Stanley Kubrick’s Annotated Copy of Stephen King’s The Shining

The web site Over­look Hotel has post­ed pic­tures of Stan­ley Kubrick’s per­son­al copy of Stephen King’s nov­el The Shin­ing, which is nor­mal­ly kept at the Stan­ley Kubrick Archive, but has been mak­ing the rounds in a trav­el­ing exhi­bi­tion. The book is filled with high­light­ed pas­sages and large­ly illeg­i­ble notes in the margin—tantalizing clues to Kubrick’s inten­tions for the movie.

The site fea­tures a pic­ture of the book’s care­worn cov­er along with two spreads from the book’s inte­ri­or —pages 8–9, where Jack Tor­rance is being inter­viewed by hotel man­ag­er Mr. Ull­man, and pages 86–87 where hotel cook Dick Hal­lo­rann talks to Jack’s son Dan­ny about the tele­path­ic abil­i­ty called “shin­ing.” (Click on the images to enlarge.)

Much of the mar­gin­a­lia is mad­den­ing­ly hard to deci­pher. One of the notes I could make out reads:

Maybe just like their [sic] are peo­ple who can shine, maybe there are places that are spe­cial. Maybe it has to do with what hap­pened in them or where they were built.

Kubrick is clear­ly work­ing to trans­late King’s book into film. Oth­er notes, how­ev­er, seem whol­ly unre­lat­ed to the movie.

Any prob­lems with the kitchen – you phone me

When The Shin­ing came out, it was greet­ed with tepid and non­plussed reviews. Since then, the film’s rep­u­ta­tion has grown, and now it’s con­sid­ered a hor­ror mas­ter­piece.

At first view­ing, The Shin­ing over­whelms the view­er with pun­gent images that etch them­selves in the mind—those creepy twins, that rot­ting senior cit­i­zen in the bath­tub, that del­uge of blood from the ele­va­tor. Yet after the fifth or sev­enth view­ing, the film reveals itself to be far weird­er than your aver­age hor­ror flick. For instance, why is Jack Nichol­son read­ing a Play­girl mag­a­zine while wait­ing in the lob­by? What’s the deal with that guy in the bear suit at the end of the movie? Why is Dan­ny wear­ing an Apol­lo 11 sweater?

While Stephen King has had dozens of his books adapt­ed for the screen (many are flat out ter­ri­ble), of all the adap­ta­tions, this is one that King active­ly dis­likes.

“I would do every­thing dif­fer­ent,” com­plained King about the movie to Amer­i­can Film Mag­a­zine in 1986. “The real prob­lem is that Kubrick set out to make a hor­ror pic­ture with no appar­ent under­stand­ing of the genre.” King lat­er made his own screen ver­sion of his book. By all accounts, it’s nowhere as good as Kubrick’s.

Per­haps the rea­son King loathed Kubrick’s adap­ta­tion so much is that the famous­ly secre­tive and con­trol­ling direc­tor packed the movie with so many odd signs, like Danny’s Apol­lo sweater, that seem to point to a mean­ing beyond a tale of an alco­holic writer who descends into mad­ness and mur­der. The Shin­ing is a semi­otic puz­zle about …what?

Crit­ic after crit­ic has attempt­ed to crack the film’s hid­den mean­ing. Jour­nal­ist Bill Blake­more argued in his essay “The Fam­i­ly of Man” that The Shin­ing is actu­al­ly about the geno­cide of the Native Amer­i­cans. His­to­ri­an Geof­frey Cocks sug­gests that the movie is about the Holo­caust. And con­spir­a­cy guru Jay Wei­d­ner has argued pas­sion­ate­ly that the movie is in fact Kubrick’s cod­ed con­fes­sion for his role in stag­ing the Apol­lo 11 moon land­ing.

Rod­ney Ascher’s 2012 doc­u­men­tary Room 237  jux­ta­pos­es all of these wild­ly diver­gent read­ings, bril­liant­ly show­ing just how dense and mul­ti­va­lent The Shin­ing is. You can see the trail­er for the doc­u­men­tary above.

Note: An ear­li­er ver­sion of this post appeared on our site in Jan­u­ary 2014.

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Relat­ed Con­tent:

Mak­ing The Shin­ing

The Mak­ing of Stan­ley Kubrick’s The Shin­ing (As Told by Those Who Helped Him Make It)

How Stan­ley Kubrick Made His Mas­ter­pieces: An Intro­duc­tion to His Obses­sive Approach to Film­mak­ing

Go Inside the First 30 Min­utes of Kubrick’s The Shin­ing with This 360º Vir­tu­al Real­i­ty Video

Jonathan Crow is a Los Ange­les-based writer and film­mak­er whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low him at @jonccrow.

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Comments (4)
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  • Veronica says:

    This was inter­est­ing, and it’s true that Kubrick cre­at­ed many enig­mat­ic images for the film. But any­one who’s read the nov­el will know who Roger is and why he’s wear­ing a dog (not bear) cos­tume.

  • David says:

    The full ver­sion of the 1980 tele­phone inter­view of Kubrick that’s cur­rent­ly doing the rounds, in which he “explains” 2001, also has him “explain­ing” the end of The Shin­ing.

  • Topher S says:

    I’ve read the book, and assumed the man in the movie was wear­ing a dog cos­tume. Not long ago I came across an arti­cle (I don’t recall where) stat­ing that Kubrick changed it to a bear cos­tume. Unsure why, but I’m guess­ing it has to do with the over­all shift in focus from the nov­el.

  • eoin colfer says:


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