The Stand is one of my all time favorite novels. It is hard to get me to sit down and read a book quickly unless it was written by a wrestler. The Stand is a daunting 1,152 page book which I usually can breeze through in less than a week. Of course, I wouldn’t have read this book if not for the 1994 miniseries, which aired from May 8th through the 12th on ABC. This show was the talk of my group of middle school friends for that week and lead to many of us reading as many Stephen King novels as we could get our hands on. There are so many great ones which have made their way to screen and became tremendous movies. The Shining, It, Shawshank Redemption, Misery. A personal favorite of mine is Maximum Overdrive, although I am in the minority when it comes to enjoying that. The Stand is one that doesn’t often get talked about but I remember it being a big deal at the time. CBS All Access will apparently soon be doing an eight part The Stand miniseries for their platform in the near future. So now seems like as good of a time as any to discuss the 1994 adaptation of The Stand.
Directed by horror legend Mick Garris, The Stand was aired in four two-hour offerings, including commercials. I was able to get a two disc dvd for $5 at Walmart. The run time in total is roughly six hours which is probably one reason people haven’t gone back to watch it. You have to make a commitment to sit down and watch all of this show. The story is that a super bug gets released from a top secret lab thanks to a selfish security guard and it kills 99% of the population. Those who are left are called through their dreams by two different figures. Representing the good team is Mother Abagail, played by Ruby Dee. She is a 106 year old black woman in Nebraska who still makes her own bread. On the side of evil is Randall Flagg, a mysterious and powerful figure played by Jamey Sheridan. While much about Flagg is unknown, he does have supernatural, demonic powers and designs on ruling what is left of the world. The show seems to suggest that he is either THE Devil, a devil, or some lesser demonic force in the world. Throughout the series, the forces for good are called to gather in Boulder, Colorado to rebuild civilization there while the forces of evil are gathering in Las Vegas. The ensemble cast is quite impressive and I will get into the details later. There are a lot of recognizable faces throughout this show: Gary Sinise, Molly Ringwald, and Rob Lowe among others. The reviews were mostly positive with The Stand currently having a respectable 78% on Rotten Tomatoes. The ratings were good, with each of the four parts receiving a 20.0 or above.
My spoiler free review is that The Stand is definitely worth your time. If you can find the dvd for $5 or if it’s available on a streaming service, I would say check it out. The series doesn’t feel as long as the run time. I felt like the time breezed by. The strong point of the show would be Jamey Sheridan as Randall Flagg. He absolutely delights in his evilness and is a delight to watch in this role. I would say all of the acting with a few exceptions was pretty good. The writing is good for a tv miniseries. Of course if you have read the book and enjoyed it, you are going to notice some big holes of stuff that is missing. Unfortunately, that is just the nature of the beast when it comes to adapting any novel for film or television. The novel does a better job of developing the characters. There are characters in the book that have a lot of time devoted to them who have limited roles in the miniseries. I feel like the most important characters to the story were given the chance to develop but I can see people would be annoyed that some of the supporting characters were glossed over.
Things I didn’t like so much – These special effects have dated terribly. That is one of the reason I feel this is ripe for a remake. Even though I love the book and the miniseries, I never liked the ending of The Stand. It really seems like the main protagonists could have been given more to do in the end. In the end, The Stand is a fun watch and if nothing else you will enjoy finding all the people who have cameos in this miniseries.
Who Made Who?
One of the ways I think I am going to cover this is by pointing out who was
in this show. The Stand may not have had the biggest stars in Hollywood but there were a lot of faces you will recognize. They really got the most out of their budget when you consider the size of the cast, the number of locations, and how much work had to be put into making these places look post-apocalyptic. The acting in this movie was been derided by some reviewers, particularly the performance of Molly Ringwald but I thought it was just fine. You can cherry pick a scene here and there where things may have come off a bit cheesy but with 6 hours of footage, you can take anything out of context and make it look worse than it really was. So who was in The Stand?
Gary Sinise plays Stu Redman. He is, for the most part, our main protagonist. Stu is a redneck of East Texas who gets caught up in all this mess when the security guard fleeing from where the super flu was released crashes into a gas station in his small Texas town. Stu was just enjoying a beer with some friends when this guard crashes his car into the gas pumps and releases the Captain Trips super flu onto the world. For the record, I will sometimes still call a bad cold “Captain Trips” when I catch one. The government swoops in and takes Stu, along with other people from his town, to a research center in Vermont in order to quarantine and study this deadly virus. The flu kills everyone it comes in contact with very quickly, usually only taking a day or two. Stu, however, feels fine. Sinise does a good job in the role. Having watched him play Lieutenant Dan in Forest Gump just two weeks prior, this role can seem small by comparison. This may have to do with the difference in directors, Robert Zemeckis vs. Mick Garris. It seemed like Gary Sinise got to show a lot more of his range and talent in Forest Gump whereas less was asked of him for The Stand. Also, Stu isn’t given much of a character arc. His situation is changed drastically by the events of The Stand but Stu seems like more or less the same guy in the end that he was in the beginning. He is a brave, resourceful guy who reads people well.
Molly Ringwald plays Fran Goldsmith, the dutiful daughter who cares for her father until he succumbs to the flu. She is from a small town in Maine and the only other person to survive the flu epidemic in her town is Harold Lauder, a teenage boy who has a hopeless crush on her. Since this is a Steven King horror movie, this will not turn out like Sixteen Candles or Pretty in Pink. Molly is a fine actress who is working to this very day. But let’s be real. She is mostly known for her roles in 80s teen comedies and by 1994 her career was in a period of transition. Some critics have said she was miscast as Fran. While the character in the book is much different in my mind than what I saw on screen, I thought she did a fine job. Fran’s role comes off as somewhat different in the movie than the book which might explain why the performance is what it is. In the book, Fran has more of a leadership role in the Boulder Free Zone with the people resisting Flagg and his forces. In the miniseries, Fran comes off as a respected member of the community and the source of conflict between Harold and Stu but it is a diminished role. The subplot of the love triangle between Fran, Harold, and Stu pays off in explosive ways which I will cover later. For as much screen time as she is given, Fran’s role is that of a love interest. In the end, Fran has a baby and we see that there is hope for the future mankind with the next generation. Before that we question whether babies will be immune to the Captain Trips virus or if it is gone entirely with the 99% of people who died. There end up being enough philosophical and practical questions by the end of The Stand that a sequel could have been in order but that was never to be.
Jamey Sheridan plays Randall Flagg. I don’t evny the person who will have to play Randall Flagg in the remake of The Stand because this will be a tough act to follow. His performance as the mysterious Dark Man is the highlight of the miniseries. The general rule surrounding villains is that they are the hero of their own story. This is not the case with Randall Flagg. He is evil and he loves it. Every time he is on screen, Flagg as a charisma that you are drawn to. This isn’t a case where you end up secretly cheering for the villain though. It’s just that you can see how people would follow him. This is in no small part due to Sheridan’s performance. I have never heard a shoot interview with Sheridan but he looked like he was having a lot of fun with this part. Randall Flagg is our main antagonist. He is appearing the survivors of the flu epidemic and calling them to join him in Las Vegas. Along the way he personally drafts a few of his main players like Lloyd Henreid, a convicted criminal who survived the flu but no one ever bothered to let out of jail. Flagg also recuits Trashcan Man, a mentally ill fire bug who just wants to watch the world burn.
He also calls Nadine Cross, promising her\ a romantic relationship but leaving out the part where she will have to carry his demonic spawn. She is seduced by him and turns on everyone in the Boulder Free Zone in order to serve Flagg. She also appears to be rapidly aging. Jamey Sheridan you will recognize from shows like Arrow and Law and Order: Criminal Intent. He has been in a ton of movies and tv shows over the years so you will probably look at him in this early role and wonder “Where do I know him from?” One last thing on Randall Flagg. I am not the resident PTBN Fashion Critic for 1994 but his look, while distinct, was fairly dated by 1994. He is dressed in all denim and has hair that has to be seen to be believed. It’s a real hair metal kind of look that gets your attention if nothing else.
Ruby Dee plays Mother Abagail. She is 106 years old and still makes her own bread. She is the opposite of Flagg. She is calling everyone to meet her in Nebraska and then go to Boulder to oppose the evil forces of Randall Flagg. Mother Abagail seems to be in tune with the will of God and plays the role of a Prophet, having visions of who and what will come but always remembering to be humble before God. Ruby Dee was exactly what I had in mind when I read The Stand. She was fantastic in this role. She has had an interesting career going all the way back to 1950 with The Jackie Robinson Story, a movie that actually stars Jackie Robinson as himself. Her last movie came out in 2017, three years after she died. You may also recognize her as Mother Sister in Do The Right Thing. She was also Mama Lucas in American Gangster. She worked pretty consistently through her life on tv and movies big and small. This will also be a role that will be tough to fill when they remake The Stand.
