There were several attempts to bring The Stand to the big screen before Mick Garris’ seminal miniseries, but the story (at over 1,000 pages) just proved too big for a feature film, even with the enticing prospect of George Romero at the helm. Over time it, of course, transformed into a mammoth miniseries to effectively convey the scope of the novel. With over a hundred speaking roles, special effects, location work and just the sheer size of it, The Stand remains one of the most ambitious television productions of its era. With a script by King himself, his first partnership with director Mick Garris, and the introduction of several cast members (like Miguel Ferrer and Matt Frewer) who would basically become Stephen King day players, The Stand is a historic adaptation. Tons of actors, locations, effects and song choices as well, which make it a miracle that it even happened at all, especially considering how well it came together.
While nobody considering buying the Blu should probably need the reminder, The Stand tells the story of a man-made plague that wipes out nearly all mankind, leaving only a handful of survivors left. Those who survive are selected by aging psychic Mother Abigail and dark sorcerer Randall Flagg to stage the ultimate, final battle between good and evil. With a cast including everyone from Gary Sinise, Rob Lowe, Molly Ringwald, Ed Harris, Jamey Sheridan and Kathy Bates to Joe Bob Briggs, Tom Holland, Shawnee Smith and Stephen King himself, it’s a slickly directed, Emmy award winning miniseries that still stands as one of the very best TV adaptations of the author’s works.
Most of the cast nail their respective roles which is absolutely saying something, considering the huge cast of the novel. With King adapting it himself, more of the novel remains intact than most adaptations. Jamey Sheridan shines as charismatic, blue collar devil Randall Flagg, perhaps the great antagonist of King’s body of work. After standing as the antagonist of this novel, Flagg went on to appear in Eyes of the Dragon and as a central villain of the Dark Tower series. Sinise is a pitch-perfect Stu Redman, embodying the likability and toughness of the character in equal doses. It’s the rare kind of adaptation that’s faithful to the book while still feeling earnest and heartfelt and having a voice of its own.
Because of its length, though, it’s probably one that doesn’t get revisited quite as often. But this new disc is a great excuse for a re-watch, as The Stand has absolutely never looked better.
The miniseries has finally made its way to Blu-ray and while it’s a little light on features considering its massive size, it’s an incredible presentation. The restoration is gorgeous, especially considering the way it looked before, being a made-for-TV production. Even if The Stand is still cropped for the way it was filmed, it looks so much better than it ever has. If there’s anything in particular that truly shines in the new transfer in a way it never has before, though, it has to be the makeup. The Stand is chock full of dead bodies and demonic visions and the staggering amount of makeup work never really had the chance to pop in quite the way it does here.
Every other Stephen King miniseries to make its way to Blu-ray has been presented all together as one long feature. There’s no break in the Blus of either It or Salem’s Lot. The Stand, however, provides the option of watching the entire thing at once or watching each episode individually. I personally very much like that choice. For a six hour miniseries, not having the episodes broken up (or at least not having the option) can be overwhelming if you don’t have the time to watch the entire thing in one sitting.
The only two features on the disc in addition to the new transfer are a commentary track and a making-of featurette. The commentary is, I believe, the same one on the DVD release, as well as the promotional behind-the-scenes documentary. It’s amazing to have a full-length commentary for something this long, but the commentary is pieced together from different sources rather than having been recorded all at once. But that’s totally sensible for something of this length, even if it isn’t a preferred commentary method. There’s also a lot of empty space on the commentary, but even that isn’t at all surprising for a 6-hour miniseries.
As I said, The Stand is light on features, but the transfer more than makes up for it. For a Blu-ray that Mick Garris had said only earlier this year had almost no chance of ever happening, it’s so, so good to see that it has finally arrived. If you are a fan of the miniseries and are hesitant to upgrade from the DVD, take my word that it looks incredible and is absolutely worth the purchase for the quality of the restoration alone. The Stand is now available on Blu-ray from CBS Home Entertainment and Paramount.
Wicked Rating: 7.5/10
Director: Mick Garris
Writer: Stephen King
Stars: Gary Sinise, Molly Ringwald, Ruby Dee, Jamey Sheridan, Matt Frewer
Studio/Production Co: CBS Films
Length: 5 hours, 59 minutes