Episode 16: FOR MUSIC NERDS with musicologist Jonathan Stern

Episode 16: FOR MUSIC NERDS with musicologist Jonathan Stern


Musicologist Jonathan Stern discusses the stunning soundtrack to The Shining, how the overhead maze scene was shot, plus Kubrick’s connection to Gilligan’s Island.


Download the file here: Shining Episode 16



The Vampira Show


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Episode 15: TENNIS BALL’S OSCAR MOMENT with animator and radio personality John Schnall from the Midnight Matinee on WFMU

Episode 15: TENNIS BALL’S OSCAR MOMENT with animator and radio personality John Schnall from the Midnight Matinee on WFMU


WFMU Midnight Matinee’s John Schnall sat through The Shining fourteen times when it first came out and lived to talk about it 37 years later for this week’s podcast.


Download the file here: Shining Episode 15


Folk song from Werner Herzog’s Even Dwarfs Started Small (1970)


Commercial from the Keep America Beautiful campaign in the 1970s, with the iconic crying Native American.


John Schnall’s highly experimental, totally nutso Midnight Matinee version of The Shining Polka. 


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Episode 14: INSIDE ELSTREE with Howard Berry, film historian at Elstree Studios

Episode 14: INSIDE ELSTREE with Howard Berry, film historian at Elstree Studios

Elstree Studios film historian Howie Berry dollops out some amazing inside scoops about the elevator of blood, continuity errors, and some scenes we’ll never see.

Download the file here: Shining Episode 14

A map of where everything was filmed at Elstree Studios.


Watching the Vision Assist, which captured each day’s takes with Kubrick having to print the film. (He printed most of them anyway!)

The Shining Video Assist

A TV spot with alternate takes never used in the film.

A call sheet from The Shining.


Inspiration for continuity errors in the film?

From Stephen King’s The Shining

Danny lay awake in his bedroom, eyes open…

His glider floated overhead from a string. On his bureau the VW model, brought up from the roadway setup downstairs, glowed a dimly florescent purple. His books were in the bookcase, his coloring books on the desk. A place for everything and everything in its place, Mommy said. Then you know where it is when you want it. But now things had been misplaced. Things were missing. Worse still, things had been added, things you couldn’t quite see, like in one of those pictures that said CAN YOU SEE THE INDIANS? And if you strained and squinted, you could see some of them—the thing you had taken for a cactus at first glance was really a brave with a knife clamped in his teeth, and there were others hiding in the rocks, and you could even see one of their evil, merciless faces peering through the spokes of a covered wagon wheel. But you could never see all of them, and that was what made you uneasy. Because it was the ones you couldn’t see that would sneak up behind you, a tomahawk in one hand and a scalping knife in the other…


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Episode 13: STANLEY DOES IT ALL with Joe Dator from The New Yorker and cinephile Megan Dooley

Episode 13: STANLEY DOES IT ALL with Joe Dator from The New Yorker and cinephile Megan Dooley


Joe and Megan converse with me about conversations, we neurologically probe the smell of toast, and we are treated to a ditty by Scatman Crothers.


Download the file here: Shining Episode 13



An interview from 1980 with Mick Garris. Scatman sings at about 3:00.


Scatman and Redd Foxx on Sandford and Son in 1975


The coin toss scene in No Country for Old Men(2007), directed by Joel and Ethan Coen, with Javier Bardem and Gene Jones


Orson Welles and James Cotton in The Third Man (1949), directed by Carol Reed.


Peter Boyle and Robert DeNiro in Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver (1976)


John Huston and Jack Nicholson in Roman Polanski’s Chinatown (1974)


Toni Collette and Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense (1999), directed by M. Night Shyamalan. Put the two scenes together…



Martin Landau and Sam Waterson in Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)


Lots of great conversation scenes in Alex Cox’s Repo Man (1984), here with Emilio Estevez and Fox Harris.

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Episode 12: CHILDHOOD SCARES with Marcus Pinn from cinephile site Pinnland Empire & the Zebras in America podcast

Episode 12: CHILDHOOD SCARES with Marcus Pinn from cinephile site Pinnland Empire & the Zebras in America podcast


Marcus Pinn from Pinnland Empire and Zebras in America talks with me about this intense scene, plus the stuff that messed with our brains in childhood.


Download the file here: Shining Episode 12



Trailer for Bob Balaban’s Parents (1989)


Trailer for Elem Klimov’s Come and See (1985)


Marcus refers to this scene from Alan Clarke’s Scum (1979) with Mick Ford and Bill Dean


Marcus refers to this scene in Steve McQueen’s Hunger (2008) with Michael Fassbender and Liam Cunningham


Scene from Richard Attenborough’s Magic (1978) with Anthony Hopkins and Burgess Meredith


Goddamn scary trailer and television commercial (used for both) for Magic

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Episode 11: HORROR, FOOD, & THE HORROR OF FOOD with John B. Cribbs from The Pink Smoke cinephile website

Episode 11: HORROR, FOOD, & THE HORROR OF FOOD with John B. Cribbs from The Pink Smoke cinephile website


John Cribbs from The Pink Smoke talks about The Shining in the context of horror, and Kubrick in the context of food.


