Directed by Stanley Kubrick

Review by Gary Tooze


The title was inspired by the refrain in 

"Instant Karma," a  John Lennon  ( with 

The Plastic Ono Band  ) song  from the 

chorus: "We all shine on." 

After the limited North American box-office success of "Barry Lyndon" in 1975, Stanley Kubrick looked toward a more mainstream, crowd pleasing, money-generating film for his next project. With the 70's success of horror films like "The Exorcist" and "Rosemary's Baby", his choice was an adaptation of the Stephen King book "The Shining". 

The film took over 5 years to complete ( 6 months of actual shooting ), but  would put Kubrick's unique mark on the genre, indelibly burning unforgettable images into the minds-eye of his audience for years to come. This would show the public-at-large what a "Stanley Kubrick film" was all about.

King's book "The Shining" deals with, in his own words, "just a little story about writer's block". With collaboration by novelist Diane Johnson, Kubrick struck heavily upon themes of both communication and miscommunication as well as isolation. As was his penchant he used rich symbolic motifs. They repeat throughout the film as psychic ability or "Shining" as well as the major characters stymied authorship and spiral into madness. In a very poignant moment Jack destroys their only means of outside communication; a 2-way radio.



"The Overlook Hotel" in the isolated Rocky Mountains is the setting for "The Shining".  Actually the exterior shots were of The Timberline Hotel in Mt. Hood National Forest, Oregon.

The film starts to prepare the viewer for isolation with gliding aerial shots of a deserted winding highway (shots critic Pauline Kael described as "like a caterpillar seen by God"), leading to the Overlook Hotel, Colorado where Jack Torrance ( played by Jack Nicholson ) has taken his wife Wendy ( Shelley Duvall ) and child to become the winter caretaker in the cavernous, vacant resort for the next 5 months. The child is named Danny ( played by Danny Lloyd... and chosen for the part by Leon Vitali from over 5000 applicants! ) Danny displays his clairvoyance with a premonition of his Father's job offer and introduces us to his imaginary friend "Tony" who communicates through his wiggling finger.


Jack smiles at the job interview calmly unaffected by news of the horrific end of the last caretaker and his murderous rampage on his own family.


Weaving angles wind through the decor of the Overlook Hotel repeated in carpet/rug designs, 

American Indian wall motifs, Danny's sweater and especially in the garden maze (not found in the King novel). This suggests a fateful complexity that hold the aura of the Hotel and the workings of Jack's grid-locked mind drifting into dementia.  Kubrick utilized a number of long narrow camera angle 

shots that further represented the feeling of isolation in the vast open spaces of the Overlook. Darren Hughes catalogued many of the reverse tacking shots in Kubrick's work. CLICK HERE to access it.

Perfectly cast, Scatman Crothers with his healthy eyes and weathered face plays the chef of the Overlook, Dick Halloran, who, before he leaves for his Florida vacation, takes Danny aside, informing him that he also shares his gift of unspoken communication that his grandmother called "Shining". He also warns Danny to stay away from room 237 (which was changed from King's book originally as 217, the room number where half of the novel was written in a similar location; The Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado).

Scatman would have only been a benefit to the often criticized under-developed characterizations, but Halloran's persona was short changed in the film and he suffers a  sacrificial death upon his attempt to return to the haunted Overlook and play the hero. His noble act does not go totally without benefit as both Wendy and Danny use his "Sno-Cat" transport vehicle to escape Jacks' psychotic clutches.

    "Sometimes when people do bad things

something is left behind... kind of like burnt toast. "


Jack uses the washroom  (another recurring motif in Kubrick films... remember killing of the drill sergeant in Full Metal Jacket?) of the Overlook Bar  and in Eyes Wide Shut,  Dr. William Harford (Tom Cruise) visits the den of Victor Ziegler (Sydney Pollack) as he showcases his bright red pool table.

