The Shining

The Shining (1980)
Warner Home Video
Cast: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall
Extras: Documentary, Theatrical Trailer

Those of you who were disappointed with Warner’s initial DVD release of ’The Shining’ will surely feel vindicated when you see the updated version. While the vast majority of this new release is identical to the previous version, it does sport newly remastered audio and video. Although some will still feel cheated that ’The Shining’ is presented full-frame, as per Kubrick’s wishes, the improvements in the new transfer are definitely worth seeing.

For a quick demonstration, simply jump to Chapter 13, where Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and Danny (Danny Lloyd) are running through the snow. On the old DVD, the grain on the image seemingly added another layer of snow to the scene and Wendy’s coat appeared to be devoid of color. These defects have been improved upon with the new transfer, as there is virtually no grain, and the colors are quite striking. The Overlook Hotel is full of garrishly colored items (namely, the carpet) and they are much more striking on this new transfer. The fleshtones are realistic and true, and the snow surrounding the hotel now appears white, as opposed to gray. This sharp and clear presentation shows few, if any, signs of artifacting and no problems with compression.

The same kudos go to the new audio track as well. The newly remastered Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack adds much more presence to the film. As several of the scenes are played with little-to-no dialogue, the music of Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind, combined with the eerie sound effects used, helped to enhance the already creepy atmosphere of the film. This is a vast improvement over the old mono soundtrack. The dialogue here is very clear and audible and there is no hiss on the track. While the surround sound action is sparse, and the soundfield isn’t very wide, there is an impressive amount of bass response, once again, adding impact to the shock sound effects.

’The Making of ’The Shining’’ documentary, which appeared on the original DVD, appears here as well. However, it is now accompanied by an audio commentary by its director, Vivian Kubrick (Stanley’s daughter). Here, she explains why she did the documentary, how she gained access to the stars, and what the shooting conditions were like. Her talk is upbeat and lively and it adds even greater insight to what is already an interesting documentary. The only other extra on the DVD is the same full-frame theatrical trailer, which appeared on the former DVD. To paraphrase Comic Store Guy from ’The Simpsons’, ’Worst trailer ever.’

As for the film itself, I’m one of those people who prefer the book to the movie. While ’The Shining’ certainly has it’s scary points (the two little girls are nightmare material), I feel that it didn’t have the heart or depth that the novel held. In the book, Jack Torrance starts out as mildly distraught and then goes insane. In the film, Nicholson is already quite loopy at the beginning and moves on from there. Kubrick certainly deserves accolades for creating a claustrophobic atmosphere and his stunning use of Steady-Cam. Just remember, readers of Fangoria magazine voted ’The Shining’ as the worst movie of 1980… but they voted ’Friday the 13th’ as the best movie, so I guess that’s not a very good example. Either way, fans of Stanley Kubrick’s ’The Shining’ will indeed be pleased by this new and improved DVD.