The Shining

Blu-Ray Rating: *****

Reviewed by: James Gracey

Read James Gracey's film review of The Shining
The Shining

Fans of Kubrick’s chilling classic will find much to salivate over on this blu-ray. Among the special features on offer is Vivian Kubrick’s eye-opening behind-the-scenes documentary, The Making of The Shining, complete with commentary track. Kubrick gave permission for his then-17-year-old daughter to document the production of The Shining for the BBC’s Arena series; in return she offers a rare glimpse into her father’s filming processes and obtains surprisingly candid and intimate interviews with stars Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall. We see cast and crew preparing for certain shots (Jack chopping through the bathroom door with an axe; Wendy fleeing from the hotel to investigate the snow-mobile) and are witness to some of the intensity they no doubt experienced while working with infamous perfectionist Kubrick.

Vivian’s technique is unobtrusive for the most part; she mainly films from the sidelines and quietly observes proceedings, letting them speak for themselves. There are a number of times though when she manages to get right into the action, and there’s a humorous moment when she accidentally walks into a shot and her father’s annoyance is audible. Intercut with her behind the scenes material are frank discussions with a charming Nicholson and a brutally honest but eloquent Duvall. Duvall has often discussed the difficult time she had while filming The Shining, and Vivian’s documentary confirms this; at one stage we see concerned crew members huddling around her after she’s fainted, covering her with blankets and offering words of encouragement while at one stage Kubrick actually states “No sympathy for Shelley.”

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His reasoning for treating her so contemptibly was to draw a very specific performance out of her, and like or loathe his technique, it worked, as Duvall’s increasingly shrill onscreen nervousness is palpable. The commentary track not only reveals Vivian’s great sense of self-deprecating humour and nostalgia (and sympathy for Shelley, whom she describes as "a real trooper"), but her disarming honesty and sincerity. She comments that at the time she made the documentary she felt she lacked credibility as a creative individual and basically learned everything she came to know while on the job. It’s full of insightful anecdotes and reminiscences.

Other special features are just as insightful, with a commentary track by steadicam inventor/operator Garrett Brown and Kubrick biographer John Baxter, a rare interview with Wendy Carlos - which not only allows us a glimpse into the elusive composer’s unique approach to scoring films, but provides us with the opportunity to hear music she composed for The Shining that was never used in the final cut, including a haunting synthesised version of Sibelius’s Valse Triste.

The View from the Overlook: Crafting The Shining features interviews with cast and crew members such as producer Jan Harlan, steadicam operator Garrett Brown, co-writer Diane Johnson, and production designer Roy Walker. Topics touched upon are the processes of adapting The Shining for the screen, what inspired Kubrick to direct a horror film, and his notorious perfectionism and brutal filming regime. Many of the talking-heads here reappear in The Visions of Stanley Kubrick to discuss the director’s style, influences and innovative storytelling techniques, with specific reference to The Shining. Essential stuff.

Reviewed on: 11 Sep 2014
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The Shining packshot
After moving his family to a remote hotel with a troubled past, a writer gradually loses his mind.
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Region: 0

Ratio: Codec: VC-1 (15.94 Mbps) Resolution: 1080p Original aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Sound: English: LPCM 5.1 (48kHz, 16-bit) English: Dolby Digital 5.1 (640 kbps)

Extras: Commentary by Garrett Brown and John Baxter, trailers, View from the Overlook: Crafting The Shining, The Visions of Stanley Kubrick, The Making of The Shining with optional commentary by Vivian Kubrick, interview with Wendy Carlos, composer

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