Today, May 23rd 2020, marks 40 years since the great American film director, screenwriter, and producer Stanley Kubrick released his now iconic cinematic picture The Shining.
One of the most influential filmmakers in cinematic history with his dark, realist and often sophisticated adaptations, led Kubrick to major Hollywood success through his film company Hawk Films. Pioneering pictures such as Dr. Strangelove, A Clockwork Orange, 2001: A Space Odyssey and, of course, The Shining ensured his place in the cinematic history books.
The Shining, a 1980 film produced and directed by Kubrick and co-written with novelist Diane Johnson, is arguably accepted as one of the greatest horror films of all time. The film, based on Stephen King’s 1977 novel of the same name and starring the likes of Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Scatman Crothers and Danny Lloyd, tells the tale of Jack Torrance, an aspiring writer and recovering alcoholic who takes the job as an off-season caretaker of the secluded ‘Overlook Hotel’ in Colorado.
Battling the extreme winter conditions with his wife Wendy Torrance and young son Danny, the boy then possesses “the shining” which is the terrifying abilities that allow him to see the hotel’s horrific past. It is these supernatural forces, combined with the winter storm leaving the family trapped in the hotel, that leads Jack’s sanity to deteriorate.
Incredibly, the production of the film was almost exclusively filmed at EMI Elstree Studios with expertly crafted sets which were based on real locations. However, upon release, the film failed to impress. The reviews were mixed and Warner Bros. crawled to a small profit. In fact, in an interview with Playboy in 1983, Stephen King himself felt let down by the result: “I’d admired Kubrick for a long time and had great expectations for the project, but I was deeply disappointed in the end result. Parts of the film are chilling, charged with a relentlessly claustrophobic terror, but others fell flat,” he said.
On top of that, King offered his frustration at the casting of Jack Nicholson, claiming, “Jack Nicholson, though a fine actor, was all wrong for the part. His last big role had been in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and between that and the manic grin, the audience automatically identified him as a loony from the first scene.”
However, in the years that followed, a severe change in perception would develop. The reappraisal of the film would see critics who had initially struggled with The Shining, change their opinions and grown on board with the hypnotic quality of Kubrick’s work. In 2006, Roger Ebert, who was initially critical of the film upon release, then added The Shining into his Great Movies series: “Stanley Kubrick’s cold and frightening The Shining challenges us to decide: Who is the reliable observer? It is this elusive open-endedness that makes Kubrick’s film so strangely disturbing.”
Today, in memory of the great filmmaker and one of his most famed masterpieces, Far Out takes a look behind the Polaroid camera used on set by Kubrick and his production staff on the set of The Shining. Kubrick, often worked with a small crew which allowed him to do many takes, was well known for pushing his team to the limits of exhaustion in the bid for perfection.
Below is a series of Polaroid images taken by Kubrick himself, his longterm assistant Emilio D’Alessandro and continuity supervisor June Randall. Randall is well known among fans of Kubrick, developing the nickname of his “continuity girl” having worked on The Shining, A Clockwork Orange and Barry Lyndon.
(All images in this article have been sourced via overlook-hotel)