A man-made virus escapes from a US military installation, causing an unstoppable plague that quickly wipes out most of the population of the US (and presumably the world, though the story remains stalwartly America-centric). The few survivors of the plague are prone to dreams about two people: Abigail, an old black woman who spins homilies from her porch, and Flagg, a demonic man in boots and jeans who makes sinister promises. Soon the survivors break into two camps, with Abigail's followers setting up camp in Boulder, and Flagg's taking over Las Vegas.
This sprawling miniseries, based on the huge Stephen King novel, is truly an all-star affair, it's just a shame few of them are good actors. Gary Sinise is fine as the main character Stu, and Jamey Sheridan is passable as Randall Flagg, but most of the performances are awful. Particularly bad are Corin Nemec (Parker Lewis Can't Act!) and Molly Ringwald, and why does Stephen King insist on appearing in these movies? Does nobody have the balls to tell him he's awful, especially in some of the more dramatic moments he's given here? The only actor who goes above and beyond is Miguel Ferrer, as Flagg's conflicted right-hand man.
Beyond the acting, which can be excused because it's usually not very good in this kind of project, The Stand has a some unforgivable dramatic flaws. First of all, the narrative is based on Biblical concepts of the end time, yet doesn't follow what's in the Bible. God's power is evident throughout the series, and The Book of Revelations is mentioned, so what are we to assume when the Revelations don't come to pass? That God is sort of all-powerful and only vaguely all-seeing? Secondly, the concept of the Devil as a jean-jacket wearing man may have made sense in the book, but onscreen the banality of evil comes across as silly. There is a scene where Flagg loses his temper, and we should be seeing all the rage of the Pit, but it looks like Randy Travis wrecking his hotel room. And the fact that evil can't win is drilled into us so often, and into the main characters, that Flagg hardly seems a real threat. The good guys are so smug going into the final confrontation that it's hard to root for them.
Artisan decided to take full advantage of the DVD format on this one. They've put all six hours of the miniseries onto one double-sided dual-layer disc. The video on the disc looks good if not great, but this is probably due to the fact that the film was shot on 16mm for TV. The sound is an average stereo mix, again for TV. So you're going to get a better looking version of this film than you've ever seen before, but it still won't look as good as a theatrical feature.
There are some disposable extras included on the disk, including a short making-of, some stills from the special effects, and a particularly pointless comparison of storyboards to still frames from the movie.
There's also a pretty good commentary track that includes Stephen King, Rob Lowe, Ruby Dee, Miguel Ferrer, Jamey Sheridan, editor Patrick McMahon, and director Mick Garris. The commentary is made up of several recording sessions with various combinations of people in the room together. King is by himself, and there are obviously separate sessions for Garris with McMahon, Garris with Ferrer, Garris with Sheridan and Ferrer, Garris with Ruby Dee, and Garris with Rob Lowe, not to mention Garris by himself. King mostly talks about his inspirations and the motivations of the characters, while Garris mostly talks about the actors. Sheridan and especially Ferrer are witty and interesting, but I couldn't help but wish they had left Ruby Dee off, because she tends to ramble on and on. And with all those people, it's hard to believe that there are long gaps in the commentary, and that there are certain interesting things upon which no one comments. It's also kind of funny how the one subtle and clever touch of this miniseries, that Trash Man is actually doing God's work after he's baptized in a pool, is totally missed by Stephen King, who continually talks about a different interpretation of the character.
Scott Hamilton, 6/30/00