“Stick ‘em up or I’ll blast ya.”
Lamont Cranston (Victor Jory) is a criminologist and research scientist. He is also the alter ego of The Shadow. The Shadow is a superhero of sorts. Cranston researches clues to find the bad guys whereas The Shadow is more of a hands-on type of guy. Cranston also uses a disguise when gathering Intel as an Asian shop owner known as Lin Chang. This second disguise allows him to stay under the radar of both the police and the criminal element he battles. As Chang he is assisted by Wu Yung (Philip Ahn). As Cranston he is assisted by his secretary Margot Lane (Veda Ann Borg) and Harry Vincent (Roger Moore).
The Shadow battles a villain known as The Black Tiger. This diabolical villain has the ability to make himself invisible. I’m not sure what the purpose of that gimmick is. It doesn’t seem to have any real benefit to the story other than to make him seem more mysterious. The Black Tiger’s ultimate goal is to take over the world financially. With a posse of really stupid henchman he dynamites railroads, crashes planes and blows up just about everything.
The police, on the other hand, believe that The Black Tiger and The Shadow are one and the same or at the very least working together. Its not unusual for the police to question the motives of The Shadow since he is basically a vigilante and not a superhero.
Commissioner Ralph Weston (Frank LaRue) and Inspector Joe Cardona (Edward Peil Sr.) are working with Cranston and a group of industrial leaders who are being targeted by The Black Tiger. Joseph Rand (Charles K. French), Gilbert Hill (Gordon Hart), Stanford Marshall (Robert Fiske), Turner (John Paul Jones) and Stephen Prescott (Griff Barnett) all gather at The Cobalt Club to share information and plan strategies.
“The Shadow” was released in 1940 and was directed by James W. Horne. It is the 9th serial produced by Columbia Pictures. There is no origin story as part of the serial. It begins with The Shadow and The Black Tiger already at odds. We don’t know why or how The Shadow came about. I was OK with the story jumping right into the thick of things.
There’s lots of action and mystery and, believe it or not, some really decent stock footage. One interesting thing I noticed is that at the end of each cliffhanger a voiceover by The Black Tiger gives you a preview of the next week’s cliffhanger. Borg’s character Margot Lane does scream a lot. Normally that would be an issue with me, but she is front and center in a lot of the danger and is ready and willing to do whatever is needed to get the bad guys. As far as I’m concerned she is part hero herself.
There’s a bit of a double edged sword here. The Black Tiger is out to take over the financial world so he is sabotaging whatever industry in his way. The businessmen who own the industries are reluctant to cease operation because they will lose money. In essence they are putting profit in front of people. I, for one, am not feeling too sorry for the business men. Its a question of who’s worse, The Black Tiger or the profiteers? As for The Black Tiger, since all you ever saw of him was his back and only hear his voice he wasn’t all that intimidating.
There are a lot of differences between the serial and the radio show or from the magazine for that matter. As with a lot of characters that went from radio to film, changes happened along the way to either enhance the character or the stories. Having never heard the radio show or read the stories I have no bias with which to compare the serial to. I enjoyed it for what it was, a matinee style adventure. Although the character may have evolved over the years he still maintained that wonderful laugh.
Chapter Titles: 1) The Doomed City, 2) The Shadow Attacks, 3) The Shadow's Peril, 4) In the Tiger's Lair, 5) Danger Above, 6) The Shadow's Trap, 7) Where Horror Waits, 8) The Shadow Rides the Rails, 9) The Devil in White, 10) The Underground Trap, 11) Chinatown Night, 12) Murder by Remote Control, 13) Wheels of Death, 14) The Sealed Room, 15) The Shadow's Net Closes.