King's Highway pt. 51: The Shining (mini-series)

Stephen King has never made a secret about his distaste for two things: being asked where his ideas come from, and Stanley Kubrick's version of his novel The Shining. When speaking to Playboy in the early 1980s, here's what he had to say:

"...Kubrick is a very cold man - pragmatic and rational - and he had great difficulty conceiving even academically of the supernatural."

First, let me say that if there's anyone in the world whose opinion I'll listen to on how the book failed to materialize onscreen in the Kubrick version, it's King. I have a lot of sympathy for his viewpoint. The movie guts much of what makes his novel his novel; I've argued elsewhere it's just part of the book-to-film process (and I still believe this) but it's easy to see where King's coming from. He wrote the thing, for crying out loud. Still, this statement has always puzzled me. Isn't Kubrick's The Shining a definitive illustration of the supernatural "conceived academically?" 
I can even see it being said dismissively of the film. (Though I don't think that's how King means it. Ironically, the version he adapted for the screen himself / the subject of this blog is very much an "academic" conception of the supernatural.)

Just saying, for better or worse, if there is a mathematical equation of "the supernatural rendered academically," it would describe Kubrick's The Shining, right down to his use of set design to convey the "wrong" geometric angles and proportions, etc.

But what makes King's statement even more puzzling to me is that if his beef with the movie is Kubrick's "inability" to warmly-convey the supernatural... how does bringing Mick Garris in as director improve the situation?

Before he directed the Shining mini-series from King's script, Garris brought both The Stand and Sleepwalkers to the screen. Do either of these scream "Master of Humanizing the Supernatural" to you? I suppose a case could be made for "personal taste," here, but this is like bringing a (legally unsound to begin with) case all the way to the Supreme Court and hiring Lionel Hutz to argue it.
Not that Garris doesn't have his defenders. Go to the threads of The Shining mini-series at the SK Forum for evidence of that. Or consider this enthusiastic blogger's take on Garris's visual style: "He has a very unique way of doing things, and it is evident when you are watching one of his films. He has such a talent for using music over scenes and making it effective. The man can craft so much from his visuals and he lets them tell the story, which is a great talent to have and I love him for it."

I gotta tell you - it disturbs me to read this. It's just... so off on so many points. I don't know where to begin.

Let's look at one example from The Shining. King's script flips the first and second chapters of his novel so that Jack's interview with Ullman takes place after Jack meets with Bill Watson (played by Pat Hingle). The camera (as accompanied by propagandist scoring) swoops over people playing "Denver Croquet" (more on that when I get to King's script) and moves across the lawn, showing the Overlook and the exiting guests. So far, so good. Then, it swings in so we have a moving shot of Jack and Stu talking, coming with them down the stairs and ending on this:

What is the point of this framing? The camera movement calls attention to itself as much as anything in Kubrick's version, but without any of the rationale. They are framed so that the Overlook has come between them. Is this really effective subtext for this scene? Or for anything that follows? Why even bother? 

Garris shares the curious opinion his fans have about his filmography and approach: "The Shining is one of my favorite things I've ever done. First of all, the production values, we were in one place for most of it. Well, a couple of places - a stage, a hotel. So, I was able to really use some filmmaking that I wasn't (able to) in the The Stand. The Stand was guerrilla filmmaking, and I everything I could, but we were rushed and on a much tighter budget with so many locations and so much cast that we were trying to just get it and put as much art into it as possible. But in the case of The Shining, I was able to really build some dread. I think that some of the filmmaking in there was much more sophisticated in the like."

There's so much wrong in that paragraph/ perspective I don't know where to begin. (The Stand is guerrilla filmmaking?) I'll just stick with "building some dread." The most noticeable aspect of The Shining mini-series is its absolute lack of dread. Who on earth could possibly be moved to dread from watching this version of the story?

He also displays a troubling lack of understanding of how deals are routinely made in Hollywood when discussing getting the rights to make this:

"...Part of the deal was that Kubrick had the rights. Kubrick got paid a lot of money for the rights to that. He got a million and a half bucks for the rights for us to do this. And part of the Kubrick’s deal was that King could not say anything critical about his movie…"

I have heard that before re: "King can't bad-talk the movie," but I strongly suspect that's BS. I have no evidence of it either way, but until I hear Kubrick's side (which seems impossible, him being dead and all) I don't buy it. But yes, Kubrick paid a lot of money for the rights to the film, those rights appreciated in value, he got paid an amount commiserate with this. Is that underhanded? Or anything but routine?  It might seem weird to someone not in the business, maybe, but it certainly sounds like standard business practice. Maybe Garris is just bitching about the money eating into his production budget. Whatever. Disney/ ABC has deep pockets.

