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  • [suspenseful music]

  • [Wendy screaming]

  • - [Anthony] This is one of

  • the most memorable scenes in movie history.

  • It's a moment of anguish combined

  • with a moment of deranged glee.

  • It's disturbing in the extreme.

  • - Here's Johnny!

  • [screaming]

  • - This moment from Stanley Kubrick's

  • The Shining, became indelible

  • in the minds of moviegoers the world over.

  • So much so that it's been imitated,

  • parodied, and referenced over and over again,

  • for more than four decades.

  • - [All] Here's Johnny!

  • [screaming]

  • - But what became of this object,

  • the ax Jack Nicholson swings,

  • as he lurches through the Overlook Hotel?

  • For decades, no one knew its whereabouts.

  • Then last year,

  • one of the axes resurfaced,

  • and it sold for more than $200,000,

  • at an auction in London.

  • While The Shining has been analyzed to death,

  • the story of the ax is one

  • that almost no one knows.

  • It's as important an object

  • as the Maltese Falcon,

  • or the ruby slippers, from The Wizard of Oz.

  • It's a relic from an iconic movie.

  • So how could it have vanished,

  • virtually forgotten, for so long?

  • [television buzzing]

  • To answer this question, we need some context.

  • What is it about this ordinary,

  • off the shelf fire ax, that created

  • such a lasting impression

  • in moviegovers around the world?

  • - [Mike] I think it is absolutely one

  • of the most iconic props you're gonna find

  • in a horror movie.

  • - This is Mike Flanagan,

  • the director who brought the ax

  • back to the big screen,

  • in the sequel to The Shining, "Doctor Sleep",

  • which was released in 2019.

  • - [Mike] The thing about the ax

  • in The Shining, is that it becomes tethered,

  • at a certain point to the camera itself.

  • When he begins to swing it,

  • Kubrick lets the ax drive the camera.

  • It is whip panning left and right with the blade.

  • The viewer is essentially turned

  • into the head of the ax itself,

  • and we collectively are thrown against the door.

  • It's an incredibly striking sequence.

  • And one of the most fascinating ways

  • I've ever seen of someone filming a weapon.

  • - The way Kubrick shot it

  • leaves the viewer feeling uneasy,

  • like they're the ones swinging the ax,

  • which is maybe one of the things

  • that makes it so scary, and so memorable.

  • [screaming]

  • Before we go any further,

  • we have to remember two things.

  • One, The Shining itself

  • was dismissed at the time.

  • When it debuted in 1980,

  • the reviews were blistering.

  • Some, like Variety's,

  • [chuckling] were downright insulting.

  • It was nominated for zero Oscars,

  • but it was a contender for Best Director

  • at the Razzies.

  • Even Stephen King famously despised

  • this adaptation of his book,

  • and he remains one of the few today

  • to still hold that grudge.

  • Over time, The Shining's esteem evolved.

  • It's unsettling rhythms were ahead of its time,

  • but in it's actual time,

  • it was dismissed as a misfire by a master.

  • So a prop from such a film

  • would not have been regarded as anything special

  • when the film debuted.

  • The other thing to remember, it's just an ax.

  • And back before there was a thriving market

  • for movie props,

  • the weapon Jack Nicholson used,

  • to menace both his family

  • and the viewers watching curled up in their seats,

  • was just another tool.

  • - There was really no value attributed

  • to these artifacts whatsoever.

  • It was a disposable part of the production process.

  • - This is Stephen Lane, CEO of Prop Store,

  • one of the largest vendors

  • of rare film and TV memorabilia.

  • Remember the guy from earlier, holding the ax?

  • That's him, but we'll get back to that.

  • - And during that period,

  • at the end of production,

  • the fate of the props and costumes

  • would have a few different paths.

  • They'd have an end of production sale,

  • some of the material may go back

  • to a rental property,

  • and then anything that was really left over,

  • maybe a little bit of it get held onto

  • by producers or directors or talent,

  • the rest of it

  • would just be disposed of, thrown away.

  • - The props for The Shining were no different.

  • I reached out to Jan Harlan,

  • The Shining's executive producer,

  • and Stanley Kubrick's brother-in-law.

  • And he had this to say about the ax.

  • The ax was, as you say, an everyday object,

  • one expects to find among the tools

  • in this sort of hotel.

  • We bought several to have spares

  • for this key prop.

  • I used to have one in my house

  • for many years too, after the filming.

  • My wife threw it out.

  • Straight to the landfill,

  • never to be seen again.

