This page contains mature content. Continue on at your own risk.
The Shining is a 1980 British-American psychological horror film produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick, co-written with novelist Diane Johnson, and starring Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, and Scatman Crothers. The film is based on Stephen King's 1977 novel The Shining.
Unlike Kubrick's previous works, which developed audiences gradually through word-of-mouth, The Shining was released as a mass-market film, initially opening in two U.S. cities on Memorial Day, then nationwide within a month. The European release of The Shining a few months later was 25 minutes shorter due to Kubrick's removal of most of the scenes taking place outside the environs of the hotel.
Although contemporary responses from critics were mixed, assessment became more favorable in following decades, and it is now widely regarded as one of the greatest horror films ever made. American director Martin Scorsese ranked it one of the 11 scariest horror movies of all time. Critics, scholars, and crew members (such as Kubrick's producer Jan Harlan) have discussed the film's enormous influence on popular culture.
Jack Torrance arrives at the mountain-isolated Overlook Hotel, which is twenty-five miles from the closest town, to be interviewed for the position of winter caretaker. Once hired, Jack plans to use the hotel's solitude to write. The hotel, built on the site of a Native American burial ground, becomes snowed-in during the winter; it is closed from October to May. Manager Stuart Ullman warns Jack that a previous caretaker, Charles Grady, developed cabin fever and killed his family and himself. In Boulder, Jack's son, Danny Torrance, has a terrifying premonition about the hotel, viewing a cascade of blood emerging from an elevator door, and then falls into a trance. Jack's wife, Wendy, tells a doctor that Danny has an imaginary friend named Tony, and that Jack has given up drinking because he dislocated Danny's shoulder following a binge.
The family arrives at the hotel on closing day and is given a tour. The chef, Dick Hallorann, surprises Danny by telepathically offering him ice cream. Dick explains to Danny that he and his grandmother shared this telepathic ability, which he calls "shining". Danny asks if there is anything to be afraid of in the hotel, particularly room 237. Hallorann tells Danny that the hotel has a "shine" to it along with many memories, not all of which are good. He also tells Danny to stay away from room 237.
A month passes; while Jack's writing goes nowhere, Danny and Wendy explore the hotel's hedge maze, and Hallorann goes to Florida. Wendy learns that the phone lines are out due to the heavy snowfall, and Danny has frightening visions. Jack, increasingly frustrated, starts behaving strangely and becomes prone to violent outbursts. Danny's curiosity about room 237 overcomes him when he sees the room's door open. Later, Wendy finds Jack screaming during a nightmare while asleep at his typewriter. After she awakens him, Jack says he dreamed that he killed her and Danny. Danny arrives and is visibly traumatized with a bruise on his neck, causing Wendy to accuse Jack of abusing him. Jack wanders into the hotel's Gold Room and meets a ghostly bartender named Lloyd. Lloyd serves him bourbon whiskey while Jack complains about his marriage. Wendy later tells Jack that Danny told her a "crazy woman in one of the rooms" attempted to strangle him. Jack investigates room 237, encountering the ghost of a dead woman, but tells Wendy that he saw nothing. Wendy and Jack argue over whether Danny should be removed from the hotel and a furious Jack returns to the Gold Room, now filled with ghosts attending a ball. He meets the ghost of Grady who tells Jack that he must "correct" his wife and child and that Danny has reached out to Hallorann using his "talent". Meanwhile, Hallorann grows concerned about what's going on at the hotel and flies back to Colorado. Danny starts calling out "redrum" and goes into a trance, referring to himself as "Tony".
While searching for Jack, Wendy discovers he has been typing pages of a repetitive manuscript: "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy". She begs Jack to leave the hotel with Danny, but he threatens her before she knocks him unconscious with a baseball bat. She drags him into the kitchen and locks him in the pantry, but she and Danny are both trapped at the hotel: Jack has disabled the hotel's two-way radio and snowcat. Later, Jack converses through the pantry door with Grady, who unlocks the door.
