Epic TV Mini-Series From The 1990s

Stephen King’s lengthy novel about a superflu triggering the apocalypse was a major television event in 1994. The Stand is a sprawling battle between good and evil with humanity’s fate on the line. ABC aired the six-hour mini-series over four nights with Stephen King himself writing the screenplay and close friend Mick Garris (Sleepwalkers) directing. Well received for the most part by King’s passionate fan base, The Stand instantly became one of the writer’s most ambitious and successful television projects.

The massive production has a litany of stars and familiar television actors, not to mention unlisted cameos by everyone from Kathy Bates to Joe Bob Briggs. The all-star cast features among others Gary Sinise, Ed Harris, Molly Ringwald, Jamey Sheridan, Laura San Giacomo, Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis, Miguel Ferrer, Matt Frewer, and Rob Lowe.

The Stand has a gripping premise with biblical undertones pulled from the Book of Revelation

When a superflu escapes a lab in California that kills almost every one it infects, Stephen King’s vivid imagination unleashes an apocalyptic battle between the dark forces of Randall Flagg and a rag-tag group of heroic survivors. Each character starts out on their own as their fates become intertwined by prophetic dreams.

As the followers of the demonic Flagg plot to rebuild the world in his sinister vision, a courageous foursome receive a calling to visit the cornfields of Nebraska and gather together under Mother Abigail. Fighting overwhelming odds, they will risk everything as they take one last stand against evil. Sorry Las Vegas, but Stephen King seems to think the forces of darkness will gather there for Armageddon.

Surprisingly gritty and gruesome for network television, the mini-series faithfully adapts most of King’s novel. A lavish production by network television’s standards, the effects and overall design were impressive for 1994. Given an expansive six hours, the dense and sprawling cross-country plot mostly remains intact. A few characters are altered for the purposes of streamlined storytelling but the spirit of King’s novel stays alive.

Viewers today might gripe that a big-budget adaptation from HBO or Netflix could more faithfully render King’s vision without the threat of broadcast television’s imposed censorship. That may be true but Stephen King and Mick Garris put together six hours that gets it more right than wrong.

The Stand has a gripping premise with biblical undertones pulled from the Book of Revelation and a diverse cast of characters from all walks of life. Mixed with a little cross-slice of Americana and King’s knack for creating uniquely engaging characters, The Stand remains one of his most accessible and successful adaptations.

Video

First airing on ABC in 1994, The Stand is presented at its original broadcast 1.33:1 ratio. The 1080P video is encoded in low-bitrate AVC on a BD-50, cramming in all six hours of the mini-series on one disc. Paramount does a reasonably satisfactory transfer from the negative, though a few scenes reveal limitations in the dated source material. The Stand lacks the crispness or picture quality of a theatrical movie from the era.

The film transfer offers capable definition and decent amounts of finer detail. The Stand has solid clarity with a film-like grain structure. This isn’t razor-sharp cinematography but shows no evidence of deleterious processing. Colors are fairly saturated with excellent tonality. Shadow delineation and black levels could be a tick better. There is no overt crushing. Healthy flesh-tones and a natural contrast maintain throughout the long mini-series.

The elements are in stable condition with little obvious wear. A few of the establishing shots and FX are sourced from SD footage.

This Blu-ray runs 359 minutes in total, representing the uncensored Paramount version. The original Paramount DVD contained the censored broadcast version, while Artisan put out a 361-minute uncensored version that is more or less equivalent to the version found on this BD. The reliable Movie-Censorship website details the differences between the three versions in far better detail than I can.

Audio

Possibly due to fitting the entire mini-series on one BD-50, only lossy 2.0 Dolby Digital is included. Made for television, The Stand’s stereo mix is limited by today’s standards. The good news is that the few licensed pop songs remain.

This is a serviceable but dated effort with an inconsistent soundstage and underwhelming dynamics. Dialogue is cleanly reproduced. Fidelity is average, if a touch thin and recessed. The sound design varies in quality. Some scenes have impressive sonic detail and punch, while many are flat and dull.

Optional English SDH and six other subtitle choices play in a white font. German and Spanish dubs in 2.0 Dolby Digital are secondary audio options.

Extras

Released last year in its own standalone edition, Paramount uses that same disc for the Stephen King 5-Movie Collection. The other included movies in the collection are Silver Bullet, The Dead Zone, Pet Sematary (2019) and Pet Sematary (1989). Like all Paramount releases, it is region-free on Blu-ray.

Paramount doesn’t dig up anything new for The Stand, importing the primary special features originally found on Artisan’s Special Edition DVD. That includes a feature-length commentary from Stephen King and Mick Garris, not to mention several cast members. The making-of featurette is underwhelming, serving as little more than a promotional piece intended to hype the series.

“Making Of Stephen King’s The Stand” featurette (05:29 in upscaled SD) – Stephen King leads this cursory introduction to the mini-series with brief comments by cast members Molly Ringwald, Ruby Dee, Gary Sinise and Rob Lowe. The make-up and FX supervisor discusses his work on the project.

Audio Commentary – Director Mick Garris & writer Stephen King lead this fairly interesting and engaging commentary that lasts for almost all six hours. While a few dead spots appear in the discussion, editor Patrick McMahon and actors Rob Lowe, Ruby Dee, Miguel Ferrer & Jamey Sheridan make appearances when relevant scenes pop up for their characters. Many topics are covered over the six hours, from working with the cast to the difficult shooting conditions. King mentions dealing with ABC, fighting for his vision of the apocalypse.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

The Stand
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
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Movie

Stephen King produces and writes the screenplay for this mostly faithful mini-series adaptation with an all-star cast, even if the apocalyptic setting is limited by a television budget and design.

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4 (1 vote)

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