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Shadows and Fog

USA 1992
produced by
Robert Greenhut, Charles H. Joffe (executive), Jack Rollins (executive) for Orion
directed by Woody Allen
starring Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, John Malkovich, Madonna, David Ogden Stiers, Michael Kirby, Lily Tomlin, Jodie Foster, Kathy Bates, Anne Lange, John Cusack, Donald Pleasence, Kenneth Mars, Charles Cragin, Robert Joy, James Rebhorn, Victor Argo, Daniel von Bargen, Camille Saviola, Tim Loomis, Katy Dierlam, Dennis Vestunis, Andy Berman, Paul Anthony Stewart, Thomas L. Bolster, Fred Melamed, Greg Stebner, Peter Appel, John C.Reilly, Brian Smiar, Michael P.Troy, Remak Ramsay, Ron Turek, Philip Bosco, Peter McRobbie, Josef Sommer, Ira Wheeler, Eszter Balint, Rebecca Gibson, Kate Nelligan, Kurtwood Smith, Fred Gwynne, Robert Silver, William H.Macy, Tom Riis Farrell, Ron Weyand, Julie Kavner, Wallace Shawn, Richard Riehle, Max Robinson
written by Woody Allen, partly based on his play Death, cinematography by Carlo Di Palma

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Kleinman (Woody Allen), pretty much your typical nobody, is rudely woken up one night and pretty much forced to join the vigilantes who are tracking down a killer (Michael Kirby) who is roaming the streets of an anonymous city. But as quickly as he has joined the vigilantes, he has also lost them and sees himself forced to wander the streets on his own, looking for the vigilantes who are said to have this great plan of which he is a vital part - and of which he has not the least idea.

Eventually he visits the Doctor (Donald Pleasence), who might know what's going on, but only shortly afterwards the Doctor is found killed, and a glass covered in fingerprints is found with the corpse. Unfortunately, at the police station Kleinman recognizes the glass as the one he was using when he visited the Doctor, and thus he steals the glass ...

In an at first unrelated story, Irmy (Mia Farrow) sword swallower of a circus that camps nearby, falls out with her fiancé the Clown (John Malkovich) because he has become too friendly with the trapeze artiste (Madonna), and actually leaves the circus. And before you know it, she is offered abode in a brothel, just to spend the night though. But then a rich student (John Cusack) offers her an enormous sum of money just to spend an hour with him, and the money combined with his flattery convince her to give in to him - and wouldn't you know it, she really enjoys it ... but soon afterwards she is arrested in a raid because she has no permit to work as a prostitute, but ultimately she's let off with a fine.

At the police station, Kleinman and Irmy meet, and since neither of them has anything better to do they decide to wander the dark and foggy streets together - but evetnually they run into all sorts of problems when they learn that the vigilante group has been split up and each fraction tries to claim Kleinman. Then a mentalist is brought in who is said to be able to sniff out murderers ... and he soon sniffs out the Doctor's glass Kleinman is still carrying, and suddenly everybody seems to be believing he is the killer, and they want to lynch him on the spot - and Kleinman can only just escape his execution ...

Meanwhile Irmy meets up with the Clown, her fiancé again, they reconcile, find a baby in the arms of a dead woman and decide to take care of it together ...

Kleinman's escape takes him to the circus, where he is tracked down by the killer - but with the help of the circus's magician (Kenneth Mars) he can not only escape the killer but also put him in chains. To no avail though, the killer still escapes, but Kleinman, realizing that he is a wanted killer in his hometown, decides to become the magician's new assistant - a position that has become vacant only recently - and travel with the circus ...

Lily Tomlin, Jodie Foster, Anne Lange and Kathy Bates can all be seen as prostitutes.


Partly, this film is based on Death, a short play Woody Allen has written and released in the 1970's but never brought to the stage let alone screen. In itself, Death is actually a quite ingenious piece of work, a Kafka-esque comedy about your typical Woody Allen-nobody who has become part of a vigilante commitee against his will and now is forced to wander the dark streets of the city on his own which are the roaming grounds of a serial killer. And in the end, Kleinman becomes the killer's victim after having become the prime suspect first.

For Shadows and Fog though, allen seems to have lost all faith into his play and has added a totally irrelevant and rather cheesy subplot about Mia Farrow's Irmy and her fellow circus performers - which totally clashes with Death's Kafka-esque tone - and has given the whole thing a happy ending that makes little sense regarding the rest of the film, that started out so strong with scenes lifted directly from the play.

Stylistically, the film is a quite obvious hommage to horror films from the 1930's and 40's, and in a way, all the sets look very authentic and atmospheric - but unfortunately Allen tries to hard to stick to his source material so everything also looks a bit sterile - which is quite a shame considering the beautiful sets.

The film might not be a total loss, but it's certainly one of Woody Allen's weaker films and is full of missed opportunities. Pity !


review © by Mike Haberfelner


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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD