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Category:    Home > Reviews > SuperHero > Mystery > Action > Shadow Strikes/International Crime (1937 – 8/Margengo DVD)

The Shadow Strikes (1937)/International Crime (1938/Marengo DVD)


Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: D


Shadow Strikes: C+     International Crime: B-



It has been decades, but the short-lived Grand National Pictures’ version of Maxwell Grant’s (Walter B. Gibson’s) The Shadow has finally found it to the marketplace on DVD.  Marengo Films, a DVD company devoted to classics of the past, have made a double feature out of two of the B-movies the studio produced when they had the big screen rights.  As compared to the 1940 Columbia Pictures serial with Victor Jory and 1994 Alec Baldwin feature directed by Russell Mulcahy, these work better.  Not that they are perfect, but Rod La Rocque is even more suited to the role than I expected.


These were the first films based on the character that began as a mystery host of an anthology series, only to become a hero in his own right, the one that inspired Bob Kane’s Batman.  This was around the same time the pulp novels of the character were at their peak and Orson Welles was becoming the character for a brief-but-glorious run on the radio.  He went on as a giant in film, narrowly missing his chance to do a Shadow feature film at RKO.  What a loss!


The Shadow Strikes was written by Grant/Gibson as “Ghost of the Manor” from The Shadow Magazine pulp novel series, adapted by Al Martin and Rex Taylor, and turned into a screenplay by Martin.  An $11 Million (in 1937 dollars yet) fortune is suddenly up for grabs when the head of an estate is shot and killed.  Lamont Granston (yes, with a G in this film only, likely to capitalize on the studio’s name) goes undercover to see what heirs will err in exposing who the killer is.  This is not bad for a B-movie, following the structure of the pulp stories closely enough, but we hardly see Granston ever show up as The Shadow.  They even made a decent costume, and then hardly used it.  That was a mistake.  It is still the character’s film debut, and has some good moments.


International Crime is the better of the two, returning his name to Cranston, but this time there is not any costume.  Instead, he is a radio personality (an in-joke) who gives clues and information on how the police can capture the crooks and killers they report about over the air.  Astrid Allurn is added as Phoebe Lane, not the Margo of the radio or novels.  The comedy is pumped up, as is the political correctness.  Commissioner Weston (Thomas Jackson) and Moe the Cab Driver (Lew Hearn) also arrive from the original source materials.  La Rocque suddenly becomes a Jack Benny type character with his comments, but this is much more fun to watch than the previous film.  Foreign Spies are the problem this time, but it’s nothing some radio and a few comic capers cannot solve.


The full screen, monochrome images are off of 16mm prints that survived for decades, as the Grand National catalog seems to have been dumped in a river, now long gone.  The cinematographer is the same on both films, credited to the A.S.C. (American Society of Cinematographers), but the name is different on each film.  The first reads Marcel Pickard, while the second reads Le Picard.  The ASC ledger reads Marcel A. LePicard, so both seem a bit wrong.  The look of the film in sets, clothes and photography are not as B-cheap as you might expect; a sign Grand National thought this was a potential series that could make them money like Charlie Chan did for Fox, or Mr. Wong did not for Monogram.


Either way, the prints are in decent shape for their age, with Strikes looking slightly lighter and even a touch washed out in spots.  Both have good Video Black and decent Gray Scale for the format, with some good detail for 16mm trade-down prints from the original 35mm.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono has been fixed up nicely and sounds good for its age.  Marengo worked hard to fix these little gems up and the work has paid off.  There are, however, no extras and we have to wonder if Grand National actually ever made previews for the films, but paper press materials do exist, however rare and scarce.


As Fox has secured the rights for another Shadow movie with faint rumors that Quentin Tarantino might write and direct, we’ll wait and see how much long it takes the recent Alec Baldwin Shadow (1994) to arrive on Blu-ray like it already has in Germany, if anyone will ever officially issue the 1940 Victor Jory serial, if the 1954 TV version with Tom Helmore will arrive and if MGM follows up their recent release of the second of three Monogram Shadow films from 1946, Behind The Mask, with the other two.  You can read more about their Limited Edition Collection DVD release of that film at this link:





The other two Monogram films are The Shadow Returns and The Missing Lady, all with Kane Richmond as The Shadow.  Maybe Marengo ought to consider issuing this set as their first Blu-ray.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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