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Category:    Home > Reviews > Science Fiction > Literature > Drama > Politics > Comedy > Horror > Sexuality > Cold War > Vietnam > Mystery > Stanley Kubrick Warner HD-DVD Releases (2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)/A Clockwork Orange (1971)/The Shining (1980)/Full Metal Jacket (1987)/Eyes Wide Shut (1999))

Stanley Kubrick Warner HD-DVD Releases (2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)/A Clockwork Orange (1971)/The Shining (1980)/Full Metal Jacket (1987)/Eyes Wide Shut (1999))



Note: For “legal reasons” no one has been able to figure out or confirm as of this posting, all five of these October 2007 releases (also issued in the Blu-ray and low def DVD-Video formats) were pulled a few months after their release with no formal announcement to that effect.  Whether it was the framing of the picture on some of the discs, playback quality issues, extras issued or some other reasons, they are becoming scarce and we recommend all readers pick them up while they can.



Picture: A/B/B/B/B     Sound: B     Extras: B     Films: A+/A-/A-/A-/B+



So the legacy of Stanley Kubrick marches on and now more than ever, the director once rejected for being “weird” or “cold” or “unusual” is now one of the most celebrated, imitated, respected and influential of all time.  This is why six of his films have been issued on HD-DVD and Blu-ray so early in the lives of HD formats as his work continues to be some of the top-selling, most-popular of all classic films around.


Warner Bros., who made all of his films from 1971 to the last classic in 1999 has issued five of them (including a needed reissue of Full Metal Jacket) including his MGM classic 2001: A Space Odyssey, which they now own via their acquisition of Turner Entertainment.  The great bonus is that they are more than just basic editions, a treatment only Sony/Columbia has given to a Kubrick film, before: Dr. Strangelove.


So much has been said on the films and the funny thing is when some people give away key parts of one of his films, they botch it so bad that you still have to see it for yourself to see if the person got it or not.  That is yet another reason, besides their complexity and innovativeness, that you can watch them all again and again.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) remains one of the greatest classics of all time and despite his co-authorship with Arthur C. Clarke on the film, based on Clarke’s own short story The Sentinel, remains the film about the future and space travel for which all others must compete with to work.  Lousy digital effects have kept it fresher and most of those releases have been space operas, fantasies, action and even horror messes that make everything secondary to formula.  Even as many watched Blade Runner – The Final Cut, even that best version of Ridley Scott’s classic (as well as his increasingly underrated Alien) are and always will be firmly in Kubrick’s shadow.


The film is in segments, beginning boldly and ironically with The Dawn Of Man, showing the species rise and suggesting circumstances that involve murder and blood.  After one of the greatest edits in cinema history, The Cold War has moved to outer space with nuclear platforms, space stations and a mysterious discovery only we the audience knows at least something about.  Then as the film goes on, we discover we know even less than we thought and one of the most challenging films ever made comes to its literally chilling conclusion.



A Clockwork Orange (1971) is the ever-imitated film of Anthony Burgess’ book about freedom of choice, society, sex, violence and how rotten an autocratic future with no individual expression causes new complications for all involved.  Malcolm McDowell had already made a name for himself in the “angry young man” cycle of British films in the 1960s when he was cast as gang leader Alex, including suggestions (from the screenplay by Kubrick) that he is a leader because he can see beyond what most can as defined by his love of Beethoven.  He has free reign in a great situation partly of his creation, but the loose ends start to catch up with him and he becomes subject to his own deadly journey of torture, politics, conformity, fascism and deeper truths many who celebrate film on a shallow level always miss.


With winks at 2001, possibly Lawrence Of Arabia and the director himself in a free new mode, it is a film that was originally rated X on arrival, banned for violence in some countries, pulled by Kubrick himself when violence was blamed on the film as if it were inspiring copycat behavior and is still one of the most attacked films ever made by far Left & Right types.  Energy, pace and irony contribute to its endurance, while the at-the-time otherworldly electronic music that tended to cut down the majesty of several Classical masterworks is now as common and everyday as anything, not speaking well to our society, perhaps.  He followed this up with Barry Lyndon, but Warner decided not to issue it yet, but we look forward to the Blu-ray just the same.



The Shining (1980) was a film Warner and Kubrick hoped would be a huge hit and though it has grown in importance as a major Horror thriller and Jack Nicholson’s performance as Jack Torrance is now legendary, the film did not do as well at the time because critics missed what he was doing, audiences were blinded by the comedy and freshly bizarre scenes like nothing anyone had seen before and the slice & dice cycle that was launched by John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978, reviewed on Blu-ray elsewhere on this site) did not allow for Kubrick’s film to fit in easily for the teen audience, but audiences have caught up to the film and it has become very influential and still underrated down to its unique soundtrack structure.


