THE STAND (1994) / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: MICK GARRIS / SCREENPLAY: STEPHEN KING / STARRING: GARY SINISE, MOLLY RINGWALD, JAMEY SHERIDAN, ROB LOWE / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
This mammoth six-hour TV version of King’s mammoth 1000+ page epic first aired in 1994. Adapted by King himself - he even has a cameo role - and directed by King regular Mick Garris (who also made the TV version of The Shining and an adaptation of Bag of Bones), it’s a faithful stab at wrestling a complex narrative into a TV miniseries. It got good reviews, good viewing figures and wont few awards. Now released on Blu-ray and about to be made into a new 10-part TV series, how does The Stand stand up today?
When a government research facility has a security breach, 95% of the world’s population dies of a flu epidemic called Captain Trips. Disparate survivors start to have vivid dreams - some of an old black woman who seems to be a force for good, others of a dark man, who seems to be her opposite. As the two tribes gather, The Stand becomes a battle of good versus evil played with God and the Devil pulling the strings…
In some ways, some The Stand’s strengths - it’s reliance on character and faithfulness to the novel - are sometimes its weaknesses. Much time is spent in the first two episodes building up the characters so that we spend the final episodes caring about their fate. In the novel, King really takes his time to get inside them, they are vivid people who, over the space of hundreds of pages, become part of your life. In particular, a long journey on foot towards an uncertain fate for four beloved characters is a tension mounting, gripping journey for readers. On film, you just want them to get on with it…
Still, the performances are pretty good and sometimes very good, with Molly Ringwald, Rob Lowe, and Gary Sinise all doing great work. Sadly, Jamey Sheridan doesn’t get to the evil of King’s Randall Flagg, the dark man who weaves through so much of the author’s fiction and not even Buffy-style ‘90s morphs into a demon make him feel that threatening.
There are some great set pieces too, but director Garris never really manages to create a filmic feel, its TV roots giving it a confinement that hopefully the new version won’t suffer from.
The Blu-ray clean up looks great though and there’s a series of fun commentaries from King himself - fascinating about the origins of the story - Garris, plus several of the stars. Rob Lowe comes across as a delight. These don’t appear to be new though - at one point Garris refers to filming five years ago. In the publicity blurb, there’s mention of a ‘full-length behind the scenes featurette’ on the making of. Exactly what a full-length featurette is anybody’s business, but the five minute one included here (also not new) reveals very little.