International Crime (1938) is presumedly based on the story "Foxhound" by Maxwell Grant (actually Theodore Tinsley rather than Walter Gibson who wrote most of the Shadow stories), from the January 15, 1937 issue of The Shadow Magazine. In reality neither the character array nor the plot comes from the printed story.
It is a trivial movie of murder & international intrigue with an upbeat, lighthearted attitude, with the ultimate lesson, "German aristocrats are evil."
Rod La Rocque plays Lamont Cranston, who has a radio show & a newspaper column called "The Shadow" on which he reports on the city's crimes. He is not at all the superhero Shadow of the pulp magazine bearing his name & the old time radio show, in which Cranston fights crime using his mesmeric powers of invisibility.
We do see the line "the shadow knows" in one of Cranston's newspaper columns; we see his cabby helper; there's a portrait of the pulp hero Shadow on the wall in Cranston's office; & we see a fanclub of young boys though there is no follow-up in which they actually help the Shadow.
These teases seem to acknowledge that everyone knows they were making a film about a character who might have been a lot more interesting.
This version of the Shadow is merely a crime reporter & amateur detective with an ongoing rivalry with police commissioner (Thomas E. Jackson). Phoebe Lane (Astrid Allwyn) is his girl Friday, a bit of a ditz of small use to Cranston's activities, unlike the competent Margo Lane of the radio series.
La Rocque is not a particularly interesting actor & is certainly not dynamic as this tepid version of the Shadow. The year before, La Rocque had already played the Shadow in The Shadow Strikes (1937), wherein, if it is possible, he is even less interesting.
The story purports to be based on the novella The Ghost in the Manor by Maxwell Grant (i.e., Walter Gibson), from The Shadow Magazine June 15, 1933. But here too the original old-dark-house mystery does not honestly find its way into the alleged film adaptation, which retains nothing of the original plot nor even the novella's characters.
This was the first Shadow movie ever made, & I would love to know why neither this nor the sequel permitted La Rocque to really try to recreate the character the films allege to be about. I can only guess that no one involved in the films really knew much about the magazine & radio character & just made up whatever they wanted instead of giving fans of the Shadow what they'd be looking for.
La Rocque wears the Shadow's cloak once near the end but otherwise in no way resembles the Shadow the public had come to enjoy & expect. The story just places the character way too distant from the figure who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men.
Through most of the film Cranston (for some unknown reason renamed Granston) takes on the identity of an attorney. In this disguise he solves a murder that gets a little interesting during the climax but not until then.
One "double bill" repackaging of these two films puts the familiar & mysteriously cloaked mind-clouding Shadow on the dvd box who is nowhere to be found in the two films. Other releases have texts on the boxes strongly indicating this will be the mystic Shadow of greater fame. Misled customers will inevitably be distraught.
But if a viewer isn't expecting the wonderful character of the Shadow, & wants only a couple of B crime movies with a regular-joe detective & no stars, these will do.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl