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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 7/21/99
updated: 5/22/01

The Shining

review by Todd Doogan, special to The Digital Bits

The Films of Stanley Kubrick on DVD

The Shining (new Kubrick Collection)

The Shining
1980 (2001) - Warner Bros.

Film Rating: A+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A+/A+/A+

Specs and Features

144 mins, R, full frame (1.33:1), single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 57:00, in chapter 17), Snapper case packaging, The Making of The Shining documentary with optional commentary by filmmaker Vivian Kubrick, theatrical trailer, film-themed menu screens, scene access (40 chapters), languages: English and French (DD 5.1), subtitles: English, French and Spanish, Closed Captioned

The Shining - Kubrick Collection

The Shining
1980 (1999) - Warner Bros.

Film Rating: A+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): C-/B+/A

Specs and Features

144 mins, R, full frame (1.33:1), single-sided, dual-layered (layer switch at 51:15, at the start of Chapter 16), Snapper case packaging, theatrical trailer, documentary: The Making Of The Shining by Vivian Kubrick , film-themed menu screens with music, scene access (40 chapters), languages: English (DD mono), subtitles: English and French, Closed Captioned

From the very opening sequence, with its bastardized Berlioz theme and unnerving fish-eye vista shots, you know you're not going into something safe with The Shining. This is surely one spooky flick... but it's spooky AND it's influential as well. And it's not just a creative influence I'm talking about here. The Shining is influential in a great many ways. It will change the way you look at big wheels, hotels, and those rooms in your house that you just don't go into that much. The Shining influences you to be afraid.

One of the scariest things about The Shining, is its atmosphere of bleak vagueness. There's nothing going on, and yet, there's something going on in every scene. Surreal and haunting, The Shining bathes you in blood and haunting images (like the little twin girls, the lady in Room 237, and the guy in the bear suit servicing the man in the tuxedo). If you're reading this, you must surely know that The Shining is about a writer named Jack (played by Jack Nicholson), who takes his family into the Colorado mountains to basically baby-sit a hotel for the winter season. And the hotel has a strange ability to take certain people and basically throw them over the side of sanity, into the gaping chasm of madness. For Jack, it unleashes a violence that is usually held in check, but makes itself known under stress and pressure. You WILL know fear by the time the last image unspools. The Shining just has that ability.

Unless you've seen this newly remastered version of The Shining on DVD, you haven't truly seen the film. I'm a huge fan of Kubrick in general, and this film in particular, having seen it many, many times in the 21 years since its original release. But I've never truly experienced the film before - not like this, anyway. The picture quality on this new DVD is beautiful, to be sure. The full frame presentation shows none of the print defects seen in transfers past. There are no scratches, no white density, nor artifacts of any kind. The picture is breathtaking and is MANY times better than any previous home video presentation.

But the thing that really pushes this film into a whole new spectrum, is the newly-remastered sound. A new Dolby Digital 5.1 track was created for the new Stanley Kubrick Collection edition of the film on DVD. When I first popped this disc in my player, I was thinking, "What's the big deal? It was never a really dynamic film." Bull-pucky. With this new soundtrack doing its work, the film scared the hell out of me (and again, I've seen it many times before). Wendy Carlos' sound cues are just unnerving. I actually had to close my eyes during the Room 237 sequence. The sound just got to me, the same way the one-note piano chord gets to you in Eyes Wide Shut. I'm still a bit shivery. Don't be stubborn people, as soon as you can, replace your old version of The Shining on disc.

Just as a quick note, the previous DVD proved that Warner's claim (that Kubrick personally approved the prints used for the original DVD transfers), was remarkably overstated. Sure, he approved them... for VHS and laserdisc. Right from the start, on the original DVD, you will see nothing but noise, noise, noise. The sky, the trees - everything. And it's not grain - it's analog artifacts hanging around. It also didn't help that you could see flaws like hair and dust all over the print. I couldn't believe how bad that disc looked. The image was faded, foggy and seemingly zapped of all its color. It wasn't as bad as... say... a Simitar title would be. But for a Warner title (and one of such importance), it was pretty bad. Thankfully, we don't have to settle for it anymore - rest easy.

Aside from a glorious remastering, The Shining on DVD contains what may be one of the most important educational pieces any actor could ever hope to view. Vivian Kubrick's documentary, on the making of this groundbreaking film, is one of the most unforgettable lost gems ever to surface on DVD. It shows Jack Nicholson as you would never believe he really is: nice, easy-going and friendly. Then, next thing you know, he's jumping up and down, getting ready for the "ax-through-the-bathroom-door" scene. It's amazing to see the transformation. You also see Kubrick hanging out with his mother and discussing how script revisions work... along with Nicholson's comment about how the script is being re-written so much, he doesn't even read it anymore until he's ready to shoot. Shelley Duvall does her best to illustrate how difficult actors can be on the set, exhibiting loads of problems here (including health issues, missed cues and general neediness). I have to say, I've already watched this documentary about three times, with viewings more on the way. Amazing. Better still, while the original DVD presented the same documentary, the new DVD's documentary treats us to a full-length commentary track with Vivian Kubrick, discussing the project and the production itself. It's fantastic. We also learn that the closing theme used in the documentary is a deleted cue from the film, and that it was remastered for the DVD. Brilliant. The only other extra on either disc is the film's trailer, which is one of the most haunting trailers I have ever seen. I remember seeing it when I was younger and it freaked me out then, just as it does now.

Run, don't walk, to replace your previous DVD version of this film. And if you held off buying the original box set because of our warnings, this new DVD collection definitely has The Digital Bits seal of approval. Every one of these discs, as you'll see in our reviews, is a major improvement over the previous release, this one especially. It's a totally new film now - a totally new experience. One you shouldn't miss.

Todd Doogan

The Films of Stanley Kubrick on DVD

The Shining (new version)

The Stanley Kubrick Collection (new version)

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