The Shadow (serial)

The Shadow (1940) was the ninth serial released by Columbia Pictures. It was based upon the classic radio series and pulp magazine superhero character with the same name.

The Shadow
Directed byJames W. Horne
Written byJoseph O'Donnell
Ned Dandy
Joseph Poland
Screenplay, based on the stories created by
Walter B. Gibson
StarringVictor Jory
Veda Ann Borg
Roger Moore
Robert Fiske
Music byLee Zahler
CinematographyJames S. Brown Jr.
Edited byDwight Caldwell
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • January 5, 1940 (1940-01-05)
Running time
15 chapters
285 minutes
CountryUnited States


The Shadow battles a villain known as The Black Tiger, who has the power to make himself invisible and is attempting domination of major financial and business concerns.

Victor Jory's Shadow is faithful to the radio character, especially the radio show's signature: the sinister chuckle of the invisible Shadow as he confronts a villain. Columbia, however, relied on fistfights, chases, and headlong action in its serials, and disliked the prospect of a 15-chapter adventure where the audience wouldn't see much of the heroics, because the leading character was supposed to be invisible. By basing the serial character more on the pulp fiction version and turning the mysterious Shadow into a flesh-and-blood figure, plainly visible in hat and cloak, Columbia patterned the serial after its wildly successful serial of 1938, The Spider's Web, itself based on a masked hero of pulp fiction. The Spider was the respectable Richard Wentworth, who terrorized the underworld as the mysterious Spider and infiltrated gangland under a third identity, small-time crook Blinky McQuade. Columbia copied the triple-role format for The Shadow, with the stalwart Lamont Cranston baffling the enemies of justice as The Shadow (in a Spider-esque disguise) and moving among them as Oriental confederate Lin Chang.


  • Victor Jory as Lamont Cranston alias The Shadow. In the serial, Cranston is portrayed more as a research scientist than the playboy from the pulp fiction and radio series. Victor Jory "visually and audibly conveyed the required image of Cranston (and the 'man of mystery') more credibly than any other actor of that time that can be brought to mind."[1]
  • Veda Ann Borg as Margo Lane, Cranston's laboratory assistant. Borg played Margo Lane as brash and slightly cynical, in a departure from her urbane sophistication in the radio show and pulp magazines.[2]
  • Roger Moore as Harry Vincent. In the serial, Vincent combines the characters of the pulp fiction Harry Vincent and the pulp fiction/radio series character Moe "Shrevy" Shrevnitz.
  • Robert Fiske as Stanford Marshall
  • J. Paul Jones as Mr. Turner, business leader
  • Jack Ingram as Flint, The Black Tiger's chief thug
  • Edward Peil Sr. as Inspector Joe Cardona
  • Philip Ahn as Wu Yung
  • Charles King as Henchman Russell
  • Tom London as Driver of Hi-jacked Truck



The Shadow was released on 1 June 1940, Veda Ann Borg's 25th birthday.[1]

Critical reception

Opinion on the serial, especially as an adaptation on the pulp magazine source material, is mixed. Harmon and Glut are critical of the serial. Filming The Shadow in brightly lit environments undermines the mystery and menace of the character. The quality of the plotting is also brought into question for its lack of imagination and the fact that the hero appears to survive cliffhangers and threats for no reason other than that he is the hero.[3] On the other hand, Cline praises the serial. The mystery of the pulp magazine was preserved in the serial by both the hero and villain being masked. This lent an ambiguity from the point of view of the other characters that also pervaded the source material, so "for the audience the result was perfectly compatible and a pure delight."[1]

Chapter titles

  1. The Doomed City
  2. The Shadow Attacks
  3. The Shadow's Peril
  4. In the Tiger's Lair
  5. Danger Above
  6. The Shadow's Trap
  7. Where Horror Waits
  8. The Shadow Rides the Rails
  9. The Devil in White
  10. The Underground Trap
  11. Chinatown Night
  12. Murder by Remote Control
  13. Wheels of Death
  14. The Sealed Room
  15. The Shadow's Net Closes


See also


  1. Cline, William C. (1984). "2. In Search of Ammunition". In the Nick of Time. McFarland & Company, Inc. pp. 13. ISBN 0-7864-0471-X.
  2. Cline, p. 89
  3. Harmon, Jim; Donald F. Glut (1973). "8. The Detectives "Gangbusters!"". The Great Movie Serials: Their Sound and Fury. Routledge. pp. 197–198. ISBN 978-0-7130-0097-9.
  4. Cline, William C. (1984). "Filmography". In the Nick of Time. McFarland & Company, Inc. p. 226. ISBN 0-7864-0471-X.
Preceded by
Overland with Kit Carson (1939)
Columbia Serial
The Shadow (1940)
Succeeded by
Terry and the Pirates (1940)
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