Danny writes "REDRUM" on the outside of the bathroom door in the family's living quarters. When Wendy sees the word reversed in the bedroom mirror, the word is revealed to be "MURDER". Jack begins hacking through the quarters' main door with a firefighter's axe. Wendy sends Danny through the bathroom window, but it will not open sufficiently for her to pass. Jack breaks through the bathroom door, shouting "Here's Johnny!", but retreats after Wendy slashes his hand with a butcher's knife. Hearing Hallorann arriving in a snowcat he borrowed, Jack leaves the room. He murders Hallorann with the axe in the lobby and pursues Danny into the hedge maze. Wendy runs through the hotel looking for Danny, encountering ghosts and the cascade of blood Danny envisioned in Boulder. She also finds Hallorann's corpse in the lobby. Danny lays a false trail to mislead Jack, who is following his footprints, before hiding behind a drift. Danny escapes from the maze and reunites with Wendy; they escape in Hallorann's snowcat, while Jack freezes to death in the snow. In a photograph in the hotel hallway dated July 4, 1921, Jack Torrance smiles amid a crowd of party revelers.
- Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance
- Shelley Duvall as Wendy Torrance
- Danny Lloyd as Danny Torrance and the voice of Tony
- Scatman Crothers as Dick Hallorann
- Barry Nelson as Stuart Ullman
- Philip Stone as Delbert Grady
- Joe Turkel as Lloyd
- Anne Jackson as Doctor
- Tony Burton as Larry Durkin
- Lia Beldam as Young Woman In Bath
- Billie Gibson as Old Woman In Bath
- Barry Dennen as Bill Watson
- Lisa Burns as Grady Daughter #1
- Louise Burns as Grady Daughter #2
In the shorter European cut, all of the scenes involving Jackson and Burton are cut (although their names still appear in the credits). Dennen is on-screen in both versions of the film, albeit to a limited degree (and with no dialogue) in the shorter cut.
The actresses who played the ghosts of the murdered Grady daughters, Lisa and Louise Burns, are identical twins; however, the characters in the book and film script are merely sisters, not twins. In the film's dialogue, Mr. Ullman identifies them as "about eight and ten." Nonetheless, they are frequently referred to in discussions about the film as "the Grady twins."
The resemblance in the staging of the Grady girls and the "Twins" photograph by Diane Arbus has been noted both by Arbus' biographer, Patricia Bosworth, the Kubrick assistant who cast and coached them, Leon Vitali, and by numerous Kubrick critics. Although Kubrick both met Arbus personally and studied photography under her during his youthful days as photographer for Look magazine, Kubrick's widow says he did not deliberately model the Grady girls on Arbus' photograph, in spite of widespread attention to the resemblance.
Before making The Shining, Stanley Kubrick had directed the 1975 movie Barry Lyndon, a highly visual period film about an Irish man who attempts to make his way into the English aristocracy. Despite its technical achievements, the film was not a box office success in the United States and was derided by critics for being too long and too slow. Kubrick, disappointed with Barry Lyndon's lack of success, realized he needed to make a film that would be commercially viable as well as artistically fulfilling. Stephen King was told that Kubrick had his staff bring him stacks of horror books as he planted himself in his office to read them all: "Kubrick's secretary heard the sound of each book hitting the wall as the director flung it into a reject pile after reading the first few pages. Finally one day the secretary noticed it had been a while since she had heard the thud of another writer's work biting the dust. She walked in to check on her boss and found Kubrick deeply engrossed in reading The Shining."
Speaking about the theme of the film, Kubrick stated that "there's something inherently wrong with the human personality. There's an evil side to it. One of the things that horror stories can do is to show us the archetypes of the unconscious; we can see the dark side without having to confront it directly".
Nicholson was Kubrick's first choice for the role of Jack Torrance; other actors considered included Robert De Niro (who claims the film gave him nightmares for a month), Robin Williams, and Harrison Ford, all of whom met with Stephen King's disapproval. In his search to find the right actor to play Danny, Kubrick sent a husband and wife team, Leon and Kersti Vitali, to Chicago, Denver, and Cincinnati to create an interview pool of 5,000 boys over a six-month period. These cities were chosen since Kubrick was looking for a boy with an accent which fell in between Jack Nicholson's and Shelley Duvall's speech patterns.
Having chosen King's novel as a basis for his next project, and after a pre-production phase, Kubrick had sets constructed on soundstages at EMI Elstree Studios in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, Britain. Some of the interior designs of the Overlook Hotel set were based on those of the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park. To enable him to shoot the scenes in chronological order, he used several stages at EMI Elstree Studios in order to make all sets available during the complete duration of production. The set for the Overlook Hotel was at the time the largest ever built at Elstree, including a life-size re-creation of the exterior of the hotel. In February 1979, the set at Elstree was badly damaged in a fire, causing a delay in the production.
