Jack Nicholson in The Shining (1980)

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Stephen King’s The Shining Novel

The Shining is based on the 1977 best-selling novel of the same name by horror master Stephen King. The Shining marked King’s third novel, preceded by Carrie (1974) and ‘Salem’s Lot (1975).

John Calley, an executive at Warner Bros., first spotted The Shining in book galley form. He then sent a copy to filmmaker Stanley Kubrick, whom he knew harbored a fascination with the paranormal. After reading King’s novel, Kubrick pronounced it “one of the most ingenious and exciting stories of the genre I had [ever]read.”

Stanley Kubrick Directs The Shining

Stanley Kubrick and Diane Johnson wrote The Shining for Warner Bros. Kubrick (Dr. Strangelove, Full Metal Jacket) also produced and directed. Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind created the supernatural music score.

Jack Nicholson (Jack Torrance) and Shelley Duvall (Wendy Torrance) head the cast. Other players include Danny Lloyd (Danny “Doc” Torrance), Scatman Crothers (Dick Hallorann), Barry Nelson (Stuart Ullman), Philip Stone (Delbert Grady), Joe Turkel (Lloyd), Anne Jackson (Doctor), Tony Burton (Larry Durkin), Barry Dennen (Bill Watson), Lia Beldam (Young Woman in Bath) and Billie Gibson (Old Woman in Bath).

The Shining Filmed in the United Kingdom and the United States

Budgeted at $22 million, The Shining was filmed principally at Pinewood Studios and Elstree Studios in the United Kingdom. A huge set of the Overlook Hotel was constructed, with director Stanley Kubrick putting his first use of the Steadicam to good effect.

Some exterior scenes were shot at Timberline Lodge in Mount Hood, Oregon. Montana’s Glacier National Park served as the stunning locale for the film’s opening scenes where Jack Torrance’s Volkswagen traverses Sidewinder’s mountain roads.

Jack Nicholson: Heeeere’s Johnny!

The Shining opens with Jack Torrance, a former school teacher, making his way to Colorado’s Overlook Hotel. During the job interview, hotel manager Stuart Ullman briefs Jack on his duties as the winter caretaker. Jack, his wife and young son later move into the deserted hotel where strange things begin to happen. Driven insane by ghostly sightings and flashbacks to past events, Jack turns murderous, going after his family with an axe.

Forget the spooks, The Shining is really about two things: alcoholism and child abuse. The signs come early in the film, where Wendy tells the pediatrician about how her drunken Jack came home one night and dislocated their young son’s shoulder.

The Overlook Hotel, built over an old Indian burial ground in 1907, may have its ghostly apparitions and demons, but Jack Torrance has brought his share of human misery with him, including a quick temper and an unresolved drinking problem.

The Shining rates as one of Jack Nicholson’s greatest performances. Whether he’s typing madly in The Colorado Lounge or breaking down a bathroom door with an axe (“Heeeere’s Johnny!”), Nicholson is downright scary. Shelley Duvall – hardly the blond ex-cheerleader type Stephen King had envisioned in his novel – is miscast as mad Jack’s irritating wife.

The most eerie scene may be the final one, where the camera zooms in on an old photograph captioned “Overlook Hotel, July 4th Ball, 1921.” Pictured right up front is Jack Torrance – in formal tuxedo and smiling broadly. Ah, so theeeere’s Johnny!

The Shining Release, Reviews, Box Office, DVD

  • Release date: May 23, 1980.
  • “The crazier Nicholson gets, the more idiotic he looks,” opined Variety.
  • Box-office gross: $30.9 million (#10, 1980).
  • The Shining DVD (Warner, 2007).

“No sir, you are the caretaker. You’ve always been the caretaker. I ought to know: I’ve always been here,” the ghostly Philip Stone tells Jack Nicholson.

Spooky…

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