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Warner Home Video presents
The Shining HD-DVD (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: Mark Zimmer   
Published: November 15, 2007

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

MPAA Rating: R for (strong language, nudity, violence, gore, intense imagery)
Run Time: 02h:23m:27s
Release Date: October 23, 2007
UPC: 012569818323
Genre: horror


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A+ A-B-A- A

DVD Review

The DVD Review is by Daniel Hirshleifer.

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

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The nice thing about this updated version is that we finally get The Shining in its original theatrical ratio; although Kubrick expressed a preference for this and other of his later films to be released on video in open matte full frame, he died before widescreen televisions became widespread. With widescreen HDTVs now fairly common, one would hope that he would approve of the picture returning to its proper shape. The framing is well done and on the whole it's a more satisfactory viewing experience. Color is eye-popping at times, with reds in particular being gratifyingly saturated.

On the down side, The Shining is supposed to be a grainy film, and digital noise reduction has eliminated most of that grain. This makes the detail fairly well obliterated, though the soft filming and diffused light techniques used by Kubrick mean that there wasn't all that much fine detail to begin with. To compensate, there's a fair amount of edge enhancement, which leaves the picture unpleasant on a larger screen. Textures are reasonably good. The main advantage over the standard DVD is the much better colorspace.

Image Transfer Grade: B-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
+
English, French, Spanishyes


Audio Transfer Review: DD+ 5.1 and TrueHD tracks are supplied, and they're both outstanding. The ominous synth score provided by Wendy Carlos has excellent presence and is frequently blood-curdling. Dialogue is pretty center-oriented, consistent with Kubrick's original mono mix of the picture (which is not included). The TrueHD audio, as usual, has a better sense of depth to it, but they're both clean and crisp.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu
Scene Access with 40 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
3 Documentaries
1 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by steadicam operator/inventor Garrett Brown and historian John Baxter
Packaging: Elite
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: A wealth of informative material is included here, which is welcome, though it's all in standard definition rather than HD. A commentary is provided by Garrett Brown, who invented the steadicam and was hired to use it on nearly the entire shoot, and thus was behind some of the most memorable shots in the picture. He's joined by John Baxter, who gives background and interpretation. They make a solid tag team without many gaps of any significant duration, though Baxter tends to lapse into narration on occasion.

Vivian Kubrick's documentary shot as a 17-year-old, The Making of The Shining (34m:57s) is ported over from the prior DVD, along with her chatty commentary. It's still excellent and an amazing peek into Kubrick's directorial (and dictatorial) approach, reducing Duvall to tears repeatedly. It's accompanied by a modern making-of, View from the Overlook: Crafting The Shining (30m:20s), which focuses on the construction of sets, use of the steadicam, and the process of adapting King's novel, and Kubrick's ambivalence about the supernatural elements. The Vision of Stanley Kubrick (17m:16s) is a fairly fluffy tribute to Kubrick's visual techniques, though it certainly has an admirable array of clips. Wendy Carlos, Composer (7m:31s) is a too-short interview that includes some snippets of unused score materials from this and A Clockwork Orange. Finally, there's the memorable theatrical trailer. An excellent package for an excellent 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. The HD transfer is a little disappointing, but the extras are sensational.

 


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