While most of the interior shots, and even some of the Overlook exterior shots, were shot on studio sets, a few exterior shots were shot on location by a second-unit crew headed by Jan Harlan. Saint Mary Lake and Wild Goose Island in Glacier National Park, Montana was the filming location for the aerial shots of the opening scenes, with the Volkswagen Beetle driving along Going-to-the-Sun Road. The Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood in Oregon was filmed for a few of the exterior shots of the fictional Overlook Hotel; notably absent in these shots is the hedge maze, something the Timberline Lodge does not have.
Outtakes of the opening panorama shots were later used by Ridley Scott for the closing moments of the original cut of the film Blade Runner (1982).
The Shining had a prolonged and arduous production period, often with very long workdays. Principal photography took over a year to complete, due to Kubrick's highly methodical nature. Actress Shelley Duvall did not get along with Kubrick, frequently arguing with him on set about lines in the script, her acting techniques and numerous other things. Duvall eventually became so overwhelmed by the stress of her role that she became physically ill for months. At one point, she was under so much stress that her hair began to fall out. The shooting script was being changed constantly, sometimes several times a day, adding more stress. Jack Nicholson eventually became so frustrated with the ever-changing script that he would throw away the copies that the production team would give to him to memorize, knowing that it was just going to change anyway. He learned most of his lines just minutes before filming them. Nicholson was living in London with his then-girlfriend Anjelica Huston and her younger sister, Allegra, who testified to his long shooting days.
For the final Gold Room sequence, Kubrick instructed the extras (via megaphone) not to talk, "but to mime conversation to each other. Kubrick knew from years of scrutinizing thousands of films that extras could often mime their business by nodding and using large gestures that look fake. He told them to act naturally to give the scene a chilling sense of time-tripping realism as Jack walks from the seventies into the roaring twenties".
For international versions of the film, Kubrick shot different takes of Wendy reading the typewriter pages in different languages. For each language, a suitable idiom was used: German (Was du heute kannst besorgen, das verschiebe nicht auf morgen — "Never put off till tomorrow what may be done today"), Italian (Il mattino ha l’oro in bocca — "The morning has gold in its mouth"), French (Un «Tiens» vaut mieux que deux «Tu l'auras» — "One 'here you go' is worth more than two 'you'll have it'", the equivalent of "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush"), Spanish (No por mucho madrugar amanece más temprano — "No matter how early you get up, you can't make the sun rise any sooner.") These alternate shots were not included with the DVD release, where only the English phrase "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" was used.
The door that Jack chops through with the axe near the end of the film was a real door. Kubrick had originally shot this scene with a fake door, but Nicholson, who had worked as a volunteer fire marshal, tore it down too quickly. Jack's line, "Heeeere's Johnny!", is taken from Ed McMahon's famous introduction to The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, and was improvised by Nicholson. Kubrick, who had lived in England for some time, was unaware of the significance of the line, and nearly used a different take. Carson later used the Nicholson clip to open his 1980 anniversary show on NBC.
Joe Turkel stated in a 2014 interview that they rehearsed the "bar scene" for six weeks, starting at 9 a.m. and finishing at 10:30 p.m. each day, with Turkel recollecting that his clothes would be soaked in his own sweat by the end of every day's shoot. He also added that it was his favorite scene in the film.
During production, Kubrick screened David Lynch's Eraserhead (1977) to the cast and crew, to convey the mood he wanted to achieve for the film.
The Shining was among the first half-dozen films (after the 1976 films Bound for Glory, Marathon Man, and Rocky), to use the newly developed Steadicam, a stabilizing mount for a motion picture camera, which mechanically separates the operator's movement from the camera's, allowing smooth tracking shots while the operator is moving over an uneven surface. It essentially combines the stabilized steady footage of a regular mount with the fluidity and flexibility of a handheld camera. The inventor of the Steadicam, Garrett Brown, was heavily involved with the production of The Shining. Brown has described his excitement taking his first tour of the sets which offered "further possibilities for the Steadicam". This tour convinced Brown to become personally involved with the production. Kubrick was not "just talking of stunt shots and staircases". Rather he would use the Steadicam "as it was intended to be used — as a tool which can help get the lens where it's wanted in space and time without the classic limitations of the dolly and crane". Brown used an 18 mm Cooke lens that allowed the Steadicam to pass within an inch of walls and door frames. Brown published an article in American Cinematographer about his experience, and contributed to the audio commentary on the 2007 DVD release.
