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The Shining on blu-ray: Revisiting the Overlook Hotel

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Reggie W, Feb 18, 2019.

  1. Message #1 of 52 Feb 18, 2019
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2019
    Reggie W

    Reggie W Producer

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    Shining.


    So, last night I watched The Shining again and this is one of those odd pictures that my relationship with and feelings about seem to change over time. I don't know if this happens to any of you but there are some films which as I see them again over the years my thoughts on them continue to develop. From seeing it in a theater when it was first released, to seeing it on TV, VHS, DVD, and blu-ray...well...I have over the years paid many visits to the Overlook Hotel. I was surprised when I searched here there was no dedicated thread to this film. So, here is a thread to talk about it...if you dare enter the doors of the Overlook once again...

    The Shining may be one of the most written about and discussed films in the history of motion pictures. From real analysis to out there conspiracy theories I am not sure any movie has been more picked apart. When the picture was released on blu-ray a whole new round of frame by frame dissection began and we are not just talking about how the video and audio improved. These improvements allowed people to dive even deeper into whatever it is that they think Stanley Kubrick and the film are trying to tell them. I do think most of the weird conspiracy stuff is based around the fact that Kubrick made this film and people think he was some sort of mad genius privy to all sorts of esoteric knowledge...faking the moon landing and evil cabals that run the planet for example. The truth is he was just a family man that loved his pets and puttering around the house, while working on a good story he could tell on film. That's a bit boring when compared to being contacted by NASA to help them fake the moon landing so never allow the truth to get in the way of a good legend.

    So, one of the things that has continued to develop for me is how I feel about the performances in the film. When I first saw the film in a theater and for years afterwards Nicholson was the person I was most focused on. His performance was crazed and weird but I felt at the time that it was justified. Shelley Duvall I found annoying at first. Danny Lloyd was quite good as their son but the film makes it pretty clear why Danny would be terrified. The poor kid has a little boy that lives in his mouth, talks through his finger, shows him terrible stuff, he sees ghosts, his father is bat shit crazy, and his mother seems of little help. This kid is not having a good life. For many years I watched the film mostly for Nicholson's performance.

    As time passed though things flipped for me, while still enjoying Jack, Shelley became the key performance in the picture. She really is the anchor of the whole thing providing a realistic transformation from wife that wants to be supportive of her obviously deeply flawed husband to terrified and aware he is dangerous to her and her son. It's actually a great performance that seems so real you can't tell Duvall is acting.

    Nicholson though is another story. He is most definitely acting and in a great big comic way. All of his reaction shots in the film make it appear he thinks he is doing a comedy. There is no normal or naturalistic acting from Jack here, he starts weird and just gets more worked up as the film progresses. The critics of the film, including Stephen King, all cited Nicholson's performance as one of the major flaws of the picture, that he goes nuts too quickly. Well, he seems to be nuts from the jump to me. From his opening interview for the job his reaction shots are pretty funny. Then his explaining to his young son what happened to the Donner party as they drive up to the hotel...well...this is pretty hilarious. And Kubrick makes sure that we have Jack's face in the foreground so we can see every little nuance of his facial expressions and seriously, they all scream this guy is anything but alright.

    Jack is a very expressive actor and his eyebrows, now oh so much more evident in hi-def, tend to often elevate things from normal to comic in one little twitch. He does not just chew the scenery in this film though, he pretty much rips it to shreds. There really is nobody like Jack Nicholson today but perhaps the closest we can come is Joaquin Phoenix who also gives a clinic on reaction shots in films like The Master and Inherent Vice. The faces Nicholson makes in The Shining as he reacts to all the other characters do sort of betray any sense of terror...because on my watch last night I was laughing at his performance nearly the whole way through the film.

    He also stands out more now because there just are really no actors today that jump off the screen like Jack and have his massive personality so what may have seemed alright in 1980 to me now looks like crazed mugging for the camera. His drooling, tongue flicking, eyebrow raising, pouting, sneering, ranting madness is so out of control you have to wonder if Kubrick ever said to him "Jack, let's try that again but this time tone it down a bit."

    Honestly, it seems he never did. Kubrick often did many takes with actors to push them to do strange and odd things and to go places they would not normally have gone. Also to break them down to the point where they would no longer be able to "act" and so were just "being" on camera in a more realistic manner. With Nicholson though, Kubrick may have met an actor that he just could not or had no idea how to handle or regulate his performance.

    In a Spinal Tap way he somehow starts at 11 and works his way up to 22 and Kubrick and his camera seem to just be holding on for dear life. The other actors in the film deliver all the terror and unease. Joe Turkel and his dead eyed stare as Lloyd the bartender as a party literally takes place on Jack's face. Or Philip Stone creepy as Grady telling Torrance that he must "correct" his wife and child while Nicholson mugs like a naughty boy.

    Also, the funny moment where Nicholson wipes his hand on the back of Grady's jacket as they make their way to the men's room so Grady can clean up the mess he made spilling drinks all over Torrance. Nicholson often seems to be going for little comic moments while others are acting in a horror film. It's not so much nuts as it is hilarious. I could sort of feel Mr. King seething as he watched this.

    I do think sometimes when you watch a film many, many times you become overly familiar with it and then you start to see other things in it you may not have paid attention to before. In the case of The Shining Nicholson was always front and center in it but I think I laughed a lot more through this last viewing than I have on previous ones and I am not sure I am supposed to.

    Duvall is not funny, she appears truly terrified and sort of heartbreaking. We know Kubrick really pushed her to get that performance. Watching the film this time though I kept wondering what did Kubrick say to Jack as they shot his scenes? I don't think his performance really fits the subject matter. I mean, he is no doubt fun to watch but is he supposed to be this hilarious?

    I'm not saying I would like to swap Jack out for another actor or that I don't enjoy watching him but I have to say in what I think is supposed to be an epic horror film Nicholson oddly gives a hilarious comic performance. Maybe it was just meant to be weird but watch Nicholson react to Lloyd the bartender or Grady in the men's room and tell me what you think Kubrick wanted in these scenes.
     
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  2. Reggie W

    Reggie W Producer

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    Jack and Joe.
     
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  3. Reggie W

    Reggie W Producer

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    joe turkel.
     
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  4. Message #4 of 52 Feb 18, 2019
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2019
    Reggie W

    Reggie W Producer

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    This scene for Nicholson is all about goofy mugging.

     
  5. Reggie W

    Reggie W Producer

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    jack at the bar.
     
  6. Reggie W

    Reggie W Producer

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    Danny and Jack.
     
  7. TravisR

    TravisR Studio Mogul

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    It probably undoes some of the tension but alot of the humor in Nicholson's performance is a highlight of the movie. I assume that both Kubrick and Nicholson got what they wanted. The biggest problem for me is that, as is frequently noted, Jack is crazy from the beginning.

    Also, that Room 237 documentary is a bunch of crap. I thought I was going to have my mind blown by some amazing insights into details but it's just a boring and insane fantasy.
     
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  8. Reggie W

    Reggie W Producer

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    Kubrick once said about acting that interesting is better than real and maybe that's why he chose the takes he did of Nicholson in The Shining. You know Kubrick would have given himself different takes to choose from and if what we see are the takes he selected it makes me wonder what did the others look like.

    To me watching the film and even the Vivian Kubrick documentary it looks like Kubrick just set Jack loose...while at the same time heavily pushing Shelley Duvall. Duvall truly looks like and comes across as a terrified woman, it does not seem like acting. It may in fact be one of the great performances ever given in a horror film.

    I don't think Nicholson was an actor you had to push to do more. There is that story Patrick Magee tells of Kubrick pushing him and pushing him to do more and go bigger in a reaction shot Kubrick was shooting in A Clockwork Orange. Magee thought Kubrick wanted things ramped up to such a degree it seemed ridiculous so he walked over to Malcolm McDowell and asked if Kubrick knew what the fuck he was doing.

    I don't think Kubrick had to push Nicholson to do what he does in The Shining and if anything my feeling is he should have told him to tone it down. Now that we have the film on blu-ray people like to point out all sorts of things they think have significance from what kind of baking powder is shown in the food locker to the fact that Nicholson is reading Playgirl in the hotel lobby while he is waiting for Ullman to come get him for the tour.

    I'm not sure we are even supposed to pay attention to what magazine Torrance is reading or if the idea he is reading Playgirl is supposed to mean something to us. It seems like something Nicholson might have done because he thought it was funny and to see if Kubrick noticed what magazine he had in his hands.

    Yes, to the oddballs in Room 237, that probably means something but like you I think they are just fantasizing.
     
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  9. Jeffrey D

    Jeffrey D Screenwriter

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    Jack’s performance is over the top at times, but he’s still a strong suit of the film. The claustrophobic horror of the hotel is another terrific aspect of it. My favorite scene is the
    “I’m not gonna hurtcha- I’m going to bash your brains in” scene. I think the film is a few minutes too long.
     
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  10. Message #10 of 52 Feb 18, 2019
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2019
    Reggie W

    Reggie W Producer

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    I have long loved this film. I get a sort of warm giddy joy watching it and I think part of that is nostalgia and part is seeing Jack acting hilariously bat shit crazy. And part is that it is a pretty odd Kubrick film. It strikes me odd though that trapped in this weird hotel where his wife and child seem fairly troubled he often is having an incredibly good time.

    Watching the film again, I don't know how many times I've watched it but it has been a lot, Nicholson's performance...while being great fun...is poorly calibrated with the rest of the film. It seems like Jack is performing in this pretty funny domestic comedy while all the other actors are in a horror film.

    I still love the picture and enjoy it every time I see it but I do wonder what Nicholson is up to here. Was he just really going mad from working with Kubrick for so long? Could he not help going over the top? And Kubrick, the master, the perfectionist, the guy that would do take after take until he thought he finally got what he thought he wanted...the guy that made Shelley's hair fall out from nerves, made Scatman Crothers cry, gave Tom Cruise an ulcer...what was he seeing and thinking as he watched Nicholson mug it up in scene after scene?

    I just wonder...
     
  11. Reggie W

    Reggie W Producer

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    The exchange below is Roger Ebert talking with Shelley Duvall:


    "How was it, working with Kubrick?" I asked Duvall 10 years after the experience.

