In the good old days, the announcer would come on and say, “Because of the following special program, tonight’s episode of MonsterMovieKid will not be presented this evening. MonsterMovieKid will return next week at this same time.” I had originally intended to review the new Blu-ray release of Gorgo today. However, my “friends” over at Netflix have decided to remove a great deal of streaming content effective May 1. Quite literally, half of my existing queue is set to expire in less than a week. I’ve had to choose the titles I most wanted to see and adjust my viewing plans accordingly. So, let’s take a look at two titles that I’ve long been waiting to watch.
My love for The Shadow dates back to the late 70s. I was an impressionable ten year-old boy who had heard of old time radio from my Dad. I would stay up late and listen to the CBS Radio Mystery Theater on a local AM radio station. Many a night I would have my transistor radio pressed against my ear, often falling asleep without ever hearing the end of the story. Then, my Dad brought home an audio cassette recording of The Abbott and Costello Show which featured their classic “Who’s on First” routine. I was hooked and soon discovered a world of entertainment that I continue to enjoy to this day. It wasn’t long before my Dad suggested I try The Shadow. He knew what I liked and he was dead on with this recommendation. Soon I was buying record sets from Murray Hill Records (which I still own to this day). My Dad and I would listen to these after dinner with the lights out. Over the years, I would collect paperbacks and the 1970s DC comics series and even recently acquired an original pulp novel from the late ‘30s. In the last decade or so, I finally tracked down all of the various chapter serials or low-budget movies with two exceptions. About a year ago, I found the last two films on Netflix, added them to my queue and there they sat.
With this impending Netflix purge, it brought a new urgency to finally sit down and watch these flicks. But why had I waited so long? To be honest, I’ve never really read anything good about them. There were three films, all made in 1946, that had a shoestring budget. Upon hearing the name of their production company, Monogram Pictures, one gets the idea right away that we’re dealing with the bottom of the barrel here. I had seen the first film, The Shadow Returns, years ago and was disappointed. Unfortunately, the second and third films, Behind The Mask and The Missing Lady aren’t much better. Kane Richmond plays the lead role of Lamont Cranston, wealthy young man-about-town, who is in reality the crime fighter known as The Shadow. Unlike the novels, but following the radio version, Lamont is the only identity used by The Shadow. We never really see him as most of the screen time goes to Lamont. His girlfriend is the lovely Margo Lane (also played by Barbara Reed in all three films). Margo is pretty much dead-on in The Shadow Returns and the third film, The Missing Lady. However, she is beyond annoying and very out-of-character in Behind The Mask. Cabbie and comic relief Shrevvy is played George Chandler in the last two films and does a good job of bringing the character to life. We also have the familiar characters of Commissioner Weston and Police Inspector Cardonna.
Kane Richmond does an adequate job of playing the detective side of The Shadow but brings nothing to the table when it comes to being a mysterious crime fighter. Unfortunately, that’s how the character was written and he couldn’t do much more with the material. There’s nothing about his ability to cloud men’s minds and his costume, which we virtually never see, isn’t quite right either. He’s been water downed to an ordinary sleuth. In Behind The Mask, The Shadow is framed for a murder in a plot that involves blackmail and a corrupt news reporter. I cannot stress enough how off this movie was. It wasn’t bad for a comedic murder mystery but horrible for an adventure of The Shadow. Margo is portrayed as a jealous and meddling busy body. The less said about this mess the better. However, in The Missing Lady, we go back to a more straight-forward mystery concerning a jade statue being stolen after its owner is killed. Lamont Cranston gets blamed for various murders as he pursues the original owner. Parts of the script seem lifted right out of the previous movie. Even the opening scene sounds like a word-for-word rehash. But I enjoyed it more than Behind The Mask and would recommend it as a passing curiosity for a rainy afternoon. Just go in with low expectations.
There were other films made between 1937 and 1940, including two low budget efforts and a chapter serial. These sound more promising and may have to be bumped up on my list of movies to watch. But first, I need to check out my Netflix queue to see what’s next before it disappears. Hopefully, they provide a little more enjoyment than these two did.