The Shadow | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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I only know the 30s radio show by hearsay, so I can't vouch for the faithfulness of this big-scale movie version, but if I had to choose between a sequel to this and another Batman or Indiana Jones romp, I'd opt for a second Shadow, if only because the visual design of this one--a comic-book fever dream of 30s Manhattan so well imagined and lived-in that one could almost crawl inside it--has more enchantments than the Wagnerian pretensions and Pavlovian cliff-hangers of the other two cycles. Admittedly, this visual design--which recalls more than once some of the classic Universal horror pictures of the 30s--tends to triumph over and thereby diminish everything else in the picture. The characters are fairly dim (Alec Baldwin in the title role, alias Lamont Cranston, is still a bit of a stick, and Penelope Ann Miller is just a slinky icon, though John Lone seems well cast as the occult villain); the plot--largely a matter of telepathy, hypnosis, and mind over matter--while true enough to its origins in Louis Feuillade and Fritz Lang, is not especially memorable; and the action thrills tend to be obligatory rather than inspired. But the look of this movie is such a delight that even passing details--an apple twirled in Miller's hands, a striped sofa beside which subvillain Tim Curry falls to his death--seem integral parts of the production design; and when an anachronistic, spherical atomic bomb barrels down a hotel hallway, even if it occasions much less suspense than the rolling boulder in Raiders of the Lost Ark, it has all the sleek decorum of a Magritte painting. It's hard to know who to credit for all the visual pleasure--production designer Joseph Nemec III, director Russell Mulcahy, or, most likely, a team comprising them and many others--but wherever it comes from, it has enough of the innocent exoticism and splendor of silent thrillers to suggest a continuity with the past missing from most other current movies; all that's required is a capacity to sit back and dream. With Ian McKellen, Peter Boyle, and Jonathan Winters. (Ford City, Broadway, Burnham Plaza, Edens, Golf Glen, Lincoln Village, 900 N. Michigan, North Riverside, Bel-Air Drive-In, Double Drive-In, Norridge)


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