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Blu-ray Reviews


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#1 of 19 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted October 31 2007 - 01:08 AM

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The Shining (Blu-ray)
Directed by Stanley Kubrick

Studio: Warner Bros.
Year: 1980
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 1080p (VC-1 codec)
Running Time: 144 minutes
Rating: R
Audio: PCM 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 English, French, Spanish
Subtitles: SDH, French, Spanish
MSRP: $28.99

Release Date: October 23, 2007
Review Date: October 31, 2007

The Film


To truly appreciate The Shining takes patience, something that not every person who has ever viewed this film is willing to muster. Many have been irritated about the pacing, the lack of fidelity to the original source book, the casting, and on and on. None of this bothers me since I have never felt any of them is worthy of complaint. Stanley Kubrick’s films have always been deliberately paced, but the payoffs have almost always been worth it. Lots of movies aren’t faithful to their original novels, but that doesn’t make them any less entertaining as films. The casting of the three main characters might be unconventional; it took me awhile to reconcile myself to Shelley Duvall’s take on Wendy, and I didn’t find Danny Lloyd a particularly charismatic young actor (imagine what Haley Joel Osment could have done with the role). And Jack Nicholson? Well, his over-the-top take on Jack is unusual, and it certainly holds the attention. Perhaps under the circumstances, that’s all we could hope for.

Nicholson stars as a former college professor who takes the job of a winter caretaker of a luxury Colorado hotel in order to have the peace and quiet necessary to write a book. Gradually, he becomes possessed by the evil legend associated with the hotel: a former caretaker who murdered his wife and two daughters with an ax and then blew his head off with a rifle. To his credit, Nicholson does build his performance from a slightly disturbed man in his initial interview for the job to the manic lunatic we see in the latter third of the picture. It’s actually a thoughtful performance whose extremes are understandable amid the other ghostly happenings at the Overlook Hotel.

The title of the film involves a power which Nicholson’s son possesses. Shining is a type of clairvoyance which enables son Danny to see both past and future occurrences as well as read certain thoughts in the minds of others who also have this power. Kubrick uses this power of shining to picture the grisly murders which took place earlier and which haunt Danny’s subconscious. It’s strange, however, that this ability doesn’t help him in his climactic efforts of escaping from his deranged father. Luck and ingenuity are much more worthwhile commodities when the chips are down.

The script by Stanley Kubrick and novelist Diane Johnson has some inconsistencies. The Overlook’s head chef (Scatman Carothers) also shares the ability to shine, but it doesn’t help him when he dashes back to aid the family in its time of crisis. That’s not explained nor are the ghosts who seem to appear to some people some of the time or everyone at other times. I’m not sure it’s necessary to be provided with all the answers in a ghost story like The Shining, but it does offer ample ammunition for those who want to take potshots at the film.

The film’s genius, however, comes in the subtle qualities of terror that director Kubrick gradually has to creep up over the viewer during the lengthy running time. There’s talk about murders and cannibalism early to plant the seeds of the gruesome happenings to come. An early conversation between Duvall and Carothers seems banal, but the camera focuses on several long, threatening butcher knives in the background, one of which plays an important part in the later plot. Early warnings about Room 237 prepare us for one of modern cinema’s most grotesque scenes. The eerie music themes by Bella Bartok (along with some Wendy Carlos compositions), some chilling sound effects by Ivan Sharrock, and the marvelous Steadicam tracking camerawork (used extensively in the hotel corridors and a high schrub maze) all contribute mightily to the film’s horrific effectiveness.

Maybe The Shining isn’t all that it could have been, but it does manage in no little way to produce an ample supply of goose pimples even on repeated viewings. That’s no small feat.

Video Quality


The film’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 finally makes an appearance on disc, and this Blu-ray release is encoded at 1080p using the VC-1 codec. The image features above average sharpness, good color levels, and solid fine details. The overall image appears brighter and virtually spotless than on previous video versions of the movie. The interwoven herringbone and corduroy jackets don’t cause the slightest line twitter in the image (unlike in the 480i featurettes or the last full frame DVD release where aliasing is rampant). Blacks are acceptably deep, and shadow detail is fine. I did find the skin tones to veer ever so slightly toward red, and while the transfer has no problem dealing with the frosty atmosphere once winter arrives, the image does flatten out noticeably in those scenes. The film has been divided into 40 chapters.

Audio Quality


The PCM 5.1 audio track (48 kHz, 16-bit, 4.6 Mbps) allows the creepy music and chilling audio effects to greatly enhance the effectiveness of the film’s many shocking moments. (The original mono track from the last DVD release is not provided as a choice on the disc.) Some of the looped dialog sounds audibly stifled from the sound levels of the direct recording, but otherwise the dialog in the center channel is clear.

Special Features


The newly prepared audio commentary is a combination of comments from Steadicam inventor/operator Garrett Brown and Kubrick biographer John Baxter. It’s an informative though slightly dry recital of information about the making of the film and for fans of the movie is quite an engaging listen.

“View from the Overlook: Crafting The Shining is a standard “making of” featurette featuring comments from the movie’s camera operator, writer, production designer, costumer, producer, and star (Nicholson) looking back on their experience of working on the movie. This 480i full frame documentary runs half an hour.

“The Visions of Stanley Kubrick” is a 17-minute discussion of Kubrick’s background as a still photographer and how that influenced his camera eye in the making of his films. It’s also a full frame, 480i presentation.

In anamorphic widescreen is “Wendy Carlos, Composer” which spends 7½ minutes with the composer who plays some music from both The Shining and A Clockwork Orange, most of which didn‘t make it to the final films.

Carried over from the last DVD release of The Shining is Vivian Kubrick’s The Making of ‘The Shining’ filmed by Kubrick’s daughter during the production of the film. Added since the last DVD release is a running commentary by Ms. Kubrick looking back on her 27-year old effort and making some astute comments on the people involved and her own sometimes clumsy attempts at making this film. This full frame 35-minute documentary is presented in 480i and looks very rough.

The film’s 1½-minute theatrical trailer though dated in appearance is included on the disc in 480p.

In Conclusion

4/5 (not an average)

Stanley Kubrick’s examination of the pervasiveness of evil and the disintegration of a family from that evil finally gets its best-ever video release with this Blu-ray presentation. For fans of the movie, it’s a must-buy. It’s never looked or sounded better.

Matt Hough
Charlotte, NC

#2 of 19 OFFLINE   runchuckrun



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Posted October 31 2007 - 01:41 AM

Good review. I agree with everything except the rating for the film itself. I know I'm probably in the minority, but I think The Shining is over-rated. At best, I would give it a 3/5.

#3 of 19 OFFLINE   BrettB



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Posted October 31 2007 - 03:13 AM

I was doing some comparing with the Shining DVD (2001 I think) and noticed the opening titles were different. Anyone know what that is about?

Thanks for the review. Posted Image

#4 of 19 OFFLINE   ErichH



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Posted November 01 2007 - 05:01 AM

I think many tend to forget the age of this work, the great director's style, and Jack in one of his famous modes. It may not be the greatest horror film, or the best performance in one area or another, but it is Kubrick. We have so few. Looking forward to this BD, if Amazon ever ships it.

#5 of 19 OFFLINE   Mike Williams

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Posted November 02 2007 - 08:06 AM

I didn't notice anything different with the opening titles. To what specifically are you referring? I watched this Wednesday night on Cinemax HD, and became terrified of getting it on HD disc. The Cinemax broadcast looked barely any better than DVD and was a very dirty, washed out print. Today I bought the Toshiba A2 at Wal-Mart for $98.87 (had planned to remain BD only, but for $100 I decided to go neutral, though I still want BD to win), and picked up The Shining at Best Buy. It was like watching a completely different movie. Cleaned up nicely, the colors were vibrant and really popped. Although the entire movie is still a bit soft as a result of how it was filmed, it really blew me away just how great it looked. I'm thrilled to have it finally in widescreen and in HD.

#6 of 19 OFFLINE   BrettB



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Posted November 02 2007 - 08:13 AM

The titles on the dvd have a drop-down shadow thing going on. The BD doesn't. Also I froze a shot and they're not even the same size in relation to the image. I assume that has to do with the diff. ARs.

#7 of 19 OFFLINE   Lyle_JP



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Posted November 02 2007 - 11:23 AM

It's funny you mention the drop-shadow. It wasn't present on the 1999 DVD, nor the laserdisc, but was on the DVD released in 2001. I always assumed it was just the quality of the new transfer showing me something I couldn't see before. Evidently not. It sounds like the titles on the second DVD were generated in the video domain and superimposed on a transfer from elements without the optical titles. It sounds like the blu-ray disc has restored the previous look of the titles.

#8 of 19 OFFLINE   Jim_K


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Posted November 03 2007 - 03:03 AM

Glad to finally see this in it's proper theatrical aspect ratio after all these years. Posted Image
Death before Streaming!

#9 of 19 OFFLINE   Jari K

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Posted November 06 2007 - 02:36 AM

So: Which version is this? "US" or "Euro"? I assume US?

In DVD, US-versions has always been 30 minutes longer (=US theatrical version) than the other DVD-releases..

