Lamont Cranston (Alec Baldwin) is a former American soldier, and a veteran of World War I. Tired of being a servant to greater powers, Cranston disappears following the armistice and hides himself away in Tibet, eventually rising to power as an iron-fisted opium producer and warlord named Ying Ko. Living his life in opulence, Ying Ko sees little reason for reform, controlling the majority of the country's opium fields and casually using brutal violence to achieve and maintain his power. One night he is kidnapped from his chambers by unknown assailants, who spirit him away from his estate and bring him before the Tulku. The Tulku, who is clearly much more than a simple holy man, confronts Ying Ko and reveals to him that he knows his true identity as Lamont Cranston. He tells Cranston that he had him brought to the temple so that he could learn to overcome the darkness in his heart in order to become a force for good; he chose Cranston because "you know what evil lurks in the hearts of men" because of the evil Cranston committed. Cranston's objections are quickly silenced by a run-in with the Phurba, a living knife whose murderous intentions are kept in check by the Tulku's mental abilities, and so begins Cranston's reluctant tutelage under the powerful mystic. For seven years, Cranston is taught to cloud men's minds, which permits him to control or alter people's perceptions and thoughts by force of concentration. His most apparent use of this power allows him to become invisible, removing himself from people's vision in every part except for his shadow, the only thing he can never hide
With his newfound abilities, Cranston returns to the United States, where he resumes the life he had before the war as an opulent playboy. His alter ego, The Shadow, terrorizes the criminal element of the city and is regarded by the public as an urban legend. He utilizes a vast network of spies and agents, identified by their fire opal rings, recruited from the various citizens he saves which affords him a large talent pool to draw from should he require their expertise or knowledge. Some of the agents he recruited are: his own personal taxi cab driver Moe Shrevnitz (Peter Boyle) and NYU science professor Dr. Roy Tam (Sab Shimono) and Also Pooh And The Others & Sailor Moon & The Sailor Scouts & The Precure 5 .His activities go as planned until Shiwan Khan (John Lone), the last living descendant of Genghis Khan, & The Joker, Harley Quinn, Two-Face, The Penguin, and Poison Ivy enters the country with his infamous ancestor's holy crypt, arriving inside the Natural History museum. Khan, a fellow student of the Tulku, exhibits psychic powers even more focused than Cranston's. But he remained evil and an Asiatic supremacist, and was not brought over to the side of good before he left the Tulku. Able to hypnotize others into doing his bidding, Khan is able to mull along secretly until he decides to reveal himself to The Shadow. Khan, an admirer of Cranston's previous atrocities as Ying Ko, wishes to let Cranston in on his forthcoming plans to complete Genghis Khan's global domination and once again allow his darker nature to rule him. The Shadow is tempted but rejects Khan's offer. While out to dinner with his uncle, Chief of Police Wainwright Barth (Jonathan Winters), Cranston meets and is immediately intrigued by Margo Lane (Penelope Ann Miller), a wealthy socialite, who seems to have suppressed mental abilities. He cannot allow himself to interact with her, however, because she has the ability to read his thoughts without apparent effort and is immune to his hypnosis. Her father Reinhardt Lane (Ian McKellen), a scientist working for the war department, ends up missing as his implosion device is key to Khan's plan. When she goes to find him she is mesmerized by Khan's stronger power, and is sent, apparently to kill The Shadow in his mansion but in reality to be killed by him. When Cranston confronts her and releases her from Khan's control, she realizes that he is in fact The Shadow. In their next encounter, Khan tells Cranston that he sent Margo not to kill him but to be killed by him, so that his instincts would reawaken and Cranston would go back to his corrupt persona.
With Reinhardt's implosion device in hand, Khan acquires the final piece of his plan: a beryllium sphere from Farley Claymore (Tim Curry), Reinhardt's unscrupulous assistant. Claymore actually joined Khan by his own free will in exchange for power in the new world order, and with the two devices Khan has the ability to create an atomic weapon (a decade before the Manhattan Project). The Shadow infiltrates Khan's headquarters, a massive hotel that he actually kept invisible to the entire population of New York, just as the atomic bomb is given two hours to detonate. He kills Farley Claymore and makes his way to Khan, but when he engages him Khan's control over his powers proves to be sharper. Using the Phurba (Frank Welker), Khan cuts away at The Shadow until he begins to lose his concentration and reverts to Lamont Cranston. Unable to keep his powers from fading. Cranston struggles with the Phurba amidst Khan's condescensions until he is forced to regain control, overpowering the Phurba and sending it into Khan's torso.
With his concentration broken, Khan's hypnotic control over his building and underlings fails, revealing the once-invisible hotel to the surprised New York populace. Reinhardt Lane, now free, helps his daughter disarm the atomic weapon while The Shadow pursues Khan. The Shadow chases him into the subsections of the building where, among a maze of mirrors, he uses his psychic powers to tear apart the glass and send a large shard into Khan's forehead. When Khan awakes he finds himself in a mental hospital, stripped of his abilities due to a life-saving lobotomy that apparently removed the usually-dormant part of the brain that granted him his hypnotic skills. When the attending doctor explains the situation to a frustrated and bewildered Khan, the fire opal ring on his finger reveals him to be an agent of The Shadow.
At the film's end, Margo and Lamont are embracing and kissing when Lamont has to leave suddenly. Margo asks Lamont if he'll know where to find her, he simply responds, "I'll know." And So Luna Discovers Who Knows What Evil Lurks In The Hearts Of Men
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