The Kubrick FAQ

The Kubrick

An in-depth
examination of
Stanley Kubrick's
and his films.

Feedback is
welcome, e-mail:
Rod Munday

July 16 1999

last updated
June 8th 2008


Stanley Kubrick is described as one of the most innovative and brilliant film directors of the 20th Century, but also as a legendary recluse and a difficult tyrant who demanded endless takes from his actors. So who was he really? And why are his films so highly regarded? The Kubrick FAQ aims to answer some of these questions and debunk some of the more outlandish myths. Its content is taken from selected postings of the alt.movies.kubrick newsgroup from 1996 to 2001.

There is no list of questions at the top of the page like a traditional FAQ? If you want this kind of experience, click on the "index" link below.

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Content of the Kubrick FAQ is the copyright of its respective authors.

All the questions listed (suitable for non-Java Script users).

The Kubrick FAQ
52 of the most frequently re-occurring questions on alt.movies.kubrick.

information on Stanley Kubrick
brief biography

The Shining
Section of FAQ dealing specifically with The Shining

contributors and credits
A list of all the people who contributed to this document. Thanks!


frequently asked questions

1/ I noticed a helicopter shadow in The Shining, is this a mistake?

"This is probably the single most often-asked and most irritating question to recur over and over again on alt.movies.kubrick.

The opening titles of The Shining consist of long, dreamlike, sweeping shots of the Rocky Mountains, as Kubrick explained to Michel Ciment (1): "It was important to establish an ominous mood during Jack's first drive up to the hotel -- the vast isolation and eerie splendour of high mountains, and the narrow, winding roads which would become impassable after heavy snow."

The helicopter footage was filmed by Greg McGillivray and Kubrick was apparently very pleased with his work: "He spent several weeks filming some of the most beautiful mountain helicopter shots I've seen." While the grace and scope of these shots is hypnotic, there is a moment, just before a low fly-by pass of the yellow VW car, where the shadow of the helicopter filming the scene is clearly visible in the lower right hand corner of the picture.

So, why is this such a hot topic on the newsgroup? Kubrick has a reputation as a perfectionist, and this is something of a very apparent gaffe. It's generated no end of commentary, mostly facetious, as to why Kubrick had "clearly" left the shot in. Some say that, if the film was projected through a widescreen gate (2) - as it would be in a cinema - the shadow would not be visible, although members of amk have refuted this. For instance Mark Ervin noticed the shadow on The Shining's third showing at Mann's Chinese Theater May 23, 1980 and he has "never failed to see it since."

AMK is lucky to have as an occasional contributor Gordon Stainforth. Gordon was an assistant editor on The Shining
(he took over from Ray Lovejoy when he became ill) he actually cut the title sequence. Here's what he has to say.

"I want to try and put at rest the interminable [helicopter shadow] debate re. an apparent mistake in The Shining. I cut the title sequence, so I speak with some authority. I've said quite a lot about this before, so I hope this really is the last time!

While I did the first cut, it is just possible that Ray Lovejoy made some alterations to the picture when he was finalising the front titles and credits - I have a distinct recollection of him asking me for the trims - but I think not. But I do have a recollection that at one stage in the movie some of those cuts were going to be dissolves. It is just possible that when we changed that mix to a straight cut we went back slightly beyond the centre point of the dissolve to get the absolute maximum length out of the shot. Musically and emotionally I remember we needed absolutely every usable frame of that first long shot with the titles.

OK, some key facts:

Although The Shining was shot with the full academy aperture, it was designed and composed entirely for the 1.85:1 ratio, and that is the only way it should be projected in the theatre.

All the Steenbecks in the cutting rooms accordingly had their screens marked, or even masked off, with the 1.85:1 ratio. The 6-plate Steenbeck in Stanley and Ray's main cutting room was masked off with black masking tape, because you cannot cut a movie properly unless you can see the frame exactly as it will appear in the cinema.

