The Shining

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Details At A Glance

Category Horror Theatrical Trailer(s) Yes, 1 - 1.33:1, non-16x9, Dolby Digital 1.0
Rating Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1980 Commentary Tracks None
Running Time 114:45 minutes Other Extras Documentary - The Making of "The Shining" (33 mins)
Main Menu Music
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (36:44)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Movie
Region 2,4 Director Stanley Kubrick

Warner Home Video
Starring Jack Nicholson 
Shelley Duvall 
Scatman Crothers 
Danny Lloyd
RRP $29.95 Music Wendy Carlos 
Rachel Elkind

Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None Dolby Digital 1.0
16x9 Enhancement No Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 1.0, 192 Kb/s) 
French (Dolby Digital 1.0, 192 Kb/s) 
Italian (Dolby Digital 1.0, 192 Kb/s)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio ?1.66:1
Macrovision Yes Smoking Yes
Subtitles English 
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    The Shining ranks just behind Full Metal Jacket as one of the worst adaptations to film of a modern-day classic from the literary field. This is hardly surprising when you consider, however, that they are both directed by the same man. Director Stanley Kubrick's career was full of peaks and valleys, and this film is definitely a very low valley. My mother once told me that unless you'd read the Stephen King novel upon which this film is based, you'd be hard pressed to understand exactly what is going on in most of the film. Being that The Shining was a frequent read for me six years ago, I really can't say for certain whether or not this is true, but some of the plot devices are just horrendous. In today's movie-making world, most of the story points would be delivered through the use of digital special effects, and believe me, they would win the argument that digital effect technology is a boon to the film industry within thirty seconds. Someone also should have tapped Kubrick on the shoulder and reminded him that Stephen King would not become compulsory reading to people other than factory-floor supervisors and late night watchmen for another few years at the time.

    For those who haven't read the book yet (where the hell have you been?), the plot goes something like this. Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) is hired by the management of the Overlook Hotel, a hotel in an isolated part of the Colorado Rockies. Winters tend to be very cruel to this establishment, so a lot of general maintenance is needed, which Jack is expected to perform while everyone else goes to have a holiday. What the film doesn't mention is the fact that Jack Torrance is a recovering alcoholic with a history of violence, and that he is only hired by the Overlook's management on the express wishes of a friend who sits on the board of directors. This point is very central to the novel and the film suffers very badly for an absence of it. The film also fails to mention that Jack Torrance and his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) have known for quite some time that their son Danny (Danny Lloyd) has something special about him which cannot quite be explained away by mental defects or overactive imagination. During the time in which the Torrance family is shown around the hotel, Danny learns that he has a special power called "the shine" from the hotel's cook, Dick Hallorann (Scatman Crothers). While the nature of "the shine" is somewhat explained during this sequence, it is nowhere near as comprehensive in doing this as the novel - a major reason why a lot of later sequences fail to make complete sense.

    Modern horror films (as opposed to slasher films, there is a difference) have the distinct advantage of a carefully thought-out script, likeable protagonists, and coherent execution. The Shining has none of these things. Shelley Duvall's performance as Wendy Torrance is consistently annoying and made me root for Jack all the way through the second half. Danny Lloyd's performance ranges from pleasant (during his conversations with Dick, mainly) to irritating (particularly in the "redrum" sequence). The only saving grace here is Jack Nicholson's performance. He plays mentally unstable characters so well that, twenty years later, he is getting commendations from organizations that have nothing to do with the film industry for it. It makes me wish he'd just chopped up the rest of the cast and left it at that. Why Stanley Kubrick chose to kill off Scatman Crothers, the only other decent performer who has more than ten minutes of screen time in the show, is a mystery to me.

Transfer Quality


    One would think that Warner Brothers would show some respect to the late Stanley Kubrick and his family by taking time out to do restoration work on his older films. Alas, with almost all his titles, this is not the case. It's a pity, because if this film had been digitally remastered, I might have been able to honestly say this film was worth buying. The transfer is presented in Full Frame, with an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, and it is not 16x9 enhanced. The packaging incorrectly states that this is a 1.85:1 widescreen presentation.

    Generally, the transfer is soft, like most films from the late seventies and early eighties (it was the in thing in those days to make the picture somewhat murky, and it serves well in terms of showing a film's age). At times it is also rather softly focused. Again, given that this film was made in what I like to call the "soft picture era", I believe this to be a problem with the film itself rather than the actual transfer. Similarly definition is quite average, with shadow detail quite poor, and the overall presentation is nothing more than average. The film is riddled with film artefacts, with hairs and smudges on the negative showing up every few minutes, or every few frames during the first few minutes. This settles down to an acceptable level once the action gets going, so I wouldn't sweat it. Unless you're anything like me, and want to compare it with other films of such vintage such as Mad Max 2 and Caddyshack, in which case, it stinks.

