Sunday Video Essay: A Tribute To Kubrick’s The Shining

Sensually scored to Pink Floyd’s “Careful with That Axe, Eugene”, Arnaud Lallouet cuts a superb argument for the filmmaking of Kubrick’s classic horror picture. All those steadicam shots, combined with meticulous use of colour and framing. Obviously, when there is a chance to catch this film on the big screen, you should always sieze the opportunity. For now, I hope you enjoy this ‘five reasons’ kind of reminder..

Blu-Ray Review: The Shining

Director: Stanley Kubrick
Screenplay: Stanley Kubrick, Diane Johnson
Based on a Book by: Stephen King
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, Scatman Crothers
Country: USA, UK
Running Time: 146 min
Year: 1980
BBFC Certificate: 15

With Halloween just around the corner it’s about time I got in on the horror film blogging action, which tends to take place throughout October. And what better horror film to review than Stanley Kubrick’s classic The Shining. As part of their Premium Collection, Warner Bros. have released the film on Blu-Ray, DVD and digital HD/UV in its original US theatrical form. 25 minutes were cut from the film when it was released in the UK (for time rather than censorship, so gorehounds out there needn’t get excited) and we’ve been watching the truncated version ever since. Back in 2012, the BFI released the US cut in selected cinemas, but it’s not until now that it’s been available for home entertainment. To make the release extra special, they’ve also included plenty of special features too and I’ll talk about those at the end of the review as per usual.

Now, if you haven’t seen The Shining what the hell’s wrong with you? Sorry, I mean, the story (based on a novel by Stephen King) sees Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) get a job as the caretaker of a remote mountain hotel whilst it’s closed for the winter. He brings his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and young son Danny (Danny Lloyd) and the three of them stay in the vast building, all alone. Jack sees this as a chance to work on a writing project, but the isolation, existing family problems and possible evil spirits living in the hotel prove too much and he gradually goes insane, threatening the safety and lives of his family.

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Blu-Ray Review: Paths of Glory

Director: Stanley Kubrick
Screenplay: Stanley Kubrick, Calder Willingham, Jim Thompson
Based on a Novel by: Humphrey Cobb
Starring: Kirk Douglas, Ralph Meeker, Adolphe Menjou
Country: USA
Running Time: 88 min
Year: 1957
BBFC Certificate: PG

Stanley Kubrick is considered one of the greatest directors of all time, but most discussions and plaudits these days tend to focus on his mid to late work. 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Shining for instance are regularly hailed as pinnacles of the sci-fi and horror genres respectively, as well as cropping up on general lists of the greatest films of all time, and rightly so, but I feel not enough attention is given to his 50’s output. His little-seen first feature, Fear and Desire (which I reviewed a few years ago) is no masterpiece and Kubrick was openly embarrassed about it once he grew more successful. His follow up, the film noir Killer’s Kiss, is a bit clunky, but shows promise in a couple of great set-pieces. However, after these shaky first steps, Kubrick knocked it out of the park with two incredibly sharp and assured films, The Killing and Paths of Glory. Neither made much of a commercial splash on release, but they gained enough critical acclaim for Kubrick to get attached to the big budget Spartacus, which was the beginning of the director’s rise to becoming a household name. These two late 50’s titles are well reviewed, but I don’t tend to see them crop up on as many ‘best of’ lists and neither have been packaged with the big Kubrick box sets that have been released (although this is a rights issue more than favouritism). Well, in early 2015, Arrow gave us a great Blu-Ray package containing The Killing alongside Killer’s Kiss and now Eureka have turned their attention towards Paths of Glory, delivering the wonderful Blu-Ray release it deserves.

Paths of Glory is based on a true story, set on the front line in France during World War I. A troop of soldiers are ordered to take a German position known as ‘the anthill’. It’s pretty much a suicide mission, which General Mireau (George Macready) is aware of, but his superior, General Georges Broulard (Adolphe Menjou), insists and dangles the carrot of a promotion if he carries it out. Mireau gives the order to the regiment’s Colonel Dax (Kirk Douglas), who is even more reluctant, but has no choice in the matter. When the day of the attack comes, the first wave out of the trenches takes heavy casualties and the second refuse to go over the top, so the mission is abandoned. Mireau is furious about this and orders each of the three companies involved to pick one soldier to be executed to make an example of the regiment. Dax is furious about this and, being an esteemed criminal defence lawyer before the war, he requests to defend the three soldiers in the court martial.

