But back in 1980 Kubrick’s primary concern was to give Warner Brothers the commercial hit they needed from him after the misfiring Barry Lyndon (1975). To this end, he removed 24 minutes from the US version of The Shining prior to its European exhibition. Which makes this welcome UK release of the longer version a chance to compare and contrast.
As intensely powerful as the familiar shorter cut is, the hotel spookery does always seem to come around a bit too soon. You sense that missing material. This version restores the background storyline that propels the triangular family dynamic. In the shorter version, we were only fleetingly acquainted with Wendy Torrance and her psychic son Danny before their trip to Colorado and we had no real insight into why former teacher Jack Torrance seems to be enthusiastically channelling wildman Oscar-winner Jack Nicholson. Here, you get a whole lot more of Stephen King’s character set-up.
While Jack’s off getting politely grilled by hotel boss Barry ‘the hair’ Nelson, Wendy and Danny are also quizzed at home by a children’s doctor (Anne Jackson). Shelly Duvall’s performance in these ‘new’ scenes are a revelation. She relates the story of her husband’s alcoholism and how he recently broke little Danny’s arm in a drunken rage. No wonder the poor woman is such a nervous wreck. Just watch her nervous face betraying her words as she blithely explains away her husband’s violent behaviour. It’s a magnificent piece of acting from Duvall, for our money her best of the movie, genuinely enhancing our empathy with her in the madness that follows. Talking of which, while we’ve always loved Nicholson’s maniac routine, now we get a real sense of why he’s struggling to keep it together from the off. It’s a very important contextual difference and required viewing for anyone who’s always struggled with the timbre of Nicholson’s early scenes
The extended opening seems to re-balance the film, providing more of a slow-build to the storm we know is coming. Additions elsewhere are less vital but seamlessly enrich things. We get more of the initial tour of the Overlook, many extended dialogue scenes including more of Jack’s double-act with Lloyd the barman and a bunch of cool flourishes including some creepy skeletons that’ll freak you back to last Thursday. Scatman Crothers, another sublime bit of casting, is particularly well served as he battles to get back to the Overlook when he realises the shit has well and truly hit the snow-fan. Still dies in this version, though, the poor old bugger.
Although Kubrick apparently had no preference between the two cuts he released, we think he got it absolutely bang on with this longer version. The dramatic construction is stronger; his small cast of characters are better defined so we’re more engaged and the scares have even more clout. Not rocket science, that.
Bottom line: The Shining is a masterpiece whichever way it’s cooked but this one has all the trimmings and they taste mighty fine. Time to check back in.
THE SHINING - EXTENDED EDITION (1980) / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: STANLEY KUBRICK / SCREENPLAY: STANLEY KUBRICK, DIANE JOHNSON / STARRING: JACK NICHOLSON, SHELLEY DUVALL, DANNY LLOYD, SCATMAN CROTHERS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW