Film Review: ‘The Shining’

The Shining Anniversary
Courtesy of Warner Bros.

With everything to work with, director Stanley Kubrick has teamed with jumpy Jack Nicholson to destroy all that was so terrifying about Stephen King's bestseller.

With everything to work with, director Stanley Kubrick has teamed with jumpy Jack Nicholson to destroy all that was so terrifying about Stephen King’s bestseller.

In his book, King took a fundamental horror formula — an innocent family marooned in an evil dwelling with a grim history — and built layers of ingenious terror upon it. The father is gradually possessed by the demonic, desolate hotel.

With dad going mad, the only protection mother and child have is the boy’s clairvoyance — his “shining” — which allows him an innocent understanding and some ability to outmaneuver the devils. But Kubrick sees things his own way, throwing 90% of King’s creation out.

The crazier Nicholson gets, the more idiotic he looks. Shelley Duvall transforms the warm sympathetic wife of the book into a simpering, semi-retarded hysteric.

[Version reviewed ran 146 mins. Kubrick cut pic soon after its premiere.]

Film Review: 'The Shining'


Warner. Director Stanley Kubrick; Producer Stanley Kubrick; Screenplay Stanley Kubrick, Diane Johnson; Camera John Alcott; Editor Ray Lovejoy; Music Wendy Carlos, Rachel Elkind; Art Director Roy Walker


(Color) Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1980. Running time: 142 MIN.


Jack Nicholson Shelley Duvall Danny Lloyd Scatman Crothers Barry Nelson Anne Jackson

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  1. john doe says:

    I think you are completely wrong about Nicholson and Duvall, idiotic and hysterical. The performance Jack delivers is great. Sure, Shelley did scream and cried a lot, but think about how yo would react.

    • Chad says:

      Not to mention calling her performance “semi-retarded” (varietys words not mine)-I bet who ever wrote this writes Donald Trumps tweets now.

      • timgray2013 says:

        Actually, the reviewer died many years ago. This is a brief recap of his longer review, published in 1980. He was a smart man, but I think he missed the boat on this one. (And agree, his description of Duvall’s performance was wrong.) For a much more positive assessment of the film, here’s a column from last year:
        And FYI, in the early days of, we printed abbreviated reviews (like this) of classic films. Now, we have made digital copies of the complete reviews, available in the Variety Archives. But thanks for reading.

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