The Past is Prologue…to Adventure!

The Shadow: adapted by David Koepp from characters and situations created by Walter Gibson and others; directed by Russell Mulcahy; starring Alec Baldwin (The Shadow/Lamont Cranston), John Lone (Shiwan Khan), Penelope Ann Miller (Margo Lane), Peter Boyle (Moe Shrevnitz), Ian McKellen (Dr. Lane), Tim Curry (Farley Claymore), and Jonathan Winters (Wainwright Cranston) (1994):

This attempt to turn the 1930’s pulp and radio hero The Shadow into a film franchise like the Batman movies failed at the box office. However, it’s far from terrible. Alec Baldwin is solid as The Shadow and his alter ego Lamont Cranston, and Penelope Ann Miller and the rest of the cast do solid work as the Shadow’s lieutenants, associates, and enemies. John Lone plays the Shadow’s greatest enemy in the pulps, Shiwan Khan, with a light touch.

Actually, the whole movie may be a bit too light, both in tone and on action set-pieces. Still, compared to most current superhero movies, The Shadow seems like a masterpiece of plot and characterization. And there’s a lot of acting and writing talent here, including welcome comic bits from Ian McKellen and Jonathan Winters. The Shadow’s gal pal Margo Lane even gets to do things that don’t involve screaming or fainting. Recommended.

Stand by Me: adapted by Raynold Gideon and Bruce Evans from the Stephen King novella “The Body”; directed by Rob Reiner; starring Wil Wheaton (Gordie Lachance), River Phoenix (Chris Chambers), Corey Feldman (Teddy Duchamp), Jerry O’Connell (Vern Tessio), Kiefer Sutherland (Ace Merrill), Richard Dreyfus (The Writer), and John Cusack (Denny Lachance) (1986):

An almost quintessential tale of childhood friendship was Rob Reiner’s first box-office hit. The fictional Stephen King town of Castle Rock (a name King himself used as an homage to Lord of the Flies) appears here, and Reiner would name his production company after it because of the success of the movie. And that’s what connects Lord of the Flies to Seinfeld.

Beautifully acted by all the boys, but especially River Phoenix and Wil Wheaton, who are both beautifully naturalistic, it’s a short, jam-packed movie. Of course, the secret story of the movie is that there’s a killer train wandering the woods around Castle Rock. It’s already killed once, and it will try to kill again. As it’s a vehicle that seems to be fixated on killing children, it may be the offspring of Christine and Pennywise the Clown. It will not stop if you are on the tracks. It will not even slow down. Highly recommended.

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