The same, however, cannot be said about about The Shadow Strikes. (The title made wonder if the movie was about labor trouble among pulp fiction heroes.) Released by the short-lived independent studio Grand National Pictures, it mistakes "convoluted" for "mysterious," a factor typical of B-mysteries of its time. Ten minutes into it, there seemed to be three different plot threads going simultaneously:
1) An attempted burglary at the office of lawyer Chester Randall. 2) The murder of elderly tycoon Caleb Delthern. 3) The possible involvement in one or the other by a gambling boss named Brossett (no first name given). These threads are gradually pulled together with the finesse of a one-armed monkey doing crochet work. I toyed with the idea of actually explaining the story further, but my mind wandered so often that, even when taking notes, I'm unable to come with a cohesive description.
|"Yo, it's me -- The Shadow. Wassup?|
|From the New York Tymes.|
|Anybody ever hear of casual Fridays|
|A shadow does not The Shadow make.|
Allegedly snappy dialogue which falls with delicacy of a marble coffee table. (Man to girlfriend following a disagreement: "I suppose after we're married, we'll live scrappily ever after.") A bugging device features a microphone in an office and the headphones three stories down in a car; because the car drives around with the device intact, the cord is apparently 20 miles long. Thank God the NSA figured out that little problem.
The Shadow Strikes is also rich with actors you wouldn't recognize if your life depended on it. The title character is portrayed by the man with a name straight out of (porn) movies, Rod La Rocque (real name: Roderick La Rocque de la Rou). Once a leading man in silents, La Rocque was by now -- stop me if you've heard this before -- slumming in movies like Beau Bandit and Hi, Gaucho! (In between, he sailed to Germany to star in S.O.S. Iceberg for Hitler's favorite director, Leni Riefenstahl.) La Rocque's delivery in The Shadow Strikes, often casual to the point of sounding improvised, falls somewhere between Bob Hope and Edward Everett Horton. Except when he's in disguise as The Shadow. Then he speaks like Squidward from Spongebob Squarepants. Some hero. (You think that sounds strange. Co-star Bill Kellogg looks like a cross between a young Humphrey Bogart and Ron Mael from the band Sparks.) Like people in general back then, La Rocque looks a good decade older than his 39 years (unless he fudged his birthdate). He sure was popular in his day, though: when he married actress Vilma Banky in 1927, 2,000 people attended the wedding reception. Pity the caterer!
I couldn't find a photo of co-star Bill Kellogg,
so just combine these two photos in your head and you'll get an idea of what he looks like. In a word, wow.
The studio that released The Shadow Strikes, Grand National, is marginally more interesting than the movie itself. Created in 1936 as just another low-budget indie, it had a shot at the big time when signing James Cagney -- currently on strike from Warner Bros. -- to appear in two movies, Tough Guy (guaranteed to be the only drama about the thrilling adventures of an agent from the Bureau of Weights & Measures) and the musical Something to Sing About. Despite Cagney's star power, the movies can't disguise their humble origins. Once Warners ordered Cagney back to work or else, it was only a matter of time before Grand National folded -- 1939, to be precise. Appropriately, PRC took over the studio complex. (Notice how everything comes back to PRC?) Grand National's art deco logo, featuring a giant clock whose sweeping hands reveal the studio name, still looks cool, though.
|"Anybody know the wind chill factor|
|"Hey, you really are the killer!"|