Monday, August 16th, 2010

Is the Trailer for 'The Shining' the Actual Film?

Stanley Kubrick was, to put it mildly, a meticulous director. On the set of The Shining, he drove poor Shelley Duvall mad. The famous baseball-bat scene was recorded an infamous 127 times. That striking poster of The Shining? Kubrick had Saul Bass draw over 300 versions of it. The director continued to tweak his film until its US opening, May 23, 1980 and even into its initial screenings; when he decided to cut the final hospital scene, Kubrick made bike couriers ride from theater to theater in order to personally remove the sequence. Kubrick's artistic compulsions were a double-edged sword. Not even considering the immaculate texture of his films, Kubrick's trailers are independent works of art in and of themselves.

Which leads to at least one question: why don't people very often make artful trailers anymore?

The entire trailer of The Shining comprises of one continuous shot of the Overlook Hotel elevator, from which a flood of blood rushes forth to engulf both the lobby, the furniture and, presumably, the audience too. And, yes, Tony Burton recalls it went something like this:

"I don't know how many times they shot the blood in the elevator. Somebody told me they had been shooting that ever since the shoot first started the year before. They shot it three times while I was there. About every ten days they would shoot it again and Stanley would say, 'It doesn't look like blood' and they would say, 'Well, is it the texture? Is it the color?' It would take them like nine days to set the shot up and then they would come back, the door would open, it would come out and Stanley would say, 'It doesn't look like blood.' But finally they got it."

Throughout the trailer, a list of credits scrolls up the page as what is surely Penderecki swells louder and louder. "The Shining / Directed by Stanley Kubrick" occurs twice, bracketing the names of the two lead actors (Nicholson and Duvall) and Stephen King, whose novel inspired the film. By presenting the film's title and director twice, Kubrick presents the trailer as a film-complete with opening and closing credits.

During his collaboration with Diane Johnson on The Shining's script, Kubrick significantly stripped King's novel down to its bare elements. On top of the significant cuts he imposed on the original text, he added many of his own twists in order to heighten the ghostly and occult atmosphere of the story. One of these additions was the elevator scene.

One critic wrote that "the flood of blood from the elevators has no reference to anything, looking like something put in for the trailer."

They may be right there. Should it be viewed as the film itself?

Since trailers these days attack you with fast edits, sketch out the entire movie-except rearranged, of course-and present footage that won't ever appear in said film, then who's to say the 142 minute-long Shining isn't just a long, drawn-out, and very, very artful trailer?

The elevator scene as seen in the trailer is cut and only periodically revealed in pieces throughout the film (trailer). So if we concentrate solely on this episode-dreamed up by Kubrick as apart from King's novel-which is the more cohesive spectacle? The trailer (the film?)!

The Shining contains only fragments of the full elevator scene-they are like memories of the trailer.

Unfortunately, the circulation of trailers has altered since The Shining premiered. Someone I know first experienced Kubrick's gushing elevator in the previews for a screening of Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back. He was ten and, since then, no preview has come close in impact. Kubrick's high concept conceit evokes something and tells nothing. The trailer alone may not be a perfect movie, but it is the perfect definition of a sublime trailer.

37 Comments / Post A Comment

dado (#102)

It looked like melba sauce then, and it looks like melba sauce now.

roboloki (#1,724)

i miss kubrick TO THIS DAY.

Tuna Surprise (#573)

Imagine what a great movie AI could have been (*shakes fist* DAMN YOU SPIELBERG!)

roboloki (#1,724)

i couldn't agree more! i saw an interview where spielberg was attempting to justify his grubby fingerprints on the film. he claimed to have used kubrick's liner notes to complete the film. the small problem i see with that is spielberg is no fucking kubrick!

Miles Klee (#3,657)

A Serious Man had one of the best conceptual trailers in recent memory:

Social Network trailer ain't bad either.

das motorbike (#3,228)


Miles Klee (#3,657)

I want that to be the new "KAAAHHHNN!"

doubled277 (#2,783)

@miles totally agree about A Serious Man. favorite trailer in a long time

Art Yucko (#1,321)

that was a great trailer. WHUMP. WHUMP. WHUMP. WHUMP. we're going to be fiiiihhne. WHUMP. WHUMP.

mrschem (#1,757)


PropSword (#2,870)

@Klee ditto The Social Network trailer.

the Loud Coast (#1,362)

I think a part of this is that nowdays the trailer is produced in a marketing department which is in a totally different part of the company than the one that made the film.

doubled277 (#2,783)

Actually, they usually outsource it now to trailer chop-up companies. For a big movie, they outsource it to several of these companies and they get literally hundreds of versions back and then the suits usually make the final decisions. Rarely do the directors or any creative elements of the team get any say anymore. Though, sometimes they force their hand, if they have enough power. (Ironically, one of the more involved until recently was M. Night Shaymalan. His trailers for Signs were good, and resulted in bigger business for the movie itself, IMO – perhaps an indication that excluding creative talent from the trailer process is a big mistake).

deepomega (#1,720)

Talking about trailers like this is a bit disingenous. For one thing, there are now dozens of trailers for each movie. The first one (the Teaser) is the one that counts, and there have been a TON of artful teasers in recent years. Inception leaps to mind vigorously.

(TV spots and Internationals are always awful though, so hey.)

BadUncle (#153)

There are no artful trailers? What? And what would you call Machete???

Art Yucko (#1,321)

AKSD;FASKDF;ASDKSDLD I am overcome with Aztec shame.

HiredGoons (#603)

A friend and I were actually discussing how fucking brilliant the score to The Shining is, this past weekend.

A large part of this is due to Moog pioneer and all around awesome composer Wendy Carlos.

But yes, that trailer is something else. Restraint is perhaps the most deeply buried of the dead art forms of Hollywood; though I loathe to call Kubrick a 'Hollywood' director.

Rod T (#33)

What is maddening, and maybe genius, is that the view isn't perfectly centered, just a little more of "stage left" is on the screen. Then the credits run at true center, and the result just completely puts me on edge.

DoctorDisaster (#1,970)

So true. And there's no way someone as OCD as Kubrick could have done that accidentally.

HiredGoons (#603)

Kind of like the ghost-boy in Three Men and a Baby.

En Vague (#82)

Sometimes… What we need the most… Is just around the corner:

petejayhawk (#1,249)

Oh, oops. You did post this already. I love it.

I am now in love with this and am embarassed that I did not know about it sooner.

Adouble (#1,300)

Well, I guess calling a trailer "the film" and a film "the trailer" is weird, but this is the internet; somebody has a frame-by-frame deconstruction about how The Shining is really an admission that Kubrick faked the moon landing. Step up your crazy.

rajma (#2,918)
PropSword (#2,870)

Yes! This is one of the better ones recently for sure. Man, I love an artful trailer as well. Especially since so many of them are garbage. Some other newish faves:
- Red Eye
- Cloverfield
- Garden State

Not to quibble, but at the time no one would have referred to the second Star Wars movie as Stars Wars – Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. Even in print they would have referred to it primarily as The Empire Strikes Back or maybe Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. While that Episode V crap was in the opening crawl, it really wasn't until the craptastic prequels came along that Lucas re-branded the entire set of movie titles with their episode numbers.

petejayhawk (#1,249)

Nobody's posted the trailer for "Shining" yet?

keisertroll (#1,117)

It's been FOUR AND A HALF YEARS since this trailer was made? Sheeeeeeit.

Ledrew (#654)

This trailer scared the shit out of me as a kid and I have never forgotten it. Oddly enough, I forgot that any of this footage also appears in the actual film, so the trailer always existed in my mind as an entirely separate thing altogether.

Of course, with that soundtrack, the screen could just be black the whole time and it'd still be scary as all get-out.

sajrocks (#2,067)

Love this article! One correction: the music in the trailer is by electronic music pioneer Wendy Carlos (known for her scores to CLOCKWORK ORANGE and the 80s TRON, as well as the "Switched on Bach" album from 1968, which she composed as Walter Carlos.) Both Penderecki's and Carlos' music are used to great effect throughout the film, but the trailer is pure Carlos.

PropSword (#2,870)

Oh, and there's this as well:

IFC's 50 Greatest Trailers

Jason Newstedt (#4,378)

Ahh…Kubrick still provoking questions well after his death. The mark of a pure genius.

keisertroll (#1,117)

It's as scary as a public service announcement. And I mean that in a good way.

Grrg (#5,294)

Although it is a movie I don't really like, the Paul Thomas Anderson's Magnolia trailer similarly uses footage that does not appear in the movie, and shot especially for the trailer (albeit brief ones):

I thought that while the elevator blood shot may be arbitrary in the film (though it is a rather powerful shot that fits with the grand intensity of the film's climax) as a stand-alone trailer it's rather genius. It's a powerful enough shot that doesn't give away what happens in the film and also invites the audience to run wild with intrigue.

I think the "Little Children" trailer is a fantastic example of showcasing the mood of the film without giving away what exactly it's about (only a subplot of the film is explained). Though the makers of that trailer probably designed the trailer as such so as to avoid the Jackie Earl Haley character and his story, without being condemned by selling a false bill of goods.

Speaking of "The Shining" trailer mash-ups (though not as cool as "Shining")…

Clip Arthur (#2,024)

All of you stink because none of you acknowledge the most brilliant trailer-as-film trailers like the one from My Blue Heaven and the one from Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Stuff in those trailers were not in either film and both were brilliant.

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