In the aftermath of a global flu pandemic called Captain Trips, the forces of good and evil square off to battle for the future of mankind. Those for good are called to follow Mother Abigail (Ruby Dee) a 106 year old blind woman in Nebraska and Colorado. Those on the other side follow “the Walkin’ Dude” Randall Flagg (Jamie Sheridan) to Las Vegas. Neither side is perfect, with washed up rockstar Larry Underwood (Adam Storke), deaf mute Nick (Rob Lowe), aging arthritic Glenn (Ray Walston) simple Tom Cullen (Bill Fagerbakke) and witness to the breakout of the virus Stu (Gary Sinise) on Abigail’s side and pyro Trashcan Man (Matt Frewer), psychopath Lloyd (Miguel Ferrar) and sexpot Nadine (Laura San Giacomo) on Flagg’s. With the players assembled on the chessboard, what will be the result of the final stand?
The Production: 4/5
It’s a tough thing to have to turn the greatest book ever written (according to me, anyway) into a TV miniseries, and we’re expecting a new version out in 2020, with multiple failed attempts in between. The thing that King is supremely adept at is breaking characters down to their core essence, and in The Stand he did that with humanity itself, picking out a set of archetypes to represent us, good and bad. It makes for a compelling story, but translating it without seeming hokey has proved challenging. This first version, released in 1994, was fairly faithful to the book, for good and bad. It came at least as close as mid 90s TV effects and standards & practices would allow. We’re a lot further down the road into much more successful book translations across Cable TV and movies today, so fingers crossed.
With an all star cast assembled and King himself writing the teleplay and producing, it seemed like a can’t lose proposition. What we saw didn’t exactly match the promise, but was accepted as a decent but not great miniseries. I’s been 30 years since I watched the broadcast premiere on a 25″ standard def interlaced TV, but I remember being kind of meh over the whole thing, despite it being hyped up beyond belief. Watching again today I think I can appreciate it more, and feel that it captures the spirit of the book better than I remember.
What seems to hold it all back is the blandness, the banality of the assembled armies. The forces of good just seem generically positive while those on Flagg’s side seem to be slotted into ridiculous baaadness. The thing I found most disappointing was that for all the talk of man being in charge of his own destiny, in the end the ultimate Deus seems to pull off a major ex machina on our behalf. At least the whole thing goes off with a bang =)
3D Rating: NA
What must have looked pretty damn good on broadcast TV in 1994 looks like a total mess in the age of 4k. Worse, this Bluray boasts on its cover that it has been ‘Brilliantly restored’, which seems to add insult to injury. Per our friends at HDDN the film was shot on 16mm and not 35, and it shows. This Bluray is a mass of blocks caused by the low res original scanned at 1080p, and shown uprezzed on a 4k OLED it looked even worse to me. The softness of hair and faces is particularly distracting, and the noise in dark scenes compounds this badly.
The restoration seems to be mostly a dirt and scratch pass, and I’ll give credit for that, it looks cleaned up nicely. Perhaps some of the effects have been uprezzed a bit too, I noted added detail in the gas field explosion but not much about the finale seemed to have been touched.
Overall, I wouldn’t get too excited to see any more detail than the DVDs before it have had.
Stereo with some effects reaching into the rears. The original score is OK I guess, but I couldn’t tell you any specific tracks that stood out.
Special Features: 2/5
A feature length audio commentary with King and a Making of featurette (low res standard def and 5:29 long) are all you’ll find here. Both available on previous releases.
Ultimately the addition of somewhat overblown restorative efforts don’t quite add up to much here, other than fitting it all onto a single disk. If anything, seeing this again has given me hope that a well produced version with effects that can bring the horror up a notch await in 2020. Until then we’ll always have the 1000 page book to revisit if we want to experience everything that King wanted us to in this greatest showdown possible.