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Stephen King's The Stand - Blu-ray Review

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The Stand

M-O-O-N. That spells review.

With a new series based on the doorstop-sized novel in the works, it seemed inevitable that the makers of the original mini-series would, if you’ll forgive my cynical turn of phrase, cash-in on a new wave of interest in King’s behemoth and beloved epic. But is this rerelease just a cash-in?

"It's got heart, it’s got King’s sense of humor (and it should, King wrote the screenplay) and his insightful commentary, both surreal and literal"


 

One of my oft criticisms of any Stephen King adaptation on network TV has always been the limitations of budget and of censorship—both of which limit what can be done to truly bring the master of horror’s to screen without compromise. But it’s an unimaginative and boring gripe that doesn’t take anything away from the fact that some of these adaptations have worked and are beloved.

In The Stand the world is set upon by a deadly flu virus (Captain Trips). It begins with a less than professional security guard escaping when a germ warfare bug gets out of the military installation he’s supposed be guarding. Driving halfway across the country with his infected family in tow, it doesn’t take long for the disease to wipe out 99% of the population. But there are those who miraculously seem unaffected, and they all start having surreal dreams about a kindly old lady in Nebraska and a Dark shadowing figure she warns them about. The two other worldly figures turn out to be more than just dreams, and become beacons for those amongst the survivors who choose the light or the dark. As the sides form up, the inevitable conflict and showdown of who will survive comes to the fore.

Mick Garris, no stranger to the horror genre, was given the reigns to bring the massive story to life over four parts. With the amount of characters and events that had to be included to pull this off, even four parts was tall order. There is a reason The Stand has been constantly put on and taken off the feature film slate: it’s near impossible to do it justice. There just isn’t the time.

Garris assembled a massive cast from eclectic sources. Movie stars, past, present and future, TV and stage actors, and fresh talents galore. Most of them do a fine job bringing King’s equally varied characters to life. With one significant exception: Molly Ringwald, who I adored growing up in the 80s. Her portrayal of Frannie insights a usually gentle writer to want to punch her in the face, such is the nails on chalkboard emoting she dispenses in every-single-ear bleeding-scene she’s in. Gary Sinese is a great Stu Redmand, and the man in black, Randall Flagg, the demonic antagonist of the piece, is played with great aplomb by mullet sported, denim wearing Jamey Sheriden. There are far too many wonderful actors who embody the likes of Nick Andros, Mother Abagail, Tom Cullen and so on to fit in this review, but they’re all fantastic.

The direction is very TV; I mean this is the old world view as a derogatory term. Back then, as opposed to now, they didn’t have the budgets thrown at them like Game of Thrones etc. As a result, the framing and staging of the shots are limited by what they could afford, and as a result what you see of the mass destruction of civilization is spoken about more than seen. It’s underwhelming and the antithesis of a visual medium. This isn’t to say Garis doesn’t get the point across, and it’s a mark of his directing skills that it does come across, it’s just an ever constant limitation of the medium at the time.The Stand

Another element of budgetary limitations that is heightening, viewing this on 21st century TVs, is the make-up and lighting. Let’s not forget that in 1994 when this aired, the largest TVs are now the smallest on the market. If you own anything larger than a 60inch out there, you’re gonna see pancake make-up trying to cover Molly Ringwald’s freckles (sorry Molly, I don’t mean to pick you out so much) awful red pencil acne blotches on Harold Lauder’s face, some inconsistent over the top flu make ups and many a similar sins. It just can’t hide, at this resolution, what wasn’t noticeable on broadcast TV at the time, and gives it more artifice than it deserves.

Enough bitching. This is not just a cash-in. The Stand was a must see mini-series back in the day for a reason. It reasonably and faithfully brings this massive story alive. The cast is a who’s who of performers that take you through the epic easily. It’s got heart, it’s got King’s sense of humor (and it should, King wrote the screenplay) and his insightful commentary, both surreal and literal, on the duality of man and the struggles with them. I’m glad it’s been re-mastered for HD (with the added benefit of some subtle digital touch ups in the latter episodes) and I’m glad to add it to my King Collection.

3/5 stars

The Stand

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

Home Video Distributor: Paramount Pictures
Available on Blu-ray
- September 24, 2019
Screen Formats: 1.33:1
Subtitles
: English SDH, German, Spanish, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish
Audio:
English: English: Dolby Digital 2.0; German: Dolby Digital 2.0; Spanish: Dolby Digital 2.0; English: Dolby Digital 2.0
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; single disc
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A

Video

This is a significant upgrade from the DVD. The film was shot in 16mm film, so there is a subtle grain throughout that is more noticeable in darker scenes. Blacks are deep, contrast is great. Colors are crisp and natural looking. It’s a really impressive looking picture, considering the vintage and medium it came from.

Audio

In a word: disappointing. This is a stereo only track, and seems the same to me as the DVD. It’s a clean audio and easily discernable, but considering CBS put all that effort into the new picture transfer, it seems a wasted opportunity not to give it an equally immersive sound mix to coincide.

Supplements:

Commentary:

  • Audio commentary from director Garris from 1999

Special Features:

CRAP. Nothing new here at all; you have the audio commentary from director Garris from 1999 (That was good but is now dated) and a shitty media pack featurette.

Blu-ray Rating:

  Movie 4/5 stars
  Video  4/5 stars
  Audio 2/5 stars
  Extras 1/5 stars

Overall Blu-ray Experience

2.5/5 stars

Stephen King's The Stand

MPAA Rating: Unrated.
Cast: Gary Sinise, Molly Ringwald, Jamey Sheridan
Genre
: Horror
Tagline:
The end of the world is just the beginning.
Memorable Movie Quote: "I can't believe a piece of Southern Fried Chicken like you is going to survive this."
TV Distributor:
American Broadcasting Company (ABC)
Official Site:
Release Date:
May 8, 1984
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
September 24, 2018
Synopsis: After a deadly plague kills most of the world's population, the remaining survivors split into two groups - one led by a benevolent elder and the other by a maleficent being - to face each other in a final battle between good and evil.

Stephen King's The Stand

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