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frequently asked questions
I noticed a helicopter shadow in The Shining, is this a mistake?
The opening titles of The Shining consist of long, dreamlike, sweeping shots of the Rocky Mountains, as Kubrick explained to Michel Ciment (1): "It was important to establish an ominous mood during Jack's first drive up to the hotel -- the vast isolation and eerie splendour of high mountains, and the narrow, winding roads which would become impassable after heavy snow."
The helicopter footage was filmed by Greg McGillivray and Kubrick was apparently very pleased with his work: "He spent several weeks filming some of the most beautiful mountain helicopter shots I've seen." While the grace and scope of these shots is hypnotic, there is a moment, just before a low fly-by pass of the yellow VW car, where the shadow of the helicopter filming the scene is clearly visible in the lower right hand corner of the picture.
So, why is this such a hot topic on the newsgroup? Kubrick has a reputation as a perfectionist, and this is something of a very apparent gaffe. It's generated no end of commentary, mostly facetious, as to why Kubrick had "clearly" left the shot in. Some say that, if the film was projected through a widescreen gate (2) - as it would be in a cinema - the shadow would not be visible, although members of amk have refuted this. For instance Mark Ervin noticed the shadow on The Shining's third showing at Mann's Chinese Theater May 23, 1980 and he has "never failed to see it since."
"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 the main titles."
So is the helicopter shadow a Brechtian alienation effect?
Well, to assert that we'd have to identify other points of similarity between Brecht and Kubrick. And as it happens, there are a few: Brecht was accused by his critics of being cold, and intellectual (sound familiar?) and there are examples of many 'alienation effects' in Kubrick's films. For instance, in Lolita 'Quilty,' played by Peter Sellers, refers to Kubrick's previous film when he says: "I'm Spartacus. Did you come here to free the slaves?" and in Full Metal Jacket. there is a sequence of a film director (who physically resembles a young Kubrick) filming one of the battle scenes. So it seems fair to say that a Brechtian sensibility is detectable in Kubrick's filmmaking, and furthermore not outrageous to suggest that, if he had seen the shadow, he might have left the it in. This is not to say he DELIBERATELY CONTRIVED the helicopter shadow to be there: just that he wasn't concerned enough about concealing the artifice in his art to reject such an amazing shot.
I think the bottom line of this whole debate is that it says more about Kubrick fans than Kubrick himself. The myth about his absolute perfectionism is pervasive, but like every myth about Kubrick, it can't ever be the whole truth.
BS, GS & RM
Here's the newsgroup exchange in which that guy fessed up to creating the rumor. His knowledge of the original rumor makes him quite credible, IMO. It's from sometime in early 98:
> I'm sorry to have to tell you this but I started this rumour > about a year ago when I heard that Keitel got chucked off > the movie. There was also the rumour about hardcore sex > in the picture I just put two and two together and came up > with a vicious four. It's completely untrue. I'm still > surprised at how many people pass this story around. I > still hear it. I guess if any actor is capable of such an act then > it's Keitel. By the way the original story was just that he > accidently came on Nicole rather than the embelished version > above. What fun chinese whispers are. And yes I do work > in the film industry which I suppose lends some credibility > to an otherwise untrue statement.
The scene is taken directly from Stephen King's novel. In one of the novel's scenes set in the 1920's party, Jack is dancing with a beautiful woman. He notices that at one table, there is a young man behaving like a pet dog for the amusement of others, including a tall, bald man.
The bald man is Horace Derwent, a Howard Hughes-like figure who poured millions into restoring the Overlook Hotel in the 1920's. (Jack has learned this by reading a mysterious scrapbook earlier in the novel.) The younger man has a romantic crush on the bisexual Derwent, and Derwent has said that 'maybe', if the man dresses like a nice doggy, and acts like a nice doggy, he 'may' be willing to sleep with him.
Later on, in the novel, as Wendy is warily navigating the corridors of the Overlook, she begins to see the visions of the 1920's party. And at one point, peering around a corner, she sees the two men on a bed, one in a doggy costume. The two men are Derwent and his extremely dependent lover.
It's difficult to say why this second scene remains in the film; as it's somewhat confounding without all of the set-up that King provides in his 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, (2) but excised in the final cut.