Kubrick, a devoted follower of past master directors was greatly influenced by an essay of Sergei Eisensteins entitled "Color and Meaning" published in 1943. Color may be one of the most distinguishing mark of Kubrick's cinematic career. The color red is found predominantly as far back as scenes in Spartacus - 1960. Further examples are in "2001: A Space Odyssey", the HAL9000 's beaming red eye scrutinizes  and lip-reading the two astronauts, the decor of the interior of the spaceship and 70's reminiscent space station chairs are all visible reds. Various shades of passionate red are seen in almost every scene of "Eyes Wide Shut" from the circular image on the large rug on the deviant cult floor, the marble of their condominium, much of the decor of their home to even the wrapping on the Christmas gifts of the prostitutes apartment. The red of "The Shining" is usually depicted in the palette shade of blood or dried blood.


Danny first glimpses the apparition of the dead caretakers twin daughters who eerily beckon him to play with them.


Another event that coincided with "The Shining" was the invention of the "Stedi-Cam" by, the operator in the above scene, Garrett Brown. He utilized it by following Danny's tricycle as he "raced" around the halls of the vacant Hotel showing further creepy emptiness.
Danny's protective psychic-channeling friend "Tony" forewarns him of the evil of the past with shocking imagery.

Graphic images that are retained in the viewer's memory are scattered throughout the film.

The above elevator scene as witnessed by Danny through "Tony", only seems to be relevant for the dynamics of the films trailer not the storyline.

Danny crayons the message of "Murder" backwards on a door to signify deeds of the past and further foreshadow Jack's upcoming onslaught.

The blank look on Wendy's face as she is confronted with the truth of what Jack has been occupying his time with sends the final clue to his mental breakdown.

Kubrick had each page individually typed ( errors included ! ). 

For the Italian version of the film, Kubrick used the phrase ‘Il mattino ha l' oro in bocca’ 

(‘He who wakes up early meets a golden day’). 

For the German version, it was ‘Was Du heute kannst besorgen, das verschiebe nicht auf Morgen’ 

(‘Don't postpone something, that can be done today.’) 

For the Spanish version, it was ‘No por mucho madrugar amanece más temprano’ 

(‘Although one will rise early, it won't dawn sooner.’)”

Kubrick ( with improvisation from Nicholson ) used family-oriented house-hold maxims and nursery rhythms to juxtapose an added element of eerie familiarity combined with the frantic chase. 

"Wendy, I'm Home !"

"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy !"

"I'll HUFF and I'll PUFF and I'll BLOW your House down !"

and his infamous: " HERE'SSS JOHNNY "

Nicholson's acting may have justifiably been considered to be over-the-top at times, but he couldn't "outshine" the true star of the film; the marvelously inventive camera angles and composition of the frames. Above, Jack is shown from underneath as he attempts to "bargain" with Wendy for his release. Vivian Kubrick's short film on the DVD actually shows Kubrick filming while lying on the floor.

Hunched over and limping in the dimly lit maze looking not unlike Murnau's "Nosferatu" Jack hunts his son Danny with an axe bent on reproducing the slayer-father deeds of the last caretaker.



Jack Torrance's ultimate goal is to escape from both the trapping garden maze and his own demons which have overtaken his mind from the Overlook. Jack has failed his "test" to conquer these demons and freezes to death in the end with the complex right-angled hedges of the Overlook garden winning out. Jack dies as he cannot overcome the complexities of his own anomalies.  "Writer's block" is said to have "frozen" the writer. He freezes to death symbolically as an author and literally as a human.

The final shot group of montage images was replaced by Kubrick by a solitary one giving just enough visibility to recognize Jack as the host of a lavish Overlook party in days gone by. The two shots put the story to conclusion. His image opens the door to an entire series of questions. Was Jack transplanted from the past destined to relive his time at the Overlook ? or were the demons of the past caretaker embodied within him as he struggled to create his novel ? His solitary frozen image signifies to us that the cycle is complete and the haunting spirits of the Overlook, like Jack himself have lost out to its their own evil.
The Bottom Line

I don't think its totally necessary to dredge up the dissatisfaction with "The Shining" by both the fans and author Stephen King. It's my contention that years later as we now reflect on this, that "The Shining" and Kubrick more than hold their own, in fact if it were a cat-fight between Stephen and Stanley... Stanley wins it hands down. 


