Erin Lafond

Freelance Writer and Developmental Editor
The Superhero Project: International Crime (1938)

The Superhero Project: International Crime (1938)

If you haven’t checked out my post on The Shadow Strikes, now is the time. It’s the prequel to today’s movie International Crime. I’ll wait.

Summary

The movie International Crime was released in 1938, directed by Charles Lamont, and starred Rod La Rocque as Lamont Cranston and Astrid Allwyn as Phoebe Lane. Cranston is also known as The Shadow who is an amateur crime detective with a newspaper column and radio show.

It concerns a bomb that goes off, killing an international bank manager. The movie revolves around finding out why the bank manager was murdered and who did it.

The Film Itself

To be honest, it’s difficult to examine this film, primarily because it hasn’t survived well, and it’s incredibly dark. (The Internet Archive version is the better one, by the way.) It’s a black and white film, though color was a thing by 1938.

The most interesting aspect of the film is the way it occasionally swipes between shots, an impressive technique considering the year. It utilizes the technique in the beginning to switch between Cranston and his listeners, which are varied. Other than that, the shots are standard. They are typically straight on, and the film generally switches from wide shots to medium close-ups.

Other than that, I didn’t find much of note to comment on since the filmmaking is pretty standard. The film was created during Hollywood’s so-called “Golden Age.” It doesn’t appear to have made much of a splash in the world. The actors don’t appear to be very popular (though La Rocque has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame), and I can’t find any reviews. If you have any reviews, please send them to me!

I found a source claiming that the movie was based on the short story “Foxhound” by Theodore S. Tinsley, but I couldn’t find anything legitimate to confirm this. I’m skeptical because the plots seem completely different, but I could be wrong.

Analysis

The connection between the original The Shadow character and the movie is tenuous at best. A similar thing can be said of the connection between the The Shadow Strikes and International Crime. Pretty much the only things connecting them are the crime detective aspect and the names.

The movie continuously pays homage to the beginnings of the character The Shadow by showing Cranston talking on the radio. But the character is just a gimmick, almost a pen name. The chief of police knows who The Shadow is, and they regularly communicate/fight. This is as opposed to the first movie where The Shadow is indeed more of a superhero who dresses up to catch criminals. In International Crime, maybe the average person doesn’t know who The Shadow is, but Cranston certainly isn’t hiding it well.

To be honest, if this wasn’t the sequel to The Shadow Strikes, I wouldn’t have put it on the list. With the exception of the alias (which barely functions as such), there are no superhero aspects that I can find. He’s just an amateur detective who openly fights with the police.

An Angry Note

All right, so I understand that this movie is from 1938. But the sexism that is rampant in this movie is ridiculous. Phoebe is mistreated by Cranston throughout the entire movie, and it feels mildly justified because she’s terrible. She gets in the way and thinks she’s more competent than she is. The movie makes it clear that she only has her job because she’s the owner’s niece.

I kept waiting for Pheobe to have this redeeming moment, but she never did. Even at the very end of the movie when Cranston lets her speak on the radio, she chokes. The only redeemable quality this film has in regards to women is that it demonstrates a woman who wants to move beyond traditional gender roles. Pheobe basically demands to get off the domestic newspaper beat. However, between its portrayal of Pheobe and Cranston’s dialogue, it makes it clear that women shouldn’t actually do this.

Basically, International Crime is mean to women.

Overall, the film is an interesting bit of history, and I’m not sorry that I watched it. You can watch the movie on Amazon Prime or Internet Archive.

This post is part of The Superhero Project. Check out my post explaining the project here.

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