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Cinecast Episode 427 – Stretching the Bubblegum

Was it the weather or is it the shitty inconvenient way films are released in theaters these days? Or does it depend on your geography or disposition? Or a little bit of everything? In short, we didn’t get to the “main releases” (of boats in storms or feminist westerns) this week and instead opted for some VOD experimentation with Vincent Cassell in Partisan. A solid film with problems is the verdict. The Watch List is fairly eclectic this week but a whole lotta witchin’ going on. From Winona Ryder to Vin Diesel, we cover the gamut. Andrew and Kurt also spend some time in the kitchen cooking up some spaghetti westerns before heading to Southeast Asia for a thriller and some kung-fu. Like a snake in the eagle’s shadow, there is no escape for the good the bad or the ugly; there most certainly will be blood inside Llewyn Davis.


As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!




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Occultober – Day 18 – Eyes Wide Shut

Eyes Wide Shut
The password is “Fidelio.”

This might be a stretch, but there is no denying the visual and sonic power of the super-elite secret society meeting that is at the heart of Stanley Kubrick’s final film masterpiece, Eyes Wide Shut. Naked women are bathed in incense smoke before pairing off for frenzied sexual encounters for the viewing pleasure of grey-haired and Venetian masked ‘Illuminati’ in a massive New York Estate mansion.

This is only one incident in a night filled with so many potential sexual encounters and prostitution oddities, that the phrase ‘dream-logic’ is often applied when describing the experience. But then again, everything looks stranger and sexier at night. Most especially so for the state of Dr. Bill (Tom Cruise) just after told by his wife (Nicole Kidman) in an evenings indulgence with marijuana, that she almost ended their relationship years ago solely from sexual heat generated by merely a glance of a passing naval officer – and this while on holiday with their baby girl. While there is nothing overtly (or concretely) occult about Eyes Wide Shut, the whole film emanates a paranoid ‘other-ness’ of a man un-moored from what he thought was his perfect life. It has that ‘everyone is watching me’ conspiracy feel that is generated so effectively in classic Satan-pictures like Race With The Devil and Rosemary’s Baby. You’re not paranoid, Tom Cruise, if they’re really following you.

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Blind Spot: Full Metal Jacket


Going into this film, I’d heard that it breaks cleanly into two parts, and that most people vastly prefer the first part. Coming out of it, the first statement is self-evident, but I ended up liking both parts quite a lot. The first part is set at Marine boot camp, with a hard-nosed drill sergeant putting a group of raw recruits through the wringer. The second part is set in Vietnam, following Joker, one of the more accomplished recruits, now a correspondent for a military newspaper.

I can see why people like the first half more – it’s tightly focused and basically flawless. As a microcosm of the boot camp world and how it either makes or breaks you, it’s self-contained, intense, and brilliant. On its own, it would work just as well as an extended short film. Vincent D’Onofrio (who I didn’t even recognize) goes from adorable to terrifying, and I believed every second of it.

The second half is much more sprawling, but that’s what war is. Boot camp is controlled, tight, and regimented. It’s supposed to prepare you for war, but war, especially a war like Vietnam, is unpredictable. There’s no way to prepare for the situations the men find themselves in once they get there, and that’s the point. The first half makes you think the drill sergeant is putting them through hell. But he’s not. War is hell.

There are lots of other things I could say about the film – most of the music seems incongruous and yet is utterly fitting, which I love. There are a ton of great shots, from the tracking shot leading the sergeant around the barracks in the beginning to the silhouettes against a blood-red sky in Vietnam. I didn’t expect to like this movie all that much, let alone enjoy the experience of watching it, but I did. A lot. I should’ve known to trust Kubrick.

My Souvenir: There are so many I could take from this. The sergeant’s opening monologue, Pyle’s success (albeit short-lived) with the Joker’s encouragement, the look in Pyle’s eyes in the bathroom, the intensity of the whole sniper showdown, etc. But I think I’ll take a thematic moment. After the sniper goes down, Joker’s face is half lit, half in shadow – his face showing that duality that he previously indicated somewhat facetiously with the “Born to Kill” slogan and the peace sign button. The whole movie kind of comes together at that moment, purely through visuals and symbolic means. That’s what filmmaking is all about.

Cinecast Episode 327 – Building Gazebos

You might be interested in Kurt’s rather epic, “Kermode-ian,” Ender’s Game rant which tackles one of the key issues with modern blockbuster storytelling. He uses Gavin Hood’s slipshod execution and shading as a kind of Case Study in lazy storytelling and not realizing how rich the material one has at hand. But before that, there is a more civilized and in depth conversation on Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave which looks at what the likely future Best Picture winner does well, and where it perhaps mis-steps. Andrew grades the homework assignments, and hands out a new one, regarding World War I films. And a lengthy watchlist segment sees a couple of underrated Wes Anderson titles under discussion (well, full out praise is more like it), the laundry list of V/H/S 2 failures, a little love of body horror-comedy in James Gunn’s Slither, some talk on Kubrick’s The Shining and A Clockwork Orange, Tarantino’s Kill Bill as it quickly approaches being a decade old, and the ‘it’s not for us’ aspects of Steven Spielberg’s Warhorse.

