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(Digitally Restored & Remastered Edition)

I haven't seen THE SHINING since it was issued on Laserdisc about a decade ago, so I had forgotten what a creepy and visually stunning horror movie this truly is. THE SHINING is a genuine standout in all of horror cinema because of the way that legendary director Stanley Kubrick brings his unique vision of terror to the screen. Of course, the film is an entirely different animal from the Stephen King novel upon which it is based, but Kubrick’s adaptation of THE SHINING has certainly left is own indelible mark on the realm of horror. For this reason, it’s not worth reentering the decades old debate about the superiority of the novel over the film version of THE SHINING.

Kubrick and his co-writer Diane Johnson maintain the framework and incidents from King's novel, but they do take license with the story to transform it into cinema. Jack Nicholson stars as Jack Torrance, a former teacher who takes the job of winter caretaker at the Overlook Hotel, which becomes isolated from the rest of the world every winter, once the severe snows of the Colorado Rockies make the only road impassible. Jack doesn't mind the months of isolation, since he will have his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and son Danny (Danny Lloyd) for company, plus the job also allows Jack plenty of free time to work on his burgeoning writing career.

Unfortunately, the Overlook has a rather unsavory history, in which a former caretaker went mad during the long winter's isolation, murdering his wife and family with an axe before killing himself. The dark atmosphere that hangs over the hotel first begins to affect young Danny, who is gifted with psychic abilities that are referred to as "shining" by the Overlook's head chef, Dick Hallorann (Scatman Crothers), who has similar abilities and connects with the boy on a psychic level. While Danny is the first to see the horrifying manifestation's of the Overlook's dark past, it is Jack who is most deeply effected by the hotel- slowly being driven to madness by the ghosts of the past, who want another bloody massacre. The cast of THE SHINING also includes Barry Nelson, Philip Stone, Joe Turkel and Anne Jackson.

Owing to the wishes of the late Stanley Kubrick, Warner Home Video has issued an improved presentation THE SHINING on DVD in the director's intended aspect ratio of 1.37:1. Looking at the film's current framing, I can say that Kubrick was no fool- he knew that the film would be matted to 1.85:1 in theatrical venues and left enough headroom in shots to accommodate this factor. However, this additional headroom, would have allowed to film to also be presented in 16:9 enhanced wide screen (1.78:1), without compromising the content or the film's artistic integrity. Since Warner has acceded to the director's wishes for DVD presentation, I will not debate the point any further. In its current framing, the new digital transfer of THE SHINING is nothing short of stunning. I have never seen this level of clarity and detail in any previous home incarnation of THE SHINING. In fact, I would venture to say that previous editions look like absolute rubbish by comparison. Obviously, there was some digital tweaking of the image to remove blemishes from the film elements, since this twenty plus year old movie now looks perfectly pristine. The new transfer also greatly reduces appreciable film grain, giving THE SHINING a much cleaner and much smoother look than it had in the past. Much of THE SHINING utilizes a subdued palette, but the colors appear stronger than they did in the previous incarnations and reproduce with greater stability. Certainly, the film stocks and production design choices that were implemented in 1980 effect how the colors appear on the DVD- those hotel carpets look pretty ghastly. Flesh tones generally look accurate, but the film's variable lighting situations do have a noticeable effect. Blacks are very solid and there is good level of shadow detail to be found in the image. The climatic scene in the hedge maze greatly benefits from the improved detail, depth and reduction in appreciable film grain. Clean dual layer authoring keeps digital compression artifacts from becoming noticeable.

For this release THE SHINING has been given a new Dolby Digital 5.1 channel remix, although the original monaural mix has been omitted from the DVD. The 5.1 channel mix isn't overdone and seems to be maintaining a reverence for the intentions of the film's monaural soundtrack. Music gets the biggest boost from the remix, which utilizes the original stereo musical recordings. Additionally, the music extends into the rear channels, which serves to enhance the track's musical presence. The surround encoding and the increased fidelity of the music envelops the viewer, thus giving the new track added creepiness, which builds even more tension than the monaural track did. Sound effects are directional, but do not sound particularly forced, which they sometimes do in certain remixes that go out of their way to advantage of all the discrete channels. There are a few jarring sound effects that jump out at the viewer from the rear speakers, but the surround channels are not used to excess. Dialogue is fully intelligible and the actor's voices are a bit more full bodied than they were in the on the Laserdisc edition of the film. The bass channel is pretty decent, but age and the fidelity of the original recordings does limit it effectiveness. A French 5.1 channel soundtrack is also encoded onto the DVD, as are English, French and Spanish subtitles.

Music underscores the basic interactive menus, which provide access to the standard scene selection and set up features, plus a very cool supplement. The Making of The Shining runs 34 minutes and is a great film on its own; documenting what occurred on the set of what has since become a classic horror movie. The strength of this documentary rests in the fact that director Vivian Kubrick had unrestricted access to the set and to the actors, making this a fluff free look at the creative process, which includes at least one heated clash between the director and actress Shelley Duvall. This is definitely not the stuff that one finds in today's fluffy PR featurettes that are filled with happy Hollywood people working in total harmony- without an iota of temperament. Vivian Kubrick also contributes an audio commentary for the documentary, which is very informative and fairly amusing. A theatrical trailer closes out the DVD's extra features.

The digitally re-mastered version of THE SHINING looks and sounds great, although I feel that a 16:9 enhanced version would be completely viable and more than welcome by DVD collectors. However, a wide screen version may never come to DVD, so there is no point in denying yourself this incredible horror film.

The re-mastered edition of THE SHINING is available individually on DVD at $24.98, or as part of the re-mastered version of The Stanley Kubrick Collection for $199.98.




The Shining

The New Stanley Kubrick Collection


DVD reviews are Copyright 2001 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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