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Warner Bros. Home Video presents
The Shining (1980)

"Hello, Danny. Come and play with us. Come and play with us. Forever. And ever. And ever."
- The Grady Daughters (Lisa and Louise Burns)

Review By: Daniel Hirshleifer  
Published: October 26, 2001

Stars: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall
Other Stars: Scatman Crothers, Danny Lloyd
Director: Stanley Kubrick

Manufacturer: wamo
MPAA Rating: R for (strong language, violence, intense imagery)
Run Time: 02h:23m:37s
Release Date: June 12, 2001
UPC: 085392115624
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

As far as horror movies go, things don't get much better than The Shining. With a chilling atmosphere, intricate camera movements (made possible by the then-new steadicam technology), and forceful acting, The Shining is the one Stephen King adaptation that manages to beat the mother of them all, Carrie. Perhaps the key to The Shining (and something that King bitterly complained about after the film's release) is that Kubrick used the book as a jumping-off point, a way to tell the story he wanted to tell. The result is one of the finest films in the horror genre.

Jack Torrance is a frustrated writer who agrees to take the position of caretaker at the Overlook Hotel and ski lodge while they close for the harsh winter season. The manager warns Jack that, some years back, a previous caretaker, Dilbert Grady, went crazy and chopped up his family with an axe. Seemingly unconcerned by this horror story, Jack brings in his wife, Wendy (Shelly Duvall), and son, Danny (Danny Lloyd). Before they leave, however, Danny gets horrifying visions. We learn that at one point Jack was an alcoholic, and hurt Danny. Once at the Overlook, Danny meets the head cook, Dick Halloran (Scatman Crothers), who tells Danny that he has a special power, called "the shining." This is the ability to see things that have happened, that will happen, and have other ESP-type experiences. Soon, only Jack and his family are staying at the hotel. At first everything seems fine, but then Danny starts getting visions (in which the mysterious word "redrum" plays an important role), Jack starts lashing out at Wendy, and things seem to get worse and worse. Danny's increasing visions and Jack's increasing madness seem to run on parallel courses, until one or the other explodes.

As always seems to be the case in a Kubrick film, the director is the true star of The Shining. From the opening shots, the atmosphere is such that the audience feels ill at ease, although they can't tell why in the early scenes. The layers of white snow outside the hotel belie the horror unfolding within. And within the hotel itself, Kubrick uses steadicams to snake through corridors, making us feel like the characters are trapped in a complex labyrinth (which they later are, during the scenes in the garden maze). Kubrick just does an amazing job of making us feel isolated from the outside world for a little over two hours, and highlighting the isolation between the characters.

Perhaps Jack Nicholson did manage to outdo even Kubrick with his performance; here, he embodies "over the top," and some people would criticize him for that, but I think it makes it all the more exciting. Nicholson pours everything he's got into the role of Jack Torrance, to the point where the audience is not scared by any supernatural happenings, but by Nicholson alone. Also, take a look at the scene where Jack is talking to Lloyd the bartender, before we see Lloyd. An underrated bit of acting there, I believe, along with some great moments of misleading the audience through psychological closure. After Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet (and perhaps Robert Mitchum in Cape Fear), Jack Nicholson's performance in The Shining is the archetypical example of homicidal madness.

Shelly Duvall is at a disadvantage, as her role requires more reacting than acting. Her best moments come at the beginning, when she has to balance her feelings of hopefulness that this sojourn at the hotel will be just what Jack needs in his life, with her feelings of helplessness and despair over what is happening to Danny. Wendy isn't really written as a deep character and yet, for all the lack of depth, Shelly Duvall still manages to come across as sympathetic, and we feel for her instead of just pitying her.

In the end, I think that Kubrick did away with most of the supernatural occurrences in the book because he really wanted to make a film that is a study in madness, and not a horror film. The supernatural aspects of the film are there as catalysts, to egg Jack on and bring his psychosis to the forefront. By taking out most of the other-worldly factors, Kubrick raises the question as to whether Jack really is insane, or if there is some external force acting on him (unlike in King's novel, where it's obvious that evil spirits are at work); it also raises the stakes for those scenes that do remain. Less is more, and when we do see the most overt "horror" sequences, the result is that they are much more terrifying.

Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Rationo

Image Transfer Review: You've got to hand it to Warner Bros., while they did screw up on the first Kubrick box set; they really got it right the second time around. This transfer is stunning, spotless, and pristine. The details are amazing; even in the exterior shots, which are mostly snow, you can still make out forms and objects with a high degree of precision. And talk about faithful reproduction of the color palette:this movie has got it. While the whole movie is dark, we do get rich colors, including the bluish tint of the garden maze finale. There's some grain, but this is a latter-day Kubrick movie, so it was meant to be there.

Image Transfer Grade: A


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
English, Frenchyes

Audio Transfer Review: As with all the Kubrick discs, the 5.1 mix really only extends to the music (a few sound effects do manage to make their way back to the rears). As with the others, the greatest asset of this new mix seems to be the sense of space that was always sorely lacking in the mono mixes. Of course, the fidelity of every stem has been improved, and so none of the dialogue, music, or effects sound dated.

Audio Transfer Grade: A


Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 40 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Documentaries
Packaging: Snapper
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Commentary on The Making Of The Shining by director Vivian Kubrick
Extras Review: Unlike most of the Kubrick collection discs, The Shining comes with an extra. And what an extra it is. It's the 35-minute documentary, The Making of the Shining, documented by Kubrick's daughter Vivian. This is a great piece, with lots of interviews (conducted by Leon Vitali), behind-the-scenes footage, people goofing around, scenes being shot, and even James Mason visiting the set. The Making of the Shining was also remixed into 5.1, but it's only used for the score. Another neat feature is that Vivian Kubrick has deigned to do a commentary for her documentary. While the idea of a making-of of a making-of might not sound good, the commentary is actually great. Vivian talks about her feelings on Jack Nicholson, Shelly Duvall, and her father, of course. She also talks about some of the things she couldn't get on film (like one of the sets burning down!), and she talks about tons of other footage that she filmed but is now lost. The commentary is as interesting as the original documentary. We also get a theatrical trailer, which I believe is the best trailer in the history of film.

Extras Grade: A


Final Comments

The Shining has scared countless people all over the world, and for a good reason. Kubrick's direction builds tension to a breaking point, where the audience believes anything could happen. Jack Nicholson gives an unforgettable performance that defines scary. For all the books Stephen King has written, only a handful of them have actually made good films, and The Shining stands head and shoulders above the competition.


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