(2) There's evidence that a 'lot' of material was filmed,
but not used. For instance Making The Shining shows a
"test" shot of a severed woman's head that isn't in the film (or in
King's novel). Although Gordon Stainforth, who cut that scene with Stanley
says he had no recollection of any other footage, apart from that particular
camera set up. There were of course a number of virtually identical takes.
Alhough, according to Nina Stoessinger, in the
German dubbed version Smyslov says: "He knows more" (?)
Studies with chimps in the 1960's showed they could survive for up to two an a half minutes in a vacuum, substantially more than the ten seconds Bowman is subjected to in the film, which lead Clarke & Kubrick to add this plot device to the movie. The worst thing that could befall Bowman in such a situation, would be something like "the bends" although he would have been breathing a high oxygen environment before he exited the pod.
T, I, CW, DM, RM & ME
Stanley Kubrick (1)
HAL is an acronym for Heuristic ALgorithmic, the two competing methods of computer programming that, in the sixties, were seen as the leading conteders to produce artificial intelligence (AI). Arthur C. Clarke admitted Kubrick chose the name for the computer (2), his original idea was to make the computer a female called Athena. A while after 2001's initial release, it was noticed that the letters H. A. L. also came one place before the letters I. B. M. in the alphabet., which led people to suspect that Kubrick and Clarke were having a joke at IBM's expense.
Although Clarke concedes the odds against this are 17,576 to 1, he strongly denies the connection was intentional and admits to being embarrassed by the whole affair, especially as IBM had been very helpful to him and Kubrick during the making of the film. Clarke even went as far as inserting a passage into his novel 2010: Odyssey Two, to try to bury the story
"Utter nonsense! Half of us come from IBM and we've been trying to stamp out that story for years. I thought that by now every intelligent person knew that H-A-L is derived from Heuristic ALgorithmic."
RM thanks to BA
(1) Kubrick quote from an interview with Chris Kohler in the East Villiage Eye, reproduced in The Making of 2001: A Space Odyssey, edited by Martin Scorsese. (back)
In 2001 front projection was used for most of the shots in the Dawn of Man sequence, and to superimpose live action footage into shots of miniature space ships and moon bases.
For more information on front projection, see the American Cinematographer article at Stanley Kubrick - 1928 - 1999'
Filming By Candlelight
When I asked a film director why more people in his profession hadn't tried to replicate the technique, he replied somewhat acerbically that Kubrick owned the copyright on the camera and protected it rigorously. Perhaps this is why Barry Lyndon is the only historical film to have made use of the technique, despite the resurgence in popularity of historical dramas in the 1980s and 1990s.
For Further information on the lenses, see The
American Cinematographer article at Stanley Kubrick -
1928 - 1999'
Things Kubrick did not pioneer (although you might have
RM Thanks to MB & DM
The next scene shows Cowboy and Joker mopping the latrine floor. Joker, checking to see if anyone's around, tells Cowboy that he thinks Pyle's cracking up. Cowboy's not enthusiastic about Pyle, or even talking about Pyle. So, Joker changes the subject with a joke. He says, in the same casual tone, "I'd like to slip my tubesteak into your sister. What'll you take in trade?" Cowboy, returning the banter, says "Whaddya got?"
Joker's empathy only goes so far. He might have helped Pyle, and he might be concerned about Pyle's stability. But he's hardly heroic enough to do anything about it. We've seen his willingness to join in the attack on Pyle, and Cowboy's dismissive attitude is enough to make him drop the question of Pyle's stability.
Occasionally "where are they now" questions crop up on amk, the fate of Danny Lloyd seems to prick people's curiosity more than most. Here's what is known about him.
Chappy recently contacted Danny's mother, Danny was not home. But his mother did not mind taking a few minutes to answer Chappy's questions.Here's the summary of their very brief conversation.
He was 6 years old at the time of filming The Shining. He was closely guarded by Kubrick. At 13, he was shown a heavily edited version of the film. Danny was under the impression that the film was a drama, not a horror movie. When Wendy becomes angry with Jack in the Colorado Room, right after Danny visited room #237, Shelly is carrying a lifesize dummy. Danny's mother describes each of the following individuals involved with the movie:
- a genius.
At this time, Danny is 28 years old. He teaches science to 7th, 8th & 9th graders. He did work for a while at a Wal-Mart to help pay his college tuition.