Twisting up Steven King’s hit novel so much that King used to attack it until Warner let him make a TV mini-series that was supposed to be truer to the book but far inferior to this film, Kubrick is not interested in alcohol as a cause of Jack’s troubles, but of the American family as death trap all around.  Furthermore, it was a way of saying (in reference to Tobe Hooper’s 1974 hit Texas Chain Saw Massacre) that you do not need a whole family of demented butchers and cannibals to get the same destructive results.  Now as we see the rise and never-soon-enough-fall of the Torture Porn cycle, Kubrick’s Shining is obviously wiser and more complex than ever.



My thoughts on Full Metal Jacket were already stated in my review for the previous basic HD-DVD (also issued in Blu-ray) at this link:





Eyes Wide Shut (1999) has been the target of several controversies.  The first one to shoot down were certain anti-artistic political forces who took having an R-rated version of the film as a “defeat” of Kubrick’s control or integrity.  Sadly, no one counterattacked, but now you know what that was about.  R. Lee Ermey and Tony Curtis have both said publicly that Kubrick was no happy with the final result of the film and he passed away not long after he showed the unrated final (and really only) cut of the film.  Note that the case (in all three formats) promised both the NC-17 level/uncut and inferior R-rated cut, but only the uncut version is here and that may just be for the better.


Despite any problems, the film is a remarkable transplant of Arthur Schnitzler’s 1926 novel Traumnovelle (aka Dream Story) from the Vienna of the 1920s to a surreal (yet hauntingly accurate on many levels) New York City of 1999 as a gynecologist (Tom Cruise) finds out that the relationship with his wife (Nicole Kidman) is not as secure as he thinks it is.  The result of this doubt, other relationship flaws and personal uncertainties lead to a bizarre journey into the innerworkings of the city and his life as he starts to drift into places and situations he never would have otherwise.  Though it has its flaws, it is still a very competent piece of filmmaking, though it is not the success of his previous works.


However, there is one item of interest that came out of the uncut version.  Originally, the graphic scenes (not, by the way, the ones proposed by Kubrick for a separate film involving name stars) of sex were covered up by dumb digital “hooded figure” images in the U.S. R-rated version.  Until seeing this uncut version, the stills I did see suggested some very graphic sex, with more than a few others who saw it expecting something like Clockwork Orange.  Instead, the sex here is quite the opposite and integral to the story.






The 1080p image on 2001 is 2.20 X 1 and is one of the best digital High Definition images ever pressed, only rivaled as of this posting by Warner’s HD-DVD of John Frankenheimer’s Grand Prix and it is no surprise that both originated in 65mm negative film, for which the best digital High Definition cannot touch yet and will not for a long time.  Since Kubrick supervised the controversial transfer (from 35mm) for the old Criterion Collection 12” LaserDisc release, it has been a issue with fans of the film, as well as those who care about film reproduction from both hardware and software on what was and was not accurate about the image reproduced.


The old MGM/UA DVD was dark and weak, while Warner recycled it before their anamorphic upgrade, but that still did not cut it.  Since the last DVD upgrade, the film was reissued in a very limited 70mm theatrical release with DTS 5.1 sound and that seems to be the source of this new HD-DVD (and the same transfer is used for the Blu-ray) leaving al previous versions irrelevant.  Any comparison to the older transfers show just how tough previous video formats and transfer processes were at capturing the detail and depth of the 65mm shoot.  Color is very consistent and except for maybe a touch of a flaw here or there, this is one of the greatest image demos of any material and any film in any format to date.  It is one of the few times you can start watching video and forget it is video because it looks so film-like and that is the kind of performance that will sell HD to the public is if more important, great-looking films like this are released.


The 1080p 1.85 X 1 image on the rest of the films have their own problems, with Clockwork having digititis problems, Shining having more grain than it should (and as Full Metal did before the reissue, as reviewed on HD-DVD in that basic edition elsewhere on this site) while the new Full Metal is an improvement but still a tad worn and a shade or two darker than it should be.  That leaves Eyes looking a bit softer than it should be.


Now the issue of the correct aspect ratio has surfaced on these films more than a few times, especially of late.  After 2001, Kubrick was very disappointed with how badly his film was being cut up and cut off by various projectionists and theaters which is why he had total control on where Clockwork was shown and how, a still unprecedented thing.  He also abandoned widescreen compositions directly, leaving all the future films to be soft matte 1.33 X 1 with consideration to 1.85 X 1 and aspect ratios close to that.  I liked the framing on the remaining films, even if others wondered if some should/could be pillarboxed/bookended and hardly anyone suggested that each of these titles ought to be offered both ways, though the Kubrick estate might find problems with that.


