Disc Jockey: Celebrate Alec Baldwin’s retirement from fame with 1994′s ‘The Shadow’

That's young Alec Baldwin behind cloak, scarf, hat and rubber mask in the 1994 summer movie "The Shadow." Credit: Shout! Factory
That’s young Alec Baldwin behind cloak, scarf, hat and rubber mask in the 1994 summer movie “The Shadow.”
Credit: Shout! Factory

‘The Shadow’: Collector’s Edition
Shout! Factory
$29.93

As Alec Baldwin retires from fame, it’s worth remembering that 20 years ago Hollywood thought he was A-list material. And why not? One of the most meta moments on “30 Rock” found Baldwin’s Jack Donagy shocking Liz Lemon with a photo of his younger, thinner, more ripped and hairy self. The mock-suaveness that Baldwin oozed for seven seasons he used to ooze for real. Execs found him suitably hot enough to place front and center in a summer tentpole series, namely 1994’s “The Shadow,” a take on the 1930s superhero of pulp novels and radio, where he was voiced by Orson Welles.

Released in the wake of “Lion King” fever, “The Shadow” failed to find a foothold, joining “The Rocketeer” and “The Phantom” as casualties of a time when Hollywood assumed the new thing was resurrected 1930s entertainments. It’s always interesting, even fun, watching wouldbe-blockbusters from the distant past, and Shout! Factory’s Blu-ray issue of “The Shadow” shows that moviegoers of 1994 might not have trounced on a neglected masterpiece, but one that has more than enough charm.

Baldwin plays Lamont Cranston, a villain forcibly reformed, by magic, into a do-gooder with the power of invisibility. Like Bruce Wayne, he poses as a vacuous playboy in 1930s Manhattan; by night he takes down crime, enlisting those he saves into his network of aids. The film, written by the overly-prolific David Koepp (hot off “Jurassic Park”), bangs out the origin story in eight minutes, then gives him no less than a revived ancestor of Genghis Khan, played by “The Last Emperor”’s John Lone, to battle. (Also on hand are Ian McKellen and Tim Curry. If they had more screentime together, they’d be a more enjoyable pair than even McKellen and Patrick Stewart.)

Even with such a formidable baddie and the usual fate of the world at stake, “The Shadow” is pretty low stakes, which is to say it’s diverting but instantly forgettable. Koepp gives his hero a violent backstory and a villain who mirrors his dark side, but the themes remain theoretical rather than visceral. Baldwin doesn’t feel compelled to give his character any humanity. He’s too busy being delightfully arch, especially when busting out his patented husky voice while taunting bad guys. But he doesn’t let anyone in, including Penelope Ann Miller’s hotcha socialite. If “The Shadow” was a comic, it’d be blast, as there’s always more story to come; as an expensive movie, it’s in and out of your mind much too quickly.

Then again, it has a lot of character. It delights in recreating the 1930s, with its Art Deco buildings and swanky wear. Director Russell Mulcahy (of “Highlander” fame) makes each frame look like a comic book panel, and keeps things light and witty. He bangs out a crazy long take that follows a canister riding through a pneumatic tube, and he has the gallows humor to start one shot following a schlub falling off the Empire State Building then pan down to show Baldwin and Miller walking down the street, oblivious of the death in the background. “The Shadow” is no great shakes, but with age it is good shakes.

Also out:

‘The Visitor’ Dug up from under a boulder and released into a time when it still makes little sense, this 1979 Italian whatzit finds John Huston as an alien trying to stop an avian-related apocalypse with help from Jesus (Franco Nero). If that weren’t weird enough, it features director Sam Peckinpah as a friendly abortionist, plus future far right windbag Neal Boortz in one of his two few acting roles.

‘The Grandmaster’ We desperately want to recommend Wong Kar-wai’s typically gorgeous film of martial arts legend Ip Man (Tony Leung). But the only edition available in the U.S. is the one chopped up by Harvey Weinstein, who felt Wong’s original was too sad and Wong-esque. It’s still a beaut.

’12 Years a Slave’ Good timing! The Best Picture winner hits shelves just in time for you to wonder how on earth it only won three Oscars.

‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’ Note the word “catching”: Just as this YA sequel really gets going, it stops dead in its tracks, ready to be picked up by film number three. See you later this year!

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Mutant worms stay sober, even on alcohol

U.S. researchers have developed "mutant worms" that do not get drunk by alcohol, a breakthrough that could lead to new treatment for people trying to quit drinking

Local

K-9 nose helps capture $150K in cocaine at…

A furry, four-legged security agent helped authorities stop an illegal cocaine shipment from sneaking past JFK customs.

National

Minnesota man asked to leave Southwest flight after…

A man and his two sons were asked to leave a Southwest Airlines flight after the man sent a tweet complaining about being treated rudely by a gate agent.

National

Man sues hospital after surprise penis amputation

An Alabama man who went in to a hospital last month for a circumcision awoke after surgery to find his penis had been amputated, his lawyer said on Thursday.

Movies

Review: Brett Ratner's big 'Hercules' movie is small…

The latest "Hercules," starring Dwayne Johnson as the half-god beefcake of Greek myth, strips its hero and tale of most of its fantastical elements.

Arts

Scientists recreate world's smallest Monet copy

Scientists have reproduced a famous Impressionist painting using nano-printing, to create what has been described as the world's smallest work of art. Reworked at the…

Television

Jerry Seinfeld is ambidextrous, and other Reddit AMA…

See some of the weirder highlights of Jerry Seinfeld's recent Reddit AMA.

Going Out

Grab a pedestrian and start dancing at What…

As a New Yorker, I’ve mastered the art of focusing my gaze straight ahead. Though it occasionally piques my interest, the absurdities that play out…

U.S. Soccer

Orlando City takes shot at NYCFC over Frank…

Orlando City reminded the world how big a signing Brazilian star Kaka earlier this month with a photo of Kaka mobbed by fans juxtaposed against Lampard.

NBA

Jeremy Lin says 'Linsanity' is over as he…

Jeremy Lin lit up the NBA two years ago with his play for the Knicks but he has no desire to recreate "Linsanity" in his new career with the Lakers.

NFL

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player…

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player rankings

U.S. Soccer

NYCFC announce signing of Frank Lampard

The tease of a big signing Thursday by new MLS side NYCFC ended up being one rumored for weeks. England midfielder Frank Lampard agreed to…

Tech

Forget Wi-Fi: Li-Fi could be the future

Li-Fi technology – developed by Mexican company Sisoft – is wireless internet connectivity using specialized LED light.

Tech

Weather app Climendo might be the most accurate…

The wait for a truly accurate weather forecast could finally be over thanks to a nifty new app called Climendo.

Tech

Napkin Table puts focus off the phone and…

Michael Jan, a design student at Tunghai University in Taiwan, has invented a serviette-picnic blanket hybrid called the Napkin Table.

Style

Essie's new Color Boutique

Essie launches high-tech kiosks at major airports and malls across the country.