It was the late spring of 1994. Bill Clinton was in the White House. Seinfeld was the country’s most popular sitcom. (Friends wouldn’t debut until the autumn of 1994.)
I was living in Wilmington, Ohio. I had a job I liked, and I lived in a cheap apartment with wood panel walls and worn shag carpet from the 1970s. I was 25 years old. Those were good times, all the way around.
For five days, from May 8 to May 12, 1994, ABC aired a miniseries adaptation of Stephen King’s 1978 post-apocalyptic novel, The Stand.
In case you’re not aware, The Stand is one of King’s most popular books. The Stand is a good-versus-evil epic about a supernatural battle between good and evil.
Oh, but before that happens, 99% of the world’s population is wiped out by the Superflu, or ‘Captain Trips’. That was years before COVID, of course. But the end of the world is always a good place to start a story. Right?
The 1994 miniseries production of The Stand is easily one of the best screen adaptations of Stephen King’s books. (There have certainly been some turkeys over the years in this department. Recall Pet Sematary (1989), and the The Shining (1980).) Among King books on film, The Stand stands out. (Pun fully intended.)
The Stand follows the novel faithfully—with a few differences. Most of these changes will only annoy the diehard purists, though.
For example, the character of Rita Blakemoor (Larry Underwood’s companion in post-flu New York) is merged with Nadine Cross, if memory serves. I didn’t care for that, as the Rita Blakemoor in the novel is an important secondary character who deserved a place in the miniseries.
The Harold Lauder of the miniseries isn’t fat, like the Harold Lauder of the book. In the ’94 miniseries, Corin Nemec is cast in that role. Nemic is too thin and too good-looking to do the Harold Lauder of the book justice. The result is that some of his annoying personality traits are exaggerated. But again, that’s a quibble for purists.
Other than that, you couldn’t ask for a better cast: Molly Ringwald as Franny Goldsmith, Gary Sinise as Stu Redman, Rob Lowe as Nick Andros, Bill Fagerbakke as Tom Cullen, etc.
The miniseries is more than 6 hours long, so there is plenty of time to pursue many of the rich subplots that make The Stand such a memorable story. For example: The on-screen depiction of Nick Andros and Tom Cullen’s early encounter with Julie Lawry (Shawnee Smith) is faithfully and flawlessly executed. It’s a great scene in the book, and it’s a great scene in the miniseries.
For years, though, it was hard to get ahold of this one. Considering all of the big names and production values in this Clinton-era miniseries, it came and went with relatively little fanfare at the time. (There was a TV Guide cover, though, as I recall.) By the time the Internet really got rolling, this miniseries had passed out of the collective consciousness—or at least the consciousness of rights holders. Because you couldn’t find it anywhere.
One thing about the Internet, though—good stuff from the past often comes back, if you wait long enough. Last September, Paramount released the full miniseries in blu-ray and DVD.
Needless to say, this found it’s way into my Amazon cart yesterday. Thanks to the wonders of Prime shipping, it will arrive tomorrow.
I’m looking forward to watching this one again, after more than 26 years.