  • - You know, the amount of people

  • I've spoken to who, for example, from Star Wars,

  • who took stormtrooper helmets home,

  • they were given stormtrooper helmets,

  • and their kids just wanted to play with them,

  • and they played with them,

  • and played with them,

  • or stormed through the blasters,

  • and they just smashed them all up,

  • and then they threw them away at the end of it.

  • You know, the last stormtrooper helmet that we sold,

  • sold for nearly a quarter of a million dollars.

  • - So back in 1979, when The Shining wrapped,

  • they did what many productions

  • at the time would do,

  • and had an end of production sale

  • for the crew, kinda like a garage sale.

  • And the ax in question,

  • the one that went for over $200,000 in 2019,

  • it was sold to a construction worker

  • for just about £5.

  • - This particular gentleman bought the fire ax

  • for £5, to take it home as a wood chopping ax.

  • So he bought it

  • for fully practical purposes, nothing else.

  • - And the ax would remain in his possession,

  • sitting in his shed for the next 26 years.

  • Now, when we're talking about this ax,

  • it's important to remember

  • that there wasn't just one of these on set.

  • Prop departments have a saying, which goes,

  • "If you have one, you have none",

  • because on a production of that scale,

  • there will always be multiples of the same item,

  • in case something goes wrong.

  • - So there were many axes constructed

  • for the production.

  • There would have been hero versions.

  • She would have had stunt rubber versions,

  • maybe biscuit foam, lightweight versions,

  • special effects versions,

  • with plates connected to them,

  • to strap onto a torso, once they've been impaled,

  • and maybe bloodletting versions as well,

  • so there would have been numerous versions

  • that would have been created for the film.

  • - What we're interested in,

  • and what most collectors care about

  • is the hero ax.

  • The one that was actually intended

  • to be used in scenes with Nicholson

  • breaking down the door.

  • There are probably a few of these out there,

  • but not many.

  • We know there would have been a number obtained

  • for the production, and we know at least one

  • was owned by Jan Harlan

  • whose wife tossed it away.

  • While one went to the construction worker

  • who bought it for £5, to chop wood in 1979.

  • So the question is, what happened next?

  • - Well finding so much of these treasures

  • used to be through networking.

  • So it was all about meeting people,

  • crew members who worked in the film industry,

  • either current or retired,

  • and then finding out who they knew,

  • and what they've heard might be

  • in somebody's private collection.

  • And I was chatting with a friend of mine

  • who was a plasterer at Pinewood Studios.

  • And he phoned me up and he said,

  • "Yeah, my friend's brought this ax in,

  • "from The Shining, do you wanna come down and see

  • "Pinewood, and have a look at it?"

  • And I was just like, "Yep, I'm coming right now."

  • I was literally boom,

  • straight out of the door on the way to the studios.

  • And met with this lovely gentleman

  • who worked extensively throughout the entire production

  • of The Shining.

  • And then he pulled out this ax,

  • out of the back of his back of his van.

  • And there it was, it was a hero Shining ax,

  • a full metal hero construction head,

  • with the wooden handle to it as well.

  • You know, we had a long discussion

  • about what it really was,

  • what its inherent value was now,

  • as a piece of memorabilia,

  • as a piece of movie history.

  • And I explained to him that I'd be willing

  • to pay thousands of pounds for it,

  • which knocked him off his socks.

  • And we managed to conclude a deal

  • that afternoon in Pinewood car park.

  • - Do you recall what year it was

  • that it came into your possession,

  • that it ceased being stored

  • in the corner of a shed,

  • and started being stored in museum conditions?

  • - [Stephen] Yeah, I bought the ax back in 2005,

  • 15 years, loved every moment of it.

  • - Why did you decide it was time

  • to put it up for sale?

  • - We're all only temporary custodians

  • of any of these artifacts.

  • You know, I'm not gonna be buried with it.

  • I think it's just as a period of recognition

  • of, "Okay, I've had my time with this",

  • and it was just time for it to find a new home.

  • - [Anthony] So in September 2019,

  • the ax goes up for auction in London.

  • - I saw a background video

  • from the prop store exhibit at Comic-Con,

  • and I noticed an ax.

  • And my first thing was like,

  • "Nah, that can be the ax from The Shining."

  • - Well, the estimated price on the ax

  • for auction day, was 40 to £60,000.

  • And I had really no indication

  • of which direction it might go from there.

  • - Lot number 619, The Shining here.

  • The Shining, and we are onto here's Johnny!

  • - I knew it was gonna be the only piece

  • I wanted to go after.

  • - And then obviously in an auction