From The Vault: The Stand
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.