It's no secret that we at NFS (primarily me) have an affinity for Stanley Kubrick's 1980 horror/ chrisangelmindfreak/ familydrama/ paulruddromcom, The Shining, an adaptation of Stephen King's classic novel and one of the strangest movies ever put out by a major studio in wide release. My second post for NFS was a survey of the exhaustive theories about this movie. Now, for the first time, the major players in the production of the film have come together for an oral history of this masterpiece of modern horror.

Howard Berry, a film editor and Senior Lecturer in Post-Production for the BA Film and Television degrees at the University of Hertfordshire, has, with the blessing of the Kubrick Estate and Warner Bros., made this 55-minute documentary on the film's production, Staircases to Nowhere: Making Stanley Kubrick's 'The Shining'Berry believes this is the most in-depth exploration into the making of The Shining ever assembled, told from the perspective of those who actually worked on the production, and we are inclined to agree with him. It's really required viewing for fans of Kubrick's well-lit hotel of horrors, and helps to dispel many of the more out-there theories about the film:

The doc features reminiscences from:

  • Brian Cook - 1st AD
  • Jan Harlan - Producer
  • Christiane Kubrick - Wife of Stanley Kubrick
  • Mick Mason - Camera Technician
  • Ray Merrin - Post-Production Sound
  • Doug Milsome - 1st AC and Second Unit Camera
  • Kelvin Pike - Camera Operator
  • Ron Punter - Scenic Artist
  • June Randall - Continuity
  • Julian Senior - Warner Bros. Publicity

Stanley Kubrick is one of the most polarizing modern filmmakers. No one gets worked up in a lather about Francis Ford Coppola, or Oliver Stone, and if they do, they should probably lie down somewhere quiet for a while. But mention Kubrick's name and you'll either get a fawning respectful awe of the sort usually reserved for people like Nikola Tesla, or a "he's overrated really so why should I care?" I would posit that a lot of the backlash and outright "who cares?" quality of much Kubrick-ian discourse stems from the fact that he is, to his fans, less a filmmaker than some alien intelligence, a super genius whose every move is ripe for dissection and interpretation, viz.:

That can get kind of grating to people, for obvious reasons, but Stanley Kubrick was not only a human being, he was a major American filmmaker, and a singular one, whose films are fairly sui generis and, at times, mind-blowing. This is definitely true of 1980's The Shining, whose epic production at England's Elstree Studios (with a few shots made in the U.S.) took over a year and necessitated the building of what amounted to, basically, a full hotel. At this point in his career, though, Kubrick could do pretty much whatever he wanted, and that was to have all the time in the world to make the movie he wanted, and to make it close to his house, and to shoot 88 takes if he felt like it.

Because he was an indulgent father -- he must have been to let this happen -- Kubrick allowed his then 16-year-old daughter, Vivian, to make a 16mm documentary about the film's production, Making The Shininga film in which we learn, among other fun facts: Jack Nicholson behaves exactly the way you would expect Jack Nicholson to behave, pretty much all the time; Kubrick's adorable mother was named Gert (short for Gertrude, I imagine); and Shelley Duvall had a rough time making that movie. You should watch it and read our post about the film, a post which was, oddly enough, not written by me:

All that said, even though Howard Berry's Staircases to Nowhere tries to correct many of the myths about the film, Kubrick was the kind of director who was capable of fooling even his crew, and there are documented weirdnesses in the movie no one has satisfactorily explained, like this: 

And this isn't just some YouTube edit, as I watched my version and it's there. Why is it there? I would guess that Kubrick was making a horror movie and wanted to mess with people's heads, but in such a way that they would be say, "Man, I feel like my head just got totally messed with, but I don't know why," because if you tell someone you're messing with their head, you're doing it wrong. In this respect, he was kind of like one of his heroes, Alfred Hitchcock.

What do you think? Are you a fan of The Shining? Does Stanley Kubrick send you in paroxysms of rapture, or of rage? What do you think of the attention paid to this movie? Please do let us know what you think (with civility, of course) in the comments.


[via Mental Floss]