However the helicopter shadow IS almost certainly visible for about 4 or 5 frames at the edge of the 1.85:1 masking. But it was NOT visible on any of the correctly marked-up Steenbecks, or in the main viewing theatre at Elstree, at least, not as the first version of the film left Elstree in 1980. I think now that this mistake may have crept in very late during the editing of the movie when the first caption-title 'The Interview' was shortened by 8 frames on 23 April 1980 and the Main Title/credit sequence was lengthened accordingly by 8 frames, since the music could not be shortened. (This information is based on my original cutting room notes)

Every one of the show prints of the first 6 interpositives for the American release of The Shining was personally checked in the viewing theatre at Elstree by Stanley himself. IF the helicopter shadow was fleetingly visible, either Stanley did not notice it, or it was so trivial that it did not bother him.

Unfortunately the masking and racking in many theatres is incredibly inaccurate. [...] I therefore suspect that people who have seen this "awful" shadow for any length of time on the cinema screen must have seen it projected at completely the wrong ratio (probably 1.66/1!), or incredibly badly racked, or both. Or of course they've seen it on the video, where it's visible for just over a second!

Incidentally (or not so incidentally!), Stanley was NOT at all bothered by the vague shadow of the rotors at the top of the frame in the last shot of the main titles."

The notion that dramas should aim to suspend our disbelief goes right back to Aristotle's "Poetics," where it was first articulated. However a similar jarring "mistakes" were deliberately employed as effects by the playwright and drama theorist Bertolt Brecht (3) in the 1930s. He even had a name for them: 'alienation effects,' (Verfremdungseffekten) and they crops up in many of his plays. Brecht used alienation effects because he wanted shatter audiences suspension of disbelief, so that they would think about the issues raised by his plays dispassionately, instead of merely being swept away by the drama.

So is the helicopter shadow a Brechtian alienation effect?

Well, to assert that we'd have to identify other points of similarity between Brecht and Kubrick. And as it happens, there are a few: Brecht was accused by his critics of being cold, and intellectual (sound familiar?) and there are examples of many 'alienation effects' in Kubrick's films. For instance, in Lolita 'Quilty,' played by Peter Sellers, refers to Kubrick's previous film when he says: "I'm Spartacus. Did you come here to free the slaves?" and in Full Metal Jacket. there is a sequence of a film director (who physically resembles a young Kubrick) filming one of the battle scenes. So it seems fair to say that a Brechtian sensibility is detectable in Kubrick's filmmaking, and furthermore not outrageous to suggest that, if he had seen the shadow, he might have left the it in. This is not to say he DELIBERATELY CONTRIVED the helicopter shadow to be there: just that he wasn't concerned enough about concealing the artifice in his art to reject such an amazing shot.

I think the bottom line of this whole debate is that it says more about Kubrick fans than Kubrick himself. The myth about his absolute perfectionism is pervasive, but like every myth about Kubrick, it can't ever be the whole truth.


(1) Kubrick interview on The Shining
by Michel Ciment available on-line at The Kubrick Site.  (back)

(2) See question 11 (note) for an explanation of aspect ratios  (back)

(3) An excellent account of Brecht and his work can be found in, "Brecht: A Choice Of Evils" by Martin Esslin  (back)

2/ Why did Harvey Keitel leave the set of Eyes Wide Shut?

The official story goes that Harvey Keitel dropped out of Eyes Wide Shut
because of a commitment to play Elvis Presley in "Graceland." Although amk gave birth to an all together more colourful rumour to explain the departure.


Here's the newsgroup exchange in which that guy fessed up to creating the rumor. His knowledge of the original rumor makes him quite credible, IMO. It's from sometime in early 98:



(Abbas23315) wrote:
>> I know how some people in this newsgroup feed off gossip >> concerning EWS, so I thought I'd share this with you. >> This was handed down from a friend who heard it from >> someone in Harvey Keitel's camp. During the shooting >> of EWS, there was a scene where Keitel's character was >> masturbating behind Nicole Kidman's head. >> Harvey, being the method actor he is, actually jerked off >> and spewed his load in her hair. An upset Cruise approached >> Kubrick and told him either Keitel goes, or I go. The story >> of Harvey sitting around London, bored with Kubrick's slow >> schedule, was a cover for this embarrassing situation. >> Like I said, I heard this from a good source but I was still >> apprehensive about it being true, so I asked another insider >> who confirmed it. The only way we'll know for sure >> is if we see Sydney Pollack in a scene like the one mentioned >> above.

