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Reference quality 4K shines in “The Shining”

Updated: Jun 8, 2022


Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall star as Jack and Wendy Torrance in Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of Stephen King's bestseller, "The Shining" - now in reference quality 4K

Ultra HD. 

(Click an image to scroll the larger versions)


4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital copy; 1980; R for frightening and intense scenes, violence and gore, profanity, nudity, alcohol and smoking; streaming via Amazon Video/Prime, Apple (4K), FandangoNOW (4K), Google Play (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube (4K)

Best extra: “Making ‘The Shining,’” a no-holds-barred look behind the scenes

OCTOBER – what a perfect time to release the 4K Ultra HD of Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Stephen King’s masterwork, “The Shining.”

Chances are you’ve already seen it or read the book. If you haven’t read it or heard the audiobook, do it! Remember – this is the book Joey of “Friends,” Season 3; episode 13, hid in the freezer because it was too scary.

What’s good for us – and a thorn for King – is the book and film are very different in style. Kubrick took an aggressively hostile attitude towards King as well as his actors and crew. It is seen and described in the making-of extra on Warner Brothers’ release. The King-Kubrick feud is legendary. Kubrick’s films – such as “A Clockwork Orange” – target the darkest side of humanity, a contrast to King’s hopeful approach. Yes, the author is known for his horror – “Carrie,” “‘Salem’s Lot,” “It,” “The Stand” – but he also wrote the novellas that became “The Shawshank Redemption” and “Stand By Me.” “The Green Mile” is an excellent example of his mix of good people confronted by both real and supernatural evil. 

Kubrick did everything possible to rattle King’s cage arbitrarily making changes. Ultimately, the book and the film stand as fine examples of the horror genre. Kubrick bullied his actors and crew as well, demanding take after take, and raging at them to break them down. A chess master, he knew how to manipulate to get what he wanted. It’s all in the bonus features. Shelley Duvall became a nervous disaster, collapsing on set. It comes as no surprise that “The Shining” was the first and last film for talented young Danny Lloyd who plays Danny Torrence, the child with the supernatural gifts. Who would ever chance a repeat of that experience?

(1) Warner Brothers used the original 35mm film negative to make a true 4K scan with HDR10, HDR10+ and Dolby Vision. The new transfer shows natural color, great detail, contrast and depth.  (2) Former teacher Jack Torrance accepts the job as winter caretaker of the Overlook Hotel.  (3) Jack's son Danny (Danny Lloyd), a powerful young psychic, and his mother Wendy wait to hear about Jack's interview. 


That said, the new 4K Ultra HD is a total winner. “The Shining” has never looked better or scarier. The film was shot on 35mm film with Arriflex cameras. Various aspect ratios were made to suit different theaters, but it arrives on disc and digital at 1.78:1. The original negative was used by Warner Brothers to make a true 4K scan with HDR10, HDR10+ and Dolby Vision.

This creates a more nuanced look with natural color from complexions to long range shots seen in earlier scenes as when the family drives over the mountains to the Overlook Hotel. There’s outstanding transformation in Jack Nicholson as he devolves from his healthy-looking Jack Torrence to the pale ghoul he becomes. Detail and texturing are impeccable, with perfect contrast throughout. Dark scenes are solid yet reveal excellent background detail; highlights, again, look authentic without bursting into bright white. A fine wash of cinematic film grain covers all, adding to the viewing experience rather than detracting. “The Shining” looks great on small and large 4K enabled home screens.

In other words, this is a reference-quality 4K Ultra HD presentation. It would seem Warner, who does such a fantastic job restoring classic films more than 80 years old for their Archive Collection, is using their technicians and equipment to make another quality upgrade.

The 1080p disc included in the set is the same that was released in 2007. Bonus features are carried over from earlier presentations. The commentary with Steadicam inventor Garrett Brown and Kubrick biographer John Baxter is included on the 4K and 1080p physical discs. Other extras are found only on the Blu-ray: “Views from the Overlook: Crafting ‘The Shining,’” “The Visions of Stanley Kubrick,” “Making ‘The Shining,’” and a featurette on “Wendy Carlos, Composer.” These are all worth your time and, if seen before, good to watch again, another gold star for this Warner package.

(1) Tony, the little voice that talks in Danny's head, warns him not to go to the Overlook.  (2) Twin ghosts visit Danny after the Torrance family arrive. They were killed by their father, Delbert Grady, former winter caretaker of the hotel.  (3) Blood fills the Overlook lobby, a portent of nightmares to come.  (4) Danny is overcome by the hauntings. 


Oddly, there is no upgrade to the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack which is used on the 4K and Blu-ray. It was initially upgraded to a six-channel from the original mono track and was perfect to begin with delivering clear dialogue, effects and Carlos’ memorable electronic score. She also worked with Kubrick on “A Clockwork Orange” (1971).

The update comes a month before “Doctor Sleep,” King’s sequel to “The Shining,” arrives in theaters November 8. Meanwhile, “The Shining” continues to be – possibly – the best film blending psychological and physical horror made to date, with something new to discover in every viewing.

If you haven’t seen it, treat yourself at once! Those who know it will definitely appreciate the new upgrade.

Kay Reynolds

(1) Wendy, Danny and Jack approach the Overlook near where the Donner Party perished. The Overlook was built on an old Indian burial ground. We know from "Pet Sematary" that's not good. (2) The Timberline Lodge, Mount Hook, Oregon, became the exterior of The Overlook hotel. King actually based it on a visit to the Stanley Hotel in Colorado, where he and his wife had a paranormal experience.  (3) In one of Kubrick's many long tracking shots, Danny pedals his trike up and down the hotel halls.  (4) Dick Hallorann (Scatman Crothers), the Overlook's cook. also has "the shining." He cautions Danny that the ghosts are only shadows of past events, but warns him to stay out of Room 237.  


(1) Wendy gets a nasty reaction from Jack when she interrupts his writing.  (2) Jack's writing is actually going nowhere.  (3 & 4) Wendy and Danny play in the snow, while Jack becomes more and more unhinged under the hotel's influence.  


(1) Jack meets the Overlook's ghostly bartender, Lloyd (Joe Turkel). Jack is an alcoholic who once broke Danny's arm in a fit of rage.  (2) Danny receives another deadly warning.  (3 ) With murder on the agenda, Wendy grabs Danny to escape Jack.  (4) Danny gets away, but his mother remains trapped. 





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