Download the file here: Shining Episode 11



Trailer for Scalps (1983)


Roald Dahl’s Lamb to the Slaughter, originally a short story and also adapted and directed by Alfred Hitchcock for Alfred Hitchcock Presents.



The scene that almost got John Cribbs thrown out of a movie theater. “How’d you like some ice cream, Frodo?”



The beautiful Andreas Gursky photo to which John was referring.



Trailer for The Sentinel (1977)



Trailer for The Blackcoat’s Daughter (2017)



Trailer for Toshio Matsumoto’s Funeral Parade of Roses (1969), which influenced A Clockwork Orange.



This is low quality but a prime example of the creepiness of Federico Fellini’s Giulietta degli Spiriti (Juliette of the Spirits) (1965). [NB: On the podcast I mistakenly call it Juliette of the Spring] Bonus: Twins! I suggested this and other Fellini films that contain creepiness were an influence on The Shining, but heck, let’s throw in Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist and most of David Lynch’s stuff as touched by Fellini. WARNING: Super-scary.


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Episode 10: THE COLORADO SIDECAR with cinephile Megan Dooley and Joe Dator from The New Yorker

Episode 10: THE COLORADO SIDECAR with cinephile Megan Dooley and Joe Dator from The New Yorker


Megan Dooley and Joe Dator boogie with me through the Gold Room, as we consider other amazing sets in film history.


Download the file here: Shining Episode 10



The Vandamm House from Hitchcock’s “North by Northwest”



The Manderley estate from Hitchcock’s “Rebecca”

Rebecca_1940_27 sm.


The town of Sweethaven from Robert Altman’s “Popeye”



The set of Orson Welles’s “The Magnificent Ambersons”



One interpretation of the color palette for “The Shining” from Cinema Palettes.



Wendy gif by Joe Dator. Play “The Hustle” as you watch.


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Episode 9: FOOS BALL TWINS with Jon Solomon from WPRB and Joe Dator from The New Yorker

Episode 9: FOOS BALL TWINS with Jon Solomon from WPRB and Joe Dator from The New Yorker


Jon Solomon & Joe Dator play darts with me as we ponder the twins and the Torrance’s new “homey” apartment.


Download the file here: Shining Episode 9



Statue of a Native American child riding a turkey at the Paramus Park Mall.



Diane Arbus’s “Identical Twins, Roselle, New Jersey, 1967”



Stanley Kubrick’s photo from a Look Magazine essay titled “Deaf Children Hear for the First Time” (1948) [NB: The colorized version also shown was not colored by Kubrick]



The twins’ dresses at the traveling Kubrick exhibit, photo courtesy Tula Jeng from her wonderful site Whorange.



Mrs. Grady’s head, from a scene in “Making ‘The Shining,'” a documentary by Vivian Kubrick. In this scene, Wendy would look in a mirror and see Mrs. Grady behind her, and then the mirror would shatter. [EDIT: This head may, instead, be a make-up test for the bathtub woman.]

Screen Shot 2017-12-06 at 2.28.38 AM


Scene from Scorsese’S “Taxi Driver” (1976) in which the camera pans to the side, down a hallway, at about 1:02.


The facade of the Overlook Hotel, under construction



Mac McCaughan’s original song “Happy New Year (Prince Can’t Die Again)” (2016) from Jon Solomon’s 25-Hour Holiday Radio Show on WPRB

Now Fizzing

Jon Solomon’s radio show can be heard every Wednesday from 5PM to 8PM on WPRB

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Episode 8: CANNIBALS & COMEDY with Kevin Maher of Kevin Geeks Out & Joe Dator of The New Yorker

Episode 8: CANNIBALS & COMEDY with Kevin Maher of Kevin Geeks Out & Joe Dator of The New Yorker


Kevin Maher and Joe Dator help me examine the road trip to Hell, plus a fun discussion of the bazillion parodies and comedy bits spawned from this beloved horror flick.


Download the file here: Shining Episode 8



Jack drives about as well as Paul does.



If there is a better way to learn about cannibalism, I don’t know what it is. Wakiki Wabbit (1942)


The Simpsons, “The Shinning,” from “Treehouse of Horrors V”


A scene from South Park’s “A Nightmare On Facetime” (2012)


Shining, the delightful rom com. Not sure who made this.


The Grand Overlook Hotel by Steve Ramsden (2015)


There are some brief references to The Shining in Family Guy, here and there.


Bob’s Burgers does The Belching, from their episode “Crawl Space” (2011)


Key & Peele in a sketch called “Continental Breakfast,” season 3, episode 7 (2013)


4Creative’s trailer for More4’s “Kubrick Season” (2008) (NB: I was wrong about it being by the BBC.


Here’s a link to some of the images from The Toy Story Shining by Kyle Lambert.


