As I discussed recently in a very random tribute, Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is one of my absolute favorite movies of all-time (Category: All; Sub-Category: Horror). Seeing it as a child naturally left a lingering affect on me, in that I still have to watch it with at least one light on and my back to the wall. That it still f*cks with my head 33 years later is a true testament to what an awesome film that Kubrick directed and wrote (with Diane Johnson). But what I did not know until this very day – some fan, right? – is that when The Shining was released in 1980, it had a completely different ending.
Apparently Kubrick re-cut the film two weeks after it was released to remove an original ending that tried to pull off the “Bitch, you crazy” angle with Wendy Torrance. In the original ending, Wendy and Danny are in a hospital, where the Overlook’s manager claims that he checked out the entire hotel and couldn’t find anything wrong. No tidal waves of blood, no butchered child bodies, no rotting old lady trying to get her freak on, nada.
It also included a more revealing title shot on black, which we now know thanks to a discovery by Toy Story 3 director Lee Unkrich, who runs his own Shining tribute site.
Slate shared some contrasting takes on Kubrick’s decision to cut the ending after the film had already been released, but I like Roger Ebert’s take on this change…
If Jack did indeed freeze to death in the labyrinth, of course his body was found—and sooner rather than later, since Dick Hallorann alerted the forest rangers to serious trouble at the hotel. If Jack’s body was not found, what happened to it? Was it never there? Was it absorbed into the past and does that explain Jack’s presence in that final photograph of a group of hotel party-goers in 1921? Did Jack’s violent pursuit of his wife and child exist entirely in Wendy’s imagination, or Danny’s, or theirs?… Kubrick was wise to remove that epilogue. It pulled one rug too many out from under the story. At some level, it is necessary for us to believe the three members of the Torrance family are actually residents in the hotel during that winter, whatever happens or whatever they think happens.
The Shining is a complete mindf*ck of a movie from start to finish. That’s what makes it such an exhilarating viewing experience. By cutting to a picture of Jack Torrance at a party with the hotel’s other past guests (above) that spent the movie terrorizing Jack’s family, we learned all we needed to know – that hotel was f*cking haunted.
Did Wendy go crazy after her husband tried to chop her to pieces with an ax? No clue. Did little Danny grow up to be a recluse, untrusting of others and unaware of anything other than pure evil? I have no idea. And that’s the joy of a movie about a psychotic killer possessed by Satanic spirits – it drives you crazy for the rest of your life.