The Shining Blu-ray Review
PictureAt last The Shining comes to us on the original theatrical widescreen 1.85:1 ratio coded at 1080p VC-1, and what it is to finally see those scenes opened up showing every last detail of the Overlook Hotel. The opening fly by scene is graceful and iconic obviously a lot wider than before with no hint of helicopter shadow, although the blades can be seen at the top of the frame towards the end of the journey. Also there's an ongoing debate about a tennis ball whilst Danny is playing outside room 237. Yes it's pink, the cars which he is playing with have so much pink that you'd think they came from Barbie's garage, although the rest of the elements in the scene appear to be fine. Skin tones here do not seem overly red, but natural, and the carpet on which he is playing seems to be the correct shade as well. These tones aren't apparent in the R1 DVD I own and the tennis ball is certainly yellow/green on the accompanying documentary. I'm still doing research into the reasons behind all of this, but I do suspect that we'll see a re-issue at some future point correcting this anomaly; well I hope so anyway.
Apart from that the print and transfer are splendid. For film stock which was itself damaged in the notorious fire on set any marks or blemishes have long been removed. There's no dirt or dropouts which I could notice, some specks but so few and infrequent they would never detract from your enjoyment. Brightness itself never fluctuates, always presenting a very stable image.
Detail is extraordinary, from the myriad of books on the every surface of Jack and Wendy's initial apartment, Ulman's office, the ghostly cobwebs in the lobby as the hotel comes alive or the storerooms. In the later of these each and every packet can be identified and read. Detail is also apparent on the early outdoor scenes of the Overlook itself as Jack, Wendy and Ulman stroll down to examine the snowcat. The rotting corpse in the bathroom of suite 237 has never before churned your stomach as much as this will, every piece of mouldy skin dripping off her frail bones. It is this level of detail both outdoors and inside which adds that true dimensionality to this new release. Depth is exemplary but again really only at its peak on the outdoor early scenes of the initial drive to the Overlook then the wander around it.
No crushing is exhibited during the dark scenes, all of which come across with a deep black level, permeating to bluish later on as the winter and madness sets in. Outdoor scenes: again the flyby and initial drive to the Overlook are crisp and detailed never blooming with the thin whips of cloud and snow to be seen in the distance on the furthest hills.
Colours are wonderful, swathes which are completely stable; the deep blood reds of the bathroom scene with Jack and Grady, the green hues of the bathroom scene with the rotting corpse all a visual feast. As mentioned earlier skin tones are spot on, never too red nor pale.
SoundThere are two English tracks on the disc a BluRay usual PCM 5.1 at 4.6mbps and a lesser Dolby Digital 5.1 offering at 640kbps. The PCM track is lush to say the least, a product of it's time you won't be hearing much from your surrounds, what you will get from them though is a slight remix of the original mournful Wendy Carlos score. Don't be expecting The Others like steps and moans from your rears.
Dialogue comes across well, being centred, strong and certainly very clear. I had no difficulty in making out any of what the characters were saying either during some of the quieter moments or those scenes bombasted with the ever increasing brooding musical score. And it is this score where most, if not all, of the aural enjoyment comes from. Flowing from the start with the flyby through the mountains it envelopes the listener producing an incredibly melancholy track perfectly suited to the film.
The score is wide, assisted of course by use of your surrounds, but predominantly front based. Deep bass is quite apparent, and again increasing throughout, from that initial fly by right up until the hotel itself reveals it's own haunted spirits. High pitched tones, again presominantly score based not vocal (apart from Danny's RedRum), are high and pin sharp; these too thanks to Carol's score shock the viewer and like the hotel itself add an additional character to the film.
- Commentary with Garrett Brown and John Baxter.
The inventor of the steadicam and Kubrick's biographer respectively collaborate on this by the numbers commentary. It's never quite that engaging, the two participants really formally speaking to the listener and never really talking to each other or really discussing certain scenes between themselves. By all means there's some good information contained in there but it lacked a certain warmth; something no doubt Kubrick himself might have approved of.
- A View From The Overlook: Crafting The Shining. - 0:30:22
Colleagues and friends of Kubrick's commenting on this particular feature. All of the usual faces are there from similar documentaries found on his other recently re-released works, Spielberg, Freidkin, Sydney Pollack and more all contribute, discussing the script, it's adaptation and major deviations from the novel, how the hotel suites were planned. It's another good documentary, an appreciative effort from those involved.
- The Visions of Stanley Kubrick. - 0:17:17
Again the familiar faces appear to discuss Stanley Kubrick's work, the images presented in The Shining, the lenses used, the framing that Kubrick was famous for. His techniques are discussed with regard to some of his other features as well, and a Kubrick fan will revel in all of the information presented here.
- The Making Of The Shining. - 0:34:58
This is the documentary, on the R1 DVD as well, which Kubrick's daughter Vivian (remember her from the video phone call in 2001?) shot on the set during filming, of The Shining. She gets into the dressing room of Jack Nicholson, follows actors around the set, interviews the main characters including a tearful Scatman Crothers. It's a wonderful insight into the actors themselves and the working techniques and humour of Stanley Kubrick. You have to pity poor Shelly Duval for her gradual deterioration through the filming, but it has to be said that Stanley certainly got the best from her. This can also be viewed with a commentary by Vivian herself and this is a welcome addition, revealing further information from the scenes which she shot.
- Wendy Carlos, Composer. - 0:07:31
Wendy Carlos, previously responsible for A Clockwork Orange was responsible for the haunting music on offer in The Shining. Here she discusses a few of the themes and some of the instruments she used to created the electronic effects. It's not that long a feature but it's a worthwhile addition and like all before her who have commented she recognises and applauds Stanley Kubrick's talents.
- Original Trailer. - 0:01:32
As the name suggests. I've found it interesting comparing some of these older Kubrick trailers with the new all dancing, expose every facet trailers which we get these days. They're quaint, there's no doubt about that, and quite dated, but I would still prefer them over what we have today where perhaps too much information is given away.
Definitely a worthwhile collection of additional material, especially considering the original collectors edition disc only came with the Vivian Kubrick documentary. Like all of the extras on the other recently released features you get the same faces popping up discussing the work in question and generally accepting that Kubrick was one of the best film-makers (not just directors) to have graced the 20th century. Any Kubrick fan and any film fan cannot ask for anything more from these snippets really. The information contained in the documentary, featurette and commentary provide yet further insight into this enigmatic director.
VerdictThe best horror film ever made! My opinion certainly, and this is one of the reasons I loved Kubrick's work. He tried to make the best of whatever subject matter he had his hands on. The film is a marked difference to the book, but in the end it's all the better for it. Not just a simple ghost story on a burial site but a complete inspection of one man's descent into madness and the horror which that imposes on the people around him.
Like so many other Kubrick films questions will be asked. Are the visions really there or are they only in the mind of Jack; a Shining which Jack himself is either unable to accept or acknowledge. Why is that photo there at the end, like the all too many shots of Nicholson in the mirror, has Jack's spirit always been there as both he and others are at pains to point out? The questions live on after the film and one of the reasons that The Shining has long lasting appeal.
The disc is not perfect, the obvious anomaly with the colouring at a certain point detracts somewhat, but the additional material is welcome, as is any further information on this man's work and his achievements. Check in at the Overlook and settle down to a chilling encounter rarely presented these days; and if you hear screams of RedRum then don't be expecting a trip to the 3 o'clock at Aintree. Always recommended.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £17.97
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- Commentary with Garrett Brown and John Baxter.