Cast your minds back to the distant time of 1994: The Lion King ruled the animated world; Pulp Fiction helped solidify Tarantino as cinematic Jesus; The Crow began to give countless millions of introverted teenage boys the "unique" idea of dressing up as a moody/hot goth for Halloween and beyond. Basically, life was good. Well, as good as life could be without a #Batman movie anyway.
Batman Returns had been released two years prior and we'd still have another year to wait until Joel Schumacher would begin his reign of terror. What most people don't realize, however, is that (arguably) the greatest Batman movie ever made was also released that year.
Who The Hell Is The Shadow?
#TheShadow was created in 1930 as part of the Detective Story Hour, a pulp radio play, but quickly scared its audiences so badly the character became a pulp novel star instead.
Originally known as Kent Allard, later altered to Lamont Cranston for the audience's benefit, The Shadow had "the power to cloud men's minds so they cannot see him," which is a tad generic, but hey, it was the '30s — give them a break. He hid himself under his signature black hat, red scarf and black coat, then proceed to go even further by making almost all of himself seemingly invisible, except for — you guessed it — his shadow.
Gaining his powers while "traveling through East Asia," The Shadow returned to New York City to become its protector by killing a whole lot of people who probably deserved it.
Akin to such other pulp stars as #ThePhantom and #TheRocketeer, The Shadow found a solid fan base in pre/post-War America, but much like his fellow heroes, demand for his style of justice waned and they were cast into the shadow of the guys from Krypton and Gotham.
That was, until '90s #AlecBaldwin got his well-manicured hands on the script and decided if he couldn't be Batman, then The Shadow it was!
6 Reasons Why The Shadow Is The Best Batman Movie Never Made
1. Alec Baldwin Was The Perfect Bruce Wayne/Batman
Whether you're a Bale kinda person, are fully onboard the Batfleck train, or will always have a special place in your heart for Adam West, it's almost impossible to say that any Batman actor truly perfected both Bruce Wayne and Batman. Alec Baldwin did, and he did it without actually being Batman.
We almost got a chance to see the real thing when Tim Burton was casting his Batman; however, Michael Keaton eventually got the role, thus depriving the world of something truly perfect. Don't get me wrong — Keaton was excellent, but was he Baldwin excellent? Nope.
Alec brought the looks, the charm, the wit, the humor, the towering presence and (most importantly) the ability to do slightly different voices without sounding like a crazed maniac. Whether he's schmoozing with his Uncle/Police Chief in a fancy ballroom or being a dashing gentleman (in 1930s terms) by sending an extremely expensive bottle of wine to future love interest Margo Lane, it's not hard to imagine Bruce Wayne doing either.
Obviously, we never got to see him really become Batman, but when he donned the jacket and hat he became something pretty damn close. His insane cackle and bullhorn volume of speech including phrases such as "the weed of crime bears bitter fruit" is done to such a level of intensity (albeit cheesy af) that it gives Bale's "WHERE ARE THEY?!" a run for its money. Sure, his use of semi-automatic pistols wasn't the most Batman of things, but as he didn't run around Deadpool-style, blowing henchmen to pieces, but when he wanted to kill he'd do it with style — much like the current Batman.
2. This Isn't Nolan/Snyder's Batman
First things first: I'm not talking about a realistic/gritty Batman or even Tim Burton's leather clad (Johnny Depp-less) wet dreams; what I am talking about is the Batman we fell in love with while watching The Animated Series.
Kicking off in 1995, The Animated Series launched during a time when technology was advancing rapidly, so the giant computers in the show were expected from its audience. However, the characters were also driving around in '30s-style vehicles and attending super outdated things like ballroom banquets on the regular. What this did was show us a Batman who embodied multiple eras, and thus was truly timeless: THIS is what the The Shadow nailed.
Set just before WW2, The Shadow lived in a place where Tommy Guns were the height of firepower, swords were still kinda threatening and atomic bombs had yet to be created by Ian McKellen's excellently named Dr. Reinhardt Lane. Gadgets and gear were limited to pistols and a bitchin' old-school NYC cab piloted by a loudmouthed but loyal cabbie (played perfectly by Peter Boyle). Sure, it's no Batmobile, but who's going to check a cab in New York City? It's literally the perfect vehicle for a man who needs to be anywhere in an instant.
Speaking of tech and gadgets...
3. A Network Of Spies Replaces The Tech
Sure, gadgets and gizmos are fun to play/get hit in the face with, but when you have eyes and ears literally everywhere the need for gadgets is kinda negated. We're not talking about modern day when everyone and their grandparents has a mobile phone, this is the age of phone operators and newsies, so just having info on everyone and everything is better than a bat-shaped piece of metal.
It also helps that The Shadow's "spies" are all fiercely loyal people in important places in society — police officers, nuclear scientists and cabbies. All of them owe their lives to Lamont's hooded alter-ego, because being saved doesn't come for free, and that's exactly the price they willingly paid to The Shadow.
4. The Protector Of Goth— I Mean, New York
Not a lot needs to be said about this one really — just look at the picture! Their version of New York City is what Batman was dealing with when he first swung onto the pages of Action Comics and beyond.
Obviously, Gotham was a mish-mash of NYC, Chicago and various other looming cities that filled the general public of the 1930s with awe and fear, which is exactly what The Shadow gave us. This wasn't a city filled with neon punks or cluttered with more gargoyles than Disney would know what to do with, but a real-life and somewhat daunting city populated by everyday citizens and air of seediness.
5. Criminals Are A Cowardly And Superstitious Bunch
Every good Batman movie needs a worthy adversary, and The Shadow's attempt at this is Shiwan Khan — the gloriously haired John Lone — fulfilling the Ra's al Ghul-type of main villain. While I thought he was great, most people were (and still are) focused on one henchmen/lackey in particular:
Tim. Motherf***ing. Curry.
You put Tim Curry in a film and you KNOW he won't just steal the limelight, but literally every other source of light available. Hell, his death scene gave us a brief glimpse of what could've been had he become Baldwin's Joker. Seriously, just google "The Shadow Tim Curry" and watch the video before telling me I'm wrong. I dare you.
6. Because He's Batman!
Not literally, but when the actual creator of Batman, Bill Finger, straight-up admits that "[his] first Batman script was a take-off on a Shadow story" it kinda all starts to make sense. Batman even had pistols and straight-up murdered villains — a lot like another shadowy individual.
If you need anything else to sway you, here's Taylor Dayne's masterpiece "Original Sin," because all real Batman movies have a ridiculous theme song!