Rob Lowe plays Nick Andros, someone who is deaf and mute. Nick gets beaten badly by Ray Booth and his croonies before the plague hits. After the plague hits, Nick shows his humanity by letting Ray and his associates out of jail, a move that nearly gets him killed. Nick hops on a bike and meets Tom Cullen, a special needs individual with a heart of gold. Their friendship and journey together is covered much better in the book. They hit the highlights in the miniseries and you get the idea of what their friendship was like. Nick and Tom make their way to Nebraska. Along the way they run into a disturbed young lady named Julie who wants very badly to have sex with Nick. When he turns her down, she gets a gun and starts shooting at them. She will be somewhat important later in the story and as I recall had a larger role in the book. Nick and Tom make it to Nebraska then move with Mother Abagail to the new base of operations in Boulder, Colorado. Nick will end up being voted on the leadership console of Boulder and give his life for the group when he jumps on a bomb for them. Rob Lowe is a very recognizable actor. His breakout role, along with many other actors, was in The Outsiders. He has been working fairly consistently ever since having been in movies like St. Elmo’s Fire, Wayne’s World, the Austin Powers movies, and Tommy Boy. If you don’t know who Rob Lowe is, I don’t know what to do for you.
Bill Fagerbakke plays Tom Cullen. M-O-O-N. That spells Tom Cullen. You probably are asking yourself and by extension me, who the hell is Bill Fagerbakke? You probably woudln’t recognize his face or name but you probably know his voice. He has spent the last twenty years as the voice of Patrick on Spongebob Squarepants. Whatever else he has done in his career, roles big and small, that is the kind of career an actor can only dream of, to have steady work for twenty years on a popular tv show. He plays Tom Cullen perfectly. You can hear a little bit of Patrick in his performance. Tom will play a big role in The Stand. He gets sent to Las Vegas to spy on Randall Flagg and his operation. Tom is noticed by Julie, the girl who tried to kill him long ago. She smells that something is wrong and tries to warn Flagg. However, Randall is showing his new wife, Nadine, what he considers to be a good time and doesn’t have the time to hear or act on Julie’s information. The Las Vegas situation is pretty well handled before Tom can return home with the information but he does manage to save Stu’s life on the way back to Colorado. Tom Cullen is one of the most likable characters in the book or movie. He tries really hard to be helpful and has a good soul.
Laura San Giacomo
Laura San Giacomo plays Nadine Cross. We meet her when she teams with Larry Underwood in New York City. As you can guess, New York is quite the mess following the apocalypse. Nadine struggles with finding her place in the world, both before the apocalypse and after. She seems to cope by attaching herself to terrible men and when we meet Larry, he certainly qualifies. She is called by Randall Flagg through her very erotic dreams and he lets her know he has big plans for her, all she has to do is sabotage and back stab many people along the way, which she gladly does. She seduces Harold into blowing up a meeting of the Boulder Free Zone. With him on the losing side of the Fran-Stu-Harold love triangle, it didn’t take much convincing. Harold and Nadine leave for Las Vegas and she leaves him for dead along the way. She finally is in the presence of Flagg and it turns out he is a demon, which is a bit too much of a bad boy for her. Laura San Giacomo is the definition of someone who I know their face better than I know their name. I know her from something but what? Sex, Lies, and Videotape, Pretty Woman, and Nina Takes a Lover are some of the movies you may know her from. On television she did several seasons of Just Shoot Me, Saving Grace, and NCIS.
Adam Storke plays Larry Underwood. This is one of the few actors where this movie is the only thing I know him from. Also Mystic Pizza but I am trying really hard to forget that I watched that movie. Larry is a would-be pop star who borrowed too much money from the wrong people. So he visits his very disappointed mother in New York City until the royalty checks come in and he can pay off the leg breakers and thumb takers. Then Captain Trips wipes out most of the population. He is off the hook for the money he owes but it’s unlikely his music career will take off now and he has to find a way to survive. It is questionable as to what side Larry will join at first. He is a character that is not entirely wholesome but not the worst person we have seen. Larry goes through a significant character arc through the story. He starts out as a selfish coward running from his debts and ends up a selfless hero who follows his destiny to a certain death for the great good of all mankind. Sadly, he will never meet his child. Adam Storke plays the character quite well. He always comes off as likable. You don’t really feel his struggle as far as which side he will choose. There are subtles in his performance that gives you clues but the internal conflict is not out there in open.
Speaking of the worst person we will meet, Corrin Nemec plays Harold Lauder. You would know him best as Parker Lewis from Parker Lewis Can’t Lose. I have covered much of Harold already. He starts out as an arrogant, petty, jealous person and just keeps getting worse as the series goes along. Nemec is excellent in this role. The character traits are similar to the novel but he isn’t even close in how Harold is physically described. He is a character that by the time he is left for dead you really feel like he had that coming.
Shawnee Smith is Julie Lawry. I already covered the part of the movie in which Julie is important. Shawnee Smith is another face that is recognizable, especially to horror fans. She was in the Saw movies, Wes Craven’s Carnival of Souls, and The Grudge 3. You may also know her from Becker and Who’s Harry Crumb? Julie isn’t in this series for much of it but Shawnee really takes command of the scenes she is in. She comes off as a genuinely disturbed individual.
Matt Frewer plays Trashcan Man. Mentally ill fire bug pretty much sums up his character but he plays the role so well. He is so messed up, you kind of feel sorry for him. Trashcan Man devotes himself to Randall Flagg, completely committing himself. Trashcan Man even goes so far as to find a nuclear bomb for Flagg and hand deliver it to him. Isn’t that sweet? Can you guess how the series ends? You would know Matt Frewer for any number of movie and television roles over the last near 40 years but at the end of the day, you would probably remember him as Max Headroom.
Miguel Ferrer plays Lloyd Henreid. Lloyd is a convicted criminal who is left is prison during the flu epidemic and is just forgotten. Flagg visits him in jail and makes him an offer he can’t refuse. Lloyd is a character you don’t see much of but he has two of the best scenes in the movie in my opinion. The scene where he is in jail and Flagg offers him the job of being the leader of Flagg’s operation is great. The other great scene is where they have Glenn Bateman in jail awaiting execution. The scene with Lloyd, Flagg, and Glenn might be the best single scene in the movie in terms of acting. Miguel Ferrer has had a long and storied career. If you have seen Iron Man 3, he played Vice President Rodridguez. He was in Traffic, Hot Shots Part Deux, and of course, Twin Peaks.
See what I mean? I have managed to review most of the entire miniseries by talking about just half of this ensemble cast. And look at these names and list of credentials. I am going to wrap this up with some of my favorites of who is left of this cast. The point being, for a tv miniseries, this was an impressive roster of people that the audience would know, and quite frankly, a lot of very talented actors.
Steven King is in this movie and not in a small role. His characters name is Teddy. While he doesn’t play a role in the plot, he does have several scenes and lines of dialogue with the main cast. King was not a bad actor and seemed to be having a lot of fun with the role. I don’t know his acting background but he is by far not that worst actor. That award goes to…..
Joe Bob Briggs. He plays Sheriff Joe Bob. He is responsible for spreading the plague into Arkansas. I love Joe Bob but his brief performance was wooden. I wouldn’t have accepted his takes if I had been directing him back when I was in film school. Speaking of directors.
Sam Raimi and John Landis also have brief cameos in this movie. Both are good directors but not polished actors. Mileage may vary on Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s cameo in the movie as a doomsayer. Speaking of polished actors.
Kathy Bates plays Rae Flowers. She is a rude radio talk show host. Talk radio was becoming a thing by 1994 so having a scene like this fit with what was in the zeitgeist. Kathy Bates is well known to fans of Stephen King movies particularly for Misery. The scene she is in goes to show that there are no small roles. But put a lot more into this bit part than was probably called for. The subtleties of her performance while taking calls adds to the human element and emotion that this plague has taken on people. If I were coaching actors, this is a scene I would use to show how body language can affect a scene.
en King movies particularly for Misery. The scene she is in goes to show that there are no small roles. But put a lot more into this bit part than was probably called for. The subtleties of her performance while taking calls adds to the human element and emotion that this plague has taken on people. If I were coaching actors, this is a scene I would use to show how body language can affect a scene.
Ed Harris is also in this movie as Gen. Bill Starkey. He goes uncredited but I can’t figure out why. He has a handful of scenes and several lines of dialogue in part one. His scenes are quite good, showing how at the top levels of government the situation feels hopeless almost from the beginning. Opposite of Gen Starkey is a military official only called Len. I swear this part of played by a very young Clark Gregg, Agent Coulson himself but I can’t get confirmation of this. It’s not listed anywhere in his filmography and neither is the identity of who played Len.
In conclusion, The Stand was an excellent miniseries and I recommend it to anyone who has the time and inclination to watch it. When it comes to the pop culture of 1994, The Stand would have to be considered a big hit. One thing I noticed was how good the soundtrack was, using songs like Don’t Fear The Reaper by Blue Oyster Cult in the opening credit sequence and Don’t Dream It’s Over by Crowded House for a scene with Fran and Harold. I hope another contributor more qualified than I can explain the importance of a good soundtrack in 1994 because this is a theme that keeps coming up in my reviews. Now if you will excuse me, I am in the mood to read the book again.