One of the things I have been looking forward to greatly this summer was finally watching The Shining with my oldest son. He’s already a bit of a horror fan junky, but I’ve begged him to hold off on this one so we can watch it together, which we did in August. But, unfortunately, that did not go so well. In fact, we only made it 20 minutes through the film until things went horribly wrong. Let me back up, months earlier I had bought the Blu-ray in preparation, and we even recently got a bigger TV. And while I loathed watching this film for the first time together in the living room, I was also aware the opportunities to catch it in a theater in English in Italy was not availing itself anytime soon. So, between one thing and another we setup a night in mid August to take the leap together. It started well enough, but I thought the interview scene was missing some dialogue, but I was not sure enough to speak up about it yet. But then it happened…the scene directly after Danny’s first vision of the Overlook hotel featuring the blood gushing out of the elevator doors cuts directly to the title “Closing Day:”
“Wait, what? That can’t be right, can it?” Was my immediate reaction, and to my son’s great chagrin I stopped the movie. I then proceeded to question everything I knew about Kubrick’s The Shining (which apparently was not that much). You see this is a film I have probably seen more than any other, I love it. It’s right up there with Carpenter’s The Thing as an all-time favorite.. So, I kinda know it well, in fact I did a video essay about it for ds106 wherein I discussed how the birth of my oldest son dramatically changed my relationship to the film, in that instance it was as if the film had grown-up along side me, and my becoming a father evened deepened the harrowing psychological horror at the core of the movie.
I even created a fun little video of Miles discovering the twins thanks to a Halloween decorations at a Z Pizza we discovered in Washington DC when he was 6 or 7 years old (about Danny’s age in the film), which remains one of my favorite videos from the productive years.
I mean Andy Rush, Serena Epstein, and I even did a swede of the bar scene in The Shining back in 2008?!
So, all this to say, my investment in The Shining and its direct relationship to my own path to fatherhood (and in many ways blogging) was not trivial. This was a big moment for me, so when I began to realize an entire scene of the film was missing, I was upset. So upset, that I not only stopped the film, but I remembered it was also on Netflix, so to vindicate myself I opened it on Netflix and scanned forward until the 20 minute mark when Danny has his first vision and, wait for it, nothing…just the “Closing Day” title again. “But that’s not right!”, I started yelling, I was literally beginning to lose my shit, not unlike Jack Torrance. Miles was increasingly more annoyed, and I described the entire scene that was missing after Danny’s vision. He wakes up on his bed and a doctor is examining him, after that the doctor and Wendy go into the other room and we learn from Wendy that Jack had dislocated Danny’s arm after having a few drinks for messing with his school papers, and Jack becomes that much more of a murky, questionable father figure. Miles was mildly interested in my aside, but just wanted to watch the movie, but unfortunately that was impossible. There was no way we could watch this, and the experience was then ruined. I continued to rave and then took to the internet, and Miles went to bed disappointed. But I was truly feeling like I was somehow in an alternative reality, and after a bit of research I realized that was, indeed, the case. The alternative reality was Europe!
Turns out Kubrick had completely re-cut the film for the European theatrical release, removing some 25 minutes of footage (and this in addition to the 2 minutes removed from the film after it was in US theaters for a week—the famous ending shot in the hospital). The European version is 119 minutes, while the US version is 144 minutes. Really?! And I cannot even blame the Europeans, this was all Kubrick’s doing—or perhaps the US box office given the film was not met with a very favorable reception. Which reminds me of a video I saw recently of Tobe Hooper discussing meeting Kubrick for the first time. Besides Kubrick having bought a 35 MM copy of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre to prepare for The Shining, Hooper notes that two years after the theatrical release Kubrick was still re-mixing the film, and Hooper chalked it up to getting it perfect.* And in some ways that might tell the story of the textual history of The Shining, with there being at least 3 versions released in theaters, and at least two of those still survive.
I was surprised to learn that the 144 minute version was not released theatrically in Europe until 2012, which seems crazy to me. Turns out the consensus is Kubrick felt the European cut was tighter and more streamlined, but I have only know the US version and the idea that it was less than perfect is simply sacrilege.
Here are a few of the deleted scenes thanks to YouTube, but there are numerous others:
Along the way to searching about the changes in the film from the US to the European version I discovered Kubrick had the “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” line from the typed sheets translated into an appropriate phrase in the various European languages it would be translated into. For Italy the line was translated to “Il mattino ha l’ oro in bocca” which is literally translated “The morning has gold in the mouth” and is a proverb similar to the early bird gets the worm. And in this case it was true for the theatrical release of the The Shining, because the early US release was truly the gold in the mouth 🙂 I can’ imagine this film without Scatman Cruthers calling the folks up at the Overlook hotel “completely unreliable assholes!”
*Interestingly enough, Hooper also mention that Kubrick reminded him of the state police officer Peter Sellers played in Lolita, and was noting that Sellers was doing an impersonation of Kubrick intentionally, which is wild to think about.