STEPHEN KING’S THE STAND. (1994) BASED ON THE NOVEL BY STEPHEN KING. DIRECTED BY MICK GARRIS.
STARRING GARY SINISE, MOLLY RINGWALD, JAMEY SHERIDAN, LAURA SAN GIACOMO, RUBY DEE, OSSIE DAVIS, MIGUEL FERRER, CORIN NEMEC, MATT FREWER, ADAM STORKE, RAY WALSTON, BILL FAGERBAKKE, PETER VAN NORDEN, KATHY BATES, ED HARRIS, ROB LOWE, SHAWNEE SMITH, SAM RAIMI AND STEPHEN KING IN HIS TRADITIONAL CAMEO ROLE.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
‘We are dead and this is hell.’
Nadine Cross, on the occasion of her ‘honeymoon’ with Randall Flagg.
I love a nice long Stephen King mini-series watched in film-format, ie, all at once, and this is probably his longest ever mini-series. It’s a whopping six hours long, making it twice as long as SALEM’S LOT or THE LANGOLIERS, so I felt like I was getting terrific value for money with it.
My viewing of it happily coincided with my cable TV’s deciding to go on the blink for the weekend, so that I had a working telly but no TV programmes. THE STAND kept my mind somewhat off missing STRICTLY COME DANCING and THE X FACTOR live Saturday night show. I said somewhat, lol. Nothing could keep my mind off that sad, sad loss entirely…!
We’ve got to synopsise an epic six hours into a few short sentences, so here goes. We’ll try to keep it as succinct as possible. There are four ninety-minute sections, entitled THE PLAGUE, THE DREAMS, THE BETRAYAL and finally THE STAND, so if you don’t have six hours to spare all at once you can just watch a section at a time.
First of all, we’re dealing with an American Apocalypse here, people. A terrible plague, ironically known as ‘the superflu’ because you start off by coughing and sniffling, is accidentally released from a top-security government containment facility in a little town called Arnette in East Texas.
The plague decimates everyone in America who comes in contact with it. Well, not quite everyone. A small number of people are, for some reason, immune to it. These are the lucky people who’ll eventually be called upon to re-populate the Earth, heh-heh-heh.
The United States gummint tries to isolate them and study them, but it’s not long before the doctors and the gummint officials in the white spacesuits are dead of the plague too, leaving the survivors free to go wherever they damn well please.
The survivors, of whom more exact details in a bit, are all having the same dream, a dream that tells them to go to Nebraska and find an elderly black woman called Mother Abagail Freemantle, who sits on the porch of her little country house playing her guitar and waiting for the ‘chosen ones,’ ie, the survivors, to come to her.
The survivors all make their way to Mother Abagail, who tells them that their real pilgrimage is only just beginning. Can you imagine the groan that Homer Simpson would let out to hear that his hard work was not ending but merely starting? Lol.
Yep, now the survivors have got to travel to Boulder, Colorado, from where they’ll presumably put down roots and from which they’ll make the titular ‘stand’ against the real evil, the Devil’s emissary on Earth, a chap called Randall Flagg.
Flagg’s base is Las Vegas, ironically the Mecca for those who want to spend their filthy lucre on fancy whores and roulette, and any survivors not called by Mother Abagail have made their way to Flagg to join his unholy army of the night .
Randall Flagg is an hilariously brilliant villain. With his long greying locks and his undoubtedly impressive supernatural powers, he looks like how Scottish comedian Billy Connolly might look if he were a country-and-western singer in cowboy boots and a denim jacket.
He has the ability to shapeshift into a crow or a demon at will (the demon make-up is great, by the way), and his real strength lies in knowing the weaknesses and secret desires of his enemies, even better than they know them themselves.
If Flagg and his minions (former convict Lloyd Henreid, escaped mental patient Trashcan; madcap and immensely volatile slut Julie Lawry, it’s a good group!) ever get to rule the world, it’ll end up being one big crap-table and a monument to the unholy Mammon. Four of Mother Abagail’s disciples set out from Boulder, Colorado to make their final ‘stand’ against the evil of Randall Flagg.
They are Stuart Redman, the only surviving occupant of the town of Arnette in East Texas; Larry Underwood, a singer with huge gambling debts whose career was just about to take off when the plague took hold (that is some bitchin’ luck, isn’t it? On the one hand, his singing career is dead in the water but, on the plus side, his debts are all automatically wiped out because his creditors are all dead of the plague!); a sweet and deeply patriotic retired college professor called Glen Bateman (and his mutt, Kojak!) and a lovely cuddly fella in a checked shirt and jeans called Ralph Brentner.
