Monday, October 7, 2019

THE SHINING (1980) (4K UltraHD Review)


Label: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Region Code: Region Free (4K), A (Blu-ray) 
Duration: 144 Minutes
Dating: R
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1 with Optional english Subtitles
Video: 2160p UltraHD Widescreen (1.78:1), 1080p HD Widescreen (1.78:1) 
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Cast: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Scatman Crothers, Danny Lloyd 

I was eleven years-old the first time I watched The Shining on late-night cable, I remember it well, it was a chilly winter's night in Upstate New York and I was staying at my friend Barry McDonald's house. I use to love staying at his place because his folks had satellite TV with all the cool channels, and his parents love to watch semi-raunchy comedies, which I thought was cool. As the night bore on his folks would usually go off to their room and leave us alone watching Terminator or something of that ilk, and then Barry would either fall asleep on the floor or retire to his room for the night. I would stay up late into the wee-hours to watch scary movies, and one night I tuned into something called The Shining, I was transfixed by the birds-eye view of a yellow VW driving up a winding road, and it scared me something terrible. It's the tale of a father who moves his suffering wife and young son to a mountaintop resort, the grand Overlook Hotel, to be the caretaker for the place while it's closed down for the five-months of winter during the off-season.

While there the aspiring author and recovering alcoholic begins to lose his grip on reality, succumbing to seemingly supernatural forces that inhabit the Overlook, forces that are pushing him to ax-murder his whole family, including his supernaturally attuned son Danny, who has something called "the shining", a psychic link of a sort that also allows him to tap into the supernatural vibes of people and places. 

This was probably the first film I ever watched where I was acutely aware of the movement of the camera, an early adopter of the Steadicam, which allowed for gorgeous disembodied and fluid camera movements that give the film an eerie atmosphere, especially when combined with the thrum and drone of the dissonant score. 

Something I've caught onto in the years since first watching this is that Nicholson's character Jack Torrance was already a bit of nutter from the opening scenes of the film, or there's just something about Nicholson's manically arched eyebrows that broadcast crazy, or maybe it's a bit of both. The dad who at one point dislocated his young son's shoulder out of anger has since sworn off the sauce, and sees the secluded five-month caretaker job as a way to keep dry and work on his new novel, but seclusion and hallucinations, supernatural or otherwise, begin to chip away at his sanity, with his family's every action beginning to grate on his frayed nerves until he erupts into an unforgettable ax-wielding kill-spree!

The cast here is fantastic, and if you have ever read or watched any interviews with the cast and crew Kubrick really put them through the wringer, with legendary amounts of shooting the same scene again and again, playing psychological games that chipped away at the sanity of poor Shelly Duval to keep her in a constant state of hysteria, literally on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Even the lovable Scatman Crothers (Deadly Eyes) was not immune to the director's actor brow-beating, having to do so many takes it nearly brought him to tears! Was it worth it, it must have been, because the end result is a technical marvel of a dread-filled film with a core cast of characters who drive the film to the delirious heights of fright.

Young Danny Torrance as played by Danny Lloyd always gave me a young Corey Feldman (The Goonies) vibe without the comedic slant, he's really terrific here playing against both Duval and Nicholson, and even in his early scenes with the cook played by Scatman Crothers, whose character also has "the shining". The kid has a great range of emotion, but doesn't overplay anything, the scenes of him enthralled in terror - which are many - are all well-done, it's a shame he didn't go onto do more in film. Duval's character use to irk me quite a bit, coming off as a simple-minded victim of domestic abuse, but in the end she comes through with an inner-strength that turns me around on her character. As stated before Nicholson is in top demented form here, when I was a kid I though it was the Overlook that drove him mad, but when I watch it now he just seems like a bomb with the fuse already lit from the opening scenes, which combined with alcoholism, cabin fever, and a malevolent supernatural forces, are a recipe for psycho-thriller terror.

This of-course is based on Stephen King's blockbuster novel of the same name, and it's directed by a Kubrick who was at the top of his game, but the finished film was less than pleasing to the author who compared the film to a "big, beautiful Cadillac with no engine inside it”, continuing to disparage it for years in the press and interviews which sort of drove me mental, how could he not think this was a masterpiece? Looking back at it now and having read the novel I can see where the creator is coming from, the character of a good but struggling alcoholic father driven to terrible deeds by a malevolent force is lost in Kubrick's film. That said, if you've seen the TV mini-series version of the story directed by Mick Garris (Sleepwalkers), which is spot-on faithful to King's novel, killer CGI topiary and all, you will known that truer to the source does not necessarily mean better. Kubrick made the superior film (sorry Mick), not just a superior King adaptation but one of the best horror film's ever made in my humble opinion.  

Audio/Video: Stanley Kubrick's The Shining (1980) arrives on 4K UltraHD from Warner Bros. with a new 4K scan from the original camera negative, slightly cropped from the original 1.85:1 widescreen to a widescreen TV friendly 1.78:1, which I am sure is gonna be controversial, but I personally found it fine all things considered, though you do lose some very minor information on the edges of the frame. Re-framing aside the image looks superb, with a healthy amount of grain throughout, which also allows for rich texturing and fine detail to shine through in 4K! Colors looks natural and true, the HDR color-grading allowing for deep hues and contrast and clarity are very pleasing. The blacks are deep and inky with superior shadow detail throughout. Right from the opening opening helicopter shots of the Torrence's yellow VW Bug driving up the winding sidewinder road the improvement is readily noticeable. 

Audio comes by way of an English DTS-HD Ma 5.1 with optional English subtitles. Again, like the Pan's Labyrinth 4K UHD I am a bit disappointed we do not get a Atmos upgrade, but the DTS is nothing short of excellent. Notably we still do not get the original mono audio mix, which n this day and age of 4K with it's vast storage is a damn shame, but like I said, the audio as presented with the DTS os solid, and not something to worry too much about. 

Extras on the 4K disc is limited to the audio commentary by steadicam inventor Garrett Brown and Kubrick biographer John Baxter. Onto the Blu-ray we get nearly all the vintage extras from Warner's 2007 Blu-ray, with the exception of the original fullframe trailer for some strange reason. The Blu-ray also offers the new 4K scan of the film in 1080p HD without the benefit of the HDR re-grading, which is cool, I sort of hate it when we just get a recycled Blu-ray from a past release with the 4K releases.

The 2-disc release arrives in a black eco-case with a one-sided sleeve of artwork featuring a new illustration that I liked very much, and there's a slipcover containing the same artwork. Inside there's a digital redemption code for 4K digital copy of the film. Note, make sure to check out the cool variant artwork on the Best Buy Exclusive Steelbook exclusive, it's pretty darn cool, I might double-dip to have that on my shelf, also hoping we see a Steelbook with the original Saul Bass artwork at some point.

Best Buy Exclusive Steelbook edition  

Special Features: 

- Commentary by Steadicam inventor Garrett Brown and Kubrick biographer John Baxter 
- The Making of The Shining (35 Mins) *
- View from the Overlook: Crafting The Shining (26 Mins) *
- Wendy Carlos, Composer (8 Mins) *
- The Visions of Stanley Kubrick (17 Mins) *
* Blu-ray Extra Only 

The new 4K UltraHD of Stanley Kubrick's The Shining looks phenomenal, lack of new extras, Atmos or the original mono is absolutely a downer, but not even close to a deal-breaker. The improved picture quality on this is outstanding, if you're a fan of this supernatural psycho-thriller you need this release in your life, highly recommended! 

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