    This disc uses the RSDL format, with the layer change coming rather early at 36:44. In a rare stroke of common sense for Warner Brothers, they placed it in a title shot, so you really won't notice a thing unless you are fussy like me.


    All the audio tracks are in mono, as are all titles in the Stanley Kubrick Collection, to the best of my knowledge. Given that Warner Brothers are so keen to promote Stanley Kubrick and his "classic" titles, I think it is downright lame that they only present his more heavily sought-after works (another example of this being Full Metal Jacket) in this fashion. This leads me to believe that the sound and picture quality on any Warner Brothers DVD is inversely proportional to the size of the potential audience. Or perhaps it is directly proportional to the esoteric nature of that audience's tastes. As I've said before, the two protagonists in this film soon have their dialogue reduced to whining and incoherent babbling, and the mono mix of this film serves to highlight the annoyance. While it may be possible to have a lot of incoherent screaming from multiple characters in a film that makes use of more than two sound channels, the presentation in mono soon reduces the sound in such sequences to a butchered mess.

    The disc gives us a choice of three languages: English, French, and Italian. Again, they are all in mono, and thus I can presume they all suffer the same sound mix problems. Subtitles are offered in English, French, Italian, Arabic, Spanish, German, Dutch, Portuguese, English for the Hearing Impaired, and Italian for the Hearing Impaired. The nicest thing that can be said for the subtitles is that they mostly coincide with the audio. To be fair to the people who made this film, however, the actual dialogue (as opposed to the screaming and whining) is clear and perfectly easy to understand throughout the film, with no audio sync problems present. The score, while somewhat irritating in parts, contributes well to the film's horrific atmosphere. Overall, the sound aspect is not too bad, but it's definitely nothing to rave about, either.


     In a rare display of consideration for the movie buff, Warner Brothers have provided us with a moderate selection of extras and a pleasant menu system.


     The menu is themed around the movie, and is fairly simple and easy to navigate. Unlike the chapter list on the packaging, the scene selection menu actually coincides with the scenes present on the disc.

Theatrical Trailer

    It is hard to believe that they made theatrical trailers this ordinary at any point in Hollywood history, but here's the evidence. This is not the teaser trailer as stated on the packaging, either. Nothing to get particularly excited about.

Documentary - The Making of The Shining

    Insights aplenty into how Stanley Kubrick and Jack Nicholson work, and that's really about all that can be said for this extra. Subtitles are available in English, French, Italian, Spanish, German, English for the Hearing Impaired and Italian for the Hearing Impaired. MPEG artefacts are horrendous during the later half of this documentary, with pixelization and definition loss aplenty.

R4 vs R1

   The Region 4 disc appears to miss out on significant amount of film deleted by the censors, and the chapter index on the packaging quickly loses any correlation to the actual programme content in the last forty minutes of the film. Why anyone would want to inflict more of this show upon themselves is beyond me, but I am also very offended by such censorship.

   The Region 1 version does not suffer any censorship problems at all, as is the case with all Kubrick titles. It therefore wins hands down, and you can get all of Kubrick's films with the exception of Eyes Wide Shut from Region 1 in a boxed set, anyway.


    The Shining is one of the most over-rated horror films I have ever witnessed, just as its director is one of the most over-rated filmmakers of the 20th century. If you want an example of how much can be achieved using suspense rather than gore, buy The Texas Chainsaw Massacre instead. Even the major censorship problems this title suffers do not explain away the poor quality.

    The video quality is distinctly ordinary, even for a film of this age. It is even more substandard when compared to films of a similar age from the same studio, and thus it stands as my first nomination for the dreaded Hall Of Shame.

    The audio quality is disappointing and I suspect it to be less than what I'd get from the VCR version. During the last third of the movie, Jack Nicholson and Scatman Crothers have the privilege of being the only actors allowed to make sense.

    The extras are the best thing about this disc. Given that they are pretty ordinary, too, I guess that isn't saying much.

Ratings (out of 5)

© Dean McIntosh
January 14, 2000 
Review Equipment
DVD Grundig GDV 100 D
Display Panasonic 51cm
Audio Decoder None
Amplification Sony STR-DE535
Speakers Panasonic S-J1500D front speakers, Sharp CP-303A back speakers, Sony SS-CN120 centre speaker, Yamaha B100-115SE subwoofer