The Shining

It was as though, I'd been here before...

The Shining FAQ

The following FAQ is taken from  I originally created the FAQ, however, over time it has been reformed with questions I honestly don't think should be there.  Here you will find the most important and frequently asked questions about The Shining:

What does the photo at the end suggest?

"I hope the audience has a good fright, has believed the film while they were watching it and retains some sense of it. The ballroom photograph at the end suggests the reincarnation of Jack"

-Stanley Kubrick

I noticed a helicopter shadow in The Shining, is this a mistake?

"I want to try and put at rest the interminable [helicopter shadow] debate re. an apparent mistake in The Shining. I cut the title sequence, so I speak with some authority. I've said quite a lot about this before, so I hope this really is the last time! While I did the first cut, it is just possible that Ray Lovejoy made some alterations to the picture when he was finalising the front titles and credits - I have a distinct recollection of him asking me for the trims - but I think not. But I do have a recollection that at one stage in the movie some of those cuts were going to be dissolves. It is just possible that when we changed that mix to a straight cut we went back slightly beyond the centre point of the dissolve to get the absolute maximum length out of the shot. Musically and emotionally I remember we needed absolutely every usable frame of that first long shot with the titles.

OK, some key facts:

Although The Shining was shot with the full academy aperture, it was designed and composed entirely for the 1.85:1 ratio, and that is the only way it should be projected in the theatre.

All the Steenbecks in the cutting rooms accordingly had their screens marked, or even masked off, with the 1.85:1 ratio. The 6-plate Steenbeck in Stanley and Ray's main cutting room was masked off with black masking tape, because you cannot cut a movie properly unless you can see the frame exactly as it will appear in the cinema.

However the helicopter shadow IS almost certainly visible for about 4 or 5 frames at the edge of the 1.85:1 masking. But it was NOT visible on any of the correctly marked-up Steenbecks, or in the main viewing theatre at Elstree, at least, not as the first version of the film left Elstree in 1980. I think now that this mistake may have crept in very late during the editing of the movie when the first caption-title 'The Interview' was shortened by 8 frames on 23 April 1980 and the Main Title/credit sequence was lengthened accordingly by 8 frames, since the music could not be shortened. (This information is based on my original cutting room notes)

Every one of the show prints of the first 6 interpositives for the American release of The Shining was personally checked in the viewing theatre at Elstree by Stanley himself. IF the helicopter shadow was fleetingly visible, either Stanley did not notice it, or it was so trivial that it did not bother him.

Unfortunately the masking and racking in many theatres is incredibly inaccurate. [...] I therefore suspect that people who have seen this "awful" shadow for any length of time on the cinema screen must have seen it projected at completely the wrong ratio (probably 1.66/1!), or incredibly badly racked, or both. Or of course they've seen it on the video, where it's visible for just over a second!

Incidentally (or not so incidentally!), Stanley was NOT at all bothered by the vague shadow of the rotors at the top of the frame in the last shot of th main titles."-Gordon Stainforth, assistant editor for The Shining.-link

Who's the man in the bear suit toward the end? What is he doing?

There's a scene toward the end of the movie, from Wendy's POV, of two men, one in a tuxedo and another dressed up in a bear costume, that is arguably the most bizarre scene in the whole movie, even topping the lady in the bathroom scene. The man in the tuxedo is lying down on the bed, with only his legs visible initially, while the man in the bear suit is kneeling down on the floor at the foot of the bed, his face hovering over the tuxedoed man's crotch. As Wendy looks on in horror and confusion, the costumed man straightens and stares at her, and the tuxedoed man - sensing an audience - sits up and leans into view, and both men stare intently back at her. Now, they aren't naked (although the bear suit is missing its backside, exposing the kneeling man's buttocks), but we can reasonably assume they're doing something sexual. What makes this scene so bizarre is that it's an incredibly short (no more than five seconds), isolated bit of business (we've never seen these men before, nor do they help, hinder, or interact with Wendy in any way) that has no explanation. To understand what's going on, you have to have read the book.

