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From The Vault: The Stand

September 12, 2010

Remember back in the day when the major networks had miniseries? There was a time in the 90s that it seemed like most of them were based on Stephen King novels, including a remake of The Shining.

My favorite was The Stand, which I found incredibly boring when I was a wee lass. Then I read the book and decided to rewatch the movie, and found it quite enjoyable. Not great, but fun to watch on a Sunday afternoon when I’ve got 6 hours to spare.

Broadly, The Stand tells the story of the end of the world, caused by a mutated flu virus. On a “deeper” level, it’s about a few (ok, more than a few) people who band together, some for good, some for evil, and how they weather the events and reform society. That’s why I find it interesting. I mean, I love a good apocalypse/end of the world story as much as the next girl, but The Stand focuses on the people, and what they do and why. It’s an incredibly large character study on the human race, really. It’s also a pretty interesting study on faith and the concepts of good and evil.

The miniseries came out in 1994, directed by Mick Garris and adapted by Stephen King. The movie follows the plot of the book closely (it’s really a good adaptation), but removes some characters and changes some things around.

The cast list for this TV movie still impresses me. Gary Sinise, Molly Ringwald, Rob Lowe, Jamey Sheridan, Laura San Giacomo, Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis, Miguel Ferrer(hey, he was the subject of Snarky’s Machine’s most recent “Who Is That Actor” post!), Shawnee Smith, Ray Walston, Corin Nemec, Matt Frewer, Adam Storke and Bill Fagerbakke make up the “main” cast. The rest is filled in by folks such as: Ed Harris, Kathy Bates, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Joe-Bob Briggs, John Landis, Sam Raimi, Max Wright, and (of course) Stephen King.

Through the course of the movie, you get to know the characters pre-“Captain Trips,” then see how they come together and which way they are instinctively drawn: towards Mother Abagail in Colorado (well, first in Nebraska, then Denver) or Randall Flagg, aka The Dark Man, in Las Vegas (the city of sin…. I see what you did there, Mr. King!). You develop a sense of which way they’re going based on visions and dreams they have; some see a kindly old Black woman and cornfields while others see crows and a be-mulleted man in a denim suit and cowboy boots (mullet+denim+boots=evil, children. Keep this in mind).

Also of interest is the focus on the government (read: military) and how they seek to suppress any information about the “so-called Superflu.” They quarantine cities, kill journalists, lie to the American people. All in a days work. And they all get what’s coming to ’em.

As with any Stephen King work, there are some epic fails, most notably the trope of the mystical negro with Mother Abagail. But she’s at least a kick-ass representation of the trope, for what that’s worth.

The music was done by WG Snuffy Walden, who scored TV shows like thritysomething, The Wonder Years, Roseanne, My So-Called Life, Felicity, and Friday Night Lights. The score is mostly guitar based blues-style music, very desolate sounding. There are a few scenes set around licensed songs, notably the introduction to the movie set to “Don’t Fear (The Reaper)” by Blue Oyster Cult and a short scene I find quite moving that’s set to “Hey Now (Don’t Dream It’s Over)” by Crowded House.

Favorite Performance: There are several good ones. Jamey Sheridan is pretty creepy as Flagg (he can do the whole charming psychopath thing well), and Gary Sinise is fantastic (as always…and that’s not just my love of Southern men in white shirts talking, I promise). But I think I enjoy Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as The Monster-Shouter the most, if only because it’s such a ridiculous character.

Favorite Line: It’s a tie between the previously mentioned “Country don’t mean dumb!” or an exchange between Nick (Rob Lowe) and Mother Abagail:

Nick: I don’t believe in God.

Mother A: God bless you, Nick! But it don’t matter; He believes in you.

Favorite “Oh, hey! That guy!”: Either Max Wright (aka the dad from ALF) as Dr. Denninger or Mike Lookinland (aka Bobby Brady) as one of the lookouts at the end of the movie. Also, the horror-fan in me squeed when I realized that Sam Raimi is in the movie.

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13 Comments leave one →
  1. September 12, 2010 4:51 pm

    What a fabulous cast! This is the kind of review I love to read… no spoilers, but enough background info to help me decide whether or not to give this series a try. I’m very intrigued!

  2. evmaroon permalink
    September 12, 2010 5:02 pm

    I stopped reading The Stand almost precisely where I stopped watching the mini-series, because the good vs. evil thing just didn’t work for me at some point. But I loved watching the world collapse from the superflu. And I’ve had an affection for Gary Sinise ever since. I only wish he weren’t spending his quality time on that wreck of a CSI series.
    Great review!