One more thing before I move on to casting/ the script. As Karina Wilson noted in her book-to-movie-to-mini-series review: "It takes most of Episode One for the Torrances to get settled in to the Overlook, they don't get snowed in until partway through Episode Two, and Jack doesn't get anything but tetchy until Episode Three. Proceedings aren't helped by cheesy 90s special effects (the CGI topiary animals are particularly laughable...

Indeed they are.
The decision to make them actually move rather than suggest movement/ dread with photography is so baffling to me.
As it is, onscreen, it's like being menaced by slow-moving, choppy broccoli.
"...and low-grade Halloween make-up on the ghosts (which looks comic on a modern HDTV."

It looked comic on my shitty-old-TV-from-1997, as well.
I mean, come on.

Karina continues, "King wanted to shoot interiors and exteriors at the location that inspired him - The Stanley Hotel. While it's interesting to see the original, an actual physical location often has disadvantages over a specially-constructed set. A corridor is just a corridor. Unfortunately, from the opening moments, the fancy wedding cake architecture of The Stanley is too pretty to be sinister, lacking the low-lying menace of the Timberline Lodge in Oregon used by Kubrick. And the interiors... were never going to live up to Roy Walker's custom-designed sets."

Lets' move on from Garris and get back to King, who shares an equal amount of blame for this. (And if I seem too snarky, I apologize - God knows I love and support the man's work, nor am I"out to get" Mick Garris. But having watched all agonizing what-felt-like-fifty-five hours of this for the purpose of writing this blog, I at least earned the right to a little snark. Life is short.) Again, from his Playboy interview:

"(Kubrick) used to make transatlantic calls to me from England at odd hours of the day and night, and I remember once he rang up and asked, 'Do you believe in God?' I thought a minute and said, 'Yeah, I think so.' Kubrick replied, 'No, I don't think there is a God' and hung up. Not that religion has to be involved in horror, but a visceral skeptic such as Kubrick just couldn't grasp the sheer inhuman evil of the Overlook Hotel... This was the basic flaw. Because he couldn't believe, he couldn't make the film believable to others."

First, it is worth noting that King's story of these transatlantic calls/ Kubrick's questions has changed over the years. YouTube clips abound of King telling other variations of it, but usually it's that Kubrick called to say any tale that suggests an afterlife is fundamentally optimistic and that King responded "What about Hell?" and Kubrick said "I don't believe in Hell." Kind of a big difference/ implication in those two versions, if you ask me. But as with the rights-thing, Kubrick's side of the story is unfortunately not preserved.

Second, I agree that religion, whether God or the afterlife-in-general, need not be involved to make effective horror, but I'm not exactly sure what Kubrick is an alleged skeptic of, here. The supernatural itself? But Kubrick's film is such overwhelming evidence that the supernatural can be conveyed by a "visceral skeptic" and that audiences believed it, easily. Ask your parents. 

Or ask mine! "We believed it," say Dona and Farrell McMillan.

The horrors of the novel share some key (one might say "the essential") borderlands with the horrors of the film, like some unholy Venn diagram, but they are offspring of different fathers, to be sure. So... again, Mick Garris? That's your solution? I mean, like him or hate him, his filmography simply doesn't merit him as the expert witness for the rebuttal King has in mind, here. Put another way, I like Jack Nicholson as an actor, but I wouldn't cast him as Nelson Mandella.

Also, for what it's worth, Garris is an atheist, i.e. the kind of skeptic King intimates about Kubrick, here. Which I wouldn't even mention - hey, more power to you/ atheists-everywhere, I don't care or think it has to have any bearing on how you direct - but since King brought it up, I mean, what is he seeing in Garris's work to persuade him Garris is a "believer?" It makes me wonder if King is even capable, I'm afraid, of properly evaluating these things when he says things like this.

Still, like I mentioned before, I do sympathize with where King is coming from on Kubrick's movie, so let's continue:

"The second problem was in characterization and casting. Jack Nicholson, though a fine actor, was all wrong for the part. His last big role was One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and between that and his manic grin, the audience automatically identified him as a loony from the first scene. But the book is about Jack Torrance's gradual descent into madness."

Far be it from me to disagree with the guy who created Jack Torrance, but... I'm going to. And sometimes, that's reasonable; a proud mother holding up her child's painting probably shouldn't be on the committee that decides whether or not it belongs in the Louvre.

As I mentioned last time, I think Nicholson's casting is if-not-perfect, then so close to it that the difference isn't worth mentioning. King underestimates the "angry dry drunk" aspect of his own creation. Jack Torrance is introduced as close-to-snapping from the very first, and we see him struggle with it. Most teachers don't attack their students and break their child's arm; these things alone mark him as borderline. Kubrick/ Nicholson picking up on that and translating it to screen simply shouldn't provoke these concerns. That they do is truly weird to me. Tho, perhaps understandable... he himself has said, "Alcoholics build defenses the way the Dutch build dikes," and since he's also on record as saying "I'm the guy who wrote The Shining without even realizing I was writing about myself," I think I see some denial in this comment (repeated over the years, but again from his Playboy interview, which, I should note, he gave while slamming beers back, as noted by the interviewer.)

But, okay. That's from where I'm sitting, and we're talking about from where King's sitting, right? So, his answer was (to paraphrase his own wording) to get... Brian Hackett from Wings? i.e. "though a fine actor, someone whose last big role was the smirking-other-male-lead on a laughtrack-sitcom, instantly recognizable to the audience of the time?"

My friend Mark cracked me up by saying they should have got the whole Wings cast for this mini-series. That would have been something. Particularly if Thomas Haden Church has played Danny and David Schramm played Tony.

Granted, King's first choice was Tim Daly, i.e. the other male lead from Wings. Let me just say - I was surprised in this re-watch to discover Weber's performance was actually better than I remembered. He never sells the "descent into madness" King mentions, but that's not really his fault. Garris and King structure the mini-series in such a plodding takes-forever-to-get-places way that by the time Weber "snaps," it's just very fake, very Lifetime-movie-esque.

(Need proof? Watch the very beginning of this scene, or from 2:19 through 3:27 of this.)

Visually-designing the story as an ill-conceived rebuttal to Kubrick's film was bad enough. (And no matter what Garris/ King say, it certainly comes across that way. It's like Ray Manzarek's version of The Doors story - it might be closer to what he thinks/ knows about "what really happened," but Stone's version is a film, utilizing every aspect of the filmmaking process; Manzarek's is not.) Adding awful CGI and make-up further ruined it. But the unbelievable amount of time given to "dramatic tension" scenes between Jack and Wendy (which never once seem dramatic; in fact, Wendy never seems terrified of Jack at all, even after he snaps, and Courtland Mead is just playacting. Tough to criticize child actors, I know, but the difference between Danny's terror in Kubrick's movie and in Garris/King's version is very, very great.) and establishing Jack as "not a bad guy" and basically giving him a few too many hours to not be intimidating makes the transition something sub-par to Discovery ID crime-scene re-enactments.

Ironically, in real-life, Weber's passive-aggressive, barely-concealed rage on Real Time with Bill Maher or his angry snaps to people on Twitter suggest the casting for the dry-drunk/ out-of-control part of Jack Torrance wasn't so far off. Too bad he didn't have a script/ direction to help him focus. Without it, I'm afraid, his theatrics come off as just bad / unbelievable. Particularly everytime he bellows "COME TAKE YOUR MEDICINE" or "MIND YOUR FATHER."
As someone noted somewhere (again, forgive my lack of citations - lost my notes) it has the effect of watching an episode of The Flintstones where Fred suddenly starts playacting-crazy. The main difference between Weber's performance and Nicholson's is, if Nicholson is too-crazy from the get-go, he is genuinely intimidating; Weber is neither. Though there are glimpses of what-might-have-been.

King's script is definitely a huge part of the problem. It is simply a novel ill-transposed to screen. Novels require the kind of compartmentalization Kubrick and Diane Johnson performed (or any other number of examples); none is on display here. Characters spend four minutes saying what should be expressed in ten seconds, far too much time is spent on nothing-things, (like explaining the rules of Denver Croquet. Really? First of all, it's roque in the novel; why change it? Particularly something that also has no bearing on anything except putting the mallet in Jack's hand?) and R-rated material is shoehorned into PG sensibilities: all of which ensures it comes across as a very-special-episode of Beverly Hills 90210.

How about the other performances? Some aren't bad.

Probably among the best things Rebecca DeMornay ever did, although I prefer Shelly Duvall's palpable-terror/ suffering-mother-archetype. Still, "AT LEAST SHE WAS BLONDE!" as someone wrote - yes, in all-caps - on the SK Forum.
Courtland Mead is awful. As Film Threat noted, "(He's) a sitcom-kid. He's acting for the camera. He knows it, and more importantly, we can see it. It's just little things like the tone and volume of his voice or the way he looks at the other actors. It's a dead giveaway." Particularly in any of the "Why are Mommy and Daddy fighting?" scenes. I know, he's just a kid and all, but... so was Danny Lloyd, right? The difference between directors is at volume ten, here.
The less said about Tony, the better:

Particularly the God-awful decision to have him float like this, or this tacked-on ending where Danny is graduating from high school, as-smiled-upon by Dick Halloran and his mother in the audience, as well as a ghostly-end-of-Jedi-ghost of Jack Torrance:

Holy dear God in heaven and/or Hell.

And Elliot Gould has given some fine performances over the years, to be sure, (I for one grew up with The Devil and Max Devlin and enjoy his take on Philip Marlowe in Altman's The Long Goodbye) but his turn as Stu Ullman is bad with a capital "B."

He over-enunciates each and every letter of every word he delivers as if he's trying to make sure his granddaughter in the back-row can hear Grandpa "play make-believe."
Some of the cameos are fun, particularly Frank Darabont as one of the ghosts (a screen-shot of which I couldn't find, unfortunately), or

Sam Raimi as the gas station attendant who gives Dick the snowcat, or
King as bandleader of the "Gage Creed Orchestra"

But ultimately, this whole mess belongs in the same discussion as George Lucas's alterations to the original Star Wars trilogy. Both the novel and Kubrick's version of it are masterpieces, pure and simple; this Garris/ King version of the same tale is like Greedo-firing-first for five-and-a-half damn hours.



  1. I could write ten pages of comments about how much I agree with this post, and probably would just be getting warmed up.

    At the heart of things, I think King is simply irrational on the subject of "The Shining." I think it is a deeply personal tale for him that burrowed into -- or should that read "out of"? -- his psyche in a way that none of his other works have done.

    Bottom line is that there is no readily-apparent other way to interpret the fact that he has spent the last three decades bad-mouthing the Kubrick movie. Now, making some allowances for personal taste and all that, I recognize that Kubrick's "The Shining" may not be for everybody. However, by this point I think it is undeniable that in terms of the overall culture, that movie is a genuine classic, not merely within the horror genre, but at large.

    No need to agree personally. Heck, some people think "Casablanca" is a bad movie. But it is an objective fact that "Casablanca" is widely considered to be a classic. Same goes for "The Shining."

    What that means is that the person who decides to try and take it down a peg had REALLY better come loaded for bear, because only a very powerful gun is going to slow this particular animal. Theoretically, King had the opportunity to do just that with the miniseries.

    This blog post points out a TON of great reasons why that ended up not happening. I think there is literally nothing that the miniseries does better than the movie, or (for that matter) better than the novel. This is like trying to kill a bear with a Red Ryder BB gun.

    As we all know, I love Stephen King. But mine is not a mindless, uncritical love. It's a love that acknowledges that sometimes, he just doesn't know what the fuck he's talking about. It happens surprisingly rarely; maybe one out of every fifty comments he makes is suspect, and only one out of every twenty-five of THOSE is outright poppycock. My average is more like one poppycock comment out of every five suspect comments, and one suspect comment out of every ... oh ... three comments.

    So in the grand scheme of things, King is doing all right.

    When it comes to movies and television, though, ooo-EEEE, sometimes the dude just has bad taste.

    So, apparently, do a great many of his fans. It's really the only way one ends up liking Mick Garris's movies.

    I'd love to respond to every specific point in this post -- frequently with a Duddits-style arms-raised cheer -- but we'd be here for hours. So all I'll say further is: Well done!

    1. Very happy you enjoyed (and lol at the Duddits reference. If for nothing else, Dreamcatcher works for giving the King community that go-to joke.)

      I forgot to mention this part, but I totally agree:

      "It happens surprisingly rarely"

      It is frankly uncanny how rarely King missteps. But this miniseries and his relentless banging-on about Kubrick's movie in general definitely are. Missteps is putting it mildly; this is an ass-over-teakettle plunge from the side of a mountain, which has cliffs that only exist in his head. His need to "redeem" his original novel / Jack Torrance outweighed his judgment, here, by a large margin.

    2. I couldn't agree more.

      One thing I intended to mention, but forgot: I find all of this to be a piece of evidence supporting the idea that "Doctor Sleep" is on solid ground. I really just don't believe that King could bring himself to tamper with the story if it wasn't still a very active, vital thing within him that finally decided to rear its head and demand further expression.

      I suppose you could make the argument that because his tamperings with the story on the miniseries failed, that's evidence that he is not to be trusted in expanding the story at all. I don't see it that way, though, because I think his relationship with writing prose is SO fundamentally different than his relationship with writing screenplays and producing movies that it really isn't even the same thing.

      It's like how if you take a great athlete and put him/her on a show about competitive dancing, they might not necessarily excel at it. Shouldn't they? Aren't physically-precise activities all the same in a sense?

      Not really, no. Same goes for different types of creative imagination. VERY different skills, which is why you don't see all that many people who excel at more than one variety of it.

    3. That is a very illustrative comparison. And I agree - I have far more confidence in his revisiting The Shining in prose than in screenplay form.

      Oddly enough, I'd be tickled pink if he revisited Maximum Overdrive.

    4. Me too!

      "Maximum Overdrive" is a terrible movie; let's have no illusions to the contrary. That said, I think it is a very enterainingly terrible movie, in part because King, in making that movie, was making a MOVIE, as opposed to merely trying to write a novel in cinema form. It's a trashy, junky movie; but, still. I'll take that over the miniseries of "The Shining" every day of the week.

  2. Hmmm. Well, I suppose it would be best to state some artistic first principles before setting out my response, because my response is, I hope, born out of what principles I have regarding things like performance, camera style and background, and all the rest.

    This may be a multiple post comment. I'll try and keep it as short as possible though.

    I've said elsewhere that I'm a believer of Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious, in fact I've written a nine pager about it that I still hope to post someday in some form, maybe.

    What it has to do with King is that he believes this idea of the images of imagination as archetypes. For reference see this clip at the 8:42 to 11:23 mark, where they discuss Jung (who theorized archetypes) and writing.

    I really wish I knew how to post my nine page response, it laid out my whole thinking.

    Right now I'll settle for responding to particular aspects of criticism. Let's start with cinematography and back ground.

    Here's a question I'd like answered. How important are images in a story, whether book or film?

    Like I said, I really would like an answer to this question 'cause I genuinely think these are important questions relating film and books.

    So...Well, if you don't mind, I guess, well, I'll wait for a reply.


    1. P.S.

      I giess I should have added that aside from my believing these questions important, they're also just plain fun to think about.


    2. Fire away, Chris, no worries.

      To answer your question, I think they're very important. They are utilized in different ways on the page vs. on the screen, but, to use King's metaphor for On Writing, they are essential items in the artist's "toolkit." In lesser hands, a hammer still performs its rudimentary function; in a craftsman's, the work can be directed towards something more comprehensively meaningful.

      In other words, when building a deck, it's easy to tell the level of competence of the carpenter, even if you can stand just as easily on either.

    3. Excellent.

      In that case, to start with my own idea of basics.

      The problem of image.

      Simply put, images in film and tv are tricky and hard to quantify, and the reason for this is because every film style or use of the camera started out first in the artists head before it ever unrolled on a scrap of celluloid or disc. What you see on screen, then, is just images in one person's head based on their own aesthetic sense.

      Now here's a the problem as I see it. I’ve been thinking over what you said, that “visuals are (the) essential-biology-of-the story-organism for a film like The Shining.” I’ve turned that over in my head to see how valid that is. The truth, so far, is that idea remains an up in the air judgment, though don’t go by me. The reason why I have my doubts about visuals as argument is sort of detailed and there are a lot of places to start. A good place to start might be with Jung (again). He spoke somewhere of an “archetypal image,” the fantasy image the imagination produces in the mind. What Jung pointed out, was that the same archetype (say, the “child”) could express itself to different individual minds, and each would see a different version of the child, and here I think some apology should be made for Jung always sticking to strict science terminology when a more layman’s term would do.

      Anyway, another good example is Middle Earth. Long before the Rings films, everyone had their own idea of what Middle Earth looked, I know I sure did, and still do. Okay then, who here is willing to admit it’s still that same individual image you see in your head every time you leave aside the movie and go back to the books? Do you see the pattern here? In each case listed, the idea of visuals, whatever their value, becomes more fluid, and less stable; rendering the idea of a definitive visual reference for any work of fiction, whether on page or screen, hard to quantify.

      King said it best in the intro to the uncut Stand: Movies, after all, are only an illusion of motion composed of thousands of still photographs. The imagination however moves with it's own tidal flow. Films' even the best of them, freeze fiction-anyone who has ever seen One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and then reads Ken Keysey's novel will find it hard or impossible not to see Jack Nicholson's face on Randle Patrick Mcmurphy. That's not necessarily bad-but it is limiting. The glory of a good tale is that it is limitless and fluid.

      King, The Stand, Anchor Books 2011 edition.

      I've been led from comments like King's and thos of fans to speculate that there are levels or grades of images each according to the imaginative capacity of individual minds. Those who can concieve a better mid-world than one who concieves poorly will be more detailed, maybe.

      The same with performance. there are levels of good acting, each with it's proper place on the ladder, with the highest being great acting. To be fair, the good level does have a cut off point, the problem is where might that point be? Different people I'm afraid might give different answers.

      The same goes for sound and music but to get back to images for a moment. While some complain about the Stanley Hotel, I find it's charm somehow effective, because it gives the illusion of a nice, homey place that's all looks on the outside but a rotten core on the inside.

      There's more, however I'll wait for comments again.


    4. I don't disagree with what you say, here, though I will say a better place to start with images in film is with film theorists, not necessarily Jung. Jung's archetypes are a very interesting spiritual (I can't agree they're scientific, really, though much of Jung's work could certainly be qualified as such; I'll say it is an attempt to scientifically quantify essentially-spiritual things. There is much discussion out there on the web about this, as there should be; here (for those who don't have any background with this) is one informative page: http://mythbuster.hubpages.com/hub/Archetypes-Jungian) mythology, and I agree with the basic "gist" of them. But when it comes to film, as with painting or any art form that trades in visual stock, it's best to study the old masters. My opinion, of course, not like an end-all, be-all.

      I think you're right in that art-appreciation is subjective, but... there's a big difference between someone who knows the rules/ history of film and someone who frames shots according to a three-camera-sitcom aesthetic. At least in my view, and I'd venture to say, most film critics' view. A thousand monkeys typing on a thousand typewriters might, as the saying go, eventually write Hamlet, but someone with a more studied grasp of storytelling, mythology, and psychology will conceive of Hamlet on a less haphazard path.

      if that makes any sense. I definitely think we project what we know on anything we evaluate, and we all catch/ are inspired by glimmers of the "archetypes." Hinduism comments on this quite a bit (in my understanding of it).

    5. Interesting. As to the sitcom camera review, well, I'm an "Everybody loves Raymond" fan as much as the next guy, and doing a brief comparison between the two leaves, to me at least, a bit of difference between the styles.

      From what i can tell, the miniseries has a lot more in common with the camera work of tv shows like The X files.......I'm sorry, but it does look that way to me.

      However, it all goes back to what I said about levels of style and performance. Now, the final graded level would I guess be reader/viewer aesthetics. This is the part that I've grown more interested about as I've read other comments about various books and read reviews of various films, because I've often wondered where those views come from. Is it taste, upbringing, inherent?

      All this is fascinating food for thought, or at least it is if you're looking to freelance you're way into publication (yes I probably should be committed for trying that in today's economy. Oh well).

      Either way , when it comes to how people respond to various films, it might be, in a sense, because of their imaginative capacity. The problem is ho do you grade that, or should you?

      Performance and image are one thing, but how do you grade someone who likes what to others seems sub-par, or who claims to see in both the performance and images of a given film something others can't see?

      One more thing, what are the rules of film? I ask as an ex-flim student and I'm curious?



      Really? Jung? Spiritual? I always thought he tried to keep things on a scientific basis, at least I thought so.

    6. P.S.S.

      I just remembered. Here's a link to an interesting example of the kind of thing I'm talking about. Listen to the guy in this video and see what you think about his conclusions.


      Be seeing you.


    7. Thanks for the link - I will check it out. Let me answer some of your questions before I sign off for a spell:

      "Either way , when it comes to how people respond to various films, it might be, in a sense, because of their imaginative capacity. The problem is ho do you grade that, or should you? "

      I agree with peoples' reactions being determined by their imaginative capacity/ learning, etc. I'll put it to you this way, I don't fault someone for liking whatever they want, but an unexamined life, as the saying goes, isn't worth living. Ditto for art.

      If you're an ex-film-student, I imagine you've got a pretty good idea of some of the various filmmakers who provided the vocabulary / cross-cutting/ montage and its decade-by-decade evolution. I don't know how to definitively answer your question "What are the rules," but it seems there are a lot of different valid responses. Andre Bezon, Carl Dreyer, DW Griffith, for older examples, but film (like painting, or literature) underwent many revolutions.

      Archetypes put a Western-spin on a Hindu approach to life, from where I'm sitting. I shouldn't say they're unscientific, just that, like the Dalai Lama (not a Hindu, of course, but his response is illustrative) said when told of the collective unconscious, "I've heard of it. It's what we Buddhists have been saying for two thousand years." (That's from a great book whose name I can't recall, but it's a book-length interview between Jean-Claude Carriere and the Dalai Lama. But when I think archetypes, I guess I think more Hindu mythology, as expressed in European imagery.

      There's a LOT of room for debate/ differing-opinion in any of these topics, of course.

      "Performance and image are one thing, but how do you grade someone who likes what to others seems sub-par, or who claims to see in both the performance and images of a given film something others can't see?"

      So, how do I answer... I guess when I evaluate something (be it performance, mise-en-scene, musical score, etc.) I can't help but project my own education/ lack-of-education/ bias/ lack-of-bias on it, just like anyone else. Basically, tho, any interpretation is "valid" if someone believes it; it's just that some are more believable/ provable than others, maybe?

  3. "Basically, tho, any interpretation is "valid" if someone believes it; it's just that some are more believable/ provable than others, maybe?"

    Well, I know an opinion is something someone will have whether you agree wit hit or not. I will say there is one fundamental reason why I both like and give this miniseries a passing grade, the reason why I'm willing to defending the miniseries ending all the way to the grave.

    It has to do with several comments King made. Here's the first from Danse Macabre:

    King: I believe that we are all ultimately alone and that any deep and lasting human contact is nothing more nor less than a necessary illusion-but at least feeling which we think of as positive and constructive are a reaching out...they are the emotions which bring us together, if not in fact, than at least in the comforting illusion that makes the burden of mortality a little easier to bear."

    That's a cheerful sentiments, isn't it? Now compare it with this line from The Mist.

    King: It's his face and sometimes the way his eyes turn up to mine that make me feel as if thing are really okay. It's a lie of course-things are not okay and never have been-but my kid makes me believe the lie."

    Now compare the above two quotes with this line from The Shining.

    King: The world's a hard place, Danny. It don't care. It don't hate you and me, but it don't love us. Terrible things happen in the world and they're things n one can explain...Sometimes it seems like...only the bad people...stay healthy and prosper. The world don't love you..."

    Are you seeing the pattern? All those lines from his books are variations of the quote from Danse Macabre.

    Now. Here's King from On Writing, writing about his recovery from alcohol/drug addiction. Note how different is the opinion expressed here from that in On Writing:

    King: The four twentieth centurywriters whose work is most responsible for it are probably Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Sherwood Anderson, and the poet Dylan Thomas. They are the writers who largely formed our vision of an existential English-speaking wasteland where people have been cut off from one another and
    live in an atmosphere of emotional strangulation and
    despair. These concepts are very familiar to most alcoholics;
    the common reaction to them is amusement. Substanceabusing
    writers are just substance abusers—common garden-
    variety drunks and druggies, in other words. Any claims
    that the drugs and alcohol are necessary to dull a finer sensibility are just the usual self-serving BS. I've heard alcoholic snowplow drivers make the same claim, that they drink
    to still the demons. It doesn’t matter if you’re James Jones,
    John Cheever, or a stewbum snoozing in Penn Station; for an
    addict, the right to the drink or drug of choice must be preserved
    at all costs. Hemingway and Fitzgerald didn’t drink
    because they were creative, alienated, or morally weak. They
    drank because it’s what alkies are wired up to do. Creative
    people probably do run a greater risk of alcoholism and
    addiction than those in some other jobs, but so what? We all
    look pretty much the same when we’re puking in the gutter.

    To be continued


    1. Notice the contrast? The quote from On writing is at a complete 180 variance from the one in Danse Macabre.

      What's going on here, and what does that have to do with the miniseries ending?

      Just this. Those words from Danse Macabre are the perfect illustration of the "Bachman frame of mind." They're also the beliefs that drove King to drink and drug, as he himself admits in On Writing. It is also the same way of thinking that he puts in at the end of the novel version of The Shining.

      Now, if beliefs which drive a man to addiction etc are expressed in a novel, does that make them "True" in the Tolkien/Jung/Straub/King sense of "True?" The answer is I don't believe such writing is "inspired" and therefore "not true" in the sense just outlined.

      How do I know this idea is true? All I know is the one thing King and I have in common is we've both been in analysis, although I've never been in rehab like King and heaven willing, I never will be. For me it ws just simple analysis for OCD and what I think of as GAD's syndrome (Generalized Anxiety Disorder). Let me re-emphasize that i've never had a problem like King, mine was a different less, serious neurosis. In fact, I haven't ever taken drugs, and the only beer I had in my life was once and that was enough for me. Still, I had my neurosis, and i learned enough while in therapy to find out about Jung and faulty/dangerous styles of "thinking."

      What does this have to do with The Shining either as a book, film or miniseries?

      Just that i now understand better how King got so neurotic himself, all the way to alcoholic,addictive depression, and how he managed to climb his way out of it. It all came from what I think of as that "Bachman state of mind." It's on display in a lot of his early writing and tapers off by the time of The Wastelands.

      The reason I give The Shining miniseries a passing grade is because in the throws of hos own neurosis, King left it in a state that amounted to unfinished, and it took him an entire recovery for him to make it to the point where he could go back and complete the novel, this time the way instincts (archetypes) were urging or driving him to go from the beginning. It's all to do with his fight back to sanity, and how he was eventually able to achieve it.

      That's why I like the miniseries; it's why I'm convinced doctor Sleep is such a mistake, and why I'm convinced the protrylal of Danny in the miniseries, whether in script or on film is the "True" version, the archetype of the child.

      I hope, Bryan, this answers as much as possible. Again, I know only by what I learned while in therapy, yet I'm convinced I learned enough. I also kind of learned enough how to analyze myself and, to an extent, others. It was actually a big help in getting y own OCD and GAD's under control, which to be fair, they are now as of this writing.

      So yes...When it comes to the "Truth" about The Shining, it's a case of it takes neurotic to know neurotic, with all the bells, nervous ticks and whistles.


    2. I just hope I haven't offended anyone. My only excuse for what's written is there seemed no other way to make my point.

      A lot of the comment above is taken from, and is an expansion of a sort of paper I forwarded once and this is just some of the stuff I deliberately left out until now.

      Sorry if it was uncalled for.


    3. Offended? Not at all, sir. No need to apologize at all! Sounds like you've had quite the journey, there, and that you learned a lot about these things along the way, and that these things inform your own take on The Shining. Which I think is the way it should be!

      I guess my feelings on the mini-series are obvious enough from my blog, so no need for me to get back into that, but as with anything I publish, it's just exploring my own viewpoint/ telling it the way I see it. I'm happy you do the same in your comments. Thank you!

    4. p.s. Uh-oh... watching that clip you sent, but I should admit up-front: as a comics/ Batman fan from way back, I kinda of hate the Tim Burton version!! Loved it at the time (it was unavoidable in 1989) But, I'm going to have trouble with this, I think, if the guy is claiming the '89 Batman is a) good, b) a film about Batman. I have strong feelings in the opposite direction, on those two counts, I'm afraid.

      Grist for a different blog-mill. Maybe one day I'm do a comics blog and excise all those thoughts from my brain... but, I don't know if it's in the cards.

      Anyway, I'll keep going, just wanted to be honest about a rather strong magnetically-repelled reaction I'm having from the first minute of this.

    5. Well that's a relief. That guy with the glasses, the Nostalgia Critic has done a lot of other videos, by the way. He's pretty funny, if a bit annoying at times.

      There's one review of his that I now realize should have been posted in one of the Dark Tower entries. Oh Well.

      Here it is anyway, I think it has a at least some relevance to the series as a whole, although for the record, King did what this movie does a hell of a lot better.

      Here's the link: http://blip.tv/nostalgiacritic/nostalgia-critic-last-action-hero-2434010


  4. The miniseries of "The Shining" consists of four and a half hours of false dramatic notes stacked one on top of the next, culminating in that horrifically awful coda set at Danny's graduation.

    For the most part, these dramatic failings are failings of tone created by the director and editor, and in some instances by the performers, or the makeup artists, etc. King the writer isn't as much to blame for this as is King the producer, but either way, he gets a lot of the blame.

    I know there are people who enjoy the miniseries. Good for them, I say. There are people who enjoy Ramen noodles, too, but every time I eat those it makes me think of the many types of food I could be eating that would be SO much tastier.

    By the way, Chris, your rationale for liking the miniseries is easily the closest thing I've ever heard to a persuasive reason to reevaluate it. It doesn't persuade me, in the end ... but it comes close, which in and of itself is kind of amazing.

    As I've said before, even when I disagree with you, you give me good food for thought. Steak, as opposed to Ramen.

    1. Hey that's great! Thanks. Though i've always been more partial to tortilla soup myself.


  5. I know this may seem like I'm just ping-ponging a compliment back at you, but truly, this may be your best effort thus far, and was a compelling read. Maybe you should discuss things you detest more often! Heh.

    I can't contribute too meaningfully to the discussion, because, truth to tell, I haven't seen more than a glimpse of the miniseries, and I've never watch the movie straight through, only watching chunks of it out of order over the years. I plan on giving it a straight-through watch eventually...

    Speaking of Batman, I was recently reading early Bob Kane/Bill Finger issues of Batman and Robin, and I was struck by something that I've known all along, but which was never clear to me until this reading of that era of the comic as an adult. The best depiction of the comic book version of Batman on the screen, at least the early Batman, is the Adam West TV show, with Joel Schumacher's version not nearly as off-point as I'd always thought. That is, I'm talking about the most true-to-the-source-material filmed version. Other eras of Batman haven't been very faithfully addressed on film or TV: Burton's Batman is more about Burton's oeuvre than it is about Batman; and Nolan's Batman is clearly its own thing. Actually, I'm wrong; the truest adaptation of a comic book version of Batman is the Brave and the Bold cartoon from a couple years back. THEN the West Batman TV show. The grim and gritty, post-Neal Adams-era Bats hasn't been touched on that much, cinematically, until Nolan.

    Sorry for the huge tangent.

    1. All tangents are welcome here on the KH.

      On the subject of Batman, I've only read a handful of the Kane/Finger stories, but my impression of them is somewhat different. Schumacher's version is like Burton's for me - having nothing to do with the character/Bat-verse and just being their take on it. Then again, each artist/writer team wrote their own take on Batman, so it's no less or more valid, I guess; what it comes down to is the version(s) I prefer, really, as simple as that.

      I agree wholeheartedly on both the Brave and the Bold version and the Bruce Timm animated version being as close to template-Batman as anything we've seen. They're pretty kick-ass, to boot.(Although Batman Begins is not just my favorite Batman but my favorite superhero-movie, period.)

    2. I think the back-ups in that issue you sent me for Christmas may have had their inspiration here in your comment... am I wrong in this? No worries if so, just while reading them, I flashed back to this and thought hmm...