At a point about three quarters of the way through the novel, when "the hotel was running things," as Jack is about to be served his first drink by the Overlook, Danny walks out of the Torrences' apartment within the hotel and attempts to go to Jack and stop the Bad Thing from happening. Blocking his way, however, is a man "dressed in some sort of silvery, spangled costume. A dog costume...." Danny asks to be let by, but the costumed man begins barking and howling and threatening to "eat [Danny] up," starting with his "plump, little cock." The man then makes references to "blowing down" Harry Derwent, and continues to menace Danny until the boy goes back inside the Torrences' living quarters. Later, during one of those time-bending sequences when the hotel brings its past back to life, the mystery man's identity is explained. One of the Overlook's former owners was a man named Horace Derwent, an eccentric Howard Hughes type who poured over three million into restoring the Overlook after WWII, hoping to make it "the Showplace of the World." At one of his lavish masques thrown for the benefit of the rich and famous, Horace played mockingly with one of the guests - Roger - who was dressed up like a dog. During the hotel's "re-enactment" of the party for Jack, a gorgeous woman explains to him that Derwent is bisexual ("AC/DC...although he never goes for repeats on his DC side"), and Roger is a former lover. According to the woman, Horace told Roger "if he came to the masked ball as a doggy, a cute little doggy, he might reconsider (having sex with Roger)." Although no actual sex scene between Roger, the costumed man, and Derwent is described in the book, Kubrick's vision is a logical extension of their relationship.

It's difficult to say why this scene remains in the film, as it's somewhat confounding without all of the setup that King provides in the book. Perhaps its jarring incongruity is reason enough for its inclusion, illustrating as it does Wendy's extreme disorientation at that point in the film. Another explanation is that the background on Derwent may have been scripted and filmed, but excised in the final cut.-link

Why are there two Gradys?

In Jack's interview, Ullman refers to a crazy caretaker named Charles Grady, who chopped up his family. Later Jack meets a butler called "Delbert" Grady and Jack infers that he was the same caretaker. The deliberacy of the names and their prominence in each of these is crashingly obvious - and would have been all the more so in the case of a film like The Shining, where the shooting and editing processes were particularly painstaking. So, surely it's not a continuity error, and the discrepancy was done on purpose. Why?

The answer to this question is a litmus test of how much thought you want to credit the Kubrick and Johnson for having put into the film. To this contributor, the "inconsistency" is in fact one of those moments (like the more celebrated moment when Grady releases Jack from the storeroom, or to look at another Kubrick film, where in the final "hotel room" we see Dave Bowman and an older "future self" seeing each other in the same shot) where, instead of being inconsistent or "wrong" the scene is instead an explicit sign about what is really happening in the story.

Many people have written about the importance "maze" imagery has in The Shining. Indeed, the labyrinth is the primary metaphor of the entire film, influencing both the literal story and its thematic structure. One of the more disturbing developments of this film's labyrinth is that the further we (and the Torrances) think we have penetrated into The Overlook, the more complicated and confusing our discoveries become. The sum of what we learn refuses to add up neatly - instead, incongruities pile up with the film's insistent mirrorings, duplicity and a general lack of acknowledgment. More specifically, the more we try to make sense of what's happening in the present, the more we're faced with what happened - to the same people perhaps - in the past. This lends credence to the supposition that there is another element of time at work here and another sense of reality in action (again, both literally in terms of the references to reincarnation and repetition in the ghost story, and thematically in terms of many references connecting the family dynamics of the Torrances [or the Gradys] to American history), to a timezone where our notions of "history" and "the present" are somehow (willfully) intermingled.

It's this sense that lends general support to the kind of interpretation - if perhaps not the literal interpretation - found in Bill Blakemore's essay. The Shining does equate choices made by the Torrances - and the impulses those choices serve - with the values of the people who built The Overlook ... "all the best people".

The duality of Delbert/Charles Grady deliberately mirrors Jack Torrance being both the husband of Wendy/father of Danny and the mysterious man in the July 4th photo. It is to say he is two people: the man with choice in a perilous situation and the man who has "always" been at the Overlook. It's a mistake to see the final photo as evidence that the events of the film are predetermined: Jack has any number of moments where he can act other than the way he does, and that his (poor) choices are fueled by weakness and fear perhaps merely speaks all the more to the questions about the personal and the political that The Shining brings up. in the same way Charles had a chance - once more, perhaps - to not take on "Delbert's" legacy, so Jack may have had a chance to escape his role as "caretaker" to the interests of the powerful. It's the tragic course of this story that he chooses not to.-Gordon Dahlquist

Gordon Stainforth (assistant editor) adds: I don't think we'll ever quite unravel this. Was his full name Charles Delbert Grady? Perhaps Charles was a sort of nickname? Perhaps Ullman got the name wrong? But I also think that Stanley did NOT want the whole story to fit together too neatly, so you are absolutely correct I think to say that 'the sum of what we learn refuses to add up neatly'.-link

Who opened the pantry door?

Kubrick told Michel Ciment: "As the supernatural events occurred you searched for an explanation, and the most likely one seemed to be that the strange things that were happening would finally be explained as the products of Jack's imagination. It's not until Grady, the ghost of the former caretaker who axed to death his family, slides open the bolt of the larder door, allowing Jack to escape, that you are left with no other explanation but the supernatural. [...]Stephen Crane wrote a story called "The Blue Hotel." In it you quickly learn that the central character is a paranoid. He gets involved in a poker game, decides someone is cheating him, makes an accusation, starts a fight and gets killed. You think the point of the story is that his death was inevitable because a paranoid poker player would ultimately get involved in a fatal gunfight. But, in the end, you find out that the man he accused was actually cheating him. I think The Shining uses a similar kind of psychological misdirection to forestall the realisation that the supernatural events are actually happening.."

Gordon Stainforth disagrees: he says, "Stanley was very careful here NOT to make this rely on a supernatural explanation. All we hear is the SOUND of Grady's voice and the bolt being released, which could easily be Jack's imagination. We never see how Jack gets out of the larder. The supernatural explanation is only one of several possibilities. It is possible that Jack broke his way out in some way i.e. in a rage managed to lever the door open, or that Wendy had not locked the door properly (even though she appears to earlier) BUT we don't see her padlock it properly. I think Kubrick wants the supernatural explanation, but he does NOT want the audience to see the door being opened on film."-link

Why are there two versions of The Shining? What was filmed but cut out?

The two versions of The Shining are the US cut with has a running time of 144 minutes and the international version which is 20 minutes shorter. Both versions have the status of "director's cuts" as Kubrick made the cuts himself.

In November 1980 Monthly Film Bulletin ran a piece itemising the differences between versions. Here is a summary of that article:

Scene cut from the US version during 1st run:

(1) A two-minute sequence was deleted from the end of the film in the first weeks of its run. A coda to Wendy and Danny's escape (which followed the shot of Jack frozen in the maze). This showed Wendy being visited in hospital by Ullman, and his complimenting her on having survived.

After playing to what Movie Comment calls "generally bad reviews and erratic box-office in America," the film was preview-tested before its opening in London and a further twenty-five minutes were cut.

Scenes cut from the international version:

(1) Part of Jack's interview at the Overlook Hotel.

(2) Danny's examination by a doctor (Anne Jackson).

(3) Part of the tour of the Overlook with Ullman, Jack and Wendy, including the dialogue in the Colorado Lounge and the beginning of the scene where Ullman shows Jack and Wendy the hotel grounds and the scene leading up to Dick Hallorann's first appearance where Ullman shows off "The Gold Room."

(4) Part of Danny's conversation alone with Hallorann.

(5) The end of the Torrances' first scene in the hotel, when Wendy brings Jack his breakfast.

(6) Immediately after the scene in which Wendy and Danny explore the maze, a sequence has been cut in which Wendy is seen working in the kitchen while a TV announcer talks of a search in the mountains for a missing woman.

(7) THURSDAY title card.

(8) Wendy and Danny watching the Summer of '42 on television.

(9) Dialogue from the middle of the scene in which Jack first goes to the Gold Room.

(10) Wendy is seen crying and talking to herself about the possibility of getting down the mountain in the snowcat, and of calling the Forest Rangers.

(11) Dick Hallorann again tries to get through to the Overlook by calling the Ranger station.

(12) 8AM title card.

(13) Hallorann asks a stewardess what time they are due to land in Denver; she tells him 8:20 and he checks his watch. Jack is seen typing in the lounge of the Overlook. Hallorann's plane lands at the airport. Larry Durkin (Tony Burton), a garage owner, answers his phone and talks to Hallorann, who asks for a snowcat to get up to the Overlook.

(14) GS: "A whole scene where Danny is watching TV (a Roadrunner cartoon). After talking to Danny (I think telling him to stay there) Wendy picks up the baseball bat and exits (on her way into the Colorado lounge). I was particularly proud of the way I 'choreographed' the cartoon music on the TV with Wendy's movements. There was then a long dissolve, as the cartoon music faded, to Wendy entering the Colorado lounge. After a pause I then gently faded in the start of the Penderecki music as Wendy walks towards Jack's desk."

(15) The beginning of the scene in which Wendy finds Jack's type-written pages covered with "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" (GS: This then is really cut (14), i.e. the second half of the dissolve plus a few more seconds of Wendy walking into the Colorado lounge).

(16) A tableau in which skeletons are sitting at a table with a champagne bottle and glasses.

What aspect ratio was The Shining filmed in?

The entire negative was exposed, meaning that there was no in-camera hard matting so the film was effectively shot in Academy 1.37 but it wasn't intended to be shown in cinemas that way. The film was shot and conceived for 1:1.85 ratio screening (and the camera viewfinders had the 1.85 framelines marked on them) This is the standard ratio that widescreen films in the US are projected in. The 1:1.85 crop was achieved when the film was projected onto cinemas screens.-link

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