Behind the Mask
The Shadow: Behind the Mask 1946
This post is part of our Patreon program where for just $1 a month, you can vote for one of the movies that I review on this site. This is another one of the series of older Shadow films and the second of three released in 1946 with Kane Richmond as Lamont Cranston and Barbara Reed as Margo Lane. The two of them are engaged and about to be married when the murder of a newspaper columnist is pinned on the Shadow and it’s up to Lamont to solve it. Similar to the previous film The Shadow Returns, this is filled with a lot of sitcom-esque humor that honestly gets in the way of the film more than it enhances it. While The Shadow Returns had some fun moments and was generally entertaining, this one felt much more like a chore with an outdated sense of humor and aimless storytelling.
Like the Shadow Returns, this film generally just starts off running without introducing any of the characters. It starts off following the murder victim, an newspaper reporter who runs a side gig blackmailing and/or collecting some type of protection money. It’s not entirely clear other than the fact that he’s clearly on the wrong side of the law. When we finally get to the heroes of the story, we’re introduced to them at a pre-wedding party with Lamont’s fiancée Margo, his sidekick and cab driver (though there’s no real mention of a cab in this film) Shrevvie, and Shrevvie’s love interest Jennie. There is way too much time spent on how little Lamont seems to care about Margo and her feelings and instead is more interested in playing detective as the Shadow. He sneaks off during said wedding party to go “sock somebody”, allows himself to be seduced by a suspect and blackmailed with a polaroid of them kissing in order to pass off some marked bills that don’t really amount to much.
On top of everything else, the comedy is extremely amped up. From the jealous fiancée Margo sneaking around, getting in the Shadow’s way as she at one point poses as the Shadow, hides under a table that’s too small to really hide her, and proceeds to make a feverish police officer think he’s delirious as she escapes the room while still under the table. To the absolutely ridiculous ending where Lamont and Shrevvie grab both of their women over their knees and spank them for several seconds when “the end” appears and it fades to black. The one bit of comedy that does still hold up to a certain extent was how Lamont manipulated the police commissioner by feeding him every bit of evidence, but giving it to the commissioner so that the commissioner would get credit for the idea.
As for the actual mystery surrounding the murder, it was entirely too convoluted to really follow all that closely. There’s also only a single action set piece as the Shadow makes his way into this den of underground betting that’s set up with a bunch of gymnastics equipment for no reason other than to make the fight more interesting as they swing back and forth from the top of the stairs back down to the ground. The final reveal was unsatisfying and the detective work leading up to the reveal felt very pointless and aimless excuses for the comedy bits. There really wasn’t much to recommend about this film at all. It’s possible that things will look better for the final film of the three, the Missing Lady, but that seems unlikely at this point. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.