The Shining: The Beetle

The VW Beetle,
the iconic automobile makes its appearance in both the mini series and Stanley Kubrick’s film.  We take a look how each are depicted in both the Stephen King’s The Shining TV mini-series and Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.

Unlike the novel and mini series, Kubrick’s Beetle is yellow.  It is introduced navigating a long and winding road almost alone.  There is nothing spectacular about the Beetle other than the engine makes no sound.  The  recognizable noise of its engine is omitted.  Either by sound design (to not step on dialog or soundtrack) or is it a clue that the vehicle is powered by the Shining?  The “Donner” conversation, something shared with the mini series, is clever foreshadowing about families trapped by snow for too long.  While we may think about hunger and cannibalism, the narrative is of madness and murder.  Kubrick’s approach makes the conversation flippant, a clue on the Torrance’s oblivious fate await them.  The mini-series makes a joke out of it and lacks a narrative punch.

The yellow Beetle makes a cameo on The Overlook lot with its asymmetrical twin.

Like the novel, the mini series’ Beetle is red.  It makes an emotionally flat entrance as Jack returns from his interview.  However, we see through Danny’s eyes.  The Beetle returns home with psychic “residue” and Danny sees a bloody mallet.  While Kubrick’s uses music to tie the vehicle with ominous music, the mini series symbolizes the Beetle as a hearse taking the dead to burial.  It cleverly (or coincidentally) poses Danny trapped inside on their trip to the hotel.  Unlike the film, the Beetle is not alone on the road.  It showcases the struggles the car has with the engine and fuel pump.  In Kubrick’s terms, the car shows personality and resists going to The Overlook.

Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining

Stephen King’s The Shining TV mini-series

A red VW Beetle can be seen in Kubrick’s film. It is crushed underneath a tractor trailer in Colorado.


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