Stephen King's The Shining DVD Review
Written by Steve Pattee
DVD released by Warner Brothers
Directed by Mick Garris
Written by Stephen King
1997, Region 1 (NTSC), 273 minutes, Not Rated
DVD released on January 7th, 2003
Rebecca De Mornay as Wendy Torrance
Steven Weber as Jack Torrance
Courtland Mead as Danny 'Doc' Torrance
Wil Horneff as Tony
Melvin Van Peebles as Dick Hallorann
Elliott Gould as Stuart Ullman
John Durbin as Horace 'Harry' Derwent
Stanley Anderson as Delbert Charles Grady
Pat Hingle as Pete Watson
What do you get when you put a dysfunctional family in a haunted hotel for the winter?
You get one hell of a "What I did on my Christmas Vacation" story.
Steven Weber (TV's Wings) plays Jack Torrance, a recovering alcoholic who needs to take a job as the winter caretaker of the Overlook Hotel. This job is Jack's last chance to keep his family together. Seems Jack used to have a pretty good teaching job, but lost it when he beat up a student for slashing his tires. Not that the student didn't deserve it, but I imagine the school staff frowns upon such things. Jack believes the job at the Overlook will not only bring his struggling family closer together, but give him a chance to write the play he's always wanted to write.
Courtland Mead (Hellraiser: Bloodline) stars as Danny Torrance, Jack's son. Danny has a few problems of his own. Danny can 'see' things. From the moment Jack agrees to the job at the Overlook, which Danny knew well in advance of being told, he starts getting warnings. Some of the warnings come in the form of bloody visions and some of the warnings come from Tony. Tony (Wil Horneff) is Danny's 'imaginery' friend who only seems to tell Danny of incoming doom instead of cool things like the winning lottery numbers. This Tony seems like a real jerk.
Jack's wife, Wendy, completes this dysfunctional family circus. Although she tries to be strong, she is not as strong as she would like to be. All throughout the movie, I wanted to scream at Wendy. JUST LEAVE! But alas, no. Wendy has put up with too much of Jack's drinking problems and lack of anger management, including his breaking of Danny's arm in a drunken rage. But Wendy is giving Jack one final chance and she thinks the Overlook job will bring all of them together. Oh boy. Rebecca De Mornay (Risky Business, The Hand That Rocks the Cradle) stars as Wendy.
So, the Torrance family embarks on a hell filled adventure of madness, mayhem, ghouls and ghost at the fabulously haunted Overlook Hotel. Because, you see, the Overlook just isn't haunted, it wants something. And it won't stop until it gets the prize.
I really enjoyed this miniseries. Mick Garris (Stephen King's The Stand, Sleepwalkers) and Stephen King made this version for the King fans. While I enjoyed Kubrick's version as well, I felt it (Kubrick's version) was just loosely based on the book. The miniseries, however, is King's version. Stephen King said it best in the commentary. He said, and I'm paraphrasing here, Kubrick's version was about a man who started out crazy and went crazier. The television version is about a man who is driven to insanity by the hotel. That's how it was in the book and that's how it is in the series.
Each actor did a pretty good job individually, with the exception of Melvin Van Peebles. Peebles may be able to direct, but the man cannot act. I found myself wishing Scatman Crothers, who played Dick Halloran in Kubrick's version, had reprised his role.
As for Weber, De Mornay and Mead, they lived up to my expectations individually. However, I didn't buy them as a family. They did not click at all. There was no synergy between the three. Even when there were scenes of just De Mornay and Mead or Mead and Weber, I could never see these people related. It's unfortunate too, because it was a bit distracting from the film.
There are definitely things I miss from Kubricks version. The maze finale, the twin girls and the elevator o' blood are just a few. However, it's not incredibly heartbreaking because the tv series has the wonderful topiary scenes and did a better job with the lady in room 217. Also, there are a few scenes during the ballroom sequence in King's Shining that are downright chilling.
If you are a Stephen King fan, I highly recommend buying Stephen King's The Shining.
If, however, you are a casual King fan, or a fan of Kubrick's Shining, your best bet is to rent the miniseries version first. Do not watch the miniseries version expecting the same movie Kubrick did. These are not only two different presentations, but they are two different styles and (almost) two different stories. Watch it with an open mind.
Finally, watch (and listen) for stars from Stephen King's The Stand. A few of them make cameo appearances. Also, keep an eye out for a very cool Evil Dead cameo!
Video and Audio:
I was a little disappointed in the picture quality. I noticed a few spots here and there and for a fairly new movie, I don't find this acceptable. I understand this was a TV presentation, but I don't think that is a good excuse.
The film is presented in "Matted" anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1).
The Shining is presented in Dolby Digital Stereo. I did not notice any highs, lows, cracks or hisses. It sounded good on my system.
English, French and Spanish subtitles are available.
- Commentary by Stephen King, Steven Weber, Cynthia Garris (Lady in 217), Mick Garris (Director) & Select Crew
- 11 Deleted scenes
The commentary is outstanding. Mick Garris and Steven King really shine (no pun intended) in this commentary. They not only talk about Kubrick's version compared to King's version, they also talk about what was going on behind the scenes. There is some fascinating information found in the commentary.
The deleted scenes have director's commentary and he does a pretty good job explaining why they were left on the cutting room floor.
Much of the miniseries was filmed in The Stanley Hotel, the very hotel where Stephen King came up with the idea for The Shining. The commentary tells of some strange occurrences while filming the miniseries.