Catalogue of Cruelty

I picked up secondhand Blu-rays of THE SHINING and PSYCHO and decided to look at the extra features, even though I think they’re basically the same as the unwatched ones I had on my DVDs. Well, I’d watched Vivian Kubrick’s The Making of The Shining. But not with her commentary.

I blame Tom Cruise for getting Vivian “Squirt” Kubrick into Scientology, and I blame Scientology for her now getting into crazy rightwing memes including antisemitic shit. If you want to have The Great Stanley K’s most misanthropic views confirmed, just look at how short a span it took for the progeny of JEW SUSS director Veit Harlan to get back into Nazism — two generations. With a Jewish son/dad in between. [CORRECTION – Stanley married Veit’s niece.]

In her commentary, VK sounds incredibly young, which she was when she made the doc — just finished school — but couldn’t have been when she recorded the VO. So maybe she’s just preternaturally and eternally young and naive. Whatever, she’s gone down a very nasty rabbithole (or into a sinister maze) since then. Her commentary is fairly informative.

Steadicam inventor/operator Garrett Brown’s commentary on the main feature is super-informative — it really illuminates SK’s process, in a sympathetic way. Kubrick (and everyone else) biography John Baxter’s part of it is less so. He starts off by asserting that the rolling credits are an oft-used Kubrick trope — I struggle to think of any mature Kubrick film outside of THE SHINING that uses them.

I *think* Brown may be mistaken when he explains the impossible high-angle shot of Wendy and Danny in the maze. I’d long puzzled over this, and found the explanation in a later SHINING doc not on this disc — Kubrick moved the entire full-scale maze to a plaza in front of a nearby tower block. Brown claims instead that he only moved the centre of the maze, and optically inserted it into a shot of the miniature. This is what a reasonable person might do, but I don’t see strong evidence that Kubrick was entirely reasonable.

Firstly, the model maze Jack’s looking at does not resemble the maze in the aerial shot. Apart from the fact that it’s clearly been rotated 90 degrees, it’s just a different maze. Totally different layout. Which ties in with the geographic tricksiness of the Overlook sets and lends weight to those who see the “bad continuity” as part of a deliberate scheme, its origins and purpose still a total mystery. (It would not have been more work to ensure the model of the maze matched the full-scale one. The map of the maze is completely different also.)

To zoom in on an optically combined model and life-sized maze, Kubrick would have had to optically enlarge the film, with resulting increase of grain (which would already have been amplified by the necessary duping) which I don’t see. The matching of the shadows is perfect — well, Kubrick would certainly have gone to that trouble. But since he had built a full-size maze out of wooden frames and chicken wire and real leaves, moving it to another location would not be hugely expensive or difficult, so I can easily imagine him doing it. Sure, it’s an insane amount of work for one shot, but Stanley’s not the one doing the work. And the shot is worth it.

Seeing Wendy Carlos and her cats was fun, and hearing unused tracks from THE SHINING and A CLOCKWORK ORANGE was illuminating — one piece, “Boulderado”, written in advance of the shoot, intended to convey the majesty of the Rocky Mountains, has a Miklos Rozsa BEN-HUR feel (only on the Moog) wholly out step with the finished film. Delightful.

But my favourite extra was the documentary View from the Overlook — costume designer Milena Canonero says something that genuinely made me see the film anew. Kubrick didn’t want a lot of wear and tear on the costumes, which good designers usually apply to make them look used. She got the sense that he wanted a sort of catalogue model look.

Somehow it’s there. You can’t unsee it. THE SHINING takes place in a leisurewear universe. This mainly feels true of the early scenes, before the Torrences take up residence.

Oh, Vivian Kubrick points out the nasty seventies carpets in the Gold Room (along with her own presence as extra, the girl in black to the left of Jack’s butt, below). Which raises a point. The carpet is still there when Nicholson strolls into a party from the 1920s. And when Wendy sees the party comprised of skeletons. So the room hasn’t reverted to the past, which would be one possible interpretation of what’s going on. THE SHINING projects a kind of time-warp vibe, all but confirmed in the closing shot (top). But here we see the room populated by celebrants of a bygone era, but the room itself is anachronistically late-70s. It ties in with Kubrick staging Alex’s biblical fantasies in CLOCKWORK ORANGE in cheesy Hollywood manner, down to Alex’s centurion speaking in an American accent, “because I thought that’s how he’d imagine it.” So the Midnight and the Stars and You party imports a whole crowd scene of bygone guests and staff, but doesn’t remember to redesign the carpet, because Jack wouldn’t think of that detail.

Or, you know, you can consider it an oversight. At the Overlook.

I might have something to say about PSYCHO’s extras too…


13 Responses to “Catalogue of Cruelty”

  1. Cruelty is “au courant” as never before. Yhe spectacle of psychological torture Shelley Duvall is put through in “The Shining” is analyzed endlessly on the net. Worse syill is “Blone” the new film around and about Marilyn Monroe adapted from the writings of depressive dominatrix Joyce Carol Oate. There seems to be a widespread desire to dig up hercorse and bring her back to life inorder to kill her again.

  2. Tony Williams Says:

    Rolling credits. What about KISS ME DEADLY (1955). Isn’t that a “mature” film?

  3. Oh, I just meant mature KUBRICK films, Tony. Baxter seems to imply Kubrick’s opening credits nearly always roll. I can’t think of any outside of The Shining.

    Vivian Kubrick’s doc makes clear her father’s unsympathetic treatment of Duvall, and she remarks on it herself in the commentary. She protested against the exploitative TV interview with SD when she had her breakdown.

    I HATE the fact that Blonde is the last poster still left outside our shuttered Filmhouse.

  4. Over the years, I have come to prefer the European version of the film. Less Wendy is more Wendy, and the battle between the two fathers–Jack and Dick–becomes streamlined/focused, strengthening its social subtext.

  5. Yeah, I think SK gained more with a brisker runtime than he lost, but I was glad to see the long version. Now I guess I need a Blu-ray of both, but I’m not in a huge hurry to acquire that.

  6. With the long version being the one I grew up with, it took a while to de-program my movie memory to appreciate the power of the European cut.

    Though now, the failure of Anne Jackson’s doctor to realize that Danny is an abused child jumps off the screen, and sours the film (though she is still listed in the credits of the shorter version along with the man who rents Halloran the Sno-Cat. Talk about a haunting).

    As for the time-warp vibe: Torrance vs. Halloran is the ongoing story of America.

  7. Halloran being a Black man adds a lot to that resonance and seems to have come about purely by the chance of Scatman Crothers being a pal of Nicholson and lobbying for a role. Making the ghost of Grady crudely racist fits in perfectly with the very commonplace, stupid kind of evil the Overlook seems to echo in Torrence: patriarchal and misogynist. “White man’s burden,” as Jack says.

  8. architekturadapter Says:

    Very interesting analysis of the maze and how it was filmed ! Thanks a lot.
    Kubrick never plays it simple, even the Frank Alexander villa in A Clockwork Orange was composed of 4 different parts, mainly the “New House” and the “Skybreak House” an early entry of Norman Foster and Richard Rogers :

    (sorry, french only)

  9. Halloran was Black in the original novel, which doesn’t mean Kubrick wasn’t originally planning on that fact.

  10. Ah, good to know, I’d forgotten. King was originally going to call the paranormal gift and the novel The Shine, having been inspired by the John Lennon lyric “We all shine on” – then it was pointed out that in the South this can be a racist term of abuse.

    Thanks for the architectural info! apparently the Overlook’s rooms, although built at Pinewood, were fairly direct copies of real hotels photographed during a massive research swoop. Kubrick didn’t believe he could build better than reality, or get better music composed than existed already (although I’d love to have proposed to him that original architecture or music might beat pre-existing stuff by virtue of being MADE TO ORDER).

  11. “The matching of the shadows is perfect”, well, apart from the fact that the shadows in the area with the actors have a slightly different colour than the rest. Could be because due to the ordering of the walls, this constellation of shadows ain´t seen elsewhere in the image, but still, there is something microscopically Off about them, at least to me.
    Read the Novel a few months ago and frankly, it was hard not to think of Kubrick: Jack smiling “with a big wide PR smile”, A Clock in the Hall plays the blue Danube and shady Cabals held Masked Balls in the Hotel in the past.

  12. The flaw with the maze that Kubrisk clearly WAS perfectly happy about is that the ground is completely different in the eye-level Steadicam shots versus the high-angle, where it seems to be cement.

    The centre of the maze has higher hedgerows which I guess MIGHT account for a slightly darker hue to the shadows? But probably not.

    I’d forgotten those Kubrickian moments in the book, read it decades ago before Eyes Wide Shut came out. Recently watched Dr Sleep but didn’t find it interesting. Flanagan ties himself in knots trying to reconcile the previous film with the book/s.

  13. ” I’d love to have proposed to him that original architecture or music might beat pre-existing stuff by virtue of being MADE TO ORDER.”
    …but was the film in a way made to fit in with pre-existing architecture or music which inspired the scenes?

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