Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, Scatman Crothers, Barry Nelson, Philip Stone
Stephen King (novel), Stanley Kubrick, Diane Johnson
A Masterpiece Of Modern Horror.
Think of the greatest terror imaginable. Is it a monstrous alien? A lethal epidemic? Or, as in this harrowing masterpiece from Stanley Kubrick, is it fear of murder by someone who should love and protect you - a member of your own family?
From a script he co-adapted from the Stephen King novel, Kubrick melds vivid performances, menacing setting, dreamlike tracking shots and shock after shock into a milestone of the macabre. In a signature role, Jack Nicholson plays Jack Torrance, who's come to the elegant, isolated Overlook Hotel as off-season caretaker with his wife and son. Torrance has never been there before - or has he? The answer lies in a ghostly time warp of madness and murder.
$622.337 thousand on 10 screens.
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Surround 2.0
Runtime: 142 min.
Release Date: 6/12/2001
• “The Making of The Shining” Documentary with Optional Commentary
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Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.
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The Shining: New Stanley Kubrick Collection (1980)
Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 16, 2007)
It's odd to think that of the 17 films Stanley Kubrick directed during his almost 50 year career, only six came out over the course of my currently 40 year life. In real world terms, though, half of those really predated me. I wasn't yet a year old when 2001: A Space Odyssey hit the screens, and A Clockwork Orange and Barry Lyndon weren't regarded as prime fare for a child the ages of four and eight, respectively.
As such, the first Kubrick offering that I saw theatrically was 1980's The Shining. Of the three Kubrick flicks I saw on the big screen, The Shining was also the only one that I actually liked. Neither Full Metal Jacket nor Eyes Wide Shut did much for me, but I really got into The Shining. I even considered it to be my all-time favorite film for a good five or six months. Hey, things change fast at that age!
That was a long time ago, however, and I was unsure how well The Shining would hold up over the years. In the interim, it’s established a reputation as one of the all-time great horror flicks, but I can’t agree with that opinion. I think that The Shining was a pretty good but unspectacular horror piece. Throughout its nearly two and a half hours, Kubrick managed to pack in enough thrills and suspense to keep me interested, but he also faltered pretty badly along the way.
Essentially, I found that the second half of the movie worked better than the first. That's largely because I felt Kubrick strained too hard during the movie's first hour or so. He frequently worked to make many early scenes seem creepy or scary although it was too soon for such suspense. We should have seen Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) slowly descend into madness, but even when he was supposed to seem normal he appeared nuts.
Some would fault Nicholson's portrayal for this, but I think the responsibility lied firmly in the hands of Kubrick. He was apparently a very active director, and I don't think he would have stuck with the "wacko Jack" images if they weren't what he wanted. Given his reputation for filming eight bazillion takes of every scene, I'm sure Kubrick could have gotten some that were subtler than this.
This overly pushy quality of the film expanded into other realms as well. Kubrick usually displayed an adept touch when he integrated music into his films, but he really used a heavy hand here. Far too often during the first half of the film I heard musical cues that primed me to expect what was about to happen. This was completely unnecessary and it really detracted from the suspense. The music so strongly told me "something's wrong" that I gained no opportunity to learn it for myself.
Essentially, the faults of The Shining were caused by the same factor as those found in Kubrick's final two films: a lack of subtlety. This was a director whose best films offered themselves up for multiple interpretations. They lacked any kind of viewpoint that was directly forced upon the viewer; in essence, Kubrick presented the material and let the audience decide what to do with it.
In his last three films, however, he laid things on too thickly and seemed to work harder to more directly manipulate the viewer. That fault is least problematic in The Shining if just because horror films are supposed to be manipulative; half the pleasure comes from the cheap thrills they provide. Still, I expected more from Kubrick and he did not really live up to that billing here.
The second half of The Shining was much more effective. This was not because Kubrick did anything spectacular; really, he just echoed what he achieved in the first half. However, material that originally appeared overdone started to work because it now appeared more appropriate. During the film’s second half, events took a sufficiently negative turn so that the chills and thrills made more sense.
As I often saw in Kubrick films, much of the acting seemed somewhat wooden and stiff. I think he might have directed actors that way so that when something unusual happened their reactions seem even more pronounced. (That's just my theory, of course.) Nicholson was his typically solid self, though really only when he was psychologically "elsewhere". Actually, I think Nicholson was miscast in the role because I feel we should see more of a difference between "normal" Jack and "axe murderer" Jack; he always seemed creepy, even when he was just chitchatting in a job interview. While the role may have benefited from an actor who could provide more of a range, Nicholson still worked well for most of the film and he probably made it more interesting than it otherwise would have been.
