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Shadows (The Criterion Collection) (1959)

Hugh Hurd , Lelia Goldoni , John Cassavetes  |  NR |  DVD
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Hugh Hurd, Lelia Goldoni, Anthony Ray
  • Directors: John Cassavetes
  • Format: Black & White, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • DVD Release Date: February 17, 2008
  • Run Time: 81 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #177,442 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Special Features


Editorial Reviews


Arguably the founding work of the American independent cinema. --J. Hoberman, The Village Voice

Product Description

John Cassavetes' directorial debut revolves around an interracial romance between Lelia (Lelia Goldoni), a light-skinned black woman living in New York City with her two brothers, and Tony (Anthony Ray), a white man. The relationship crumbles when Tony meets Lelia's brother Hugh (Hugh Hurd), a talented dark-skinned jazz singer struggling to find work, and discovers the truth about Lelia s racial heritage. Shot on location in Manhattan with a cast and crew made up primarily of amateurs, Cassavetes' Shadows is a visionary work that is widely considered the forerunner of the American independent film movement.

New, restored high-definition digital transfer
Video interviews from 2004 with actress Lelia Goldoni and associate producer Seymour Cassel
Rare silent 16 mm footage of John Cassavetes and Burt Lane s acting workshop
Restoration demonstration
Stills gallery featuring rare behind-the-scenes production photos
Theatrical trailer
PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by Gary Giddins and a reprinted essay by Cassavetes

