Director: Stanley Kubrick
Genre: Thriller, Suspense/Horror
Cast: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Scatman Crothers, Joe Turkel, Danny Lloyd
Box Office: $30,900,000 (USA)
Trivia: Stephen King tried to talk Stanley Kubrick out of casting Jack Nicholson in the lead suggesting, instead, either Michael Moriarty or Jon Voight. King had felt that watching either of these normal-looking men gradually descend into madness, would have immensely improved the dramatic thrust of the storyline. Indeed, many fans of the book agreed with King, adding that Nicholson appeared fairly crazy from the very start, thus there was little or no surprise when Jack ultimately went totally overboard.
Wendy Torrance: I just want to go back to my room to think things over.
Jack Torrance: You’ve had your whole ****ing life to think things over, what good’s a few minutes more gonna do you now?
[Jack is trying to kill Wendy]
Jack Torrance: Do you have the slightest idea what a moral and ethical principle is? Do you?
Lloyd: What will you be drinking, sir?
Jack Torrance: Hair of the dog that bit me, Lloyd.
Jack Torrance: Wendy. You have a surprise coming to you. Go check out the Snow Cat and the radio and you’ll see what I mean. Go check it out.
Jack Torrance: HERE’S JOHNNY.
Think of the greatest terror imaginable. Is it a monstrous alien? A lethal epidemic? Or, as in this harrowing masterpiece from Stanley Kubrick, is it fear of murder by someone who should love and protect you – a member of your own family? From a script he co-adapted from the Stephen King novel, Kubrick melds vivid performances, menacing settings, dreamlike tracking shots and shock after shock into a milestone of the macabre. In a signature role, Jack Nicholson (“Heeeere’s Johnny!”) plays Jack Torrance, who’s come to the elegant, isolated Overlook Hotel as off-season caretaker with his wife (Shelley Duvall) and son (Danny Lloyd). Torrance has never been there before – or has he? The answer lies in a ghostly time warp of madness and murder.
Essentially, I found that the second half of the movie works better than the first. That’s largely because I felt Kubrick tried too hard during the movie’s first hour or so. He frequently worked to make many early scenes seem creepy or scary although it was too soon for such suspense. We should see Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) slowly descend into madness, but even when he’s supposed to seem normally he appears nuts. Some would fault Nicholson’s portrayal for this, but I think the responsibility lies firmly in the hands of Kubrick. He was apparently a very active director, and I don’t think he would have stuck with the “wacko Jack” images if they weren’t what he wanted. Given his reputation for filming eight bazillion takes of every scene, I’m sure Kubrick could have gotten some that were more subtle than this.
The overly pushy quality of the film expands into other realms as well. Kubrick usually displays an adept touch at integrating music into his films, but he really used a heavy hand as he did so here. Far too often during the first half of the film we hear musical cues that prime us to expect what’s about to happen. This was completely unnecessary and it really detracts from the suspense; the music so strongly tells us “something’s wrong” that we gain no opportunity to learn it for ourselves.
All in all, I view The Shining as a good but not exceptional film. It’s a good thing that it ends strongly – it’d be a much bigger disappointment if the first half was strong but the second half bit – but I thought it simply tried too hard to provoke emotions that should have flowed effortlessly.