> I'm sorry to have to tell you this but I started this rumour > about a year ago when I heard that Keitel got chucked off > the movie. There was also the rumour about hardcore sex > in the picture I just put two and two together and came up > with a vicious four. It's completely untrue. I'm still > surprised at how many people pass this story around. I > still hear it. I guess if any actor is capable of such an act then > it's Keitel. By the way the original story was just that he > accidently came on Nicole rather than the embelished version > above. What fun chinese whispers are. And yes I do work > in the film industry which I suppose lends some credibility > to an otherwise untrue statement.


3/ What is that strange Bear scene in The Shining about (and is it a bear)?

The "bear scene" is a brief moment in The Shining
when Wendy, beginning to see the same "1920's Party" events that Jack's been seeing, is wandering through the halls of the hotel. As she looks around a corner, she sees two shapes huddled over the edge of a bed. As she looks, they are revealed to be two men, possibly engaged in oral sex. One is wearing what looks to be a bear (1) costume.

The scene is taken directly from Stephen King's novel. In one of the novel's scenes set in the 1920's party, Jack is dancing with a beautiful woman. He notices that at one table, there is a young man behaving like a pet dog for the amusement of others, including a tall, bald man.

The bald man is Horace Derwent, a Howard Hughes-like figure who poured millions into restoring the Overlook Hotel in the 1920's. (Jack has learned this by reading a mysterious scrapbook earlier in the novel.) The younger man has a romantic crush on the bisexual Derwent, and Derwent has said that 'maybe', if the man dresses like a nice doggy, and acts like a nice doggy, he 'may' be willing to sleep with him.

Later on, in the novel, as Wendy is warily navigating the corridors of the Overlook, she begins to see the visions of the 1920's party. And at one point, peering around a corner, she sees the two men on a bed, one in a doggy costume. The two men are Derwent and his extremely dependent lover.

It's difficult to say why this second scene remains in the film; as it's somewhat confounding without all of the set-up that King provides in his book. Perhaps its jarring incongruity is reason enough for its inclusion, illustrating as it does Wendy's extreme disorientation at that point in the film. Another explanation is that the background on Derwent may have been scripted and filmed, (2) but excised in the final cut.


(1) In King's novel it's actually a dog costume - Gordon Stainforth also states it was referred to as the 'dogman' scene by the crew. - although, some people maintain it was changed to a bear for the film, while one person suggested the costume was that of a walrus, because of some symbolic association walruses have with death (although the absence of large tusks tends to mitigate against this interpretation).  (back)

(2) There's evidence that a 'lot' of material was filmed, but not used. For instance Making The Shining shows a "test" shot of a severed woman's head that isn't in the film (or in King's novel). Although Gordon Stainforth, who cut that scene with Stanley says he had no recollection of any other footage, apart from that particular camera set up. There were of course a number of virtually identical takes.

4/ Does the Russian Ambassador Sadesky in Dr Strangelove speak Russian?

The answer is yes, although Peter Bull who plays Sadesky speaks Russian with an English accent!

5/ What does the Russian scientist Smyslov say on the space station in 2001?
Dupavoy answered this one, he translates it as: "These are hard times."

Alhough, according to Nina Stoessinger, in the German dubbed version Smyslov says: "He knows more" (?)

6/ Could a human being survive exposure to a vacuum as Bowman is in 2001?
In the short time Dave Bowman was in a vacuum, there is little chance that the water in his body could evaporate and the structural integrity of the human body is enough to prevent it exploding. In fact, there is more danger from freezing than of exploding eyeballs or the body losing all its moisture.

Studies with chimps in the 1960's showed they could survive for up to two an a half minutes in a vacuum, substantially more than the ten seconds Bowman is subjected to in the film, which lead Clarke & Kubrick to add this plot device to the movie. The worst thing that could befall Bowman in such a situation, would be something like "the bends" although he would have been breathing a high oxygen environment before he exited the pod.

Arthur C. Clarke explores this idea further in an essay called 'A Breath of Fresh Vacuum,' from his book The View From Serendip.

