“ Genre: Crime & Thriller - Thriller / Theatrical Release: 1937 / Director: Lynn Shores / Actors: Rod La Rocque, Agnes Anderson ... / DVD released 09 September, 2003 at Alpha Video / Features of the DVD: Black & White, DVD-Video, NTSC „
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In 1937, the year the movie was made, The Shadow was a megastar. Bigger than Indiana Jones and James Bond are now The Shadow was a star of a long running radio series, which started in 1930 and starred Orson Welles for a good number of episodes, and a hugely popular pulp magazine. Written by Maxwell Grant his adventures thrilled and enthralled millions of listeners and readers. With this sort of built in audience it wasn't going to be long before a studio signed up the rights to the character and exported him to the movie scene. Grand National Pictures were the ones who decided they would try and make a B movie series from the mysterious cloaked avenger whose catchphrase was 'Who Knows What evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!' and who had strange mystical powers that seemed to make him a human shadow. The Shadow Strikes was the first of five movies made starring The Shadow made between 1937 and 1946 and is very like pretty much every other B movie mystery series of that era. In fact its main failing is that it isn't a Shadow movie. The adventurer with his team of agents and mysterious powers has gone, replaced by a playboy amateur detective with a comedy sidekick. The Shadow Strikes could just as easily been a Falcon or Boston Blackie movie, there is no real difference between it and them. In fact The Shadow as we know and love him from the pulps and the radio doesn't even appear until 52 minutes into a 61 minute long film. As a Shadow fan this is incredibly disappointing as seeing The Shadow on film is why I wanted to get hold of this, and the other four, films. If we ignore the lack of The Shadow in the film it actually isn't that bad. A nice little mystery with a twisting plot and a fair number of suspects to keep you guessing as to who the murderer might be. Lamont Cranston (The Shadow's alter ego), played by Rod LaRoque, not only doesn't appear much as The Shadow but also hardly appears using the Cranston name either. He spends most of the film using the name of, and pretending to be, a lawyer by the name of Randall. This all comes about after he foils a robbery at Randall's office and has to pretend to be him when the Police arrive. Answering Randall's phone while a Police detective is with him Cranston ends up going to the home of a client, still having to pretend to be Randall. While talking the man is murdered, right in front of Cranston. The Shadow and his sidekick may not have wanted to get involved but they are and Cranston investigates to not only clear himself from the suspect list but also to help the pretty young daughter, a trait common to all these playboy investigators! For a 1930's murder mystery B movie The Shadow Strikes has an involving plot, it is very well paced and runs along at a nice little speed. It manages to throw in a couple of comedy moments amongst the search for clues and evidence and the detective is actually fairly competent for a change. It does have a couple of puzzling moments, and unfortunately they are at key moments. I didn't really understand why The Shadow didn't look like he should do at the start of the film, or why he was hanging around the office so that he HAD to pretend to be Randall in the first place. Worse than that the denouement seemed very rushed and was certainly confusing. Still as an overall package The Shadow Strikes is reasonably entertaining mystery, it just isn't much cop if you are wanting to see an on screen version of the great pulp hero. If you want to see a much more faithful version of the character then the 1990's version with Alec Baldwin is much more in keeping with the character than this attempt to cash in, which is rather strange considering the popularity of The Shadow then compared with now.