The Shadow (1940)
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Columbia's 9th serial, slotted between "Overland With Kit Carson" and "Terry and the Pirates", was intended to have Lorna Gray in the role played by Veda Ann Borg, and to have been co-directed by D. Ross Lederman and Norman Deming. The credits specified the serial was… More Columbia's 9th serial, slotted between "Overland With Kit Carson" and "Terry and the Pirates", was intended to have Lorna Gray in the role played by Veda Ann Borg, and to have been co-directed by D. Ross Lederman and Norman Deming. The credits specified the serial was "Based upon stories published in "The Shadow Magazine", while the ads proclaimed it to be "right out of the air waves and magazine stories." What appeared was a mixture of both with Lamont Cranston the true identity of The Shadow, although Lamont Cranston was only an occasional disguise of the pulp magazine Shadow. The hypnotic invisibility of the radio character was completely ignored, as was the almost invisible "Living Shadow" of the pulps.(In the serial, the only invisible man (The Black Tiger) was the villain, as even James Horne probably realized that six to ten henchmen taking orders from an invisible man was more plausible then six to ten henchman falling all over the place from unseen blows delivered by an invisible hero. Actually, based on how he directed serials, Horne would have most likely been in favor of henchies Charles King and Kit Guard exchanging punches with thin air.) Margot Lane (Veda Ann Borg) was a radio-only character until 1941 when she was picked up by the magazine and also the comic books. Police Commissioner Weston (Frank LaRue) and Inspector Cardona (Edward Peil) were characters who had appeared both in the radio series and the magazine, while Harry Vincent (Roger Moore II), used here as The Shadow and Cranston's chauffeur, general assistant and gofer, was from the pulp stories. Anybody watching the serial and expecting to hear Jory ask "who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men" had best bring a sack lunch and prepare for a long wait. The best line in the film, both in delivery and circumstances, comes when head henchie Flint (Jack Ingram) advises his hapless,clueless but always-game cohorts that "The Black Tiger IS REALLY mad this time." Horne utilized Richard Cramer, from Horne's Laurel and Hardy days, as the "voice" of The Black Tiger, and Cramer read it with over-the-top ripeness from beginning to end, and one almost expects assistant-head henchie Williams (Eddie Fetherston) to ask Flint how he could discern any degree of difference in the Black Tiger's attitude. That said, the plot begins with dynamited railroads, wrecked airplanes and blown-up industrial plants, with the clear message that nothing is safe from the machinations of the secret mastermind of the underworld known only as The Black Tiger. The man has plans to take over everything. While the police make only a few futile arrests, Lamont Cranston,noted scientist and criminologist, assumes the guise of a black-garbed, masked figure (The Shadow) to combat this evil. The police,of course, assume that The Shadow and The Black Tiger are one and the same. Cranston works with Police Commissioner Weston and a group of solid citizen businessmen including Joseph Rand (Charles K. French), Gilbert Hill (Gordon Hart), Stanford Marshall (Robert Fiske), Turner (J. Paul Jones) and Stephen Prescott (Griff Barnett), and somewhere in nearly every chapter Cranston, Weston, Cardona and these solid citizens gather at The Cobalt Club and Cranston brings them up to date on the next steps to rid the city of The Black Tiger. Since one of the solid citizens is actually The Black Tiger, these meetings, for the most part, are counter-productive.