T, I, CW, DM, RM & ME

7/ What do the letters HAL stand for and is there a connection with IBM?
Just to show you how interpretations can sometimes be bewildering: A cryptographer went to see the film, and he said, "Oh, I get it. Each letter of HAL's name is one letter ahead of IBM [...] now that's pure co-incidence [...] an almost inconceivable co incidence. It would have taken a cryptographer to notice that.

Stanley Kubrick (1)


HAL is an acronym for Heuristic ALgorithmic, the two competing methods of computer programming that, in the sixties, were seen as the leading conteders to produce artificial intelligence (AI). Arthur C. Clarke admitted Kubrick chose the name for the computer (2), his original idea was to make the computer a female called Athena. A while after 2001's initial release, it was noticed that the letters H. A. L. also came one place before the letters I. B. M. in the alphabet., which led people to suspect that Kubrick and Clarke were having a joke at IBM's expense.

Although Clarke concedes the odds against this are 17,576 to 1, he strongly denies the connection was intentional and admits to being embarrassed by the whole affair, especially as IBM had been very helpful to him and Kubrick during the making of the film. Clarke even went as far as inserting a passage into his novel 2010: Odyssey Two, to try to bury the story

"Is it true, Dr. Chandra, that you chose the name HAL to be one step ahead of IBM?"

"Utter nonsense! Half of us come from IBM and we've been trying to stamp out that story for years. I thought that by now every intelligent person knew that H-A-L is derived from Heuristic ALgorithmic."

RM thanks to BA

Most of the information in this answer came from
Hal's Legacy online at:

(1) Kubrick quote from an interview with Chris Kohler in the East Villiage Eye, reproduced in The Making of 2001: A Space Odyssey, edited by Martin Scorsese.  (back)

(2) Interview with Clarke from the January 1997 issue of Wired Magazine  (back)

8/ What film techniques did Kubrick pioneer?

Front Projection
for 2001 - first large-scale use in motion pictures

Two major techniques of combining live action elements filmed in a studio with a pre-filmed background were available to filmmakers in the mid 1960's: rear projection
and travelling mattes. Both had limitations; rear projection did not give a sharp enough image to be usable in large scale situations, and travelling mattes had to be optically processed, resulting in a noticeable drop in film quality, as well as on occasions, a fuzzy blue line around the actors. In front projection, a projector is placed at an angle of 90 degrees to the side of the camera and its beam aimed at a two-way mirror, angled at 45 degrees directly in front of the camera lens. The projected image bounces off the mirror and onto a highly reflective screen. When an actor stands between this front projection rig and the screen, their body exactly masks the area cast by its shadow, resulting in an almost seamless composite when viewed through the camera lens.

In 2001 front projection was used for most of the shots in the Dawn of Man sequence, and to superimpose live action footage into shots of miniature space ships and moon bases.

For more information on front projection, see the American Cinematographer article at Stanley Kubrick - 1928 - 1999'

Motion Control
A primitive motion control rig was constructed for 2001

Proper motion control is where a computer and robotic mounts control the movement of a camera so that the same movement can be exactly replicated again and again for special effects shooting. No computers powerful enough to do this were available to the FX team for 2001.
Although the models were mounted on precision engineered motorised tracks that replicated their movement precisely for the repeated takes needed to combine all the elements for the special effects composites.

On-screen Merchandising
Today with product placement dictating the mise en scene of every Hollywood Blockbuster, Kubrick can be seen as holding the rather dubious distinction of being the first to promote a company in this way. 2001
(1968) featured the logos of Pam-Am, Hilton Hotels, Bell Telephones and IBM, (although many of IBM's were later removed, when they found out that HAL did not exactly promote the image of computers the company had in mind!) In 1968 many critics harshly rebuked Kubrick for what they saw only as crass commercialism, but the idea has been subsequently much copied for artistic rather than commercial reasons in science fiction, as a way of making future worlds more familiar and therefore more credible - examples include: Ridley Scott's Blade Runner(1982) and William Gibson's landmark 'Cyberpunk' novel Neuromancer(1984).

Filming By Candlelight
Prior to Barry Lyndon (1975), the problem of shooting by candlelight had never been solved. Even if the director and cameraman had the desire to light with practical light , camera lenses needed to be at least 100% faster than any available at the time. Fortunately, Kubrick found a lens that could film in very poor light levels, one of a group of ten which Zeiss had specially manufactured for NASA satellite photography. The lens had a speed of fO.7, which was 100% faster than the fastest movie lens. A lot of special modification had to be done to the camera to make it usable. But with the Zeiss f0.7 lens it was possible to shoot in light conditions so dim that it was difficult to read.