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Director Cassavetes in Top Form August 18, 2001
Format:VHS Tape
In constrast to the sanitized images of 1950s television and motion pictures, SHADOWS is like a breath of fresh air. It's independent filmmaking at its best. You'll find no silly "Leave it to Beaver" and "Father Knows Best" plots here. Instead, you have characters that respond and speak like regular people. This is in large part because Cassavetes allowed the actors to improvise their dialog. This is particularly true for the black characters in the film, because they aren't constrained by an outsider's view of them.
There are several stories in the film, but perhaps the most interesting is that of Lelia (played by Lelia Goldoni). Living in a Manhattan apartment with her two brothers, she's somewhat naive of the world. At a party she meets Tony and they soon hit it off. Just as quickly, things start to sour between them. If it already isn't bad enough, all hell breaks loose, when Tony is unable to conceal his shock when he discovers that the olive complexioned Lelia is actually black.
In a Hollywood film, this scenario would have been thrown under the rug or handled in a stiff and artificial manner (like ISLAND IN THE SUN). Fortunately, we get a much more interesting and realistic view of the situation. Granted some of the dialog might be a bit on the nose at times, but when the improv works, it works fabulously.
One of the best scenes in the film involves Lelia on a date. Without revealing too much, her dialog is a killer. John Sayles couldn't have written it any crisper.
As the whole, the cast is very good. All of the major players have the same first names as their respective characters. Rupert Crosse (who later received an Academy Award nomination for his role in The Reivers) is very funny in this film.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars AWEsome Film February 2, 2002
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
This is a great movie. Like it was made yeserday. Punk, beat in sensibility. About young people struggling on the fringes.
Also the review that follows mine is right. A guy named Ray Carney just wrote an amazing book about the movie that has incredible behind the scenes details that no one ever knew before. Cassavetes revealed them to Carney before he died in a Rosebud conversation. Check out the book titled Shadows and another titled Cassavetes on Cassavetes along with the film. It's available here if you type in Cassavetes' name under books. Also Carney has a web site that you should check out with lots of other Cassavetes material.
I love this movie! And the books about it.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars FILM GOGGLES December 20, 2001
By A Customer
This intense, hysterical, loud, sweet and sour film was NOT an IMPROVISATION despite the end title! Neither were Cassavetes other films, in the classic sense of IMPROV. Improv was sparringly used in the writing of the scripts, but Cassavetes was a WRITER who knew what he was doing more than people give him credit for. This is a major crime against one of the greatest artists of the last 100 years (wha? no, seriously). To get the real scoop, and an exhaustive, loving take on this important first film by an American original, check out the BFI Film Series edition on SHADOWS, which just came out. It breaks it down and builds it back up, in a way you won't believe.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good start September 17, 2008
In many ways, the filmic career of independent filmmaking legend John Cassavetes is the polar opposite of someone like Alfred Hitchcock, the consummate studio director. Where Hitchcock infamously treated his actors as cattle, Cassavetes sought to work with them improvisationally. Where every element in a Hitchcock shot is composed immaculately, Cassavetes cared less for the way a scene was figuratively composed than in how it felt, or what it conveyed, emotionally. Hitchcock's tales were always plot-first narratives, with the human element put in the background. Cassavetes put the human experience forefront in every one of his films. If some things did not make much sense logically, so be it.
One can see this even from his very first film, 1959's Shadows, filmed with a 16mm handheld camera, on a shoe string budget of about $40,000, in Manhattan, with Cassavetes' acting workshop repertory company, and touted as an improvisatory film. The story is rather simple, as it follows the lives of three black sibling Manhattanites- Benny (Ben Carruthers)- a trumpeter and no account, Hugh (Hugh Hurd)- a washed up singer, and Lelia (Lelia Goldoni)- the younger sister of both. The film's three main arcs deal with Hugh's failures as a nightclub crooner, and his friendship with his manager Rupert (Rupert Crosse); Benny's perambulations in an about Manhattan with his two no account pals; and Lelia's lovelife- first with a white boy Tony (Anthony Ray), who does not realize light-skinned Lelia's race, even after bedding her; then with stiff and proper Davey (Davey Jones), who may be a misogynist.
In the first arc, nothing much happens, except dark-skinned Hugh gets to pontificate on how degraded he feels to be singing in low class nightclubs, and opening shows for girly acts.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Be patient with "Shadows"--it will pay off. March 6, 1999
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
Cassavetes in again with another winner! Granted, a bit of patience is required to appreciate his super-realistic style, but by the end you will feel as though you are a part of this family, and this time in our history, regardless of what race you belong to. The scenes with the younger brother and his friends are so intimate and light-hearted you will wish you had friends like his. Cassavetes made this one with his own production company, which is something wonderful in a world (Hollywood) where selling out is the rule. A beautifully touching story of romance and family.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The great John Cassavettes first commercial film.
This film is a diamond in the rough, but it has an authenticity to it that is palpable. It's a story of a 1950's interracial romance, but it really transcends that era and speaks... Read more
Published 28 days ago by J. W. Grace
5.0 out of 5 stars 1959 Shadows
This movie was suggested to me for a paper I needed to do for a film class. This is a restored version and some footage was undoubtedly lost hence it's choppiness but I loved the... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Ibby
1.0 out of 5 stars No Longer Interesting
It is a landmark transformational independent film that has not passed the test of time. By todays standards, Shadows is not interesting.
Published 11 months ago by Lindsay Johnson
5.0 out of 5 stars films
Great movie. I am thrilled to possess a signed copy by Lelia Goldoni....Cassavetes is like the finest...Faces remains one of my top five movies ever. Read more
Published 17 months ago by bill w
5.0 out of 5 stars A Beautiful Damaged Picture of America!!!
I recently become a fan of The Criterion Collection. They have such vast and complex movies both old and new. I was quite elated when Hulu began offering these movies to watch. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Holy Conscious
4.0 out of 5 stars Groundbreaking
1950's observation of race relations, dating, and city life in general. Cassavetes already showed a rare gift for letting characters be more real life than standard movie heroes... Read more
Published 22 months ago by mr. critic
3.0 out of 5 stars John Cassavetes' first film. It is best to buy it with the Five...
In 1957, actor John Cassavetes who had appeared in a good number of Hollywood films had also ran a workshop for fellow thespians in New York City. Read more
Published on February 5, 2010 by Dennis A. Amith (kndy)
2.0 out of 5 stars Stone age independent cinema
They say Cassavettes opened the door for the independent film movement with Shadows, and that is probably why any importance is still attached to this film - that and the fact that... Read more
Published on October 6, 2009 by Green Manalishi
4.0 out of 5 stars A breakthrough in American cinema...
The remarkable, sometimes infuriating, often brilliant films of John Cassavetes occupy a unique position in American cinema... Read more
Published on January 12, 2007 by Roberto Frangie
5.0 out of 5 stars Behind-the-scenes for Cass buffs
For a fascinating behind-the-scenes info about Shadows and a list of books about Cassavetes' work, go to Ray Carney's website dedicated to John Cassavetes (found through any search... Read more
Published on January 25, 2005 by M. Reed
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