The Stanley / by J.C. Hutchins

My ladyfriend and I visited the Stanley Hotel recently, the historic Colorado resort that inspired Stephen King to write The Shining all those decades ago. It was a lovely place. In two wonderfully-conflicting stories from two different Stanley tour guides, King's one-night stay in the hotel was retold, as were the creepy experiences he had while roaming its halls.

King famously hated Stanley Kubrick's film adaptation of The Shining. His criticisms aren't unfair: Jack Torrence's descent into madness and murder is a slow, insidious burn in the book. His conflict about his alcoholism is also more pronounced, intense and sympathetic. His wife Wendy is sharper and more empowered in the novel, too. And the ending is different. The victim of many a lousy film adaptation, King has said, "Books and movies are like apples and oranges. They're both deeelicious, but taste completely different." Nevertheless, he loathed Kubrick's take on The Shining.

Our tour guides insisted that, back in the day, King wanted Kubrick to film The Shining at the Stanley Hotel—the very site that inspired his story. Kubrick pointed out that the hotel's location wasn't especially remote in real life, and certainly didn't appear remote in wide shots. Further, its (at the time) yellow interior decoration made the place look like "a birthday cake." It just wasn't scary enough.

Instead, Kubrick shot exteriors of the Timberline Lodge hotel in Oregon, and interiors on a soundstage.

Eventually, the film rights reverted to King. Determined to see a more faithful adaption happen, he personally wrote the teleplay for a three-part TV miniseries. He also exercised his influence as creator and Executive Producer to have the production film on location at the Stanley Hotel. Exteriors and interiors, the works. The story had finally come home—and that's a pretty cool thing, because it so rarely happens.

Upon returning from our trip to the Stanley, we rented the 1997 The Shining miniseries. We finished watching it last night. It was fun to see the hotel on-screen. We even got to see our very room's windows in exterior shots. Once the character dives into full-bore crazy, actor Steven Weber (from Wings) does a pretty great job of playing an unhinged Jack Torrence.


Filmmaking is a difficult business, fraught with challenges the audience never knows about, or sees. I don't know if any of those challenges plagued the miniseries' production, but there's lots of problematic stuff in the six-hour experience. Ultimately, it's a too-long, could've-been-better-written, flatly-directed, low-budget snoozer. And the hotel didn't look scary. Or especially remote.

Kubrick had been right. Of course Kubrick had been right. And his is a way better movie.

But boy, the Stanley sure is a pretty—and pretty inspirational—place to stay.