The Shining celebrates the 26th anniversary of its theatrical release today. Few films set the tone better for disturbing 1980s domesticity.
The Shining is, of course, Stanley Kubrick’s notorious adaptation of Stephen King’s novel, verging far from the author’s original work. Kubrick essentially took King’s central character (Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance) and turned him from a weak man manipulated by a ghost into murderous behavior, into a violent monster who clearly detested his own wife and child. Something about all work and no play making Jack a dull boy… As discussed in the video essay below, King believed that it was Kubrick’s “inability to believe in the supernatural that kept the audience from believing in the world he had established.”
King’s dislike of Kubrick’s adaptation is no secret, and he’s gone on to name his favorite film adaptations of his work. In 2014 he told Rolling Stone that Stand By Me is tops, since it is “true to the book” and has the “emotional gradient of the story.” His other favorites? Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, Misery, Delores Claiborne and Cujo (trailers below). Stacked like that, it’s humbling to consider what King has given to cinema. But for those of us who are Kubrick and Shining devotees, it’s hard to deny its own auteuriol genius.
King on The Shining:
“But obviously people absolutely love it, and they don’t understand why I don’t. The book is hot, and the movie is cold; the book ends in fire, and the movie in ice. In the book, there’s an actual arc where you see this guy, Jack Torrance, trying to be good, and little by little he moves over to this place where he’s crazy. And as far as I was concerned, when I saw the movie, Jack was crazy from the first scene. I had to keep my mouth shut at the time. It was a screening, and Nicholson was there. But I’m thinking to myself the minute he’s on the screen, ‘Oh, I know this guy. I’ve seen him in five motorcycle movies, where Jack Nicholson played the same part.’ And it’s so misogynistic. I mean, Wendy Torrance is just presented as this sort of screaming dishrag. But that’s just me, that’s the way I am.”