Warner Bros. // 1980 // 144 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Chief Justice Sean McGinnis (Retired) // June 28th, 1999
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy...
Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece of horror has finally arrived. Too bad Warner didn't do a thing to clean up the Kubrick's masterful imagery.
Stanley Kubrick was a filmmaking gem of a director. I have come to appreciate his work even more in the past year and a half. The man was a genius, pure and simple. He may have been a pain in the ass to work with as some have said, but sometimes one must suffer those personal traits to gain access to such a mind. As an example, I give you three comments from The Shining. First, Kubrick could do more with silence on film than most directors can do with all the dialogue in the world. The entire first 30 minutes of The Shining is very deliberate and slow, but for a reason. He sets us up and gets us thinking from he very beginning. Second, he created two of the most memorable shots in all of filmdom. First, after Nicholson gets locked in the "cooler," Kubrick creates the most memorable camera angle of all time by having Jack lean against the cooler and deliver his lines while Kubrick shoots up at Jack from the floor! Second, when Jack delivers his now famous line "heeeere's Johnny," Kubrick frames his face so close up that one becomes instantly chilled by Jack's transformation form loving husband to stark raving lunatic.
Which brings me to the next best part of this disc. The acting is absolutely superb. Nicholson reigns supreme as Jack Torrance. How he was not nominated for best actor that year, I have no idea. I mean come on. That year, we had to suffer Henry Fonda for On Golden Pond, Warren Beatty for Reds, Burt Lancaster for Atlantic City, Dudley Moore for Arthur and Paul Newman for Absence of Malice. Give me a break!
Also excellent was Shelley Duvall as the skittish wife Wendy Torrance. She is terrified the entire time, and who can blame her. If you had Jack barreling down on you like that, you'd be a little hysterical too. Scatman Crothers nearly steals the show and probably deserved an Oscar nomination of his own for supporting actor. But, little Danny Lloyd clearly was the real surprise of this film. It was rather unfortunate that he moved into near complete obscurity. This is one of those "whatever happened to" questions I would love to have the answer to.
The audio here is passable. The mono presentation is original to the film and so hard to find fault with. It sounds a bit old, but then again it is. Kubrick's usage of classical music here is outstanding, much in the same way he excelled in choosing existing works for 2001: A Space Odyssey. The background track is creepy to say the least, and really helps to set the tone.
The video of this DVD is little better than your average VHS. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if this was a VHS copy prior to becoming a DVD. The film elements were a wreck, with abundant scratches, nicks and scars. The full frame image is supposedly Kubrick's preference for this film, but my god, couldn't they at least but some time into restoring the film. Otherwise, what the hell was the big hoopla about the "Kubrick Collection" all about? The image is soft. Really soft. The colors were okay, but that's about the only good point of the video. Now, one could make the argument that the softness is due to Kubrick's choices during filming -- i.e. certain filters, 35mm spherical lenses and the like. But, I have to believe the folks at the bench could have done SOMETHING to sharpen this image up. After two and half hours of this, I felt like I was watching the screen wearing someone's prescription glasses (I don't wear corrective lenses).
The extras leave a bit to be desired as well. Yes, the disc includes Vivian Kubrick's making of featurette, which runs about a half-hour. But, other than a theatrical trailer, that's it. Not even simple filmographies of the players. Wow. I would think that after making this huge announcement and whetting everyone's appetite, Warner would do "something wonderful" (my apologies to Dave Bowman). But no. Instead, we are being taken advantage of in a half-assed attempt to profit from the great director's death. Warner, you should be ashamed of yourselves. Frankly, I don't care of you see this and never add me to your screener list. If this is the best you can do, then why bother reviewing them anyway? I can only hope A Clockwork Orange is much, much better. As soon as I am done writing this, I am sitting down to screen that.
If you must have this film, then by all means buy it. But don't expect too much. I was really disappointed in Warner's treatment or complete lack thereof of this film. It really is a shame this film did not get treated the way Universal is in the process of treating Hitchcock's works. I would gladly have waited six months or a year for a complete restoration of this film. Maybe in another 20 years we will get our wish.
The film is acquitted. Warner Brothers is sentenced to life imprisonment for foisting upon us a wholly inferior product.
Review content copyright © 1999 Sean McGinnis; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono (English)
Running Time: 144 Minutes
Release Year: 1980
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Theatrical Trailer
* Vivian Kubrick's Behind-The-Scenes
* Documentary "The Making Of The Shining"