Nevertheless, despite their flaws, these transfers are the best on each title to date.  The problem is that Kubrick’s work with Director of Photography John Alcott (as it is with anyone else he worked with since his debut Film Noirs, like Geoffrey Unsworth on 2001, Douglas Milsome on Jacket and Larry Smith on Eyes) is so clear, deep and articulate that flaws here are more of a problem than with the work of most filmmakers.  Therefore, you can only take 2001 as very representative of the master’s work at its best visually, though the new Jacket transfer is still far better than the basic HD-DVD, which comes across like a much grainier version of what we get on The Shining here.


All have Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mixes and these are welcome upgrades to previous releases, with 2001 offering a nice remastering of its original 6-track magnetic stereo soundtrack (of the original Todd-AO configuration with five speakers behind the screen and boosted for 8-channel Cinerama screenings) and though the soundtrack can show its age, it also has some sonic surprises and Kubrick (true to form) has some aural surprises that endure.  Clockwork was the first film ever to use any type of Dolby noise reduction, but was a monophonic release in theaters since Kubrick was furious that theaters could not reproduce the sound he had designed especially for 2001.  Shining and Full Metal are also mono theatricals remixed to 5.1 per Kubrick’s later specifications.  Sound can be front-heavy, but all cases annihilate the lame Dolby 1.0 Mono from the first DVDs and outdo all previous sound versions.  The mix on Shining is especially lively due to the attempt to make the film, a bit more commercial.  That leaves Eyes, the only 5.1 Kubrick, with sound that some felt he never had time to finish totally, though it is arguable that he was holding the sound back to make the film’s visuals linger more effectively.


These technical points are moot somewhat now that they are pulled as of this posting with no HD-DVD reissue to happen again.  Extras are the reason to celebrate these releases, especially of some of them do not resurface on later editions if any of them turn out to be the reason they were pulled.  Each offers an original theatrical trailer, but then so did many previous editions.  The new extras for each include the following:


2001 adds a 1966 audio interview with Kubrick by Jeremy Bernstein, Look: Stanley Kubrick! about his years as a distinctive still photographer, FX & Early Conceptual Artwork, Channel 4 British TV documentary 2001: The Making Of A Myth, a nice feature-length audio commentary with Keir Dullea & Gary Lockwood and four featurettes: Standing On The Shoulders Of Stanley Kubrick: The Legacy Of 2001, Vision Of A Future Passed: The Prophecy Of 2001, 2001: A Space Odyssey – A Look Behind The Future and What Is Out There?  And to think as excellent as all of that is, it only just begins to scratch the surface of the classic, so as much as I like Peter Hyams, skip 2010.


Clockwork adds a nice feature-length audio commentary with McDowell and Historian Nick Redman on HD-DVD 1, while HD-DVD 2 add the Channel 4 British TV documentary Still Tickin’: The Return Of Clockwork Orange, new featurette Great Bolshy Yarblockos!: Making A Clockwork Orange and a career profile of McDowell called O Lucky Malcolm!


The Shining adds Vivian Kubrick’s complete The Making Of The Shining film and it even includes optional audio commentary, feature length audio commentary by Steadicam inventor/operator Garrett Brown & historian John Baxter and three new featurettes: View from The Overlook: Crafting The Shining, The Visions Of Stanley Kubrick and Wendy Carlos, Composer.


Full Metal Jacket adds a solid feature length audio commentary by Adam Baldwin, Vincent D’Onofrio, R. Lee Ermey & critic/screenwriter Jay Cocks and new featurette Full Metal Jacket: Between Good & Evil.


Eyes adds TV spots, the entire by videotape address by Kubrick to the Writers Guild of America for receiving their 1998 D.W. Griffith Award, interview gallery with Cruise, Kidman and Steven Spielberg (parts of which are on the great Stanley Kubrick: A Life In Pictures documentary by Jan Harlan, only on DVD-Video and an exclusive part of the remastered box set) made to promote the film, the Channel 4 British TV three-part documentary The Last Movie: Stanley Kubrick & Eyes Wide Shut and the particularly must-see featurette Lost Kubrick – The Unfinished Films of Stanley Kubrick.



Of course, that is not the end of it, even if these outstanding releases had stayed in print.  They’ll be back one way or another and there are the films besides the basic HD-DVD of Spartacus (now going out of print, but reviewed elsewhere on this site) yet to be released in Blu-ray.  There will even be the films that he never made being made, for better or worse, by others.  In the meantime, you might want to try these links:


Color Me Kubrick (with John Malkovich as the man who pretended to be Kubrick for years before being caught)



Helvetica (about the successful font Kubrick helped to make a classic)




-   Nicholas Sheffo


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