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Stanley Kubrick
Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, Scatman Crothers, Barry Nelson, Philip Stone
Writing Credits:
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.

Box Office:
$22 million.
Opening Weekend
$622.337 thousand on 10 screens.
Domestic Gross
$44.017 million.

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English PCM 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 144 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 10/23/2007

• Audio Commentary with Steadicam Inventor/Operator Garrett Brown and Historian John Baxter
• “View from the Overlook: Crafting The Shining” Featurette
• “The Visions of Stanley Kubrick” Featurette
• “The Making of The Shining” Documentary with Optional Commentary
• “Wendy Carlos, Composer” Featurette
• Trailer


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


The Shining [Blu-Ray] (1980)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 11, 2015)

Because of my age, only six of Stanley Kubrick’s films came out over the course of my life. In “real world” terms, though, half of those 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 in 1980. I even considered it to be my all-time favorite film for a good five or six months. Hey, things change fast when you’re 13!

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 established a reputation as one of the all-time great horror flicks, but I can’t agree with that opinion. Throughout its nearly two and a half hours, Kubrick manages to pack in enough thrills and suspense to keep me interested, but he also falters pretty badly along the way.

Essentially, I find that the second half of the movie works better than the first. That's largely because I feel Kubrick strains too hard during the movie's first hour or so. He frequently works to make many early scenes seem creepy or scary although it’s too soon for such suspense. We should see Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) slowly descend into madness, but even when he’s supposed to seem normal he appears nuts.

Some would fault Nicholson's portrayal for this, but I think the responsibility lies 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 expands into other realms as well. Kubrick usually displays an adept touch when he integrates music into his films, but he really uses a heavy hand here. Far too often during the first half of the film, we hear musical cues that prime us to expect what is about to happen. This seems completely unnecessary and it really detracts from the suspense. The music so strongly tells us "something's wrong" that we gain no opportunity to learn it for ourselves.

Essentially, the faults of The Shining stem from the same factor 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 expect more from Kubrick and he does not really live up to that billing here.

The second half of The Shining seems much more effective, though. This isn’t because Kubrick dies anything spectacular; really, he just echoes what he achieved in the first half.

However, material that originally appears overdone starts to work because it now feels more appropriate. During the film’s second half, events take a sufficiently negative turn so that the chills and thrills make more sense.

As I often see in Kubrick films, much of the acting seems somewhat wooden and stiff. I think Stanley might have directed actors that way so that when something unusual happens their reactions seem even more pronounced. (That's just my theory, of course.)

Nicholson offers his typically solid self, though really only when he seems 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 seems creepy, even when he’s just chitchatting in a job interview. While the role may have benefited from an actor who could provide more range, Nicholson still works well for most of the film and he probably makes it more interesting than it otherwise would be.

Shelley Duvall's work as wife Wendy feels acceptable but unspectacular - she just needs to look mousy and to scream a lot - but little Danny Lloyd provides a nice turn as son Danny. Like Jack, he has some trouble with the "normal" parts of the role, and he displays a terrible "yikes!" expression when forced to look scared, but he seems wonderful when he has to play creepy scenes. It remains pretty spooky stuff to watch that little guy pace around the room muttering "redrum!"

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 think it simply tries too hard to provoke emotions that should flow effortlessly, and it remains one of Kubrick’s less exciting affairs.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio B+/ Bonus B+

The Shining appears in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Released during Blu-ray’s early period, the disc didn’t dazzle but it held up pretty well.

Sharpness was mostly positive. I saw light softness, and those instances were exacerbated by some mild edge haloes. Still, the majority of the movie exhibited appropriate delineation. I noticed no jagged edges or moiré effects, and digital noise reduction didn’t appear to mar the presentation. Print flaws also became a non-factor.

Colors seemed accurate and solid within the film’s design parameters. 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.

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. Only the edge haloes kept this transfer from greatness.

Remixed from the original monaural track, the movie’s PCM 5.1 audio worked well, though 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 plane landing 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.

The score was fairly 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.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the 2007 Special Edition DVD? Audio showed a bit more range and warmth, while visuals offered greater accuracy and vivacity. This was an upgrade over the DVD.

The Blu-ray repeats the SE DVD’s extras. Along with the film’s trailer, we find an audio commentary from Steadicam inventor/operator Garrett Brown and historian John Baxter. Both recorded separate running, screen-specific discussion edited together into one piece.

Brown mostly looks at production elements. He tells us a lot about the camerawork, of course, but he also digs into sets, locations, cast, working with Kubrick, and other aspects of the shoot. Baxter fleshes out some of the same topics as well as more Kubrick-related notes and some interpretation of the effort.

Both sides work fine, but Brown’s comments offer the most insight. He gives us a fine feel for what it was like to work on the production as he presents details from the set. Overall, the two men combine to create a useful and informative chat.

After this we find a documentary called View from the Overlook: Crafting The Shining. In this 30-minute, 22-second program, we hear from Baxter, Brown, Stanley Kubrick: The Complete Films author Paul Duncan, screenwriter Diane Johnson, executive producer Jan Harlan, production designer Roy Walker, The Complete Kubrick author David Hughes, costume designer Milena Canonero, makeup artist Barbara Daly, actor Jack Nicholson, former Warner Bros. executive John Calley, Movies Grow Up 1940-1980 author Charles Champlin, and filmmakers Sydney Pollack, William Friedkin, Ernest Dickerson, Caleb Deschanel, Hugh Hudson and Steven Spielberg. The show looks at how Kubrick came to the project and the adaptation of the novel, locations, set design, and camerawork, costumes, Kubrick’s work with the actors, and reactions to the film.

As with the programs of this sort for the other new Kubrick releases, “Crafting” isn’t a great examination of the movie’s creation, but it works fairly well. It goes through enough basics to satisfy and shed some light on the flick. There’s still a little too much generic praise, but the show usually satisfies.

Next comes The Visions of Stanley Kubrick. The 17-minute, 17-second piece features Nicholson, Pollack, Spielberg, Deschanel, Baxter, Walker, Brown, Duncan, Friedkin, Calley, Dickerson, Daly, Hudson, Canonero, Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange author Stuart McDougal, and filmmakers George Lucas and Janusz Kaminski.

As implied by the title, this one looks at the visual style of Shining. It also discusses similar aspects of other Kubrick works. The show extends the themes of “Crafting”, as it throws out a bit too much praise but includes enough depth to succeed.

Also found on the DVD from 2001, we get a fine 34-minute. 59-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 Making of The Shining, a 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.

On the other hand, 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 comes from 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 disc 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” can be viewed with or without 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. I really enjoyed Vivian’s short discussion of her experiences during The Shining.

Finally, we get a featurette called Wendy Carlos, Composer. It fills seven minutes and 31 seconds with comments from Carlos. She tells us a little about her work and lets us hear some outtakes from Clockwork Orange. It’s a decent little piece.

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 think it lacks the flair and drama I expect from Kubrick. The Blu-ray brings us good picture, audio and bonus materials. While I don’t feel enthusiastic about the movie, this becomes a pretty positive release.

To rate this film visit the New Stanley Kubrick Collection review of THE SHINING

Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main