Interview with Michel Ciment available on-line at The Kubrick
"Barry Lyndon," was released theatrically in 1.66:1, even in the U.S. since Kubrick insisted on 1.66 hard mattes being sent to the various theatres showing the film (1.85 is the common "flat" widescreen ratio in the U.S.).
"Dr. Strangelove," was released in home video in Kubrick's preferred "multiple aspect ratio" but there is no way it could have been shown that way theatrically since you cannot change projector mattes in mid-screening (although it could be shown in Academy 1.37 and various hard mattes could appear in the image, cropping it to 1.66 at times -- however, Academy 1.37 had pretty much become obsolete as a projection format in most theatres by the 1960's.) I saw it projected to 1.85 at the Cinerama Dome and the framing looked fine; it was a little "tight" so I suspect that 1.66 would look perfect.
"Clockwork Orange," probably should only be shown in 1.66.
"The Shining," Steadicam operator Garrett Brown has claimed that he was asked to frame for 1.85, but Kubrick since then has preferred that the home video versions be full-frame TV (basically Academy 1.37).
I think that "The Shining" and "Full Metal Jacket" would all look fine if projected at 1.66, even though I suspect that the original U.S. releases of both shown in the 1.85 format.
A Clockwork Orange opened in Britain in January 1972 amid a great deal of controversy - so much so that it only ran in one cinema (the Warner West End in London) for over a year. After the fuss seemed to have died down, the film went on general release - whereupon the hate campaign in the British tabloid press really started in earnest.
Effectively, the film was blamed for every single act of violence committed in Britain during 1972 and 1973, regardless of whether the perpetrators were even aware of the film's existence. Finally, Kubrick quietly asked Warner Bros. to withdraw the film - which has not been legally shown in Britain since August 1973.
No one noticed at the time (in that pre-video era, people just assumed it had finished its natural cinema run), and in fact no-one noticed for a further six or seven years - it was only when London's prestigious National Film Theatre ran a Kubrick retrospective and omitted the film (an omission that stuck out like a sore thumb considering that Kubrick was never exactly prolific). Needless to say, since the ban pre-dated the introduction of the domestic video recorder, the film has never had a legitimate video release in Britain and neither has it been shown on television.
There were a couple of high-profile cases regarding the film - Channel Four ran a documentary incorporating several clips, while the Scala Cinema in King's Cross showed an illegally-obtained print of the film. In both cases Warner Bros. attempted to sue - unsuccessfully in the case of Channel Four but successfully in the case of the Scala (though it's not true, despite countless allegations in the British press, that the case led directly to the cinema's closure a couple of months later).
As to why Kubrick asked for the film to be withdrawn, Kubrick would never discussed the matter, not even with journalists like Alexander Walker and Michel Ciment who were good friends. Recently the reason for the ban was revealed by his widow in the Channel 4 documentary, "The Last Movie" shown in the UK. Christiane, sitting in the garden of Childwick Bury told Paul Joyce: "the reason the film was withdrawn was because we got so many threats that the police said we must do something and he withdrew it. [He was] both artistically hurt and also scared. He didn't want to be misunderstood and misinterpreted and you don't like to get death threats for you family.
Kubrick didn't have any legal power to withdraw the film, Warner Bros. did it at his request. Former CEO, Terry Semel explained, "It wasn't a contractual request, [Kubrick said] "if you want to keep me safe and comfortable, don't do it"."
There are two official versions of The Shining, depending on which territory you happen to be watching it in. The US version has approximately twenty minutes of extra footage than the International version. The reason for this discrepancy it that Kubrick decided to cut the film for its international release.
In 1991 (1) the restored Spartacus was reissued on 70mm (The film was actually made in Super Technirama). (2) This version could be called 'the director's cut' as Kubrick personally approved the restoration. The new version reinstates footage of a bathing scene deleted from its original release. The scene has Tony Curtis' Antoninus, washing Lawrence Olivier's Crassus. (3) It is commonly referred to as the 'oysters and snails scene' after Crassus' chosen analogy to express his indeterminate sexual proclivities. In 1960 when the film was originally released, the censor considered intimations of sexuality in oysters and snails too risquŽ, and suggested changing the points of comparison to "artichokes and truffles." The suggestion was rejected, so the scene ended up being deleted.
RM thanks to MB
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