The unabridged version of the stand is 1,152 pages. How do you film that? How do you capture everything? This 1994 miniseries — originally airing from May 8 – 12 of that year — made a valiant effort.
It’s nearly impossible to get in every character from the book, but that doesn’t mean that these guys didn’t try. With a screenplay by King, Mick Garris stepped into the director’s chair, armed with a huge cast that does a great job of capturing their roles.
The hard part of The Stand is that there’s more than one hero and multiple casts to follow. I guess Stu Redman (Gary Sinise) would be the main hero, but you could also argue that the deaf and mute Nick Andros (Rob Lowe, who is deaf in his right ear) is the hero. Or maybe singer Larry Underwood is. When you’re reading the book, you can determine who the protagonist you like best is, you can also see them as you want in your mind. With a film, it’s not so simple.
As Captain Trips, a weaponized flu virus, sweeps across America, the end of the world takes shape and Mother Abagail Freemantle (Ruby Dee) gathers the forces of good against Randall Flagg and his followers. Flagg, otherwise known as the Walkin’ Dude, the Dark Man, the Ageless Stranger, the Man in Black and the Hardcase (as well as Walter Padick, Nyarlathotep, Rudin Filaro and a ton of other names), is the villain of more than one King story. He shows up in The Dark Tower, Hearts in Atlantis and The Eyes of the Dragon. His character goes all the way back to a poem that King wrote in 1969.
Amongst his forces are the bonkers crazy Nadine Cross (Laura San Giacomo), criminal rat eater Lloyd Henreid (Miguel Ferrer), the explosive loving Trashcan Man (Max Headroom himself, Matt Frewer, who has appeared in more King adaptions than anyone else), the Rat Man and so many more. But the good guys also have Judge Ferris (Ossie Davis), the worst dressed heroine ever in Frannie (Molly Ringwald), her wannabe boyfriend and potential traitor Harold (Parker Lewis Can’t Lose star Corin Nemec), simple-minded Tom Cullen (Bill Fagerbakke, Dauber from TV’s Coach), wise Glen Bateman (TV legend Ray Walston, who was also Mr. Hand in Fast Times at Ridgemont High) and many, many more.
This is a film packed with stars, even in small roles, like Ed Harris as General Starkey, Kathy Bates as Rae Flowers, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as a man proclaiming the end of the world and King, Sam Raimi, Tom Holland and John Landis show up in cameos. Even Joe Bob Briggs is in this!
The four parts, The Plague, The Dreams, The Betrayal and The Stand, tell as much of the story as possible. I was kind of let down by the casting of Flagg, but it’s hard to find anyone to live up to the ultimate evil that he’s presented as in the book.
This is the second King book that George Romero planned to make into a film that ended up as a TV movie (Salem’s Lot is the other).
Interestingly enough, none of the Boulder Free Zone scenes were shot there. Soon before production started, Colorado passed Amendment 2, an amendment to their state Constitution which nullified any existing laws protecting the rights of homosexuals. In protest — and perhaps because King’s daughter Naomi is a lesbian — the production moved to Utah.
The fact that the film was finished is a testament to the production team. With 460 script pages that were shot across 100 days in 6 states, that meant that the final project is nearly 8 hours long. They had to figure out how to dress 95 shooting locations on their budget, including a cornfield and a decimated Las Vegas.
There’s been talk of a digital CBS mini-series, but it seems as if they’ll try to tell the whole story in one movie. Josh Boone, a legitimate Stephen King fan and the director of The Fault In Our Stars, is slated to direct.
I hope however they remake this, they make sure to get better outfits for Frannie. I realize that this mini-series is 24 years old, but her fashion taste has not aged like a fine wine. Every single time she appears, her sartorial splendor — or lack thereof — takes me out of the movie!
That said, the main body of The Stand is quite enjoyable. You can find this film on DVD for a really low price, considering how much movie you get.
By the way, if you’re wondering what my favorite scene is, it’s when Nadine informs everyone that they’re in Hell before she rides up the elevator to be further assaulted by Randall Flagg. I quote this scene way more often than I’d like to. And often, it’s to people who have no idea of the reference.