King produced his own TV version of "The Shining" afterward, which was by many people standards quite good, but extended beyond its necessity to suit the length of a "mini-series" ( final toll almost 5 hours ). In rating points it actually bombed and King states this was due to the popularity of the film. Kubrick had to cut corners somewhere from the book, and although I agree that the characterizations were weaker than they could have been ( and the addition of more of Dick Halloran would have been a benefit ), the film ran over 140 minutes ( and could easily have gone 3 hours ) but for logistics, the full story had to be trimmed. It should also be stated that Stephen King is an immensely talented writer, with the ability to have some of his novels, like "The Stand" and "The Dead Zone", called masterpieces. He takes his craft very seriously, but by no means is "The Shining" a perfect story. In Kings biography he does state that "The Shining" is one of his favorite films of all time. So what does that imply ?

The general consensus of marketing Horror films is through the exploitive element. They bill the film as "better" in a more gory and gruesome sense than had ever been previously seen. Although Kubrick burned some rather disturbing images in the viewers head with "The Shining", it was going no where near the cheap thrill level of a teen-slasher ( Friday the 13th, Halloween etc. ) type film. On the contrary, Kubrick films are of a slow with deliberate pacing, setting the crux of the film extremely subtly. 

Stanley Kubrick is said to be an obsessive perfectionist in his field. This film holds the Guinness Book of World Records for requiring Shelley Duvall to do 127 takes for one scene. On another occasion he required Jack Nicholson to do over 100 takes, stating "the longer we do it, the better he gets". The score ( changed again by Kubrick ) was originally supposed to have been done by John Williams. It was replaced by Kubricks own collection with music by Béla Bartók (from "Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta") 
Hector Berlioz, György Ligeti and Krzysztof Penderecki. This is how Kubrick crafts his films... he must conquer/control the idea/project/novel completely to transmogrify them into his own masterpiece. He has done so again with startling brilliance. Like almost all Kubrick works, this is a film that one appreciates more the more one sees it. It's a shame more horror films are not all this good.

REGARDING THE EDIT - NOTE: (sent in email by Francois) "To sum it up, Shelley Duvall mentioned the deleted scene in an interview to French movie magazine "Positif" (which had a strong Kubrick coverage due to Kubrick expert Michel Ciment). It took place in a hospital where hotel manager Stuart Ullman visited Wendy and Danny, recovering, a few days after the events. Ullman told Wendy that Jack's body hadn't been found so far. He spoke with her about her plans for the future and showed concern for Danny and her. Then, he moved to Danny and threw a rubber ball at him. The rubber ball bounced exactly like the one Danny had found earlier in the lobby, suggesting that Ullman had been an accomplice with all the things evil from the very beginning. Cut to the final scene in the hall with the picture.

Duvall spoke of it as an "Hitchcockian ending", which was no surprise given Kubrick's love for Hitchcock. She had a clear recollection of the whole scene as it was a tracking shot requiring dozens of takes before getting one with the very same bounces.

Peter didn't mention in his recollection the bouncing ball. Maybe this part of the shot was already cut in the theatrical version, maybe it wasn't very effective to the audiences, which would explain why Kubrick removed it. In the event, he made way for one of the most powerful edits in all his work, going in a few shots from Jack's frozen body to the group photograph of 1921.
" (Thanks Francois!)

out of


The DVD 

I found many of the complaints of this DVD to be unfounded, but also a few to be accurate. Firstly, complaints of it not being Widescreen; the major benefit to having a film be WS is that it is kept in the directors intended original aspect ratio. For Kubrick and "The Shining", this was the case. He intended to shoot the movie in "Full Frame" or "Academy Ratio" of 1.33:1 . Having had a distasteful experience with his masterpiece "2001: A Space Odyssey"  being cropped by British television, Kubrick vowed never to let that happen again. His solution was to shoot ALL his films from that point onward in Full Frame. It would have been nice to have an improved picture with an anamorphic squeeze, but rest assured regardless of comments regarding the blank spaces in the upper and bottom portion of the screen, we are seeing the film the way Mr. Kubrick wanted us to. This also includes the sound, a Dolby Digital 2.0 track. Probably the best additional feature I have seen on any DVD yet is the inclusion on "The Shining" of a short film ( 35 minutes ) by Vivian Kubrick ( youngest daughter ) as an ad-hock documentary on "the making of". It is the only known film showing Kubrick at the actual task of directing. For Kubrick devotees, this is a must have, even if for first hand witnessing of his exasperation with Shelley Duvall and the frankness of Jack Nicholson as he gets into character.

