The Shadow is a 1994 American superhero film, directed by Russell Mulcahy, based on the character of the same name created by Walter B. Gibson in 1931, and starring Alec Baldwin, John Lone, Penelope Ann Miller, Peter Boyle, Tim Curry, and Ian McKellen.
The story begins somewhere in Tibet after the First World War. An American named Lamont Cranston (Alec Baldwin), succumbing to his darker instincts during the war, has set himself up as a brutal warlord and opium kingpin under the alias of Ying-Ko (Mandarin Chinese > "Dark Eagle").
He is abducted from his palace by servants of the Tulku (voiced by Barry Dennen), a holy man who exhibits otherworldly powers and knows Cranston's identity. He informs Cranston that he is to become a force for good. Cranston objects but is silenced by the Phurba (voiced by Frank Welker), a mystical living triple-edged knife that assaults Cranston, wounding him. Cranston is unable to refuse and remains under the tutelage of the Tulku for seven years. He learns to "cloud men's minds," a form of mystical, psychic hypnosis that allows him to influence others' thoughts and bend their perceptions so he cannot be seen, except for his Shadow (since light itself cannot be deceived), hence the replacement of Ying-Ko as his alias.
Cranston returns to New York and resumes his previous life. No one is aware of his past in the East; he is seen as a shallow and opulent playboy. He operates as The Shadow, a vigilante that terrorizes the underworld. Citizens who are saved by The Shadow are recruited to be his agents, providing him with informants and specialists. The existence of The Shadow is regarded by the public as nothing more than an urban legend. But The Shadow's secret is endangered when Cranston meets Margot Lane (Penelope Ann Miller), an eccentric socialite who is also a natural telepath. He is intrigued, but unable to continue seeing her as he cannot keep his thoughts from her.
Cranston is challenged by Shiwan Khan (John Lone), another student of the Tulku who possesses even sharper powers, but had successfully resisted redemption and hence had stayed evil. Khan is the last descendant of Genghis Khan and plans to fulfill his ancestor's goal of world domination. He offers Cranston an alliance, sensing that bloodlust and a thirst for power still exist in his heart, but Cranston refuses. Cranston acquires a rare coin from Khan and learns that it is made of a metal called "bronzium" (an impure form of uranium) that theoretically can generate an explosion large enough to destroy a city. This suspicion is confirmed when he learns that Margot's father Reinhardt (Ian McKellen), an atomic scientist working for the War Department, has vanished.
Shiwan Khan hypnotizes Margot Lane and sends her to assassinate Cranston, hoping that Cranston will be forced to kill her, thus reawakening his darker side. Instead, Cranston breaks Khan's hold on her, but she is now aware of his secret identity. Cranston prepares to rescue Reinhardt but is thwarted by several of Khan's henchmen. The Shadow suffers another setback when he confronts Reinhardt's former assistant, Farley Claymore (Tim Curry), who has joined Khan's forces. Claymore traps The Shadow in a submersion tank, but Cranston escapes drowning by mentally summoning Margot. The Shadow learns of Khan's hideout: the luxurious Hotel Monolith, a building in the middle of the city that Shiwan Khan, mastering the tulku's greatest secret, has rendered invisible; it appears to everyone else as an empty lot, but The Shadow sees it even through Khan's mental clouding. Knowing that Khan has Reinhardt hostage and the completed atomic bomb in his possession, he infiltrates the hotel for a final showdown.
The Shadow fights his way through the hotel, killing Claymore and Khan's warriors. He faces Khan but is subdued by the Phurba, sustaining multiple injuries until he realizes that only a peaceful mind can truly control the Phurba. Overcoming Khan's command of the knife, he launches the Phurba into Khan's torso. The injury breaks Khan's concentration, freeing Reinhardt from his hypnotic state and rendering the hotel visible to everyone. The Shadow pursues Khan into the bowels of the building while Margot and Reinhardt disable the atomic bomb—and almost fail due to Reinhardt's color blindness. The Shadow defeats Khan by psychically hurling a glass shard into his skull.
Khan awakens in a padded cell, confused as to how he got there. He discovers that his powers no longer work. He learns that the doctors saved his life by removing the part of his brain that harbored his psychic abilities. He demands to be set free, but is ignored along with the rants of the other inmates. Unknown to him, the doctor is an agent of The Shadow who has ensured that Khan is no longer a threat.
Now safe from Khan, Cranston gives in to his love for Margot, but duty calls soon after, and he promises to find her later that night. Margot asks how he will know where to find her, and Cranston reassures her, just before he is shown donning the specialized outfit that helps him focus his mental-clouding abilities, "The Shadow Knows!"
- Alec Baldwin as Lamont Cranston / The Shadow
- John Lone as Shiwan Khan
- Penelope Ann Miller as Margo Lane
- Peter Boyle as Moses "Moe" Shrevnitz
- Ian McKellen as Dr. Reinhardt Lane
- Tim Curry as Farley Claymore
- Jonathan Winters as Wainwright Barth
- Sab Shimono as Dr. Roy Tam
- Andre Gregory as Burbank
- James Hong as Li Peng
- Joseph Maher as Isaac Newboldt
- Max Wright as Berger
- Ethan Phillips as Nelson
- Sinoa Loren as Singer/Herself
- Kate McGregor-Stewart as Mrs. Shrevnitz
- Frank Welker as the voice of Phurba
- Barry Dennen as the voice of Tulku (uncredited