Shelley Duvall's work as wife Wendy was acceptable but unspectacular - she just needed to look mousy and to scream a lot - but little Danny Lloyd provided a very nice turn as son Danny. Like Jack, he had some trouble with the "normal" parts of the role, and he displayed a terrible "Yikes!" expression when forced to look scared, but he was wonderful when he had to play creepy scenes. It remains pretty spooky stuff to watch that little guy pace around the room muttering "Redrum!" (Guilty pleasure: whenever I pass a Rack Room Shoes outlet, I can't help but start to yell "Rack Room!" in a coarse, high-pitched tone. Try it - you'll like it!)
All in all, I view The Shining as a good but not exceptional film. It's best that it ends strongly; the flick would be a much bigger disappointment if the first half was strong but the second half sagged. However, I thought it simply tried too hard to provoke emotions that should have flowed effortlessly, and it remains one of Kubrick’s less exciting affairs.
Trivia note: The Shining was the first movie in 18 years for which Kubrick did not receive a Best Director Oscar nomination. He’d gotten a nod for each flick since 1964’s Dr. Strangelove. His prior effort, 1962’s Lolita, was the last for which he wasn’t nominated. Of the movies in between Lolita and The Shining, all but one were also nominated for Best Picture. The exception? 1968’s 2001; Kubrick was up for the Best Director award, but the film itself wasn’t in the running for BP.
Kubrick won only one Oscar during his career; 2001 took home a trophy for “Best Effects, Special Visual Effects”. While I don’t take pleasure in slagging the Academy, I must admit it’s pathetic that between Kubrick and Alfred Hitchcock, that Oscar for 2001’s effects marks the only victory either had for work on a film. Hitchcock’s sole trophy came in 1968 when he got the Thalberg Memorial award. I guess that’s better than nothing, and at least one of Hitch’s flicks - 1940’s Rebecca - won for Best Picture, but it still seems lame that neither man received any true honors.
The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B+/ Bonus B-
The Shining appears in a fullscreen aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Much stink has been made over the fact that The Shining was not presented in the letterboxed format. Apparently this was because Kubrick preferred it that way.
From what I've read, the film was shot full-frame and then matted for the 1.85:1 ratio of the theatrical release, so no information has been lost on the sides, and additional material is visible on the top and bottom. Personally, I prefer that all films - even those shot this way - be letterboxed to preserve the original ratio; I feel that to add material that wasn't there on the screen distorts the movie in a way. Still, this kind of presentation wasn't terribly bothersome to me, at least not in this case.
I regard the fullscreen aspect ratio as an especially minor concern when the product looked this good. Of the 1999 Kubrick releases, I thought the original Shining vied with the old A Clockwork Orange for the title of “ugliest transfer”. The 2001 Clockwork offered a strong improvement, and this updated Shining even topped that picture; overall, I felt this was a very goodimage.
Sharpness appeared consistently solid. Only minor signs of softness cropped up throughout the movie, as the majority of the film looked nicely crisp and well-defined. A few small examples of moiré effects could be seen through some clothes such as checked jackets and dresses, but these were very infrequent, and I saw no indications of jagged edges. Edge enhancement appeared at times but remained modest.
Unlike the old disc, print flaws provided virtually no concerns during The Shining. While the original presented a slew of scratches, spots and other defects, the new one seemed to be free of problems. I witnessed no signs of grit, grain, speckles or other distracting flaws; this was a wonderfully clean and fresh picture.
Colors generally seemed accurate and solid. The Shining favored a rather brownish tone, so most of the hues appeared to be fairly subdued. However, I thought they were fairly clear and distinct, and I saw no bleeding, noise or other concerns related to them. At times, I felt skin tones were a little pink, but otherwise the colors looked solid and clean. Black levels were similarly fine, as they appeared deep and rich throughout the movie. Shadow detail was appropriately heavy but not excessively thick, something that was no mean feat in this dark film; it contained many dimly-lit scenes, and these looked quite smooth and visible. Ultimately, I was quite impressed with the transfer for The Shining.
