I love a good documentary, especially when it offers up new information or thrilling images I had previously been unaware of or unable to see. So, when I discovered there was a recent documentary on The Shadow, I quickly ordered it from Amazon. For the most part, the journey was an exciting one. Sadly, the production values keep it from being definitive.
The Shadow Knows was released in 2012 and is a burn-on-demand product. The case is well produced and sturdy with the initial menu screen also looking quite professional. Unfortunately, it’s very early on that the documentary sends me back to the late 80s and early 90s when cheaply produced direct-to-video documentaries were all the rage. But, before we talk of the negative, let’s highlight the positive. Our narrator for this piece is Mike Lyons, who does a good job guiding us through a very detailed journey of The Shadow’s history. From his birth in the pulp novels to 2012, when rumors of a Sam Raimi produced movie was circulating the net. Lyons gives us extensive details on the pulp novels, including countless covers (absolutely stunning artwork) and readings from several stories. He covers all aspects of the radio program as well with lots of audio clips to enjoy, including a couple from the early 30s that I have never heard before. There is a section devoted to the movies and TV pilots as well as the 1994 Alec Baldwin adventure. He spends a little time on various products as well as the comics, especially the original 1940s series and the DC revivals from the 1970s and 1980s. He glosses over the 1960s novels and totally omits the Archie comic book series (which is actually a good thing but should have been mentioned). There is a lot of information in the over two hour documentary, broken into unique chapters which make for easy viewing. Some of the information I knew, other parts I did not. For this alone, I highly recommend The Shadow Knows.
However, there are some negatives about this DVD. For starters, the overall quality displays an obviously very low budget. Most of the presentation is visually appealing but there are numerous video clips that have some horrendous pixilation. There is a repeating image from the 1990 movie Darkman, which comes across as implying that’s what The Shadow looks like underneath his scarf. Mike Lyons is good as the narrator but then we have to endure a painful Margot Lane impersonation (voiced by Chris Noel) and a version of The Shadow which just seems off (voiced by Vincent Winans). Then, there is the background music. You’ll hear Tales from the Crypt, The X-Files, Dark Shadows, Superman and even Gone with the Wind. The clips are usually quite random and actually distracting to the topics on screen. I’m sure it cost money to secure those audio clips, so why they just didn’t use some generic mysterious music is beyond me. It would have been more appropriate and less annoying. At a price tag of $20, I do recommend adding The Shadow Knows to your collection as it is definitely worth watching. The producers clearly love The Shadow, so their efforts should be rewarded. However, I just wish they would have had a bigger budget to help make it look more polished. Perhaps a special edition somewhere down the road?
With that, my April journey with The Shadow comes to an end. While I have mixed reactions in regards to the early movies and TV pilots, I thoroughly enjoyed the Blu-ray presentation of The Shadow (1994). My ongoing love for The Shadow will continue. I discover “new” pulp novel adventures all the time and I enjoy reading the current ongoing monthly comic book series from Dynamite Entertainment. And, of course, I can never resist listening to the original radio programs that take me back to my childhood and listening to them on records with my father, lights turned out and imagination running wild.