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Scott Ventura >> Movie Commentary >> December 2000 >> The Shining

The Shining

Movie Commentary by Scott Ventura


Scott's Rating:
5 / 5
Times Seen:
Viewing Date:
December 2000
IMDB Name:
Shining, The (1980)
Stanley Kubrick
MPAA Rating:

Already There

There's barely a need to have a transition to insanity for any character played by Jack Nicholson. His face and voice convey menace even when he's playing nice. At the beginning of The Shining, Nicholson is being shown his family's apartment for the Winter. When he says things like "perfect for a child" and "homey", he already sounds like he could snap at any minute. In spite of this, Nicholson manages to show several levels of madness throughout the film, demonstrating his potential for villainous roles like his turn in Batman. He's almost too perfect as Jack Torrance, but why should Stanley Kubrick settle for any less?

The Shining offers very little in the way of traditional gore, but brings immense tension to the horror genre with decent writing, terrific sets, and a good dose of cleithrophobia. What's worse, being cooped up with a lunatic, or being trapped in a haunted hotel? The progression of Jack's dementia, coupled with foreshadowing about what he might do to his family, is much freakier than traditional slasher fare. Kubrick made an immobile object threatening in 2001, and he does it again here with the magnificent, custom built interiors of the Overlook Hotel. Despite bright, cavernous rooms, it's freaky to see Danny Lloyd racing around on his trike, unaware of what might be lurking ahead. This supernatural approach, with only slight physical interventions from the spiritual world, is far more effective than higher-tech attempts like The Haunting.

The music plays a key part in establishing the creepy mood, since the visuals are always kept somewhat innocent. Kubrick, as always, draws from the classics, choreographing entire scenes to match existing symphonic scores. The Shining is loaded with works of Béla Bartók, György Ligeti, and most prominently, Krzysztof Penderecki. For the Penderecki in particular, I can't imagine any non-horror use for these pieces.

DVD Comments

People made a big stink when they found out that some of the DVDs for Kubrick's movies were going to be fullscreen. On the one hand, it's good to be true to the theatrical original. On the other hand, Kubrick was the kind of guy that made films impervious to later bungling. The DVD for the Shining starts out warning that the movie has been modified to fit the screen, but with no explanation that it's a dematted print and not pan'n'scan. The framing still seems a touch off, as demonstrated by the opening credits running off the edge of the screen. The helicopter for the opening aerial shots is also made obvious in regions of the picture that would not have been visible in the theater.

The big extra on the disc is the thirty-five minute documentary Making 'The Shining' by Vivian Kubrick. This provides a rare glimpse of Stanley working on principal photography, as well as interviews with the cast. The camera work and editing are well done, and the result is very interesting. The disc also has the trailer, presented in fullscreen. Subtitles are available in English and French, but the subtitle font is a bit small.

See the IMDB information on The Shining's DVD or compare prices at DVD Price Search.

Copyright 2000-2002 by Scott Ventura. All rights reserved.