Happy Birthday Stanley Kubrick: Taking a Look at One of Hollywood’s Most Creative Outsiders

by Clayton Edwards

Stanley Kubrick’s name appearing on a film isn’t just a credit. It’s a stamp of quality. He was one of the most celebrated filmmakers of the twentieth century. Kubrick didn’t churn out summer blockbusters that let the audience switch their brains off and munch popcorn. He created art. There were few boundaries he wouldn’t cross to make his vision come to life on the silver screen. He was an artist, an outsider, and today he would have been 93 years old.

Stanley Kubric made ten feature films before he died in his sleep in 1999 at the age of 70. Every one of those films is a masterpiece. However, we won’t be getting into all of them. We’re going to look at three of the films that show how Kubrick stepped outside the box, stuck to his guns, and created films that stand the test of time.

‘The Shining’ (1980) Kubrick VS King

Stanley Kubrick’s films fell into several genres. One of his final films just happens to be a horror classic. Every October, outlets around the internet post lists of the best horror movies of all time. Nine out of ten of those lists will include The Shining. Many of them put that film at the top of the list.

The Shining is based on the Stephen King novel of the same name. However, Stanely Kubrick’s film deviates in many large ways from the novel. This is common for a film adaptation of a novel. There is always some deviation, especially when adapting King’s work. However, this is the only adaptation of his work that King truly hated. He called it maddening and disappointing. Kubrick was unbothered. He had a vision and stuck to it.

Stanley Kubrick was a perfectionist on the set. In fact, Shelley Duval once told People that he wouldn’t print anything before the 35th take. So, her disheveled appearance in the film isn’t due to her stellar acting. The production of the film almost broke her. If Kubrick had to drive one of his actors to the brink of a mental breakdown to get the performance he wanted, it was worth it.

‘A Clockwork Orange’ (1971) – Stanely Kubrick Puts Malcolm McDowell Through Hell

Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 film A Clockwork Orange is a classic. At the same time, it might be Kubrick’s most disturbing film. The scenes of “ultraviolence” tend to make audiences squirm. Kubrick put the film’s star through absolute hell to get the shots he wanted. Let’s look at two scenes.

The first is the iconic scene that features McDowell in a straitjacket with clamps holding his eyes open. Those weren’t clever prosthetics. They actually used metal clamps on McDowell’s eyelids. Luckily, the doctor featured in the scene was a real physician. He was actually applying anesthetic to McDowell’s eyes to keep the extreme pain at bay. Keep in mind that Kubrick’ had a habit of shooting single scenes dozens of times.

Then, there is the scene in which McDowell’s character is nearly drowned in a tub of brown stagnant water. It was real. However, there was a hidden oxygen tank that allowed the star to breathe underwater. That tank didn’t take away from the fact that they shot the scene in the middle of the bitterly cold English winter. Likewise, it didn’t make the beef extract in the water smell any better.

‘2001: A Space Oddessy’ (1968) Flop Turned Classic

Stanley Kubrick didn’t just direct 2001: A Space Odyssey. He also co-wrote the script and worked on the special effects. Today, the film is considered a benchmark of the science fiction genre. Few films even come close to it in quality or impact. However, its initial public screening was a disaster. Critics loved it. Audiences, however, walked out. That night, it looked like Kubrick had wasted years of hard work and studio money.

It didn’t take long for critics and other media outlets of the day to latch on the movie and heap praise upon it, though. In the end, audiences filed back into theaters to witness the sci-fi spectacle. It played in theaters for four years, according to Biography.

To Sum It Up…

Stanley Kubrick wasn’t just a filmmaker. He was an artist in the truest sense of the word. Few things mattered as much to him as bringing his visions to life. As a result, his relatively small filmography is made up of films that are visually striking, thought-provoking, and most importantly, enduring. Today, take a page from Kubrick’s book. Think outside the box, follow your passion, push boundaries. Be an Outsider.