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Angie has had freelance work appear in Dark Recesses Press, Senses Five Press, The Lilith-ezine, and Down in the Cellar, where she wrote as a book reviewer for a year. 























Angie Crockett

           I've been in love with The Shining in all its forms since I was ten.  If I had to pick which version I like best—novel, film, or miniseries—I'd go with the 1980 film.  It was my induction to the whole story, and the one I revisit the most. 

            I remember every detail of the night I first saw The Shining.  What I ate (coney flavored potato chips), what I drank (punch), what records I listened to (Simon & Garfunkel's Greatest Hits and the Beatles Abbey Road.)  How I remember the details, I don't know.  Little did I know that when I sat down to watch the film that evening, that it would spur my lifelong love of the story as a whole. 

            I've seen it at least a dozen times since that night when I was ten.  I've owned the DVD for five years and watch it often.  It's one of those films that gets better with each viewing.  Never gets old.  Each time I watch it, I pick up on a new detail in it.  Stanley Kubrick was a very detail-oriented director.  Maybe since I have a knack for remembering details, that's part of what draws me to this film so much. 

            The details I notice range from camera work, to visual parts of the movie, to audio ones.  For different scenes, Kubrick did various types of camera work.  The scene where the little boy, Danny, is riding his Big Wheels bike around the halls of the hotel, Kubrick shot low to the ground, so that the audience saw everything from Danny's point-of-view.  It's like being on the Big Wheels with him, roaming around, making sharp turns.  In the scene where Jack Nicholson busts down the door of his family's apartment, the camera followed the motions of the ax.  In quick succession, it jerks toward the door.  When Jack is locked in the pantry, the camera looks up into his face.  At first, it appears that he's in a coffin.  It was shot with a handheld camera with Kubrick on the floor beneath him.  This sort of attention to detail made the film unique and artsy.

            The Shining is visually stunning for its setting, as well, both interior and exterior.  It opens with a panning shot of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, where the story is set.  As the credits roll, there's an exquisite view of the tree-topped mountains and streams of the area.  Otherwise, the film was not filmed in Colorado.  The exterior used of the Overlook Hotel was the Timberline Lodge in Oregon, which is a ski resort today.  All the interior work was done on a soundstage in London.  Every detail of it was intricate, right down to the carpet.  Orange and brown, Native American-style patterns were used throughout much of the hotel.  Calumet baking powder was carefully placed in the background of a scene in the pantry.  This Native American theme was not in Stephen King's 1977 novel but something that Kubrick added.  There's also a line early in the movie about the Overlook being built on an Indian burial ground, which was also not in the book.  The significance of this is thought to be Kubrick's way of commenting on the treatment of Native Americans, though he never publicly mentioned it.

            Another detail he added was the music.  While there were songs mentioned in the book, none of them were used in the film.  Everything in it Kubrick selected himself.  The score is comprised of older recordings of Krzysztof Pendrecki and Bela Bartok.  It intensifies all of the scary scenes, enhancing them.  The music would be scary on its own.  The only new music is the title theme, composed by Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind.  The main song in the movie is "Midnight, The Stars, And You" by Ray Noble, sung by Al Bowly, a song from 1932.  It plays in the ballroom scene and again at the end of the movie during the credits.  Since the movie involves a time warp, this old-time song fits perfectly for that theme.

            While the 1997 miniseries, written and produced by King, isn't quite as artsy as the first film, it, too, had a terrific score that befitted the mood of the story.  By Nicholas Pike, it features an eerie, choir like chant in parts of it.  Old-time songs are also used in it, like Glenn Miller's "In the Mood" and "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy," which is performed by three women in the movie, with King in a cameo role as the orchestra conductor. 

            King wrote the screenplay himself, and this version stuck much closer to his book than Kubrick's version did.  Kubrick's kept the basic plotline—family moves into huge haunted hotel for the winter, the boy is psychic, the dad becomes psychotic—but otherwise, he veered off from the book.  The two ghost girls, not twins as commonly thought, were characters he added.  Without spoiling anything, I'll say that a character in his version has a very different fate than was otherwise written.  The ending was also changed from the book.  Kubrick left out main themes that were in the novel, including alcoholism, which King thought was overlooked in the film.  Overall, he wasn't happy with it.  Of it, he said, "There's a lot to like about it. But it's a great big beautiful Cadillac with no motor inside, you can sit in it and you can enjoy the smell of the leather upholstery - the only thing you can't do is drive it anywhere."  His miniseries, however, followed the novel almost entirely, only leaving out a few scenes.

