ratio. This is not the same transfer that was used for the 2014 special edition Blu-ray release from Shout! Factory in North America. Universal put the film out on Blu-ray in 2013 with a VC-1 encoded transfer, and it looks like this transfer uses that source, but the improved encoding results in a better picture. The Universal transfer had some pretty noticeable edge enhancement and sharpening problems in addition to issues handling grain structure. A lot of that is gone here. The Shout! Factory transfer is still the superior option but this transfer offers good colors and decent blacks. There’s still some minor crush in a few spots and detail could have been improved with a newer scan, but this is more than watchable even if it isn’t reference quality and grain occasionally resolves in a slightly chunky manner.

    The English language 24-bit DTS-HD 5.1 track is pretty solid. We get some really fun channel separation in the front throughout and frequent use of the rear channels to fill things in with the effects and the score. Bullets zip past us, The Shadow's maniacal laughter cackles throughout the soundscape and the roar of a fireplace comes at us front and center. The mix is properly balanced so there are no problems understanding the dialogue but the effects and score have enough punch behind them that they're able to really add to the fun. There are no issues with any hiss or distortion and all in all, the audio sounds very good here. There are no alternate language options or subtitles of any kind provided.

    There are no extras on the disc, not even a menu.

    The Shadow – The Final Word:

    The Shadow remains a lot of fun, an ultra-pulpy story with style to spare, a great performance by Alec Baldwin and a really talented supporting cast. Umbrella’s Blu-ray is a barebones affair but it offers a decent, if imperfect, presentation of the film.

    Click on the images below for full sized The Shadow Blu-ray screen caps!