Sorry, this item is not available in
Image not available for
Image not available

To view this video download Flash Player

Have one to sell? Sell yours here

Shadows (1959)

Jack Ackerman , Tom Allen , John Cassavetes  |  PG |  DVD
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)

Available from these sellers.

Watch Instantly with Rent Buy
Shadows   $2.99 $14.99

Other Formats & Versions

Amazon Price New from Used from
Blu-ray 2-Disc Version $31.49  
DVD 1-Disc Version $20.25  
  1-Disc Version --  

Frequently Bought Together

Shadows + Naked City - Criterion Collection
Buy the selected items together

Product Details

  • Actors: Jack Ackerman, Tom Allen, Cliff Carnell, Ben Carruthers, Jay Crecco
  • Directors: John Cassavetes
  • Format: Black & White, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 1.0)
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: Geneon [Pioneer]
  • DVD Release Date: March 24, 1998
  • Run Time: 87 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 6304864248
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #506,577 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Shadows" on IMDb

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

Cassavetes' first independent feature depicts the struggle of three African-American siblings to survive in the mean streets of Manhattan. Hugh, a would-be jazz musician, looks after younger siblings Ben and Leila, who are light-skinned enough to pass for white. This seems to give them an advantage and more opportunities while Hugh must struggle by playing the trumpet in dive bars and strip joints. Shadows was made from a script entirely improvised by the cast, and heralded a vital new era in independent filmmaking. Starring: Hugh Hurd, Leila Goldoni, Ben Carruthers.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
10 of 11 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.
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
8 of 9 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.
Read more ›
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
15 of 19 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.
Read more ›
Was this review helpful to you?
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cassavetes' debut film February 27, 2000
"Shadows" possesses a special place for many would-be film historians as the film that launched "independent film". If nothing else, it launched one of the most chronically misunderstood -- but utterly essential -- series of American film. Lots of small things happen in "Shadows" despite its short running length: this is due in part to the fact that the film combines half its material from an earlier film of "improvisation" with a collection of more scripted scenes shot two years later with the same cast. What's stunning about the completed film is how GORGEOUSLY it presents human behavior in all its fascinating, modern messiness. Cassavetes was perhaps the first filmmaker to deliberately -- and successfully -- attempt the feat, which he subsequently honed as a skill in his future masterpieces.
Like the others in this Pioneer series, the DVD is merely adequate: it presents the picture and sound. As in the others, Ray Carney provides a short analytic essay in the insert that is useful to anyone not already familiar with Cassavetes' art. We're lucky to have this film available in any form. Highly recommended.
[Incidentally, whatever other Amazon reviewer it was that thinks they found a racist agenda to this film completely missed the boat. However, racism is faced by the characters and plays an overt role in the narrative, and significantly, comprises much of the oldest material in the film. The original project was for an unrealized film ABOUT racism; the material added later was not, and the complexities of the resulting combination make the film what it is.]
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Try Improv for a Change
This was the first film I saw which was directed by Mr. Cassavetes. The group of improvisation actors were wonderful. Read more
Published 2 months ago by D. H. Vallance
2.0 out of 5 stars hard to like
A movie made as more of an experiment or OJT session for Cassavetes than as a film for actual release. Became a favorite of European and college cognoscenti in the 60's. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Grisha
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 7 months 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 12 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 17 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 23 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 on October 14, 2012 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 on June 19, 2012 by mr. contrarian
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
Search Customer Reviews
Search these reviews only


There are no discussions about this product yet.
Be the first to discuss this product with the community.
Start a new discussion
First post:
Prompts for sign-in

Look for Similar Items by Category