Author: Stephen King
Film Director : Stanley Kubrick
Cast: Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, Scatman Crothers, Barry Nelson
I read the book and watched the movie over the weekend (in that order) (and long overdue, I’m aware).
In isolation, the book & the movie are very good pieces of work, I mean the movie is a friggin cult classic. It, however, is a deliberately poor adaptation of the book and I guess I can understand why King hated it as much as he did. From the onset of the movie, it’s obvious that Kubrick, the director, wanted to take the movie in a very different direction from the novel when we are shown the meeting between The Overlook’s manager Stuart Ullman & our protagonist, Jack Torrence.
Characters: In the novel, Jack is a struggling alcoholic, flawed in ways more than one, but very loving of his wife and son. And he was likeable and we could understand his struggles. In the movie, Jack (one of the more memorable characters played by Jack ‘badass’ Nicholson) clearly has some loose screws right from the beginning and I couldn’t like him at all.
Frederick Clarke got it spot on when suggested in Cinefantastique magazine: “Instead of playing a normal man who becomes insane, Nicholson portrays a crazy man attempting to remain sane.”
What about the other characters? In the novel, Danny is written as quite attached to his dad and loves him dearly, but in the movie, the kid seems scared & cautious of him in every scene. And Wendy, oh my god, Wendy – while reading the book, the picture I had of Wendy was a strong-willed yet sensitive woman who was not afraid to challenge Jack and the Wendy I got in the movie was a blubbering mess. Why would a director change a character so much?
My favorite parts: The scene where Jack ‘drinks’ at the bar after being falsely accused by Wendy of strangling Danny and he has this whole ‘conversation’ with the bartender, Lloyd, was fantastic and kept true to the novel. You can see the craziness unraveling and you go ‘Uh-ookay’. And of course, the iconic scene of Jack breaking down the bathroom door with Wendy trapped inside -“Here’s Johnny!” – is forever etched in my mind and was filmed exactly how I pictured it when I was reading the novel (except of course Jack held a mallet rather than an axe and there was no “Here’s Johnny” but some improvs just make a sequence so much better). But you know what, when I was reading the book I couldn’t wait to reach the pivotal scene where Wendy plunges the knife into Jack’s back and you witness the final descent from human to monster – I was really disappointed that wasn’t in the movie. I would have rather watched that than have the director spend valuable movie minutes of father and son in a run & chase sequence in a hedge maze that wasn’t even in the book to begin with.
Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy the movie, very much so, but we ARE talking Book Vs. Movie here.
The biggest thing that peeved me about the movie – Jack’s redemption, or lack thereof. In the novel, encouraged by Danny, the human in Jack resurfaces for the briefest moment giving Danny time to escape and Jack dies tragically, and we’re reminded that Jack loved his son and wife dearly. But in the movie, he dies a monster going after his son! My biggest issue is that Jack Torrence was so much more complex of a character than the movie made him out to be. And I can see why Kubrick would go in that direction – crazier the man, better the entertainment.
SM Special Mentions
And finally, Dick Halloran – what a waste of a character. Now how is he going to hand young Danny the lockbox to lock up his future monsters in Doctor Sleep, with umm..Kubrick killing him off?