When I asked a film director why more people in his profession hadn't tried to replicate the technique, he replied somewhat acerbically that Kubrick owned the copyright on the camera and protected it rigorously. Perhaps this is why Barry Lyndon is the only historical film to have made use of the technique, despite the resurgence in popularity of historical dramas in the 1980s and 1990s.

For Further information on the lenses, see The American Cinematographer article at Stanley Kubrick - 1928 - 1999'

Designing a film for the Steadicam

The Steadicam was first used in Hal Ashbury's Bound For Glory
in 1976. But The Shining (1980) was arguably the first film that could not have been made without the device. Garrett Brown, the inventor of the Steadicam, developed special modifications to his camera for the film, such as the "low mode" that enabled Kubrick to capture Danny's tricycle rides around the Overlook Hotel in such a memorable way.

Things Kubrick did not pioneer (although you might have heard otherwise)
Kubrick is sometimes also credited for innovating the use of found Classical music for the soundtracks of his films. Although he did this to remarkable effect in 2001,
many directors preceded him, such as; Robert Bresson with A Man Escaped and Au hasard, Balthazar, and Luis Bu–uel with Un Chien Andalou and L'Age d'Or, both made at a time when Kubrick was a mere toddler.

RM Thanks to MB & DM

9/ In Full Metal Jacket, what's the bit about Joker's desire to slip the tubesteak to cowboys sister about?
In Full Metal Jacket
, Joker is given responsibility to get Private Pyle into shape. We see several scenes where it appears that, under Joker's tutelage, Pyle seems to be improving as a soldier. All of this is undone when Sgt. Hartmann finds the jelly donut in Pyle's footlocker, and punishes the entire platoon as a result. One night the platoon, fed up with the punishments over Pyle's ineptitude, attacks Pyle in his sleep. Even Joker takes part in the attack, although reluctantly. This breaks Pyle psychologically; although he throws himself into his training with focus and zeal, we see that he's also becoming sullen and withdrawn. Joker first notices that Pyle's cracking when he sees Pyle talking lovingly to his gun.

The next scene shows Cowboy and Joker mopping the latrine floor. Joker, checking to see if anyone's around, tells Cowboy that he thinks Pyle's cracking up. Cowboy's not enthusiastic about Pyle, or even talking about Pyle. So, Joker changes the subject with a joke. He says, in the same casual tone, "I'd like to slip my tubesteak into your sister. What'll you take in trade?" Cowboy, returning the banter, says "Whaddya got?"

Joker's empathy only goes so far. He might have helped Pyle, and he might be concerned about Pyle's stability. But he's hardly heroic enough to do anything about it. We've seen his willingness to join in the attack on Pyle, and Cowboy's dismissive attitude is enough to make him drop the question of Pyle's stability.


10/ What is Danny Lloyd doing now?
About 5000 boys were interviewed in America over a period of six months for the part of Danny, the young boy in The Shining
. The interviews took place in Chicago, Denver and Cincinnati, and were held by Kubrick's assistant, Leon Vitali (the actor who played the older Lord Bullingdon in Barry Lyndon), and his wife, Kersti. The boy who got the part (coincidentally also called Danny) came from a small town in Illinois. He was about five-and-a-half when he was cast. Kubrick recalled later that he was: "a terrific boy. He had instinctive taste [and] was very smart, very talented and very sensible." (1)

According to the IMDB, Danny Lloyd only had one other film role, that of Young Liddy in Will: The Autobiography of G.Gordon Liddy
filmed in 1982.

Occasionally "where are they now" questions crop up on amk, the fate of Danny Lloyd seems to prick people's curiosity more than most. Here's what is known about him.



Tim Harden wrote:
This is info recently received from a friend of mine, Chappy Taylor, who has conducted research on "The Shinning." He says that Danny Lloyd is a science teacher in Morton, Illinois. He's now 26/27 years of age. A couple of years ago, he was working at a local Walmart in Pekin, Illinois.