Stuart is a regular Joe Soap who finds his inner ‘leader’ when the plague hits town. The survivors look to Stuart to lead them out of the mess they’re in and, by golly, he gives it his best shot, when he’s not knocking up Molly Ringwald’s wide-mouthed Frannie, another survivor, that is, and stealing her away from the man who’s loved her his whole life, one Harold Lauder.
Harold is a touchy character, very sensitive, a poet-nerd suffering from unrequited love of the big-toothed Frannie. Frannie’s defection to Camp Stuart and her subsequent pregnancy wounds Harold deeply and makes him an ideal target for Randall Flagg, who sends his own fancy whore-wife Nadine Cross to seduce Harold and bring him over to the Dark Side.
Nadine, who’s also had relations with Larry Underwood but fails to convert him to Flagg’s evil cause because Larry’s now married to and in love with fellow survivor Lucy, is possibly the most interesting character in the movie next to Flagg himself.
She’s played by Laura San Giacomo (PRETTY WOMAN, SEX LIES AND VIDEOTAPE), an extraordinarily beautiful woman whom I personally could look at and listen to all day, she’s so striking-looking.
When she’s brutally raped by a demonic Flagg on their so-called ‘wedding night,’ a travesty of a genuinely lovely and happy wedding night, she loses her mind altogether, proving that she’s not entirely evil and not wholly on board with Flagg’s evil plans for world domination.
The rape scene and its disturbing aftermath, when we see how traumatised Nadine is and how white her hair has become as a result of it, is really quite shocking. On the plus side, however, Nadine’s lovely boobies stand straight up in their Wonderbra when she’s in a lying-down position and they look absolutely marvellous. If they’re fake, which I’m not entirely sure of, then the plastic surgeon has done a most commendable job.
Rob Lowe, an actor I’ve never really cared for, plays a deaf-mute survivor called Nick Andros. Nick Andros is only really interesting from the point of view that he discovers poor ‘retarded’ Tom Cullen, who later turns out to be quite the hero of the piece, living alone in his small town as the sole survivor of the plague.
Nick finds Tom re-arranging the local store mannequins into little tableaux on the village square, through which no traffic ever runs any more. Everyone who used to drive through the now-deserted town is long-dead. It’s really quite creepy, what he’s done with them there mannequins…!
Anyway, I loved THE STAND. It’s six good hours of pure enjoyable entertainment, and Stephen King himself makes his trademark cameo as one of the ‘chosen ones.’ He looks really well in jeans and a jacket and he has quite a few lines and appearances in this one as well.
There’s a good soundtrack that includes songs from ZZ TOP (Sharp-Dressed Man), Crowded House (Don’t Dream It’s Over) and Blue Oyster Cult (Don’t Fear The Reaper, what else?).
The make-up for the plague victims is positively top-notch and it’s really freaky when the survivors go into the church to clean up the bodies and they see all these hideous corpses sitting silently there. Traditionally, people turn to God when an Apocalyptic event such as the plague occurs, we’re told, and we can well believe it, too.
Kathy Bates has a cameo role as a radio talk-show host whom the Marines have to shut down and Ed Harris (STEPMOM) as an Army Major who can’t stand the heat when the ‘superflu’ looks to be cutting an unstoppable swathe through the rapidly dwindling American populace.
Some of the scenes are really emotional, too. When the survivors are in the town hall of their new home singing the American National Anthem with such pathos, I actually really wanted to stand up and sing right along with them, with my hand on my heart and the tears streaming down my face. I’ve never in my life felt so American, despite the fact that I’m one million per cent Irish, lol. ‘Oh, say can you see…?’
I must say that the survivors have a nice cushy number in some ways. Was your pre-plague house a rubbishy crap-shack, or maybe you were paying through the nose to rent some dump that wasn’t big enough to swing a cat in? No problemo. Just take your pick of the fabulous now-empty houses whose owners have all died of the plague, no questions asked. And no pesky mortgages either…!
Tired of your old pre-plague husband or wife? Just get yourself a brand-new one from amongst the survivors and you’re right as rain. This new post-Apocalyptic America has its advantages. Larry Underwood rid himself of his debts and Harold Lauder of his disfiguring acne in this Brave New World of theirs. Every plague-cloud has a silver lining…
I have yet to read the really big long book that inspired this cracking mini-series, believe it or not. I might go and look it out now while I’m still on this major Stephen King buzz. The size of it is so impressive, I have a vague notion that, God and Stephen King forgive my terrible blasphemy, I might have been using it as a doorstop in one of the rooms…!
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger, poet and book-and-movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
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