Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie's plot.
Of all of Stephen King's novels, The Stand is the one most of his readers ask about or comment on, and until 1994, when ABC commissioned a miniseries based on this sprawling opus, one question always was "Will there be a movie based on this one?" (King replied in the foreword to the "uncut and unabridged" edition that he thought there might be...)
Unlike most of King's novels, the sheer scope of the novel guaranteed that The Stand would have to be a miniseries made for TV. To have compressed the 1,000-plus pages into a three-hour movie would have been impossible without deleting many characters and situations, a very risky proposition since The Stand is to King's legions of fans what The Lord of the Rings is to Tolkien's readers. And to have hired someone else to adapt it from book to teleplay would have been a risky proposition, so ABC asked King to take the writing reins.
Happily, the 1994 "Stephen King's The Stand" turned out to be a marvelous miniseries, and while it did not break any Nielsen ratings as "Alex Haley's Roots" did in 1977, it did fairly well and earned many good reviews.
The Artisan Home Entertainment Special Edition DVD of "Stephen King's The Stand" presents the complete miniseries on two DVDs, with The Plague and The Dreams on Disc One and The Betrayal and The Stand on Disc Two. Stripped of commercials and station identification/local news promos, the eight-hour running time is pared down to 366 minutes.
Parts One and Two (The Plague, The Dreams) deal with the accidental release of a super-deadly strain of the flu from a secret military laboratory known as Project Blue. Although the base's security attempts to lock down the facility before the virus escapes, one guard and panics attempts to flee, unwittingly infecting his wife and daughter and beginning a chain reaction that will lead to the deaths of millions. Even so, a handful of people survive, and as they try to cope with the disaster and move on, they are guided by their dreams to join either the evil Randall Flagg or the good 106-year-old Mother Abigail. While Flagg sets up his police-state in Sin City itself, Las Vegas, the good guys (and gals) set up the Boulder Free Zone in Colorado...but this is only the setup for the darker conflict to come.
Parts Three and Four (The Betrayal, The Stand) describe the apocalyptic conflict between good and evil as Flagg's people race to acquire weapons of mass destruction to assure their demonic master's victory over the power of the Light side represented by the Boulder Free Zone. Flagg, who was seen only in a few brief scenes in the first half, gets more airtime as the story finally focuses on the final conflict. It's an old storytelling technique but it works well here, and Jamey Sheridan plays the evil demon with a mixture of charm and menace.
Despite the leeway allowed by the miniseries format and unusually open-mindedness from ABC's Standards and Practices division, the teleplay more closely follows the 1978 version rather the 1991 edition, particularly in the ending. King has to compress some parts here, combine some characters there to make the miniseries flow seamlessly and not go over budget. Even so, "The Stand" captures the spirit of the novel brilliantly.
Credit is also due to director Mick Garris, who not only got great performances from such actors as Gary Sinise, Molly Ringwald, Jamey Sheridan, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Ray Walston and Rob Lowe, but also kept the huge storyline from dragging or getting too heavy-handed on the gross-out scale.
This is an entry for sleeper54's Lean-n-Mean III Write Off.
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Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Fit for Friday Evening
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older