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