Time Travel 1940: The Shadow – Serialised Drama

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The Shadow battles a villain known as The Black Tiger, who has the power to make himself invisible and is trying to take over the world with his death ray. – From IMDB

This is the kind of serialised drama that you see spoofed in so many TV shows and Looney Tunes cartoons. It’s terribly over the top, very melodramatic, and written very clumsily. But all of these things are kind of endearing about it. It wouldn’t be the same if it didn’t have those things.

Some of the actors are acting almost amateurish, even though most of them, the main players at least, have plenty of credits under their belts by then. But most of the worst acting comes from the extras that are only on screen for a very short time, so you don’t have to suffer through it for too long.

Now, speaking of long, my main complaint with these serial dramas is that they always drag their relatively simple story out too long. All told this story is four hours and forty five minutes long. Had this been made into a film it would maybe have filled two hours if they were lucky. And unlike later TV Shows that would have more complex plots and character development, not enough happens in this show to make it worth the 15 parts that it contains.

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It still sounds, and is written like, a radio show rather than something to be seen on a screen. The writing is all wrong for the medium. Had this been a shorter feature film, the story could have been great and the suspense much more heightened. I like the general idea behind the story, and there is some clever twists and turns used throughout, but it is just far, far too drawn out.

In terms of the technical stuff, the practical effects used are actually pretty good for the era, sometimes the walls of the sets are so flimsy they shake when the door closes, but when it counts, the effects are good enough not to take you out of the action. The weirdly sped up car chases and fight scenes were a little bazaar, and made me wonder if I was just seeing things but no, they definitely run faster than everything else. I can’t imagine the reason for this, but if you know, let me know.

Of course a forties production like this is going to be more than a little dated, and this serial is full of racism and cultural appropriation, sexism and all that fun stuff that people thought was OK back then to use as a punchline. These behaviours are never OK, but to remove all media containing them is wrong too, all we can do is acknowledge their existence and learn from them.

Final Rating: 2.5 Stars


  • Director
    • James W. Horne
  • Writers
    • Joseph F. Poland(screenplay)
    • Ned Dandy(screenplay)
    • Joseph O’Donnell(screenplay)
  • Stars
    • Victor Jory
    • Veda Ann Borg
    • Roger Moore

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