TIPPIN' HANCOCK'S HAT-Reviews of All Things Pulp by Tommy Hancock
"THE MISSING LADY"
Starring Kane Richmond, Barbara Reed, George Chandler, et al.
Directed by Phil Karlson
Written by George Callahan
Based on THE SHADOW stories by Walter Gibson from THE SHADOW Magazine
Yes, Virginia, there was a SHADOW movie before Alec Baldwin (which, by the way, I enjoyed although many did not). Actually, there were three, all B movies turned out by Monogram Pictures in the 1940s. 'The Missing Lady' is the third entry in the series, but the first that I watched, so hence the review.
Now, for those not familiar with most movie adaptations of our beloved pulp types, they often usually go far askew of what we as fans are familiar with and enjoy. This was true oftentimes in the days of early Hollywood, due in part to the inability to mimic many of the things that occurred in the written word, but also to often fit trends that were present in the movies at the time. Not so different from today, this practice seems to be more prevalent in the 1930sand 40s, a period where 'film series' short 60-75 minutes movies were produced rather rapidly focusing on a central character. The Saint, The Falcon, and The Lone Wolf are probably the best examples of 'detective/hero/playboy' types that dominated movie screens in the 1940s. Monogram had an opportunity to jump into this genre with a totally different twist when it took on dramatizing Gibson's THE SHADOW stories. Unfortunately, this ended up being a very much missed opportunity.
Oh yeah, and Cranston becomes The Shadow twice and is the only person to ever mention his alter ego.
The acting was average for the most part for a B Movie from this period. The storyline was convoluted, confusing, and way too crowded. It was obvious that some characters, including the artist who lived in Cranston's building, were simply thrown in so there would be more suspects. The attempts at comedy fell flat for the standards of the period and due to that, are particularly dated for modern viewers. The resolution of the murders was pretty good concerning the very first murder, although it was telegraphed five minutes into the movie. The resolution for the others, however, was just as throwaway as most of the characters.
TWO OUT OF FIVE TIPS OF THE HAT-If you're a Shadow fan who feels like you need to see, read, or hear everything THE SHADOW is in, then you need to see this. Or if you have no idea who the character is, but you want to point and laugh at the old movie, then this is also for you. Other than that, go watch Alec Baldwin.