The Stand 1994 Miniseries is a Forgotten Stephen King Classic

More compelling are Laura San Giacomo as Nadine Cross (a character who, in the show, is a hybrid of the book’s Nadine and Larry’s doomed traveling companion Rita Blakemoor) and Corin Nemec as Harold Lauder. The former has promised herself to Flagg, while the latter is an incel on steroids; together they plot a terrorist attack to kill the Free Zone’s leaders before skipping town for Vegas. They too are doomed, but their collision course with each other and their fate is decidedly repulsive.

Of the major “good” characters, it’s sad to say that Molly Ringwald just doesn’t pull her weight as Frannie Goldsmith, the pregnant young woman who is the object of Harold’s desire but whom ultimately falls in love with Stu. Ringwald comes across as naïve and whiny, and her acting here is a pale shadow of her glory years in movies like Sixteen Candles and Pretty in Pink. More effective, excellent in fact, is Miguel Ferrer as Lloyd Henreid, the small-time crook and killer who becomes the take-charge right hand man to  Flagg in Las Vegas, and an over-the-top Matt Frewer as the Trashcan Man, a pyromaniac who Flagg entrusts with finding weapons left out in the Nevada desert by the government.

Which brings us to Flagg and his opposite, Mother Abigail. Flagg, a recurring embodiment of evil and treachery in many King novels and stories, was reportedly the hardest role to cast. Although King and Garris initially wanted a Hollywood star, they went with the lesser known Jamey Sheridan, who brings a kind of manic glee to the role even if his heavy metal wig is questionable. Ruby Dee was practically born to play Mother Abigail (she even told Fangoria magazine that “her whole life had been research” for the part), and while the character as originally written suffers from King’s tendency to create “magical Negros” for his stories, Dee still brings poignancy and dignity to the role.

If we’ve spent a lot of time on the casting, that’s because The Stand really does live or die — and in this case it’s the former — on the strength of the characters and their relationships. Even if some of the acting is more on a typical TV level (or even below), Garris and King and their cast succeed in making you care about what happens to these people as they first survive the plague and then summon the fortitude to not just restart civilization but face an ultimate evil before they can barely catch a breath.

But Garris brings plenty of other effective touches to the show, starting with the panoramic vistas that he shoots to emphasize just how empty the world has become. The show does have an epic sweep to a lot of it, even with the restrictions of TV back in 1994, and W.G. Snuffy Walden’s (who is best known for scoring The West Wing) spare, evocative score goes a long way toward setting the melancholic yet ominous tone that Garris evokes through most of The Stand’s six hours.

There are also some truly memorable setpieces, starting with the opening tracking shot of corpses strewn all over the underground military lab to the tune of Blue Oyster Cult’s “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper.” Stu’s harrowing escape from the lab in which he is kept is pretty terrifying stuff for 1990s television, and while we wish Larry’s walk through a Lincoln Tunnel stuffed with dead cars and bodies lasted a bit longer, it still packs somewhat of a punch. Although Mother Abigail’s home is clearly a set on a soundstage, the scene in which she looks back at it as she leaves for Boulder, knowing she’ll never see it again, is quietly moving, as is the moment when Larry, Glen and Ralph Brentner (Peter Van Norden) have to leave an injured Stu behind on their long walk to Vegas.

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