            The character development, for the most part, was richer in the miniseries than the original film.  Wendy, for instance, was a strong, smart woman, as she was in the book.  In Kubrick's, she wasn't dumb per se, but she lacked the strength of the character.

            The acting of both versions, however, balanced out.  Rebecca De Mornay did a better job with Wendy than Shelley Duvall did, playing her more as she was originally written.  To Duvall's credit, though, she was going through a lot of difficulties in her life while filming, which taxed on her performance.  It's hard to say who was a better Jack Torrance, Jack Nicholson or Steven Weber.  Nicholson is one of my favorite actors and has been since I first saw this film.  His portrayal of madness is like no other.  The filming was strenuous, going on for twelve to fourteen months, much longer than most films, and with Kubrick doing several takes for many scenes.  In the one where Nicholson chases Duvall up the stairs, Kubrick took fifty to sixty takes.  Though this would be challenging for any actor, Nicholson's performance didn't seem rehashed or worn at all.  He also ad-libbed, creating some of the most memorable scenes himself.  When Jack first starts to slip away at the hotel, there's a scene where he bounces a tennis ball across the room.  The sound of it reverberates and is a little haunting.  This was Nicholson's idea.  He also came up with the film's most famous line, "Heeeeeeeeere's Johnny!" which he says to Duvall as he busts down the bathroom door.  The line is a reference to what Ed McMahon said on The Tonight Show every night as he introduced Johnny Carson.  However, it's interesting that John was Jack Torrance's real first name in the novel, as it is Nicholson's in real life. 

          Weber, too, did an excellent job.  In the miniseries version, the struggle of Jack fighting his demons was more apparent.  There was still a good man in there somewhere by the end of the film, despite the hotel's possession of him.  Weber clearly illustrated this.  In Kubrick's, there wasn't.  Of the two Dannys, however, Danny Lloyd from the first film was much better.  He wasn't aware that he was in a horror film at the time; Kubrick kept him sheltered as he was just a child and didn't want to expose him to the horrifying factors of the film.  He was a natural, unlike many child actors.  This was the only film he ever acted in.  Today, he's a science teacher.  Courtland Mead of the miniseries, however, wasn't as natural and overacted at times. 

            Whatever the miniseries lacked there, it made up for in its emotional punch.  It was a sad, touching story about a family coming apart.  The first film didn't delve into this emotional factor.  I've cried at the miniseries every time I've watched it, which is quite a few.  No tears with the other version.  I found the miniseries ending—which differed from that of the novel—to be a tearjerker but perfect for it.  It really ran the gamut of emotions.

            Going for authenticity, the miniseries was filmed where the novel was written: the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado.  King wrote much of his book in room 217, which is one of the most haunted rooms in the story.  Though television ghost shows of today claim that King had some close encounters of the third kind while at the Stanley, he has said that it's not true.  Other guests there, however, have reported that it's haunted.  The miniseries plays there 24-hours a day, and the hotel has a gift shop with movie merchandise, such as key rings for room 217.  Kubrick used room 237 instead of 217 because managers at the Timberline Lodge didn't want guests to be afraid to stay in room 217, so a non-existent room number was used instead.

            The Stanley Hotel doesn't have an animal topiary on its grounds as it does in the miniseries and novel.  One of the most haunted features in those versions, it was absent in Kubrick's.  At the time, there wasn't the technology to make mechanical hedge animals, so in place of them, he created a huge maze.  It worked as well as, if not better than, the topiary animals.  In the book, their effect was scary, but on film, not as much.  Often in horror, it's what's unseen that frightens the audience the most.       

            Stephen King started one of the most successful stories of all time with The Shining when he wrote it early in his career.  The title comes from a lyric in the John Lennon song "Instant Karma."  In all its versions, The Shining has moved me and led me to seek all sorts of information on it, though it's the 1980 Kubrick/Nicholson film that brought me to the story and the one that still impresses me the most.

 Shining On