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Warner Home Video presents
The Shining: Two-Disc Special Edition (1980)

"We're all going to have a real good time!"
- Wendy Torrance (Shelley Duvall)

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: November 20, 2007

Stars: Jack Nicholson
Other Stars: Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, Scatman Crothers, Barry Nelson, Joe Turkel, Philip Stone
Director: Stanley Kubrick

MPAA Rating: R for (strong language, violence, intense imagery)
Run Time: 02h:23m:37s
Release Date: October 23, 2007
UPC: 085391186144
Genre: horror


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

DVD Review

The Shining is so much more than just a great horror film, it's a pop culture landmark, rafter crammed with visuals and dialogue that has taken on a life of its own since its theatrical release in 1980. Falling between Barry Lyndon (1975) and Full Metal Jacket (1987), this is director Stanley Kubrick's masterful adaptation of Stephen King's novel about a man slowly driven mad, and simply based on all of the sub-par King-based movies out there you should get the idea that it's not as easy as it sounds. Kubrick liberally massaged the main themes of King's book—much to the author's vocal dismay at the time—dramatically downplaying the overt supernatural elements so prominent in the book, instead using them in the film as accents around which to build a more direct story of impending madness.

Struggling writer Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) carts off his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and young son Danny (Danny Lloyd) to the beautifully ominous and isolated Overlook Hotel, where Jack has taken a new gig as caretaker during the winter season while the resort is closed. For necessary creepiness, factor in that the previous caretaker may have gone mad and taken an axe to his family, or that young Danny has visions and a somewhat invisible friend who loves the phrase "redrum", or that the Overlook's cook (Scatman Crothers) confides that the boy has what's know as "the shining", which translates into an ability to see things that have happened, or perhaps will happen. Mix in a few not so friendly spirits (real or imagined), ghostly twins, old ladies in bathtubs and of course that iconic ax.

And then things start to really go horribly wrong for Jack.

One of the things that give The Shining its look was Kubrick's use of the new-at-the-time Steadicam camera, which allowed for a series of long tracking shots, twisting and snaking through hotel hallways or garden mazes. Thanks to this technological advancement, the spooky grandeur of the Overlook and its grounds becomes more like an actual character, one that we can see and almost touch as the human characters explore, exist or run for their lives. There is never a sense that we're looking at a series of sets meant to imply something larger, because Kubrick has already shown us the labyrinthian excess of the hotel, and it is impossible to not retain that sensation as the story unfolds.

All of the lead performances—especially Danny Lloyd, who became something of the poster child for the genre's requisite creepy kid—are intense, but it is Nicholson who owns this one free and clear, transforming before our eyes into an ax-swinging madman. It's a brilliant downward spiral, one that the actor reveals in slow, explosive spurts as Kubrick teases audiences with what is real and what's in Jack's fragmenting mind. Even oft-parodied moments such as the infamous ax-through-the-door-"here's Johnny" scene still are electric and frightening, as Nicholson's mad Jack makes mincemeat of a locked door in one of horror's genuine signature moments.

I'm probably in the minority, but I have always ranked The Shining as Kubrick's masterwork. Maybe not as experimentally innovative as 2001: A Space Odyssey or darkly sexual as Eyes Wide Shut, what's here is absolutely chilling. His visual approach on this film is full-on engaging, from the opening helicopter shot as we follow the Torrance's yellow Volkswagen through twisty mountain roads to the terror of the big snowy garden maze climax. Some horror films fail to hold up over time, but The Shining is an exception to that rule.

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

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: The words 'Kubrick' and 'aspect ratio' seem weirdly conjoined somehow, and there has been much chatter over what the late director wanted, especially in the days before the prominence of widescreen televisions readily available in our homes. This new release is a step in the right direction, providing a digitally remastered 1.78:1 matted widescreen transfer, enhanced for 16x9 sets (a first for any releases of The Shining so far). But that fact isn't without some squabble amongst purists, because the film was shown theatrically in the U.S. at 1.85:1 and 1.66 in Europe. Only you know where you stand on this issue.

All of that aside, this new transfer carries far brighter colors, and the print is quite clean, with only a bit of Kubrick's purposeful grain. Edge details are well-defined, more so than the familiar softness on previous incarnations, and sharpness is also enhanced, which like the aspect ratio question can either be a good thing or a bad thing.

Not flawless, but very nice.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
English, French, Spanishyes


Audio Transfer Review: This appears to be the same Dolby Digital 5.1 surround track found on earlier versions. And as with the image transfer, the multi-channel expansion of Kubrick's original "mono vision" will likely split diehard Kubrickians. The good in all of this is that it's not an overblown mix, instead forcing out all of the grand sweeping and creepy moments of the Wendy Carlos score as a much louder, and more full force. Dialogue is largely center-driven, and is presented cleanly and without distortion.

The absence of the film's original 2.0 stereo track is a minor complaint. French and Spanish 5.1 dubs are also included.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

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)
3 Documentaries
1 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Garret Brown, John Baxter
Packaging: Gladiator style 2-pack
Picture Disc
2 Discs
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: Disc one carries a new commentary track from Steadicam inventor/operator Garrett Brown and historian/Kubrick author John Baxter. Considering how key the Steadicam was to the visual impact of The Shining, Brown's technical recollections serve an important role here, and with Baxter's input the pair deliver a largely technical analysis of Kubrick, his detailed style and the intent of what was to be done with The Shining. The level of information is not what I'd call breezy by any means, but for serious students of Kubrick this is an essential listen on the mechanics of filmmaking. Also on disc one is the film's original theatrical trailer.

The remaining supplemental material is found on disc two, in the form of four separate documentaries, three of which are brand new. View From The Overlook: Crafting The Shining (30m:20as) is the longest of the new segments, and features reflections from a number of Kubrick historians, as well as input from the likes of Jack Nicholson, William Friedkin and Jan Harlan. Kubrick's strive for authenticity gets proper treatment, as does his adjustments of Stephen King's original novel. Nicholson uncorks a great story about Kubrick's search for the perfect hotel room, elaborating on how the director didn't feel the need to reinvent what had already likely been done; it was only a matter of finding it.

The Visions Of Stanley Kubrick (17m:16s) appears to be broken off from the same mold as View From The Overlook, with many of the same participants (and some new ones, like Steven Spielberg), only this time the focus is more cumulative. Or at least in terms of how what came before The Shining ultimately helped form what the film would become.

The shortest—but equally fascinating—is Wendy Carlos, Composer (07m:30s), in which we learn of the composer's "funny ambivalence" about her work with Kubrick; she is almost like a music teacher here, gently explaining the nuances of just what to listen for, and how it all was to fit with Kubrick's vision. She even serves up an impromptu demonstration of circular controller, the unique instrument that delivers the eerie chill that this wonderful score delivers.

Ported over from previous versions is The Making Of The Shining (34m:59s), available with optional Vivian Kubrick commentary. This was originally shot during the film's production on 16mm by a teenaged Vivian, and there is a tempered giddiness that comes from having been filmed by a young girl. Her presence with a camera shows a less structured, more intimate look at the film's production.

Extras Grade: A+

 

Final Comments

There really isn't anything remotely untoward to say about one of the greatest American horror films of all time. It's still scary as hell, visually striking on a number of levels and full of the type of stylized madness that reveals a director firmly on his game. The transfer is anamorphic (you decide whether that's good or bad), the extras are informative and most importantly, the film itself is just about as good as it gets.

Great party, isn't it? Highly recommended.

 


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