BEHIND THE MASK (1946)
(a.k.a. THE SHADOW BEHIND THE MASK)
Article #1166 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 5-24-2004
Posting Date: 10-21-2004
Directed by Phil Karlson
Featuring Kane Richmond, Barbara Read, George Chandler
The Shadow discovers that an imposter is committing murders disguised as him.
I must admit at the outset that I haven’t had the pleasure of hearing any of the radio shows that made the character of the Shadow famous. The persona is so well known, however, that I had a strong sense that I would be in for moody, almost supernatural (the Shadow’s ability to cloud men’s minds) crime melodrama. So I will admit to having gone into this movie with certain expectations.
It starts out well enough; the opening scenes are quite moody indeed. However, once Lamont Cranston enters the scene, the mood goes out the window and the movie loses steam. This happens because the Shadow never uses his much-vaunted ability to cloud men’s minds; rather, he uses the less-than-welcome ability to try men’s patience. He does this through the use of excessive comic relief. Now, I’ve complained about comic relief before, but quite frankly, I didn’t know how good I had it. It’s not that he has a comic relief butler; that I could handle. It’s that he has a comic relief butler, a comic relief girlfriend, a comic relief butler’s girlfriend, and two (count ’em, two) comic relief cops. In fact, I’d say ninety-five percent of this movie consists of various combinations of the comic relief characters; what this movie needs is some mystery relief.
Therefore, despite the fact that we have three people pretending to be the Shadow at one point in the proceedings, I’m afraid I’ve come to the conclusion that none of the characters is the real Shadow, not even the one named Lamont Cranston. I say they’re all imposters, and that you’re just wasting your time here. There’s also no fantastic elements to speak of; clouding men’s minds would have qualified, trying men’s patience does not. This one was a washout.