In 1940 Columbia Pictures made their attempt at bringing the Shadow
to the silver screen.
This time the adaptation would not take the form of a full-length
movie, but that of a 15 episode movie serial.
Compared to the first two screen adaptations of the Shadow by Grand
National, the Columbia serial had some redeeming qualities.
First off Victor Jory was a PERFECT choice for the Shadow. He looked
as if he had been ripped from the pulps and he acted the part well.
The adaptation itself was not bad. The Shadow was authentically
cloaked with a slouch hat and a scarf.
Lamont Cranston became the owner of an independent criminology lab
which did consultation work for Weston and the police. Margo became
his lab assistant. Several scenes take place at the Cobalt Club
which is presented as a private Gentleman's club (in the classic
sense, not a strip-joint). His enemy had the power of invisibility
and was known as "The Black Tiger".
However the demands of a movie serial required a different kind of
story. A serial must cycle to a climax and cliffhanger every few
minutes and have lots of action in every episode. This type of story
was not well suited to the Shadow. Moreover the writing for the
serial itself left something to be desired. For example eight of the
14 cliffhanger endings end with the Shadow caught in a collapsing
building. In each case the resolution the next week was
unimaginative, simply having the Shadow get back up, dust himself
off and go right back into action.
Several story elements are just silly. For example in the first
episode a night court judge grills a suspect threatening him
that if he does not talk that the D.A. can put him away. WOW what an
impartial Judge?!?!?!? Get this man a lawyer AND an appeal!
While the story was poor the Shadow himself was a good choice and the
general adaptation (apart from the story itself) was not bad. This
was a shining gem compared to Grand National's very BAD attempts.
Click here to hear this Shadow laugh: vic.wav