Also strong was the new Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack for the film. As was the case for many of the other films in the 2001 Kubrick collection, The Shining was remixed from the original monaural track, and the results were quite positive. The soundfield itself largely remained true to its single-channel origins. Much of the audio stayed anchored to the center speaker, but the mix expanded to the sides during a number of occasions. The sides and surrounds offered solid ambient sounds, and the score spread very nicely to all five channels. It was that additional breadth that added the most to the track, as the creepy aspects of the music became even more effective when they cropped up from all around me. Some effects also came from the rear, with heartbeat sounds and a landing plane being the most significant examples.
Audio quality generally seemed fine. Speech appeared a little flat and dated at times, but for the most part I felt dialogue appeared to be fairly natural and distinct, with no problems related to edginess or intelligibility. Effects were similarly clear and reasonably accurate. They provided decent depth when appropriate, as the jet noises and the beating heart both featured positive low-end response.
During the other remixed Kubrick soundtracks, music displayed the most significant improvements from the old mono mixes, and the same was true for The Shining. The score seemed nicely robust and lively, as the eerie music came across as bright and clear. Bass response appeared pretty deep and rich, and the dynamic range as a whole was very fine. Some parts of the music showed modest hiss at times, but otherwise, I thought this was a well-reproduced and engaging soundtrack.
Although the other Kubrick DVDs offer virtually no supplements, we find some nice pieces on The Shining. In addition to the movie’s theatrical trailer, we get a fine 34-minute and 55-second documentary made by his Kubrick’s daughter Vivian. She had her own camera and shot lots of material on the set, and the result was The Shining, a terrifically compelling little program.
Even if Kubrick weren’t such a private man, this glimpse behind the scenes would still be fascinating. Since we’ve seen so little of his working style and life, the show takes on added significance. However, the emphasis wasn’t really on Kubrick, as Vivian spends more time with the actors than with dear old Dad. Nicholson comes across exactly as you’d imagine; he’s just as charming, funny and wicked as one might expect him to be. Duvall had a terrible time during the shoot, and it shows; she seems like a neurotic fussbudget in her scenes. Frankly, that might not really be fair to Duvall as a whole, especially since she had a tough role; many of her segments required her to be hysterical, and when that’s combined with Kubrick’s rough treatment of her, it’s no wonder she became such a mess.
While the program provides some solid interview clips - it’s especially fascinating to hear Jack talk about his craft - its real claim to fame is the excellent shots from the set. We see a little of Kubrick as he works with the actors, including the infamous bit during which he strongly berates Duvall. We also watch Nicholson as he psychs himself up for the famous door-chopping sequence. Overall, this documentary is so good that it’s almost worth the price of the DVD on its own. My only complaint about it is that it’s not longer; I’d love to see an extended version of this wonderful piece.
“The Making of The Shining” also appeared on the original 1999 DVD, but WB have improved it for the new release. Now it provides an audio commentary from Vivian Kubrick. She presents a very chatty and charming personality as she adds a lot of fun information about the film. At times she seems to be unsure of what to say, but those moments quickly pass and she usually has something interesting and compelling to state. It’s too bad WB didn’t amass a group of folks who were involved with the film to create a commentary for the movie as a whole. Nonetheless, I really enjoyed Vivian’s short discussion of her experiences during The Shining.
Despite some nostalgic fondness for The Shining, it currently does not stand as one of my favorite Kubrick films. The movie has its moments and can generate the appropriate scares at times, but overall, I thought it lacked the flair and drama I expect from Kubrick. The DVD is a positive affair, however. It provides strong picture and sound plus a fascinating documentary. Kubrick fans will be delighted with this disc, and those who are less enamored of his work should still give it a look; even if you don’t enjoy the movie, the documentary is so interesting that it’ll compensate.
Note: this new version of The Shining can be purchased on its own or as part of a nine-DVD set called the “Stanley Kubrick Collection”. In addition to The Shining, this package includes newly-remastered DVDs of Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learning to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, Barry Lyndon, Lolita, and Full Metal Jacket plus a repackaged issue of Eyes Wide Shut and a recent documentary called Stanley Kubrick: A Life In Pictures. All of the movies are available separately, but the documentary appears only in the boxed set. List price for the package is $199.92, which almost matches the $199.84 the DVDs would cost separately. If you want all of the films, the “Kubrick Collection” is a great deal; fans should be more than happy to pay eight cents for the documentary disc.
Viewer Film Ratings: 4.3571 Stars
| Number of Votes: 42