The Shadow Returns
The Shadow Returns 1946
Getting back into watching these superhero movies and writing reviews again definitely makes me realize how much I missed going back into some of the older superhero movies. This was available on Amazon Prime which I currently have so I figured I’d give it a shot. I had already reviewed the first full length Shadow movie a while back but that didn’t really feel too much like the Shadow from that 90’s that I’ve been more familiar with. Just nine years later, this feels like a giant step towards the more familiar Shadow with the addition of Margo and his personal cab driver though there are still some discrepancies. This also feels more like the later Shadow movie with the addition of plenty of humor where this is almost more of a sitcom murder mystery rather than a serious detective movie. There were plenty of fun moments throughout the movie despite the plot being overly weak and convoluted. It also didn’t help that the version showing on Amazon Prime does have some sound issues where the sound completely cuts out in a few places so I missed a little bit of the dialogue. Not enough to get lost, just enough to be annoying.
This is the first of three Shadow Movies released in 1946 with generally the same cast, yet this feels like it builds from the popularity of the character from other sources. There’s no introduction to the character or what he’s able to do, he just already exists as the Shadow in this film and his longtime fiancée Margo is tired of his vigilante lifestyle. Lamont Cranston is the police commissioner’s son which gives him a lot of leeway in terms of being able to be around crime scenes but it’s slightly unclear as to his official position within the police force. He seems to be more of an outside consultant and also someone who’s training to become a detective, though he’s always on the wrong side of the chief of police who also has a vendetta against the Shadow. Here, the Shadow is a vigilante with no real special powers other than his wit, he wears a mask and is usually shown on screen via his distinctive shadow wearing his hat and pointing his gun. No scarf to be seen, but he does wear a black masquerade style mask that covers everything except for his mouth and chin.
Compared to other instances of the Shadow, this one really plays up the humor for all its worth. Lamont’s driver Shrevvy is a full on comic relief character who follows them around through the entire movie. He is constantly making a buffoon of himself whether it’s getting socked by a random thug, making sandwiches for Lamont and Margo, then eating them all, insulting the chief of police while he’s standing right behind him, or frequently mispronouncing words. It can be hit or miss, but often times felt quite endearing within the context of this movie. Margo was also a big source of comedy with her jealousy and reluctance for a lot of the investigation. Another fun bit of comedy was the frequent back and forth between Lamont and the Chief of Police, as the Chief thinks that Lamont is incompetent despite the fact that Lamont is the one actually solving the crime and running around as the Shadow right under the Chief’s nose. The end is a very sitcom-esque moment where the three main characters are trying to retrieve the Shadow’s costume from the coat closet when the Chief comes in to get his hat from the same closet and comedy ensues.
As for the actual plot of the film, it was overly convoluted and somewhat difficult to follow. There was a man, clearly in disguise getting jewels from a grave for some reason. People keep falling from balconies for some reason, everyone at the house seems to be a suspect, the jewels turn out to be a formula for plastic, there’s also mobsters thrown in and a suspicious butler. None of it really makes any sense and is difficult to follow even for a movie that’s just over an hour long. The one bright spot was the fun choreography for the climactic fight scene at the warehouse. It was very much of its time with punches that were nowhere near connecting and a real 40’s Hollywood style of fighting. But at the same time it was impressive for what it was with a rope swing onto a multi-level fight between three different thugs.
There’s not really much more to say about this film, it was fun, it was quick, it was definitely a throwback. It felt a lot more like the Shadow that I’m familiar with even though it’s clearly a much earlier incarnation. There were at least a couple moments of cringe-worthy misogyny like when Margo is trying to say what she thinks about the situation but Shrivvy keeps honking the car’s horn to drown her out until she finally gives up and they all laugh like it’s just a hoot. It’s actually a little disappointing that the other two sequels aren’t available free on Prime at the moment because I would like to follow up with the rest of these soon. Definitely not for everyone, but it was a great little distraction for me and a refreshing return to the roots of superhero cinema. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.