Chappy recently contacted Danny's mother, Danny was not home. But his mother did not mind taking a few minutes to answer Chappy's questions.Here's the summary of their very brief conversation.

He was 6 years old at the time of filming The Shining. He was closely guarded by Kubrick. At 13, he was shown a heavily edited version of the film. Danny was under the impression that the film was a drama, not a horror movie. When Wendy becomes angry with Jack in the Colorado Room, right after Danny visited room #237, Shelly is carrying a lifesize dummy. Danny's mother describes each of the following individuals involved with the movie:

Kubrick - a genius.
Nicholson - a nice man, gave Danny a t-shirt that said "Child Star" on it.
Duvall - a very nice lady who invited the Lloyd's to come to her house and use the swimming pool whenever they wanted.

At this time, Danny is 28 years old. He teaches science to 7th, 8th & 9th graders. He did work for a while at a Wal-Mart to help pay his college tuition.

(1) Interview with Michel Ciment available on-line at The Kubrick Site   (back)

11/ Why are Some Kubrick films only available in the "full frame" aspect ratio (1) on VHS video, DVD and Laserdisc?

It seems to have been Kubrick's preference for his films to be shown in the 4:3 or "full frame" aspect ratio, because, according to his long-standing personal assistant Leon Vitali, that was the way he composed them through the camera viewfinder and if it were technically still possible to do so, he would have liked them to be shown full frame in cinemas as well. As Vitali said in a recent interview (2): "The thing about Stanley, he was a photographer that's how he started. He had a still photographer's eye. So when he composed a picture through the camera, he was setting up for what he saw through the camera - the full picture. That was very important to him. It really was. It was an instinct that never ever left him. [...] He did not like 1.85:1. You lose 27% of the picture, Stanley was a purist. This was one of the ways it was manifested."

The decision to release Kubrick's back catalogue as full frame only has been very controversial. The problem for Vitali and other defenders of the Kubrick legacy is that Kubrick never publicly voiced the preference now being attributed to him, so they are always open to the charge of over zealousness in protecting his legacy or even outright betrayal of that legacy. But this seems excessively harsh, Vitali' has been given the Hobson's choice of remaining true to his employers wishes no matter how anachronistic they seem (or may seem in future given the recent advances in home entertainment technology). Like a devoted acolyte, protecting his masters life work his position he will not yield to the clamour of criticism but will remain intractable in his resolve because he is not fighting for himself or defending his personal opinions, but those of the person he devoted half his adult life to serving. Ironically no one will ever know what would have happened if 16:9 widescreen TV sets became commonplace before Kubrick died -- he could might rethought his films one more time and chosen to transfer them to that widescreen ratio, or offered consumers the choice. Who knows? But one thing is certain, as long as his loyal staff and family still have a say in the matter, we will only being seeing his films in the format he wanted them to be shown in before he died.


(1) Definition of Aspect Ratio

The aspect "aspect ratio" of a cinema pictue is the shape of the projected image in terms of proportions of height to width.

1 : 1.85 means a rectangle that is "1" unit tall by "1.85" units wide.

Most films in U.S. theaters are now primarily shown in two 35mm widescreen formats: "flat" 1:1.85 and "scope" 1:2.35.

The 1:1.85 ratio is achieved by the projector gate masking the nearly square 35mm frame on the top & bottom to achieve a wider-looking shape. The unmasked 35mm film is where the term full frame comes from. In the post silent film era the full frame aspect ratio was called "Academy Aperture" and had an aspect ratio of 1:1.37 until the 1950's when the Academy Aperture was cropped to the widescreen ratios, varying from 1:1.66, 1:1.75, to 1:1.85.

Most films are shot "open-matted" with an image filling the 1:1.37 Academy Aperture, but the image is composed for its later cropping in the theaters to the theatrical aspect ratio. Which effectily means that the director must ensure nothing of interest must happen in the top or bottom sixth of the screen, because it will be masked out by the crop when the film is shown in cinemas

"Scope" or anamorphic photography is different and does not involve cropping, but instead has a wide 1:2.35 image squeezed onto the 35mm frame, to be unsqueezed by a projector with an anamorphic lens.


Jump back to question 1

For more information on aspect ratios (including illustrations), see Martin Hart's American Widescreen Museum site.