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!

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Full show notes are under the seats…
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Obsessing with The Director’s Club: Room 237 and Upstream Color Bonus Episode

The World's End

I really do enjoy my invites over to Patrick and Jim’s podcasting house to talk about whatever is on their minds. This time around, it is all about obsessing on signs and wonders in cinema. Room 237 is the documentary about obsessive viewers obsessing over Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. Upstream Color is the strange new film from Shane Carruth that is open to similar obsessive types that may want to climb down the rabbit hole. The fairly lengthy conversations over at The Director’s Club gets into what type of baggage each and every one of you can bring into a movie, and how a movie can unpack and repack that bagging into exciting new things.

Director’s Club Bonus Episode: Room 237 and Upstream Color

DVD Review: Room 237

Director: Rodney Ascher
Starring: Bill Blakemore, Geoffrey Cocks, Juli Kearns, John Fell Ryan
Producer: Tim Kirk
Country: USA
Running Time: 102 min
Year: 2012
BBFC Certificate: 15

A favourite of the festival circuit last year, Room 237 is being released on DVD in the UK so that you can analyse and dissect the film as its subjects do with The Shining. If you haven’t heard about Room 237, it’s a documentary which allows 5 people who are obsessed with Stanley Kubrick’s film version of The Shining to describe their various theories about what that film really means. They each have wild ideas about every minute detail of the film and, rather than looking at the overall narrative on display (which came from Stephen King’s book of course), the interviewees look into Kubrick’s input and how his changes and quirks make it more than the sum of its parts.

Room 237 is an odd beast. Rather than really being a film about The Shining, this is more of a look at obsession as well as perhaps a look at how people can see any films completely differently from one another, depending on the knowledge and baggage the viewer brings to a film. This is certainly not a ‘behind the scenes’ look at The Shining and the theories are that outlandish and varied that the film never seems to be claiming that any of these readings of the film are necessarily as Kubrick intended. So, I got the feeling that maybe Room 237 could have been made about fan’s thoughts of any other surreal or cult film, such as Mulholland Drive or Kubrick’s own 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The theories themselves range from bat-shit crazy (one sees it as Kubrick airing his feelings on having directed the faked TV broadcast of the moon landing) to vaguely plausible (The Shining as a metaphor for the genocide of the American Indians). Even the wilder ones have one or two almost convincing ‘clues’ though or at least the interviewees are good at explaining them. Much of what they come up with is reaching though, to put it mildly. A lot of their ‘proof’ comes from what is clearly a continuity error or a ridiculously warped view of some random object in the background (that poster clearly shows a skier, not a minotaur). However, as mentioned, the film seems more focussed on their obsession rather than the theories themselves.

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Blu-Ray Review: Fear and Desire

Director: Stanley Kubrick
Screenplay: Howard Sackler
Starring: Frank Silvera, Kenneth Harp, Paul Mazursky
Producer: Stanley Kubrick
Country: USA
Running Time: 62 min
Year: 1953
BBFC Certificate: 12

Even the greatest of artists have to start somewhere. Stanley Kubrick is often thought of as the finest and most consistent director to have ever lived, delivering a straight run of eleven films many call masterpieces (I wasn’t a fan of Eyes Wide Shut and Lolita is divisive too, but many love them). These films have been pored over and analysed for years, but his first two feature films are often ignored, especially his debut, Fear and Desire. There’s a very good reason for the lack of coverage though. When Kubrick had become a well known and prestigious director in the 60’s, he withdrew Fear and Desire from circulation, embarrassed by his first foray into the film world. In the 90’s it reemerged at a couple of special screenings in the US without Kubrick’s permission. Around that time, when it was mentioned to the director, he described Fear and Desire as a “bumbling, amateur film exercise… a completely inept oddity, boring and pretentious.” That description didn’t help it get wider interest and it has rarely been seen outside of a few festival screenings until Kino Video released it on Blu-Ray and DVD in the US late last year and Eureka’s Masters of Cinema label has now followed suit.

Fear and Desire is a brief, odd little war movie based around an unnamed conflict between unnamed countries. A group of soldiers have crashed behind enemy lines on an island and must find their way home. Along the way, the fear of being caught, the horrors of their actions and the desire towards the woman they take prisoner get too much for them, especially a young soldier (Paul Mazursky) who eventually snaps. On their journey off the island they happen across an enemy camp too and one of the soldiers (Frank Silvera) is adamant to kill its general and finally ‘achieve something’ in his life.

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