    "Almost unbearable," she said. "Going through day after day of excruciating work, Jack Nicholson's character had to be crazy and angry all the time. And my character had to cry 12 hours a day, all day long, the last nine months straight, five or six days a week. I was there a year and a month. After all that work, hardly anyone even criticized my performance in it, even to mention it, it seemed like. The reviews were all about Kubrick, like I wasn't there."
     
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  12. Brian Kidd

    Brian Kidd Cinematographer
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    I really like Nicholson's performance. For me, the effectiveness of the film lies in how everything about the Overlook belies its essential "wrongness." It is a focal point for madness; a thin spot in the fabric of reality where chaos and malevolence can break through and affect all who come in contact with it. It's a kind of magnet that attracts certain types of people to it through its veneer of grandeur and opulence, only to feed off of their more-negative traits and actions. Those who are too weak are consumed by it and driven mad. Everything about the design of the hotel is slightly off; the patterns on the carpet, the garishness of the Gold Room, the labyrinthine hallways that go in directions that don't make spatial sense. The fact that Jack Torrence is already slightly "off" before he arrives is precisely why the Overlook attracts him. As Grady says, he has "always been here." It was inevitable that he would end up there and inevitable that the place would devour him and, by association, his family.

    The Shining is one of the few Horror films that has sustained its power to scare after multiple viewings. It is a film that is unsettling from beginning to end and makes an impression that sticks with the viewer.
     
  13. Reggie W

    Reggie W Producer

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    Yes, I do try to look at Jack Torrance through the glass that as a person he is already psychologically unbalanced and so the hotel both feeds off of and preys on this. Causing his sort of giddy reactions because the hotel welcomes his unbalanced state in a way that makes him feel happy and at home there.

    Jack Torrance is never right in the film and I always tried to counter the argument that he goes mad too quickly with the idea that the hotel wanted him specifically because he is crazy enough to kill his family. So, the Overlook pulls him there to feed the bloodlust that seeps through its walls.
     
  14. Bryan^H

    Bryan^H Lead Actor

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    I'm waiting patiently for a UHD BD of this, along with the rest of the Kubrick films. This is my favorite Kubrick movie.
     
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  15. dpippel

    dpippel HTF Premium Member
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    I'd snatch up a 4K UHD release of this right away too.
     
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  16. Bryan^H

    Bryan^H Lead Actor

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    Well it is WB, so I think it is almost guaranteed to happen.
     
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  17. haineshisway

    haineshisway Producer

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    I hated the movie when I saw it on its opening day (complete with the hospital ending). I'd just finished the book, literally a few hours before and loved it. One of the most effective things about the book is how the Nicholson character isn't crazy at the top - problems, yes, but he's dealt with him and we like that. It's the Overlook itself that drives him where he eventually goes. In the movie, even in the car drive there's something off with him and I found it so weird, and then he just gets weirder and weirder. I knew it was an entertaining performance, certainly. But in the end, there was no horror at all for me and that is how it was advertised and that's what the brilliant trailer of blood promised.

    But over the years I have grown to really like it a lot - time does that, and the style of the film is really excellent once you've forgotten the book and take the film on its own terms. It's a one-off - there's still no horror in it, at least for me, but it's an exercise in style and the sets and camerawork and direction are all in service of it. I watch it quite often.
     
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  18. Message #18 of 52 Feb 18, 2019
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2019
    Josh Steinberg

    Josh Steinberg Executive Producer
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    One of the interesting things about The Shining is that it’s the only Kubrick film to have two different director-approved versions in circulation simulaneously.

    The UK version runs about 20 minutes shorter and was trimmed by Kubrick after the initial US release. I prefer the longer version myself but the shorter one is not without merit. It’s also available on DVD and BD from the UK.

    For anyone interested, here is the link to the region-free UK edition which runs about 119 minutes:
    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Shining-Blu-ray-Region-Free/dp/B0013K11AE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1550528953&sr=8-1&keywords=the+shining+blu

    The label on the disc itself cites the longer running time, but I've watched it and can verify that it's actually the shorter version.

    It's an interesting comparison to see two different versions of this same story which both carry the director's approval. The shorter version is less atmospheric but still creepy, and the narrative feels more propulsive.
     
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  19. Scott Merryfield

    Scott Merryfield Executive Producer

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    I am of a similar mind. I loved the book, and had read it before the film came out. The first time I saw the film, I didn't care for it that much because it was so much different than the book. Stephen King didn't care for Kubrick's take on his novel, so it's not surprise that fans of the book may feel this way.

    After a few more viewings, though, I began to appreciate the film on it's own. Nicholson's performance is iconic, and the hotel does have that eerie, claustrophobic feel -- just in a different way than the book. At this point, I appreciate the novel and film as separate works.
     
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  20. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Director
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    Well, there should have been a review thread here for The Shining since I did the original Blu-ray review for it all those years ago, but a quick search doesn't reveal it, so it must have gotten swallowed up during one of the moves HTF undertook to a new server. Interesting discussion of the movie for sure. If I can find my original review, I'll post it here.
     

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