(2) The Full text of the Leon Vitalitin interview is at


11a/ What aspect ratio were Kubrick's films shown in theatrically?

"2001," was Super Panavision and should be shown in 2.20:1 in a 70mm print. "Spartacus" was Super Technirama, which was 2.35:1 in the 35mm prints, but might have been cropped to 2.20:1 in the 70mm prints.

"Barry Lyndon," was released theatrically in 1.66:1, even in the U.S. since Kubrick insisted on 1.66 hard mattes being sent to the various theatres showing the film (1.85 is the common "flat" widescreen ratio in the U.S.).

"Dr. Strangelove," was released in home video in Kubrick's preferred "multiple aspect ratio" but there is no way it could have been shown that way theatrically since you cannot change projector mattes in mid-screening (although it could be shown in Academy 1.37 and various hard mattes could appear in the image, cropping it to 1.66 at times -- however, Academy 1.37 had pretty much become obsolete as a projection format in most theatres by the 1960's.) I saw it projected to 1.85 at the Cinerama Dome and the framing looked fine; it was a little "tight" so I suspect that 1.66 would look perfect.

"Clockwork Orange," probably should only be shown in 1.66.

"The Shining," Steadicam operator Garrett Brown has claimed that he was asked to frame for 1.85, but Kubrick since then has preferred that the home video versions be full-frame TV (basically Academy 1.37).

I think that "The Shining" and "Full Metal Jacket" would all look fine if projected at 1.66, even though I suspect that the original U.S. releases of both shown in the 1.85 format.


12/ Why wasn't A Clockwork Orange shown in the UK for 27 years?
On March 17th 2000, A Clockwork Orange
went on general release in the UK for the first time. Since 1973 the film had been barred from British screens, and so a whole generation never had the chance to see it, except maybe on a pirated VHS, or in a flea-pit cinema in Paris or Amsterdam. As the ban was never officially announced it took on an air of mystery and conspiracy; some people speculated the British board of film censors were behind it, others talked about the rumours of threats to Kubrick's family. here is the true story of the withdrawal of Kubrick's most notorious masterpiece......

A Clockwork Orange opened in Britain in January 1972 amid a great deal of controversy - so much so that it only ran in one cinema (the Warner West End in London) for over a year. After the fuss seemed to have died down, the film went on general release - whereupon the hate campaign in the British tabloid press really started in earnest.

Effectively, the film was blamed for every single act of violence committed in Britain during 1972 and 1973, regardless of whether the perpetrators were even aware of the film's existence. Finally, Kubrick quietly asked Warner Bros. to withdraw the film - which has not been legally shown in Britain since August 1973.

No one noticed at the time (in that pre-video era, people just assumed it had finished its natural cinema run), and in fact no-one noticed for a further six or seven years - it was only when London's prestigious National Film Theatre ran a Kubrick retrospective and omitted the film (an omission that stuck out like a sore thumb considering that Kubrick was never exactly prolific). Needless to say, since the ban pre-dated the introduction of the domestic video recorder, the film has never had a legitimate video release in Britain and neither has it been shown on television.

There were a couple of high-profile cases regarding the film - Channel Four ran a documentary incorporating several clips, while the Scala Cinema in King's Cross showed an illegally-obtained print of the film. In both cases Warner Bros. attempted to sue - unsuccessfully in the case of Channel Four but successfully in the case of the Scala (though it's not true, despite countless allegations in the British press, that the case led directly to the cinema's closure a couple of months later).

As to why Kubrick asked for the film to be withdrawn, Kubrick would never discussed the matter, not even with journalists like Alexander Walker and Michel Ciment who were good friends. Recently the reason for the ban was revealed by his widow in the Channel 4 documentary, "The Last Movie" shown in the UK. Christiane, sitting in the garden of Childwick Bury told Paul Joyce: "the reason the film was withdrawn was because we got so many threats that the police said we must do something and he withdrew it. [He was] both artistically hurt and also scared. He didn't want to be misunderstood and misinterpreted and you don't like to get death threats for you family.

Paul Joyce
It's difficult to believe looking here at all this exquisite privacy that you thought your lives were in danger.