Here’s a link to Frank Lesser’s piece in McSweeney’s titled “Notes on Your Novel.”


Mad Magazine’s “The Shiner,” found on The Overlook Hotel website.



And the Crazy Magazine version, “The Signing,” also on The Overlook Hotel site.



The Pac Man version of The Shining by M. Whaite (2011)



From the movie Keanu (2016)



Regular guest Joe Dator’s Citizen Candy Man (2005)


Here’s Kevin Maher’s website, chock full of fun stuff, including a link to Kevin Geeks Out.

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Episode 7: ON DIRECTING with actor Zandy Hartig of HBO’s Mosaic & Adult Swim’s Childrens Hospital

Episode 7: ON DIRECTING with actor Zandy Hartig of HBO’s Mosaic & Adult Swim’s Childrens Hospital


Actor Zandy Hartig talks about what it’s like to be directed by the likes of Soderbergh, and the good and bad of being directed by a genius like Kubrick.


Download the file here: Shining Episode 7



Vinessa Shaw with Tom Cruise in Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut.

(If anyone has the clip of this whole scene I’ll post it. Thanks!)



An interview with Vinessa Shaw in Collider, in which she talks about being directed by Kubrick.


One of the trailers for Soderbergh’s Mosaic, in which Zandy has a role.


Zandy Haritig up front, in blue, with the cast of the Emmy award-winning (and goddamned funny) Childrens Hospital.


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Essay: Kubrick’s LOLITA and the Point It Misses

Essay: Kubrick’s LOLITA and the Point It Misses

Stephen King’s novel The Shining is a horror story, so its first goal is to be scary. Its second goal is to portray a family in turmoil because of a father’s alcoholism, and as we know, Kubrick chose to drop that angle. But the horror story part, he nailed. He reinterpreted the setting and the story arc and made them work for the visual medium. The terror of King’s Overlook Hotel is captured in Kubrick’s film, even if the exact chain of events is not.

Likewise, in Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, the gist and thrust of the story from the source material is maintained: The absurdity of the nuclear cold-war, developed by flawed humans. What is meant to protect us could just as easily destroy us. Kubrick not only changed the ending of this story, as he did with The Shining, but changed the genre of storytelling from drama to comedy. But the point is intact.

In contrast, as I touched upon in episode six of this podcast, I find the transplanting of ITALIAN236-2the story of Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov from book to film to be a failure. I want to expand on that here.

Yes, I know, Nabokov is credited with writing the screenplay.

Unfortunately, Kubrick messed with this screenplay enough to strip the story of all meaning, and we are left with an odd film about a charming, “innocent” (producer James Harris’s word) older man having an affair with a precocious “brat” (Harris’s word) of a young teen.

Nabokov’s story includes none of this. And what is left out is, in fact, the magic of the story in the first place.

Lolita is a book about a sociopathic, child-molesting, child-raping pedophile who would have raped some other unfortunate girl if he had not raped Lolita. This is not an interpretation. This is what is in the story. And that is why the story is so brilliant. It is a portrait of insanity. It is the delusional vision of a narcissist who has convinced himself that he is justified in killing multiple people (more on that later), in lusting after girls as young as nine, in kidnapping a child and keeping her as his sex slave under threat. He drugs her, he isolates her, he brainwashes her, all while attempting to brainwash us, the audience. “[A] murderer with a sensational but incomplete and unorthodox memory…” is how he describes himself. He tells us that orphaned, kidnapped and drugged, Lolita—surprise!—decides she must have sex with this older man who she has only known for a few months. Let me remind you: In the book, Lolita is twelve. She is four-foot-ten. She is around 90 pounds. That’s all in the book.

Lolita, the novel, is a brilliant portrayal of pathology. It is written from the point of view of a mentally unhealthy person who is delusional, narcissistic, and who feels justified in every crime he commits, which is dead-on when it comes to what forensic psychologists know about sex offenders. This sugary description of his life is the only one he can write, because he cannot see past his own pathology.  Nabokov reported that part of his inspiration to write the book was hearing the story of an ape who was taught to draw in charcoals. The first thing the ape drew was the bars of his own cage. Humbert is writing the only thing he knows: his own delusion about how he has led his life. And like most sex offenders or serial killers, everything is everyone else’s fault. He is not the perpetrator because he is simply reacting to others. Everything is justified. Nymphets are temptresses, whether they are nine-years-old or fourteen.

But of course, his guilt also bleeds through.



Kubrick was not alone in missing the point of Lolita. (Or choosing to ignore it?)

Reading through the major reviews from 1958 and 1959, as well as recent essays, the concept of the “unreliable narrator” is barely touched. Most of the top reviewers hit the same notes. They smarmily point out that the book is not really all that pornographic—which surely must disappoint the average saps who are too dull to buy it for any other reason. And to the critics it is damn funny and cleverly written. They get the jokes! Because they are smart, like Nabokov!

Some point out that it is a moving love story.

All pretty much seem to accept, along with the book-cover designers, that Lolita is a little slut.

Let’s take a look at some of the other intellectuals who, along with Kubrick, got the story wrong.

KINGSLEY AMIS, THE SPECTATOR (1959): The pity is that Humbert could not care less about the darkness of her life at home, and although the teenage vulgarity of Lolita’s behaviour is caught with an equal precision he could not care less either about what she was really like. She is a ‘portrait’ in a very full sense, devotedly watched and listened to but never conversed with, the object of desire but never of curiosity. What else did she do in Humbert’s presence but play tennis and eat sundaes and go to bed with him? What did they talk about? What did they actually get up to?

Mr. Amis was a revered comedic writer himself, so it is odd that he misunderstands the lack of detail around Lolita’s character. Lolita is barely fleshed out because the real Lolita is hardly in the book. He should have been tipped off by the similar portrayal of Lolita’s mother, Charlotte Haze. These characters speak in the language of Humbert. Out of their middle-class American mouths comes pompous diction cloyingly riddled with bits of français. (Humbert translates texts from French to English as part of his living.) In fact, that is part of the game. When the dialogue sounds like Humbert, it is a tip-off that this is a Humbert-tinted memory. When a bit of realism comes through, as when Lolita responds to Humbert telling her he is going to marry her mother, we see a glimmer of objective reality. Those are the touchstones of the story. Here, Humbert, who has been bragging to us about Lolita’s crush on him, gives her a call at her sleep-away camp, just shortly after her arrival there.

I told her—trembling and brimming with my mastery over fate—that I was going to marry her mother. I had to repeat it twice because something was preventing her from giving me her attention. “Gee, that’s swell,” she said laughing. “When is the wedding? Hold on a sec, the pup— That pup here has got hold of my sock. Listen—“ and she added she guessed she was going to have loads of fun…and I realized as I hung up that a couple of hours at that camp had been sufficient to blot out with new impressions the image of handsome Humbert Humbert from little Lolita’s mind.

This passage is meant to be funny because it reveals so clearly how Humbert fools himself, and how he must twist when his narcissism bumps with cold reality.

Here’s another review:

CHARLES J. ROLO, THE ATLANTIC (1958): There follows a sketch of [Humbert’s] tortured career up to the time when, in his late thirties, he settles in a quiet New England town…under the same roof as a fatally seductive nymphet, Dolores Haze—a mixture of “tender dreamy childishness and eerie vulgarity.”…But an accident eliminates Mrs. Haze, and Humbert the Nympholept finds himself the guardian of his darling, who, on their first night together, turns out to be utterly depraved and plays the role of seducer…

Conversely, the conservative National Review, in it’s prudishness, turned out to be in a better position to understand the book, having no need to pretend to be so esoteric and deep as to see the beauty in a humorous take on child sex slavery.

FRANK S. MEYER, NATIONAL REVIEW (1959): What happens? The critics hail his “grace and delicacy” and his ability to understand and present “love” in the most unlikely circumstances. The modern devaluation of values seems to have deprived them of the ability to distinguish love from lust and rape. And first among them that dean of critics, Lionel Trilling, who compares Lolita to the legend of Tristan and Isolde!…Without exception, in all the reviews I have read — and they are many — nowhere has even the suspicion crept in that Lolita might be something totally different from the temptingly perverted surface it presents to the degenerate taste of the age. Not a whiff of a hint that it could be what it must be, if it is judged by the standards of good and beauty which once were undisputed in the West — and if it is, as the power of its writing shows it to be, more than a mere exercise in salaciousness.

Trilling, by the way, also wrote that “In recent fiction no lover has thought of his beloved with so much tenderness.”



Here’s Humbert himself:

How marvelous were my fancied adventures as I sat on a hard park bench pretending to be immersed in a trembling book. Around the quiet scholar, nymphets played freely, as if he were a familiar statue or part of an old tree’s shadow and sheen…Rope skipping, hopscotch. That old woman in black who sat down next to me on my bench, on my rack of joy (a nymphet was groping under me for a lost marble), and asked if I had a stomachache, the insolent hag.

The above passage is typical. He begins the book with stories of lurking, of lusting, of wanting to commit violence. He has been in and out of mental health sanitariums, he has “wedged my wary and bestial way into the hottest, most crowded corner of a city bus full of strap-hanging school children” and regularly “…try[ed] to catch a glimpse of nymphets (alas, always remote) playing in Central Park….”

cover“I remember once handling an automatic belonging to a fellow student, in the days (I have not spoken of them, I think, but never mind) when I toyed with the idea of enjoying his little sister, a most diaphanous nymphet with a black hair bow, and then shoot myself,” he writes at one point.

He contemplated killing his first wife, and “could visualize myself slapping Valeria’s [ex-wife] breasts out of alignment, or otherwise hurting her….” (Which, perhaps, he indeed did. Again, the unreliable narrator.)

