The world of cinema has not been the same since Stanley Kubrick died in March 1999, several months before the theatrical release of what turned out to be his final film, Eyes Wide Shut. There is no denying that Kubrick’s passing left many a devoted follower of his work in total shock, but the legacy of classic films the director left behind helped them to deal with the loss very well.
One of Kubrick’s most popular movies was his 1980 Stephen King adaptation The Shining and since its release more than three decades ago, the film has been widely hailed as one of the greatest horror movies of all time. It has inspired countless parodies, most memorably being the segment “The Shinning” in the “Treehouse of Horror V” episode of The Simpsons, and documentaries devoted to playfully deconstructing the minutiae of the director’s meticulously crafted vision of terror and isolation in a snowbound Colorado hotel. The box office success of The Shining cemented Kubrick’s reputation as a master filmmaker who could work in practically any genre with amazing results and further established lead actor Jack Nicholson as one of the most unconventional and watchable movie stars in show business and worth every dollar of his generous salary.
Kubrick was known for being a great perfectionist when it came to his movies and scenes cut from those films for any reason whatsoever have either been lost probably for all time or discovered but not permitted to be released on any home video format. The legendary deleted pie fight scene from Dr. Strangelove exists today only in the form of a few scattered production stills, while recently unearthed cut footage from 2001: A Space Odyssey has yet to be seen by the general public. In one of the rarest instances of a film being reedited even after it has been released to theaters, Kubrick sent out assistants to trim an epilogue in the last minutes of The Shining from the final print while it was playing in limited release in New York and Los Angeles the week after it had already opened. Though the footage is reported to see exist somewhere in the vaults at Warner Bros., rumors have persisted for years that it would see the light of day in either a theatrical re-release of the movie or as a DVD/Blu-ray bonus feature. So far neither has come to pass.
Lee Unkrich, an editor and director at Pixar whose credits include all three Toy Story movies, is a huge fan of The Shining and even has his own website devoted to all things related to the movie called The Overlook Hotel. Recently Unkrich posted four pages from the screenplay Kubrick co-wrote with Diane Johnson that is in all likelihood the closest we will ever come to seeing that lost ending unless Warner Bros. and the director’s estate decide to unearth and restore the footage for all fans of The Shining and the rest of Kubrick’s filmography to finally see.
You can check out one of those pages here below.
This scene was meant to take place between the escape of Wendy Torrance (Shelley Duvall) and her son Danny (Danny Lloyd) from the homicidal clutches of her deranged husband Jack, played by Nicholson, and the Overlook Hotel and the final images showing a young Jack in a photograph taken on July 4, 1921 at the hotel. After their escape, the scene cuts to a hospital where Wendy is recovering from his horrific ordeal. Stuart Ullman, Jack’s boss at the Overlook (played by the late Barry Nelson, the first actor to play James Bond – Wikipedia it), visits her in her room to see how she is recuperating and to invite her and Danny to spend some time at his home in Los Angeles. He then departs but not before giving Danny a green tennis ball. In the scene it is revealed that the police checked the entire grounds of the Overlook and could not find Jack’s body, which creates more questions than it actually answers.
Film critic Roger Ebert voiced his approval of Kubrick’s decision to remove the epilogue from the final film in a June 2006 article for the Chicago Sun-Times:
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.
Ebert makes a strong point. The epilogue was simply one beat too many and Kubrick was completely justified in cutting it out of The Shining. Hopefully one day we will see the deleted scene in all its glory and the rest of us can decide for ourselves if the late, great filmmaker made the right call. In the meantime, we can read these script pages and wonder.
To view the rest of the alternate ending script pages head over to Unkrich’s page.
As a bonus here are a set of rare continuity Polaroids from the filming of the deleted epilogue. Click on the image below for a better look.