That's not paranoia, that was on paper many time over [..] it was uncomfortable; difficult for the children, and we wanted to stay in England, so... don't show the film.

Paul Joyce
Was the withdrawal successful in stopping those threats.


Kubrick didn't have any legal power to withdraw the film, Warner Bros. did it at his request. Former CEO, Terry Semel explained, "It wasn't a contractual request, [Kubrick said] "if you want to keep me safe and comfortable, don't do it"."

(1) Christiane Kubrick and Terry Semel quotations taken from The Last Movie: Stanley Kubrick and Eyes Wide Shut
  a film by Paul Joyce, shown on Channel 4 in the UK, 5 Sept 1999.


13/ Are there director's cuts of any Kubrick films?
From the early 1960s, Kubrick has always had complete control over the editing of his films, so they can already be properly called 'Director's cuts.' While it's true that some films were originally shown in longer versions (2001
and The Shining were even edited after they had been shown in cinemas), the decision to edit them was Kubrick's alone.

There are two official versions of The Shining, depending on which territory you happen to be watching it in. The US version has approximately twenty minutes of extra footage than the International version. The reason for this discrepancy it that Kubrick decided to cut the film for its international release.

In 1991 (1) the restored Spartacus was reissued on 70mm (The film was actually made in Super Technirama). (2) This version could be called 'the director's cut' as Kubrick personally approved the restoration. The new version reinstates footage of a bathing scene deleted from its original release. The scene has Tony Curtis' Antoninus, washing Lawrence Olivier's Crassus. (3) It is commonly referred to as the 'oysters and snails scene' after Crassus' chosen analogy to express his indeterminate sexual proclivities. In 1960 when the film was originally released, the censor considered intimations of sexuality in oysters and snails too risquŽ, and suggested changing the points of comparison to "artichokes and truffles." The suggestion was rejected, so the scene ended up being deleted.

RM thanks to MB

(1) The video release followed the cinema presentation a year later in 1992. The restoration was supervised by Robert A. Harris who was also responsible for restoring Lawrence of Arabia
.  (back)

(2) Spartacus
was shot in 35mm Technirama (8-perf horizontal 35mm with an anamorphic lens with a 1.5X squeeze factor) -- the aspect ratio for that format was 2.35 : 1. After 70mm prints were developed for Todd-AO, Technirama movies were often released in 70mm and called "Super Technirama 70", even though the negative was still the same as before. The apect ratio for these prints was 2.20 : 1 unsqueezed. (2.35 was probably the aspect ratio of the 35mm prints.)  (back)

See Martin Hart's American Widescreen Museum site for more information of film formats including images from Spartacus.

Robert Harris recent restoration of "Spartacus" was to a new 65mm interpositive from a combination of the Technirama color negative and the b&w separations that had been made, so it is likely that the current restored film now has a 2.20 : 1 aspect ratio unless Harris slightly matted the top & bottom edges of the 65mm element to keep the negative's 2.35 : 1 aspect ratio.  (back)

DM thanks to AF

(3) When Harris and his team came to restore the 'oysters and snails' scene they found that the original soundtrack had been lost, so they were faced with re-creating it. Tony Curtis agreed to reprise his role as Antoninus, but Lawrence Olivier had died so Harris sought the opinion of Joan Plowright, Olivier's widow, as to who was the best impersonator of her late husband. She suggested Anthony Hopkins who agreed to provided the voice for Crassus. Robert Harris posted some additional information to AMK regarding the restoration. Kubrick's involvement in the project came about because of David Lean. Harris explains: "It was at David's behest that Stanley discussed and quickly agreed to come on board the "Spartacus" reconstruction/ restoration. David felt it was a terrific idea. All concerned realized that it could not be done successfully without his continuous input, suggestions and cooperation, inclusive of directing Tony Hopkins in his voice replacement of Olivier -- probably the singular situation in film history in which an actor was directed via fax. "


"The Two Messages of 'Spartacus'," by Janet Maslin available to read online at the New York Times Kubrick archive.

The problems of getting the censor to accept oysters and snails is gone into in some detail in Kirk Douglas' autobiography - The Ragman's Son.

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information on Stanley Kubrick
brief biography

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Section of FAQ dealing specifically with The Shining

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the films
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