More info:

#10 of 19 OFFLINE   HighDefDiscNews


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Posted November 06 2007 - 02:42 PM

Honestly I have to agree with this Review to a degree. I got to watch it before I went to Blu-ray Festival and haven't had a chance to do the Review myself but this is pretty true. Nice Review.
Justin Sluss of HighDefDiscNews.com

#11 of 19 OFFLINE   alexAN



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Posted November 06 2007 - 05:39 PM

As usual, Warners won't subtitle this feature, avoiding to all non-english speaking watchers to enjoy it and learn any information that might be in that. Thanks Warner... again.

#12 of 19 OFFLINE   Vincent_P



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Posted November 07 2007 - 06:58 PM

Is it normal practice for studios to subtitle their special features and commentaries, and is Warner Bros. the only studio refusing to do this? Vincent

#13 of 19 OFFLINE   Jari K

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Posted November 07 2007 - 07:16 PM

Do you mean that it should include English subtitles (e.g. for HoH etc) or that it should include e.g. French or Swedish subtitles? This is the US-release, so usually only English, Spanish and French subtitles are included at its best. If you check the Kubrick-specs more closely, you´ll see that actually Warner has included plenty of subs and dubs for the US-releases (Blu-ray-releases at least, HD DVD doesn´t have all the dubs and subs). E.g. "Eyes Wide Shut" Blu-ray: English PCM 5.1 (6.9 Mpbs) English Dolby Digital 5.1 (640 Kbps) French Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 German Dolby Digital 5.1 Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 English HoH, English, Dutch, German, Italian, French, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese, Korean, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish, and Danish subtitles ** 2001 - Blu-ray: English PCM 5.1 (6.9 Mbps) English Dolby Digital 5.1 (640 Kbps) French Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 German Dolby Digital 5.1 Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Korean, Portuguese, Norwegian, Swedish, French, Spanish, Chinese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, German, and Italian I believe this is quite a lot for the US-release...

#14 of 19 OFFLINE   Brandon Conway

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Posted November 08 2007 - 03:19 AM

The BDs are actually "World Wide" releases. It's one way Warner uses the extra 20gb of space.

"And now the reprimand, from an American critic. He reproaches me for using film as a sacred & lasting medium, like a painting or a book. He does not believe that filmmaking is an inferior art, but he believes, and quite rightly, that a reel goes quickly, that the public are looking above all for relaxation, that film is fragile and that it is pretentious to express the power of one's soul by such ephemeral and delicate means, that Charlie Chaplin's or Buster Keaton's first films can only be seen on very rare and badly spoiled prints. I add that the cinema is making daily progress and that eventually films that we consider marvelous today will soon be forgotten because of new dimensions & colour. This is true. But for 4 weeks this film [The Blood of a Poet] has been shown to audiences that have been so attentive, so eager & so warm, that I wonder after all there is not an anonymous public who are looking for more than relaxation in the cinema." - Jean Cocteau, 1932

#15 of 19 OFFLINE   Bryan^H



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Posted November 08 2007 - 07:05 AM

Me too. It looks stunning on my widescreen monitorPosted Image

housekeeping 2.jpg

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#16 of 19 OFFLINE   Jari K

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Posted November 11 2007 - 07:29 AM

Follow up to my original question (perhaps Matt wants to add this info to his review or something); HD-releases run 143:36 min, which means that they´re the longer US-versions.

#17 of 19 OFFLINE   Jari K

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Posted November 11 2007 - 07:32 AM

With PCM and these added dubs and subs, I assume that the "film"-part uses the same "capacity" on both formats (I can´t be fully sure, though). So in the sense I agree..

#18 of 19 OFFLINE   BrianSiano



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Posted July 10 2009 - 08:10 AM

I just watched the new Blu-Ray of _The Shining_, which is fabulous, but there is one point where the new framing affects the film, somewhat.

It's during Nicholson's amazing monologue in the hotel bar, right after he describes how he broke the kid's arm. He tries to rationalize it, "One momentary loss of muscular coordination... a few foot pound per second, per _second_..." And then Nicholson does something really terrifying: he pantomines snapping his kid's arm, and throws his hands up in a fristrated "Whaddya gonna do?" gesture .

With the new framing, this motion's almost lost below the bottom of the frame. 

It's a very minor point on an otherwise excellent transfer.

#19 of 19 OFFLINE   Brian Borst

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Posted July 10 2009 - 08:43 AM

Well, technically it isn't a 'new' framing, since it was framed that way in the theaters. It does look better than the open matted version. I was afraid for some tights shots, but the film looked great.
This Blu-ray was the first opportunity for me to see the longer cut, and I think the shorter still is better.
Most awkward Shelley Duvall scenes are gone, the
is removed and the pacing is much better.

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