Unfortunately, the film has not been restored for DVD. A new version of this DVD is coming out in June, 2001, and it is restored Some of the colors may seen washed out at times, but nothing of an extravagant nature in this version. In the new DVD, the Vivian Kubrick short, will be there and they have actually upgraded the sound to Dolby Digital 5.1... so in essence, in the new DVD you are NOT hearing "The Shining" in the way that Mr. Kubrick intended. ???  

The DVD gets out of


Full Cast and Crew for 

The Shining ( 1980 ) 

Directed by 
Stanley Kubrick 

Writing credits 
Diane Johnson (I) 
Stephen King (novel) 
Stanley Kubrick 

Cast (in credits order) verified as complete 
Jack Nicholson .... Jack Torrance 
Shelley Duvall .... Winifred "Wendy" Torrance 
Danny Lloyd .... Danny Torrance 
Scatman Crothers .... Dick Hallorann 
Barry Nelson (I) .... Stuart Ullman 
Philip Stone (I) .... Delbert Grady 
Joe Turkel .... Lloyd 
Anne Jackson .... Doctor 
Tony Burton .... Larry Durkin 
Lia Beldam .... Young Woman in Bath 
Billie Gibson .... Old Woman in Bath 
Barry Dennen .... Bill Watson 
David Baxt .... Forest Ranger 1 
Manning Redwood .... Forest Ranger 2 
Lisa Burns .... Grady Daughter 
Louise Burns (I) .... Grady Daughter 
Robin Pappas .... Nurse 
Alison Coleridge .... Ullman's Secretary 
Burnell Tucker .... Policeman 
Jana Sheldon .... Stewardess 
Kate Phelps .... Receptionist 
Norman Gay .... Injured Guest with Head Wound 

Produced by 
Robert Fryer (producer) 
Jan Harlan (executive producer) 
Stanley Kubrick (producer) 

Original music by 
Wendy Carlos 
Rachel Elkind 

Non-original music by 
Béla Bartók (from "Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta") 
Hector Berlioz 
György Ligeti 
Krzysztof Penderecki 

Cinematography by 
John Alcott 

Film Editing by 
Ray Lovejoy 

Production Design by 
Roy Walker (I) 

Art Direction 
Leslie Tomkins 

Costume Design by 
Milena Canonero 

Makeup Department 
Leonard (I) .... hair stylist 
Tom Smith (III) .... makeup artist 

Production Management 
Douglas Twiddy .... production manager 

Second Unit Director or Assistant Director 
Brian W. Cook .... assistant director 
Terry Needham .... assistant director 
Michael Stevenson (I) .... assistant director 

Art Department 
Tessa Davies .... set dresser 
Vivian Kubrick .... art department (uncredited) 

Sound Department 
Dino Di Campo .... sound effects editor 
Jack T. Knight .... sound effects editor 
Wyn Ryder .... sound effects editor 
Ivan Sharrock .... production sound mixer 
Ken Weston .... boom operator 

Other crew 
Ray Andrew .... steadicam operator 
Garrett Brown (I) .... steadicam operator 
Ted Churchill .... steadicam operator 
James Devis .... camera operator 
Andros Epaminondas .... assistant to producer 
Jim Freeman (I) .... helicopter photography 
Jo Gregory .... production accountant 
Paul Kenward .... assistant camera 
Katharina Kubrick .... location assistant 
Greg MacGillivray .... helicopter photography 
Douglas Milsome .... additional photographer
focus puller 
Kelvin Pike .... camera operator 
June Randall .... continuity 
Leon Vitali .... personal assistant to director 
Herbert von Karajan .... conductor: Bartók's Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta