November 8th, 2012

DETECTIVE-PALOOZA: THE SHADOW

THE SHADOW STRIKES (1937) * ½

After the popular radio series and long before the underrated Alec Baldwin flick, Rod La Rocque played Lamont Cranston, AKA: The Shadow. (Although the opening credits refer to him as Lamont GRANSTON.) The plot finds Lamont Cranston… ahem… Granston impersonating a lawyer. When one of the lawyer’s clients gets gunned down, Granston continues to stay in character and tries to find the murderer.

Fans of The Shadow will be mega-disappointed by this hatchet job of a movie. The Shadow in this flick is hardly The Shadow we know and love and because of that, it’s not worthwhile at all. First of all, this Shadow isn’t very menacing. To make matters worse, he only wears his costume (which is just a hat and coat) in the opening scene and very briefly near the end. And his voice doesn’t even sound scary like it did on the radio. He just sounds like… some dude. Adding insult to injury is the fact that he never once says his famous catchphrase, “What evil lurks in the hearts of men?”

What the fuck?

The plot is pretty dull and forgettable. Say what you will about the sequel, International Crime, at least that film was involving. This one is creaky, slow moving, and amateurish. There was at least one line that made me laugh out loud though: “After we’re married, we’ll live scrappily ever after!”

INTERNATIONAL CRIME (1938) **

Rod La Rocque returns as The Shadow in this much better sequel to The Shadow Strikes. This time out, The Shadow is an amateur criminologist with his own radio program. A feisty female reporter named Phoebe Lane (Astrid Allwyn) feeds The Shadow a bogus story and he quickly realizes it’s a dupe to draw the police away from the real crime. The Shadow and Lane do some snooping and they uncover a plot by a pair of foreign scoundrels to bilk a wealthy businessman out of some dough.

The production values, editing, cinematography… well… just about everything about International Crime is better than The Shadow Strikes. That wasn’t really hard to do, but still. The writing is particularly sharp and some there are some actual funny moments. (The chauvinist banter between La Rocque and Allwyn is pretty good.)

HOWEVER.

Rod La Rocque never once dons the trademark hat and cloak nor does he say “What evil lurks in the hearts of men?”, so it never once feels like we’re watching a Shadow movie. And that’s probably why the film is called International Crime and not The Shadow vs. International Crime. Despite being a breezy little B movie programmer, there is nothing here that resembles The Shadow, so it’s pretty useless if you’re a fan of the character. At least they call him Lamont CRANSTON this time.

UNTAMED WOMEN (1951) * ½

While on an expedition in Africa, a hunter finds a nearly unconscious man. He relates a bunch of flashbacks about finding an alluring woman who lives deep in the jungle. The hunter eventually decides that hunting snatch is a lot more fun than hunting animals, so they go out looking for her. Together they discover an entire tribe of white women in leopard print bikinis.

Okay, you’re either the kind of guy who will watch movies involving lots of jungle stock footage, men in awful gorilla suits, and women in skimpy loincloths or you aren’t. Well, I’m that kind of guy and even I thought this movie was about as much fun as watching paint dry. Unfortunately, you can’t huff the fumes from this flick.

Untamed Women is filled with more scenes of people walking through the jungle, stock footage, and flashbacks than the rational mind can take. In fact, this flick is pretty much an entire hour worth of padding. And yes, I know, there is ONE sweet scene of jungle honeys dancing endlessly, but it wasn’t really worth the long ass build up. I did get a kick out of the hilariously dubbed native voices though.

AKA: Bowanga Bowanga. AKA: Bowanga Bowanga: White Sirens of Africa. AKA: Wild Women.