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Old 07-30-2006, 12:46 AM
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Default Shining, The



Reviewer: Rhett
Review Date: June 25, 2002

Released by: Warner Brothers
Release date: 6/12/2001
MSRP: $24.95
Region 1, NTSC
Full Frame 1.33:1



Few filmmakers are as misunderstood as the late Stanley Kubrick. His films have always been subject to controversy upon their release, only to become classics years later. The Shining embodies such a statement to the fullest. Upon its release the film was ravished by critics, moviegoers and even the book's author, Stephen King. The reviews were so scathing that Kubrick received a Razzie nomination for Worst Director. Now, over 20 years later, the film has become a true landmark in the horror genre, regarded by many as one of the few truly epic horror films.

Released in 1999 to cash in on the late director's sudden death, Warner's disc had its problems. Marred by little care from the studio, the print was lacking on all levels and left fans in disgust. After countless complaints, Warner finally got the picture, and nearly two years later have released a newly restored and remastered presentation of the 1980 masterpiece. But was it worth the wait, and more importantly, does the rise in quality warrant another purchase for those who bought the original disc? Read on to find out!

The Story

inline ImageDeep in the Colorado Rockies lies the Overlook Hotel. Tranquil and surreal, with eyefuls of scenery, the gigantic building lies several miles away from civilization, and is an idyllic vacation resort. Because of the brash weather during the winter however, the hotel is forced to close its doors until spring. Given its size and magnitude, a caretaker is needed to upkeep the place, and this year it's Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson). During his interview, Jack is warned of a previous incident, where the caretaker developed a case of "cabin fever", which led him to decapitate his wife and two daughters before ending his life with a shotgun. Assuring the owner that this will not happen with him, he is given the job along with his wife, Wendy (Shelly Duvall), and son, Danny (Danny Lloyd).

inline ImageAs Jack and his wife get the grand tour before the staff leaves, little Danny befriends Dick (Scatman Crothers), the local cook at the Overlook. It seems both people possess a rare talent which Dick calls "The Shining". Those with the talent can foresee the future and recall the distant past, as well as possessing the ability to communicate through the mind in an ESP-like fashion. Danny's imaginary friend, Tony, unbeknownst to his parents, has been showing Danny the reoccurring images of a hallway slowly filling with blood and two primly dressed little girls. Something is obviously not right with the hotel, and these images would serve as a preface for the haunting events that would ensue.

inline ImageJack, now bound inside and away from distractions, is set to work on his novel. Things are never quite right however, as Jack's aloofness creates an uneasy feeling of uncertainty and perturbed emotion. As the days go on, he becomes increasingly distant from his wife and son, slowly succumbing to depression and insanity. He attends fictitious parties, converses with imagined people, and consumes nonexistent alcohol. Are such images figments of his imagination, or is the hotel possessed by an inexplicable evil? As his detachment becomes more severe, he begins talking to the former caretaker who murdered his family about doing the same with his. Soon this fixation takes over his mind, and continues until he can no longer suppress it. He has finally gone mad, and will stop at nothing until he completes his 'duty'.

Danny meanwhile, continues to see haunting images, and even encounters a being in the infamous 'Room 237'. He sends a message via "The Shining" to Dick Hallorann, but will he be able to save the Torrance family before it's too late? What ensues is an unsettling and exhausting experience in terror, as insanity and the supernatural combine for a truly frightening experience.

inline ImageLike the rest of his films, Kubrick fabricates the story around the emotion struggle within the individual. Where the book focused more on the supernatural power of the hotel itself, Kubrick instead directs his primary attention towards Jack Torrance's decent into madness and how seclusion can bring about such horrific behavior. Kubrick handles the material with extreme skill, allowing the story to unfold at a delicate pace as he builds his magnum narrative. Like a house of cards, he slowly takes his time in setting up the characters and atmosphere of the film, and only when all the cards are in place does he allow the house to collapse as Jack finally goes berserk.

Many have criticized Nicholson for his portrayal of Jack, arguing that he becomes insane so fast that the audience doesn't even have a chance to understand or care for his character. This could not be further from the truth. It is obvious that Kubrick characterized Jack as a loose cannon right from the get go, making his fall into madness more realistic. Jack is not your cliché family man who is driven mad by his surroundings; he is a flawed character who's faults tear at the seems when he is freed from the norms of society, making the story that much more affecting. Nicholson's performance is nothing short of fantastic, as he bounces off the other characters with a cockeyed brilliance. Even amidst other characters he appears distraught and within his own world. Few roles in the history of film have allowed for such prolonged intensity and expression, and Jack Nicholson takes it to the extreme with amazing results.