  3. September 12, 2010 5:25 pm

    Jamey Sheridan and, Xena, help me, Rob Lowe were the best things about this miniseries. I’d be interested to revisit it to see if it still holds up as decent fare from a network. It’s probably one of the last “event” program worth watching besides Brave New World that the networks put on the air.

    Great analysis and thanks for the trip down miniseries memory lane!

  4. September 12, 2010 6:45 pm

    Redlami: I’m not a fan of spoiler-heavy reviews myself, so I try to be kind. Ain’t the cast amazing? It’s a veritable bevy of “HEY! That guy!”

    Ev: I think both the book and the movie get a bit heavy-handed with the good v. evil stuff. I think, for me, I can enjoy the exploration into faith, but it’s broken down poorly and a little too…neatly. Captain Trips is one badass disease, though! And I enjoy the destruction section of the novel when he describes the deaths of other people who survived the plague. Also, agreed on Sinise and CSI.

    Snarky: I always forget how good Jamey Sheridan is in this movie. As far as how it’s held up… well, I’m actually rewatching it today, and it’s not too shabby. I mean, the fashion is incredibly early-mid 90s (I’m looking at you, Molly Ringwald’s dresses! But I totally like her look, because it’s very Lisa Loeb-ish), and you can tell that it was filmed on video, but otherwise it’s not too bad. What’s weirding me out the most is how little some of these actors have aged (like Sinise, Lowe, and Sheridan).

  5. September 12, 2010 7:14 pm

    Didn’t Patrick Stewart do a western miniseries a few years ago?

  6. September 12, 2010 7:24 pm

    I think TNT picked up on the miniseries thing after the networks stopped with them.

  7. September 12, 2010 7:56 pm

    Snarky: I always forget how good Jamey Sheridan is in this movie. As far as how it’s held up… well, I’m actually rewatching it today, and it’s not too shabby. I mean, the fashion is incredibly early-mid 90s (I’m looking at you, Molly Ringwald’s dresses! But I totally like her look, because it’s very Lisa Loeb-ish), and you can tell that it was filmed on video, but otherwise it’s not too bad. What’s weirding me out the most is how little some of these actors have aged (like Sinise, Lowe, and Sheridan).

    The clothing is always what trips things up. Mostly because women’s fashion/hair cycles so much faster than men’s ever does. It’s weird when I watch a movie without many females sometimes – even if it’s really old – I don’t notice the period details because, well bad combovers and ill fitting suits on white guys just never go out of style.

  8. September 12, 2010 9:14 pm

    Ok, I take it back; it holds up ok until the end, when you get some pretty hefty computer effects. Also, they do a friggin’ Oscar montage for the people they lost, which I think I always forget about because it’s just.so.cheesy.

    well bad combovers and ill fitting suits on white guys just never go out of style.
    I literally spit Diet Coke onto my computer when I read that. So, so true.

  9. September 12, 2010 9:35 pm

    My mother likes to tell the story of how she read the Stand twice and got sick to her stomach both times (psychosomatic Captain Trips). She also watches the entire miniseries whenever it’s aired. I think it was because of her that one of the first “adult” books I read was It.

  10. evmaroon permalink
    September 12, 2010 9:42 pm

    Me too, eieioj. OMG Snarky is so right on that.

  11. September 15, 2010 10:35 am

    With that cast and the source material, “The Stand” definitely was worth a view, but I somehow don’t remember much about it! Then again, I’m not that fond of Stephen King as a rule. My favorite of his was “Eyes of the Dragon” just to give you a sense about it.

    Now that flu season is almost back, maybe it’s time to view this one again!

  12. September 15, 2010 10:41 am

    @Tobey: my mom had a similar reaction when she read The Stand! Also, she wouldn’t let me read It until I was 16 (and I didn’t come from a family that censored anything, so I was reading “adult” books when I was, like, 9) because it scared her so much. The only other thing my mom restricted me from until I was “old enough” was the movie Candyman, because it scared her and my dad to no end when they watched it.

    @NYCPenpusher: “Eyes of the Dragon” is in my Top 5 Stephen King books! And it’s one that practically no one has read… but I like reading it after I read The Stand, because Flagg’s the villain in both.

  13. September 15, 2010 12:22 pm

    @eieioj: Luckily(?), my parents didn’t mind us watching horror movies of all kinds. I am ashamed to say my dad took me to several R-rated movies when I was but a wee one.

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