Review: The Shining

This re-release is supported by the original 1980 poster proclaiming it 'A Masterpiece of Modern Horror' - and 32 years on and it still is.

This is the full 144 minute version which Stanley Kubrick cut down to two hours while it was still on release.

It is therefore the version that was savaged by American critics who after Barry Lyndon were perhaps predisposed to see Kubrick as a spent force and sensed they could claim their biggest scalp since David Lean and Ryan's Daughter.

They got it terribly wrong, but you can see what they meant. Logically it is a bad film - the story is too simple, the nature of the supernatural threat is never clarified, the characterisations are banal and some of the acting is, well, questionable.

This is especially true of Jack Nicholson. The problem is that, in middle-distance running terms, he goes too early. Knowing that his character is going to go mad stuck in the isolation of the snowbound Overlook Hotel, it would be logical to start small and slowly build up towards the final homicidal burst.

Nicholson is already Looney Tunes in the opening interview scene. Having boxed himself in so early his eyebrows are popping champagne corks by the mid point.

While he's larger-than-life, everybody else is a little less than. His wife and son Wendy and Danny don't seem like complete people. The trick though is that you don't believe in the characters, you believe in the hotel. The elaborate, interconnected set built at Elstree studio is the star performer and once its dimensions are established by the long Steadicam shots of Danny riding his tricycle around, it gives audiences all the realism they need. Now the idea of being trapped with this crazy ham actor becomes truly terrifying.

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I did worry before if the 'extra' 24 minutes might negatively affect the film, drag the pace down too much. While you can see why Kubrick chose to cut them, it is good to have them back and I'd say this is the superior version. In comparison the two hour version now seems too direct, too quick to get to the point.

Apart from an early scene where a doctor examines Danny they make little material difference. Indeed, reading through the list of addition scenes and changes in this version I didn't recognise much that I had not seen before. It is as if they had always been there.


Directed by Stanley Kubrick

Starring Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, Scatman Crothers, Barry Nelson and Joe Turkel

Length: 144 mins