Kubrick's The Shining is like a fine book, it gets better with each subsequent viewing. Done with such skill and craftsmanship, every shot has a foreboding brilliance and depth to it. Always a man of contrapuntals, Kubrick has consistently created considerable meaning in his films by ironically contrasting opposing meanings to initiate a certain feeling. In A Clockwork Orange, the joyful "Singing in the Rain" song is played as the lead character brutally beats a helpless lady, creating an odd sense of irony. In The Shining, Kubrick uses lengthy steadicam tracking shots of Danny riding his bicycle contrasted with the restricting walls of the hotel. The tracking shots, producing a sense of freedom and movement, work perfectly against the claustrophobic structure of the hotel. Kubrick also masterfully composes his shots with perfect symmetry, providing a subtle offset to the insanity and disjointed nature of Jack's mind. Such contrasts create a looming feeling of uneasiness and discomfort, and combined with the disturbed and effective soundtrack, bring about feelings within the viewer of true terror.

To put it simply, this film is a horror masterwork in every sense. It is a truly unique and engulfing story that focuses more on character and atmosphere rather than cheap thrills and gore. Stanley Kubrick was at the top of his game here, and there is not a single scene that seems out of place or ill composed. Everything from the performances to the haunting imagery is done with meticulous design and control, and for the thinking viewer, it makes for one dauntingly horrific experience. An experience so extreme that it withstands the tests of time and remains as effective over 20 years later.

Image Quality

As per Stanley Kubrick's wishes, this newly remastered presentation is in full frame, like the previous Warner release. That is about the only similarity this transfer has with the original DVD release however. The original DVD lacked color definition and had considerable edge enhancement. The colors were weak, muted and poor on all levels. The transfer on this DVD is literally night and day with the old release, sporting lush, vibrant colors and minimal edge enhancement. The visuals have amazing depth and fullness to them, with the blacks looking extremely sharp. This is simply the best the film has ever looked on any medium and is a true beauty to behold.

Sound

The soundtrack is every bit as good of an improvement over the previous DVD as the video quality is. Newly remixed in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround, this is a great track. Purists may balk that a mono track has not been included, but this remix stays very true to its source material. The dialogue stays in the front channels, while the musical score has been spread out throughout the rears. Some effects (notably the airplane arrival) have been spread through the rears, but the effects generally stay upfront as well. Although the track is spread about the speakers nicely, the dialogue is fairly flat, like all films of that time. By expending the musical score and effects tracks though, the sound has much greater depth and fidelity than the previous version, and will likely please both purists and those wanting a fuller audio experience than previous incarnations of the film have warranted.

Supplemental Material

inline Image The supplements included don't really amount to much on the back cover, but their quality alone rivals the material on any special edition released today. Firstly, there is the theatrical trailer, which is quite simply one of the best trailers ever made. Presented in full frame, it consists only of the legendary blood pouring scene down the hotel hallway. Accompanied by some twisted music, the trailer is extremely effective in establishing the tone of the film without giving away anything about the story. What a refreshing change over today's heavily edited and narrated trailers giving away too much plot, and too little mood.

inline Image The second, and best supplement is the newly remastered on set documentary: The Making of The Shining. Shot by Stanley Kubrick's daughter, Vivian Kubrick, this documentary runs nearly 35 minutes and is one of the most revealing documentaries of the filming process ever created. It features scenes of Jack Nicholson studying lines, getting into character, joking around on set, as well as interviews with the man himself, Stanley Kubrick. Also of recognition, are its shots of the steadicam in action, confessionals from the main cast and crew (including a teary interview with the late Scatman Crothers), and Stanley Kubrick envisioning one of the most famous shots in the film. The documentary shines because not only is it revealing, but it lacks the high polished gloss of most featurettes, and presents everything as it was during the shooting of the film. As if this wasn't enough, there is also a brand new screen-specific audio commentary by Vivian Kubrick for the documentary. This, like the Making-of, is very down to earth and a lot of fun. Vivian is very elaborate in revealing several interesting tidbits about the production of the film and the people involved. Although somewhat lacking in quantity, the supplements more than pull their weight in terms of quality.

Final Thoughts

Stanley Kubrick's The Shining lives up to its tagline, it is undoubtedly "A Masterpiece of Modern Horror". From Jack Nicholson's unrestrained and expressive performance to Kubrick's visual wizardry, this film is a winner on all levels. Sporting a newly remastered audio and video tracks, the transfer is light-years ahead of the previous Warner release, and are exceptional for a catalogue release of such age. The supplements, although limited, are excellent as well and are required viewing for film enthusiasts. Warner has redeemed their past mistake with the previous DVD and have created presentation and supplements that match the quality of this film. Those who haven't purchased this fine disc yet must do so immediately, and those who've bought the original DVD are going to have to follow suit as well.

Rating

Movie - A
Image Quality - A-
Sound - B+
Supplements - B+

Technical Info.
  • Color
  • Running time - 2 hours 24 minutes
  • Rated R
  • 1 Disc
  • Chapter Stops
  • English Dolby Digital 5.1

Supplements
  • Original Theatrical Trailer
  • "The Making of The Shining"
  • Documentary commentary by Vivian Kubrick

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