What have they done to my Shadow?
Some background: The Shadow began in 1930 as the mysterious narrator of Detective Story Hour, a program designed to promote Street and Smith Publications' Detective Story Magazine. Confused listeners began asking newstands for the "Shadow" detective magazine, so Street and Smith decide it might pay to lauch one. They hired writer/magician Walter B. Gibson to create a character around the Shadow and write his adventures. The Shadow Magazine debuted on April 1, 1931, with The Shadow's adventures bylined under the house pseudonym "Maxwell Grant". The magazine ran for 325 issues through Summer 1949, with 282 of the novel-length stories written by Gibson. During that time, there were also three Shadow Annuals as well as Candian reprints; and, from 1954 through 1957, forty of The Shadow's adventures were reprinted in the UK edition of the magazine. The Shadow radio program began in 1937, introducing the phrases "Who knows what fear lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!" and "The weed of crime bears bitter fruit. Crime does not pay. The Shadow knows!" as well as The Shadow's weird laugh. The Shadow also appeared on film in six two-reelers from 1931-1932. A series of five feature-length films (of which The Shadows Strikes was the first) were released from 1937 to 1946. The Shadow, a fifteen episode serial was released in 1940. Episodes of a 1957 television pilot were cobbled together the following year for a theatrical release. Alec Baldwin played the character in a 1994 film that was **ahem** somewhat less than successful, as was a 1954 attempt to bring the character to television.
The Shadow has also had a major presence in comic strips (for two years from 1940 to 1942), in comics books (for 101 issues from 1940 to 1949, in eight issues from 1964 to 1965, in various DC comics from 1973 to 1996, in Dark Horse comics from 1993 to 1995, and in ongoing Dynamite Entertainment comics from 2012), and in graphic novels. The Shadow also returned for nine paperback adventures from 1963 to 1980 -- with three of the books authored by Gibson. And Will Murray authored a Shadow/Doc Savage crossover last year; perhaps with more to come.
On top of all this, The Shadow has been referenced in popular culture numerous times over the years.
What this means, of course, is that The Shadow is part of the national psyche.
But which Shadow?
My Shadow is the one that Walter Gibson gave us. He goes by many names, but his real name is Kent Allard, a former World War I ace. Many people assume that he is Lamont Cranston, but Cranston is just a person who lets the Shadow assume his name and persona once in a while; The Shadow is a man of many aliases and disguises, and a man of many faces. (To avoid confusion, the radio program dropped the Kent Allard name and all others except for Lamont Cranston.) The Shadow also employs many agents to assist him in his war on crime but the person most linked to
The Shadow is Margo Lane, The Shadow's "friend and companion" (wink-wink, nudge-nudge). Margo Lane was introduced in the radio show and later moved to the pulps.
And my Shadow had villains, really great ones like Shiwan Khan, The Wasp, The Voodoo Master, and The Prince of Evil. In fact, the first Shadow novel I read pitted the mystery man against a resurrected Adolph Hitler.
And then, there's The Shadow Strikes, a low budget film from very low budget Grand National studios. The film is based on "The Ghost of the Manor" from the June 1933 issue of the magazine, a story I have not read.
Al Martin and Rex Taylor wrote the script and Lynn Shores directed and one of these three people might have been responsible for giving The Shadow the identity of Lamont Granston (!). In a short, murky explanation of a back story, Granston donned the garb of the shadow because his father was murdered. (SPOILER ALERT: In a short, murky explanation at the end, we are told that Granston's father was not dead -- yet. A few seconds later, however...END SPOILER ALERT) Anyway, our story opens with The Shadow stopping a night-time robbery at a lawyer's office. Somehow or other, Granston is forced to pretend to be the lawyer when the cops show up and, as the lawyer, he is summoned to a rich man's house. The rich man is shot and Granston must continue the charade. One of the dead man's relatives is killed soon after. Granston plays a dangerous game, trying to stay ahead of the police and gangsters. The Shadow Strikes is not a bad B-movie, but it never becomes a really good B movie. Silent film star Rod La Rocque (real name, incredibly, Roderick Larocque) does a good job playing Granston, but **sniff** he's not playing MY Shadow.
If you divorce yourself from the pulp and radio image of The Shadow, you might find this movie entertaining.