When he first arrives at Ramsdale, Lolita’s hometown, he was looking forward to living with the 12-year old at another residence. He says he “…spent a fantastic night on the train, imagining in all possible detail the enigmatic nymphet I would coach in French and fondle in Humbertish.” That family’s home burned down before he arrived, so he found other lodgings, with the Hazes.

He contemplated drugging Lolita so that he could rape her. He considered the idea of getting her mother pregnant so that it “…would give me a chance to be alone with my Lolita for weeks, perhaps—and gorge the limp nymphet with sleeping pills.”

I had to be sure when my lovely child arrived, that very night, and then night after night…I would possess the means of putting two creatures to sleep so thoroughly that neither sound nor touch should rouse them. Throughout most of July I had been experimenting with various sleeping powders, trying them out on Charlotte…

Humbert decides to kill Charlotte twice, first when she informs him that Lolita will be going to a boarding school, and then when she reads his diary and discovers he is a monster. He comes up with concrete plans. By complete coincidence, Charlotte gets hit by a car. This is another magical fortuity in the world of this charming and near-innocent man who is writing from his jail cell after murdering the guy who helped Lolita escape his grip. (Two hints in the book about Humbert’s possible role in Charlotte’s death: Lolita at some point refers to “my murdered mummy,” as if she would ever use the word “mummy,” and Humbert, after seeing another female car accident victim, says of her battered body and the minor damage to the car, “I did better.”)

So, does this sound like the fella, played by erudite James Mason, we see in Kubrick’s 1962 movie?


No. No it does not.

But that is not the fault of the credited screenwriter.

The screenplay was written by Nabokov after many long discussions with Kubrick. Obviously Kubrick explained to Nabokov his vision, and there must have been some compromising up front. It is well documented that as he was filming, Kubrick changed much of the script, using only a portion of Nabokov’s words and ideas.

Ultimately, Nabokov very politely stated that he was impressed with the movie but would have done things a bit differently—a popular refrain from the many authors of Kubrick’s source material, but in this case without the anger. As far as I can find, Nabokov did not elaborate on what exactly he would have done differently. But we do have the published original screenplay, pre-Kubrickized (which should definitely be a word).

In that screenplay, we can see that Nabokov did try to retain some glints of Lolita’s innocence and victimhood. And, by extension, we see her being a survivor at the tail end of the story.

For example, Nabokov included this passage, which took place directly after the first sexual intercourse between the two:

Lolita: (smiling sweetly at him) You chump, you creep, you revolting character. I was a daisy fresh girl and look what you’ve done to me. I ought to call the cops and tell them you raped me. Oh, you dirty, dirty old man!…[Later, after more conversation] You hurt me. You’ve torn something inside.

She eventually sobs. She says, “Leave you? You know perfectly well I have nowhere to go.” She mentions this twice. She is, of course, an orphan by this point. Humbert threatens her with reform school, or a juvenile detention home. (In the book, he admits to “terrorizing” her with these kinds of threats.)

Kubrick stripped all of those bits of reality-balancing from the script.


lolitaWhen Lolita was made, Kubrick’s production partner was James Harris, and they collaborated on the development from the get-go.

They knew there was no way to do a film with an actual twelve-year-old, and so they settled on fourteen, and wanted someone who seemed like a full-blown teen. But they also wanted to rejigger the real star of the novel, the narrator Humbert. They seemed to think a flipping of character would make the movie more palatable to viewers and censors.

According to Harris, as quoted in John Baxter’s biography of Kubrick,  “If we could make [Humbert] the most innocent guy in the piece and her a little brat, and he just singled her out as someone to fall in love with—let people put their own interpretation on it. We knew we must make her a sex object. She can’t be childlike. If we made her a sex object, where everyone in the audience could understand why everyone would want to jump on her, and you make him attractive, it’s gonna work.”

Kubrick is quoted in the same book as saying, “[The story] concerns the outsider who is passionately committed to action against the social order…the criminal, maniac, poet, lover, revolutionary. The protagonists of Paths of Glory, The Killing, Spartacus and…Lolita are all outsiders fighting to do some impossible thing, whether it’s pulling a perfect robbery or saving innocent men from execution by a militaristic state or carrying on a love affair with a twelve-year-old girl.”


Kubrick even wished the movie to be more erotic, even though all critics and consumers agreed that the novel really wasn’t very.

Nothing like the following flirtatious scene, from early in the movie, happens in the book or in Nabokov’s screenplay.

In Nabokov’s screenplay, Lolita, at one point, half-sits on Humbert’s knee, but the writer makes clear that this is innocent and ends it abruptly, despite Humbert’s arousal. Even in the passionate scene when Lolita is going off to camp and rushes back to hug Humbert good-bye, Nabokov makes clear in his screenplay that “hers is a perfectly innocent impulse, an affectionate bright farewell.” With the swelling music of Kubrick’s version, this seems debatable.

The scene below is the depiction of the before and after of the first sexual act. As directed by Kubrick, Humbert looks baffled that Lolita is hitting on him, and afterward, she is giddy with girlish delight. He is the straight-man to her goofiness.

By contrast, at this same point in the book, we read that “…a queer dullness had replaced her usual cheerfulness…I did not like the way my little mistress shrugged her shoulders and distended her nostrils when I attempted casual small talk…It was something quite special, that feeling: an oppressive, hideous constraint as if I were sitting with a small ghost of somebody I had just killed.”

We’ve obviously come a long way from the source material.

The movie does have her finally break down when she is told her mother is dead.

This scene does not take place in Nabokov’s screenplay. He cuts from “your mother is dead” to a time jump, with scenes of the two driving around the country, and Humbert buying her endless gifts. Then, they pull over on a road side.

Humbert: We must have taken the wrong turning. This is awful.

Lolita: Give me that map.

Humbert: We should have turned left half an hour ago and taken 42 south, not north.

Lolita: We? Leave me out of it.

Humbert: I am sure we’ll find some place to stop, if we just drive on.

He nuzzles her tentatively.

Lolita: (flinching) Leave me alone. I despise you. You deceived me about Mother. You took advantage of me.


I dislike Kubrick’s Lolita not just because of the deviations from the novel, but because to me it is a flat tale of unappealing characters, despite wonderful acting on the part of the players. It is impossible to feel anything but contempt for anyone in this movie. To be stuck in an elevator with any character aside from Claire Quilty would be a hovering Hell, and even then Quilty would probably be too cool to tell you any of his best stories.

In any case, the humor of the novel is lost and the supposedly romantic ending is hollow. And that Ya-Ya song. Oh my god.

But the biggest sin of this movie is it’s cluelessness, and how detached it is from everything that is good about the novel, and how because of that, it ended up a tone-deaf “love” story that really does do nothing but promote the idea that there are slutty teen girls out there, and that it is rather touching when some poor old fool is seduced by one.

And sadly, with much credit to this movie, that concept around both Lolita and Lolita has stuck. It’s the default. “Lolita” is now a noun, describing a type of young female.

In The Shining, we may have lost the heart and soul of King’s dysfunctional family tale, but we are genuinely terrified, we are dazzled, and we are absorbed in the characters. We feel the terror. We are chilled by the setting. We are sucked into the conversations and the chase. And that is enough to make for a masterpiece all its own.

Needless to say, the Peter Sellers subplot is the only spark of color in Kubrick’s Lolita, and it seems tacked on. It is almost nonsensical in the context of Kubrick’s storytelling, and it’s hard not to want the movie flipped so that we are following Quilty and Vivian Darkbloom around instead of the tepid scholar and the jaded teeny-bopper.

And in this month of Weinstein-effect avalanches of understanding how male-dominated and male-driven the business of film and television is, I think I am allowed to add this: The failings of this movie  and the misunderstandings around this book are the sad result of everyone—from snooty Ivy-League celebrity literary critics to genuinely brilliant self-taught directors from The Bronx—being married to the male perspective, that men are the ultimate authority and the arbiter of justice and what is “normal,” even when they are handing you their confession from behind the bars that specify their corruption.

And I’ll leave you with a bit more of that wonderful, masterful confession from the novel, because it is such great literature, and it deserves to be rendered repeatedly, in any and all formats. This monster does arrive at something resembling “love,” a version that likely has more to do with his precious memories—which are all he has left—and, with time, the gelling of those and his enormous lust into something more concrete. These lines come after Dolores “Lolita” Haze gets married and is pregnant, and before she, unbeknownst to Humbert, dies in childbirth.

I loved you. I was a pentapod monster, but I loved you. I was despicable and brutal and turpid, and everything, mais je t’aimais, je t’aimais! And there were times when I knew how you felt, and it was hell to know it, my little one. Lolita girl, brave Dolly Schiller.


Episode 6: DOPEY, GOOFY & SEXISM with Megan Dooley

Episode 6: DOPEY, GOOFY & SEXISM with Megan Dooley


Megan and I discuss ghost wasps and ghost lamps, plus a whole conversations about sexism and how it relates to the Kubrick world.


Download the file here: Shining Episode 6



Dopey decal, present and missing.



Goofy doll in the background, Shelly reflecting the doll. Shoes, too!



Vivian Kubrick on the set of A Clockwork Orange.



The amazing Adrienne Corri, who starred as Mrs. Alexander in A Clockwork Orange.



Kubrick’s Lolita had her as a brat, completely complicit in the affair with an innocent (Kubrick’s words!) Humbert Humbert. I will soon post an essay on Lolita.



The Babadook (2014)

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Episode 5: DANNY & TONY & LEON with Filmworker doc producer Elizabeth Yoffe & NYer cartoonist Joe Dator

Episode 5: DANNY & TONY & LEON with Filmworker doc producer Elizabeth Yoffe & NYer cartoonist Joe Dator


Documentary producer Elizabeth Yoffe discusses Danny Lloyd and his acting coach Leon Vitali, the subject of Filmworker. Bonus: Joe Dator!


Download the file here: Shining Episode 5



Article announcing Danny Lloyd’s casting in Kubrick’s film.



Danny Lloyd with Kubrick



One of Polanski’s innovations in Rosemary’s Baby was the odd cropping of framed subjects, or their being turned away from the camera. This added to a feeling of disorientation and paranoia for the audience. Kubrick may have borrowed this idea in his shot of Danny in the bathroom, with his face cut out of the scene.



Leon Vitali starred as Lord Bullingdon in Barry Lyndon (enters this scene at 1:20, in green). He was also Red Cloak in Eyes Wide Shut.


Article in the Daily Beast about Filmworker


Click on this image to go to the Filmworker website


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Episode 4: POPPING OFF HEADS & STACKING BODIES with Tasha Robinson of Next Picture Show & Bob J. Koester of Immunities


Tasha Robinson and Bob J. Koester ponder the characters’ motivations and eyebrows in this unusual interview scene.


Download the file here: Shining Episode 4


Jack Nicholson with crazy hair at the beginning of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.



Jack Nicholson as The Joker trying to pass for normal.


Trivia that just occurred to me, post-taping: Pat Hingle, who starred as Bill Watson in the 1997 miniseries version of The Shining, played Commissioner Gordon in the Tim Burton’s Batman, which also starred Jack Nicholson as the Joker.



Grady Twins interview!



Kubrick’s take on ghosts.


Shelley Duvall talks about the unflattering lenses Kubrick used.

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Episode 3: SHINING WARS with Pete the Retailer from Star Wars Minute & Joe Dator


Star Wars Minute’s Pete the Retailer helps us explore the surprising overlap of Star Wars and The Shining, along with analysis of Jack, eagles, and the mysterious Bill Watson. Bonus: Plenty of arguing.


Download the file here: Shining Episode 3



Obi-Wan Kenobi sacrificed his life when he saw that Luke, Leia, Han and the others could escape the Death Star in this pivotal scene.


Kubrick, clearly troubled by the burned-to-the-ground Colorado Lounge set.



Bill Watson’s pants seem to change. Supernatural or sloppy?

Screen Shot 2017-10-22 at 8.27.54 PM

Screen Shot 2017-10-22 at 8.28.30 PM


Eagle statue behind Ullman’s desk.



We loves us some Barry Dennen.

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SHINING VS. SHINING: Let’s put the 1997 King miniseries up against the 1980 Kubrick film and see what happens.


[This is an adapted and expanded version of a talk I gave on September 21, 2017 at Kevin Geeks Out About Stephen King at Nitehawk Cinema in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Kevin Geeks Out is a monthly series of talks on geeky topics hosted by Kevin Maher.]


Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film The Shining is considered a horror masterpiece, and even one of the greatest films ever made.

Stephen King, famously, hated it.

He called it “a great big beautiful Cadillac with no motor inside,” and has said, “The real problem is that Kubrick set out to make a horror picture with no apparent understanding of the genre.”

In fact, King publicly disparaged the movie so often that when he decided to do the 1997 miniseries and needed Kubrick’s approval, since Kubrick owned the rights, King had to sign a contract promising he would quit trashing the movie in public.

King admitted that his motivation for doing the miniseries was to cor-r-r-rect the errors he saw Kubrick as having made. As King had repeatedly stated in interviews: “I would do everything different.”

And so he did.

I’ve met many people who like the miniseries. And I’ve noticed that most of the people who hate the Kubrick movie seem to be pissed off that it strays from the book. But we’re talking about a visual experience, whether in a theater or on a TV screen. Therefore the works of art should be judged on their merits as motion pictures. So what we’ll do here is have the Kubrick movie and the King miniseries go head-to-head, scene-to-scene.

It’s important to note that King wrote the screenplay for the miniseries and was executive producer. This was his baby as much as the original book was.

My thesis is that the King miniseries is problematic. And by “problematic” I mean “a great big ugly Sno-Cat with its central organs disemboweled by a psychotic hotel caretaker.”



King hated Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance, because he was perceived as crazy from the get-go, instead of a slow build from nice guy to brains-basher. So King rebelled by casting the vanilla-est vanilla of all sitcom-star vanillas, Steven Weber, who was in your mom’s favorite program, Wings.


In the essential role of Danny, he did another 180 by casting a kid who was not a thoughtful, quiet, inner-storm-of-a-five-year-old, as was Danny Lloyd, but a bowl-cut cutie-pie who, for some reason, does not have the physical ability to close his mouth all the way. Ever.

[NB: No sound in video.]


And by the way, that kid, Courtland Mead, was nine years old. He was actively dumbing himself down to play a kindergartener. Kubrick’s Danny Lloyd was five-and-a-half.

But this was clearly King’s own vision of Danny. In fact, I did some digging and found the casting director’s sheet of final selects from the months leading up to filming, which give us a lot of information about what he was going for.




(P.S. Courtland Mead turned out to be a perfectly handsome fellow who could close his mouth! And it wasn’t his fault he was cast! And he did the best he could under the circumstances of acting for director Mick Garris and with this particular script! Warm shout-out to Mr. Mead!)



It’s a horror story. So the scares are kinda important. Let’s just go ahead and take a look at how each Master Storyteller handled the scary parts.

[NB: Explicit! Nudity! Violence! Rated R!]


They definitely blew their wad on the bathtub lady. That’s where all the money went, and she’s actually pretty good, I think.


Kubrick wrote his own script, assisted by Diane Johnston, and King wrote his screenplay himself. Most of you know the famous lines from Kubrick’s version, so here’s a quick run-through of King’s bon mots.



The setting, the cinematography, the lighting, the acting, the costumes, the make-up, the special effects, the music, the situational choices.

One of the best examples of “just everything” is how the scary hedges are handled from the original novel. In the book, animal-shaped topiary come to life. Kubrick felt this would not come off well on film, so he reinterpreted that in the form of the giant hedge maze.

Let’s see how all of that worked out.


And I’ve got to show the party scene, because to me the centerpiece of Kubrick’s film is Jack talking to Grady in the red bathroom. I honestly think it is one of the greatest scenes in film history. In King’s miniseries version, we have no Lloyd (as was in his own book), Grady is the bartender, and Grady hasn’t even killed his family (again: King leaving out his own idea). And it comes out like this:



Kubrick changed the ending, from the hotel exploding, as happened in the novel, to Jack freezing to death. In the miniseries, of course, King retains his inferno finale.


But he also tacks on an epilogue not found in the novel. An epilogue so what-the-fuck?, so why-god-why?, that I’m just going to go ahead and rest my case.





Episode 2: SAD SANDWICHES AND HAPPY CONSPIRACIES with cinephile Megan Dooley


Megan Dooley and I stroll through the Overlook, hang out in the office, discuss some ghostly weirdness, and then have a terrible sandwich with Wendy, Danny and Tony.


Download the file here: Shining Episode 2



One of many stories about Kubrick and his obsession with his cats and other pets.


This seems to be the painting outside of Ullmann’s office (or one version of it), titled “The Great Mother.” The Native American artist’s name is Norval Morisseau. More on him in another episode!



The conspiracy erection. We’re not buying it, although Ullmann certainly IS glad to see him.



Here’s a link to some evidence to my own Shining conspiracy theory, about Ullmann.

Entertainment Weekly article with Jan Harlan


Danny’s phaser, which apparently will be of no use to him.



Kubrick’s constant use of cartoon characters and fairy tale references was likely influenced by his reading the 1976 book The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales by Bruno Bettelheim, which he studied with his co-writer Diane Johnson. Bettelheim turned out to be a fraud and child abuser. Ultimately, a fascinating story of sociopathic power that ruined countless lives.

Wikipedia entry on Bruno Bettelheim



Saul Bass’s wonderful original poster. Sufficiently scared a young Megan.



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Episode 1: ELECTRIC BLUE CREDITS with New Yorker cartoonist Joe Dator and cinephile Megan Dooley

We look at the first two minutes and thirty-seven seconds of Kubrick’s masterpiece. The music! The flying! The credits! More weird trivia than you can shake an axe at!

Download the file here: Shining Episode 1

This album was huge.


The version of the Dies Irae that inspired the opening of The Shining begins at 3:30.

Scatman Crothers in one of his most beloved roles.

“Horn.” [pause] “Toad.” (The password was “trombone.”)

He’s not actually in the opening credits, he barely says a word in the movie, but we love him anyway:  Mr. Barry Dennen.

It’s all about the music.

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BONUS EPISODE: Kubrick’s life & movies leading up to The Shining, with Joe Dator


Joe and I take a wide-eyed jog (in less than half an hour!) through Kubrick’s life and films leading up to the release of The Shining. Good prep for episode one, coming soon!


Download the file here: Shining Bonus: Kubrick and His Movies




A kid from the Bronx.


A photo Kubrick sold to look magazine while he was still in high school.

flying padre00001

The actual flying padre! We should have noted that these were shorts. This film was about nine minutes long.


Fear and Desire (1953)

Killers-Kiss (1)

Killer’s Kiss (1955)


The Killing (1956)


Paths of Glory (1957) with Timothy Carey


Spartacus (1960)


Lolita (1962)


Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) with Peter Sellers


2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)


A Clockwork Orange (1971) with Philip Stone


Barry Lyndon (1975)


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Episode zero with New Yorker cartoonist Joe Dator


A quick orientation. Join us on FB and Twitter for new episode updates!


Download the file here: Shining Ep 0


Here’s my Kubrick list, best to worst. Kubrick would not be happy with this list.

  • 2001: A Space Odyssey
  • The Shining
  • Full Metal Jacket
  • Paths of Glory
  • Dr. Strangelove
  • A Clockwork Orange
  • Spartacus
  • Barry Lyndon
  • Lolita
  • Killer’s Kiss
  • Fear and Desire
  • The Killing
  • Eyes Wide Shut


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