(The Shadow) International Crime
International Crime 1938
While I would have preferred to have moved onto the two Shadow sequels after the Shadow Returns, instead the only other Shadow movie available on Amazon Prime was the second Shadow film featuring Rod la Rocque as the Shadow in a very different form than he would later become. And also most likely a different version of the Shadow than the one that was already popular at the time of this film despite the fact that both of their stories were based on The Shadow pulp novels. This one was based on Foxhound. Instead of the vigilante with the power to cloud men’s minds, here he’s basically an investigative journalist with a focus on crime stories. He doesn’t have any special powers, he doesn’t have any real special abilities other than a bit of quick thinking and a knack for accents. And his secret identity isn’t really a secret at all. As for the crime drama half of the movie, there’s barely a crime and the movie spends more time on the radio show and newspaper office than it does on the actual crime. There’s some comedy bits but not enough to keep interest in the period’s typical sixty minute run time.
First off, The Shadow in this film is a pretty pale imitation of what the Shadow would eventually become. Lamont Cranston has a daily radio show that seems to last about ten minutes where he goes over the crimes committed around the city while also basically advertising his column in the newspaper. And despite calling himself the Shadow on the radio and on the newspaper, it doesn’t seem to be much of a secret at all that he’s actually Lamont Cranston. It’s almost more like a pen name than a secret identity. And yet he still makes a big deal about how his personal cab driver isn’t supposed to be known as his personal cab driver, in fact it’s a running joke that he’s going to fire his driver if he keeps calling him by name instead of pretending to not know him, followed by the cabbie saying the line “okay stranger”.
If the radio ad and pen name weren’t enough, the film also saddles him with a Lois Lane type only much more incompetent. Her name is even Phoebe Lane and she’s the newspaper owner’s niece which is a clear indicator that she has less skill than she has family clout. She’s the other source of comic relief as she starts the movie off by giving the Shadow an anonymous tip while he’s on air, which he reads before she later explains that she believed the man who gave her the tip because he had an “honest face”. She later comes with Cranston on his investigation with more shades of misogyny that weren’t quite as blatant as some in The Shadow Returns, though they were fairly frequent. The one thing that did feel similar to the later movie was the contentious relationship with the Shadow and the chief of police. This movie went a little too far at times where the police chief frequently mentions that he oughtta put Cranston in jail for ridiculous things like airing a false tip over the radio when he clearly mentioned that he could not verify the accuracy of the tip.
The concept of the crime in this movie is relatively interesting, but the film presents it in one of the worst ways possible. Most of the movie is spent with Cranston and Lane’s antics at the radio station, and the various crime scenes where they have practically zero clues to go on. There’s also a running gag about a safe cracker named Honest John who had been released from prison and is the police’s prime suspect. The Shadow doesn’t think he’s involved with the titular crime because the safe was just blown open, John comes into play two more times when he breaks into the radio station so the Shadow can clear him of the crime over the air, and once more in the Shadow’s cab where he threatens the Shadow some more but it’s all ok because he is actually trying to live a clean life outside of prison. It’s a thread is a huge sidetrack for the movie but the payoff is so weak that it wasn’t even worth it.
There is a bit of humor throughout the movie though not nearly as much as there was in the later film the Shadow Returns. Most of the humor came from Lane’s over enthusiasm, but there was one halfway decent moment where Cranston performs various different accents to close in on who the man with the “honest face” was and later uses that accent to try and get information from two men we find out were the actual criminals. There really wasn’t much else to go on with this film as the humor was generally a let down, there were no action scenes to speak of, and the story wasn’t all that clear or interesting. There were a couple good moments here and there, but not enough even in the short sixty minute run time. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.