Kubrick personally aided in modifying the Steadicam's video transmission technology. Brown states his own abilities to operate the Steadicam were refined by working on Kubrick's film. For this film, Brown developed a two-handed technique, which enabled him to maintain the camera at one height while panning and tilting the camera. In addition to tracking shots from behind, the Steadicam enabled shooting in constricted rooms without flying out walls, or backing the camera into doors. Brown notes that:
- “One of the most talked-about shots in the picture is the eerie tracking sequence which follows Danny as he pedals at high speed through corridor after corridor on his plastic Big Wheel tricycle. The soundtrack explodes with noise when the wheel is on wooden flooring and is abruptly silent as it crosses over carpet. We needed to have the lens just a few inches from the floor and to travel rapidly just behind or ahead of the bike.”
This required the Steadicam to be on a special mount modeled on a wheelchair in which the operator sat while pulling a platform with the sound man. The weight of the rig and its occupants proved to be too much for the original tires however, resulting in a blowout one day that almost caused a serious crash. Solid tires were then mounted on the rig. Kubrick also had a highly accurate speedometer mounted on the rig so as to duplicate the exact tempo of a given shot so that Brown could perform take after identical take. Brown also discusses how the scenes in the hedge maze were shot with a Steadicam.
Music and soundtrack
- Main article: The Shining (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
The U.S. premiere by ABC on May 6, 1983 started with a placard saying, "TONIGHT’S FILM DEALS WITH THE SUPERNATURAL, AS A POSSESSED MAN ATTEMPTS TO DESTROY HIS FAMILY." With the movie's ambiguities, it is not known how Kubrick felt about or if he agreed with this proclamation. The placard also said that the film was edited for television and warned about the content.
The U.S. region 1 DVD of the film is the longer (144 minute) edit of the film. The European (including UK) region 2 DVD is the shorter (119 minute) version. On British television, the short version played on Channel 4 once and on Sky Movies numerous times in the mid-nineties. All other screenings, before and since these, have been on either ITV or ITV4 and have been the longer U.S. edit. The German DVD shows the short version, as seen in German television screenings.
In accordance with stipulations contained in Kubrick's will, DVD releases show the film in open matte (i.e., with more picture content visible than in movie theaters). The scene in which Wendy discovers her husband's work (consisting only of a simple proverb: "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" repeatedly typed on numerous pages) was shot with different proverbs in at least five languages (English, French, Spanish, Italian and German). Nevertheless, most DVD releases show the English version, disregarding the dub language.
DVDs in both regions contain a candid fly-on-the-wall 33-minute documentary made by Kubrick's daughter Vivian (who was 17 when she filmed it) entitled Making The Shining, originally shown on British television in 1980. She also provided an audio commentary track about her documentary for its DVD release. It appears even on pre-2007 editions of The Shining on DVD, although most DVDs of Kubrick films before then were devoid of documentaries or audio commentaries. It has some candid interviews and very private moments caught on set, such as arguments with cast and director, moments of a no-nonsense Kubrick directing his actors, Scatman Crothers being overwhelmed with emotion during his interview, Shelley Duvall collapsing from exhaustion on the set, and Jack Nicholson enjoying playing up to the behind-the-scenes camera.
The movie was released on Blu-ray for the first time in 2007, with all the exact same special features as the DVD release. This release also marks the first time the film was shown in a widescreen presentation for home media, close to what was seen in theaters originally back in 1980. It also features remastered audio in 5.1 surround sound from the original mono soundtrack.
Awards and nominations
|Razzie Award||Worst Actress||Shelley Duvall||Nominated|
|Worst Director||Stanley Kubrick|
|Saturn Award||Best Director|
|Best Supporting Actor||Scatman Crothers||Won|
|Best Horror Film||Nominated|
|Best Music||Wendy Carlos|
Differences in the 1977 novel