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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

Widescreen 1.85:1/16X9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 144 min.
Price: $24.98
Release Date: 10/23/2007

DVD One:
• Audio Commentary with Steadicam Inventor/Operator Garrett Brown and Historian John Baxter
• Trailer
DVD Two:
• “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


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: Special Edition (1980)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 26, 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 40-year 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. 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 A-/ Audio B+/ Bonus B+

The Shining appears in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Across the board, the transfer looked terrific.

Sharpness appeared consistently solid. No significant instances of softness materialized, as the movie almost always seemed crisp and well-defined. I noticed no jagged edges, moiré effects or edge enhancement, and source flaws remained very minor. Other than a speck or two, I detected no instances of print defects.

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. Ultimately, I was quite impressed with the transfer for The Shining.

Also strong was the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack for the film. 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.

How did the picture and audio of this 2007 edition compare to those of the 2001 version? I thought both presented identical 5.1 soundtracks, but the visuals differed. The 2007 version provided the first-ever presentation of Shining in its original theatrical aspect ratio; apparently at Kubrick’s request, the prior renditions were fullframe affairs. Some may view the new widescreen picture as a violation of Kubrick’s wishes, but I get the feeling his edict was really meant to reflect a period with smaller TVs and lesser resolution. I believe that if Kubrick now know how common large sets and hi-rez material has become, he’d be A-OK with the letterboxing.

Though the 2001 DVD looked very good, the 2007 remaster seemed just a little better. In addition to the theatrical aspect ratio, it boasted a bit tighter definition and clarity. It wasn’t a major improvement, but it seemed a smidgen stronger. (For comparisons to the original 1999 DVD, please consult the 2001 review.)

This two-DVD special edition of The Shining packs a mix of supplements. On DVD One, we find the film’s trailer as well as an audio commentary with 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.

Over on DVD Two, we open with a new documentary called View from the Overlook: Crafting The Shining. In this 30-minute and 15-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 DVDs, “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 and five-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 2001 release, 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 Making of 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.

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 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” 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 30 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 thought it lacked the flair and drama I expect from Kubrick. The DVD offers excellent picture as well as very good audio and extras.

Should fans who own the 2001 release of The Shining give this special edition a “double-dip”? Yes, I think so. It doesn’t necessarily improve the quality of the film’s picture, but it does give us the film in its correct aspect ratio for the first time. It also adds some good extras. This ends up as a fine DVD.

Note that this special edition of The Shining appears on its own or also as part of a six-feature set called “Warner Home Video Directors Series: Stanley Kubrick”. In addition to Shining, this package includes new special editions of Full Metal Jacket, 2001, A Clockwork Orange and Eyes Wide Shut. It also provides a documentary entitled Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures. This package retails for about $80, which makes it a good deal if you want all the movies.

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